It was in 1994 I think I started reading Tagore’s GITANJALI. One reading of the whole book and I fell in love with it. Along with the  holy books I used to read in the morning, I included Gitanjali. One verse every morning. By the time it was 2000, I would have read the book a several hundred times. Then I came across various translations of the book into Malayalam. Of all, I was really impressed by Sri K.Jayakumar’s translation .I decided to recite the book bilingual and spent weeks in my friend’s house recording my recitation. It ran to six cassettes. Gitanjali became a healing experience.

It was when I was studying for post graduation at Pondicherry University, a friend of mine, Debaushree, from Kolkata gifted me two cassettes of Rabindrasageet, one of Indranil Sen and the other of Lopamudra Mitra.

There I set out on my journey with Bengali music. In the same university where I was actively associated with the Drama Department, I had the blessing to play Buddha in a play titled SIDDHARTHA, directed by Jyotish M.J. based on Herman Hesse’s novel SIDDHARTHA. The whole crew and the audience were inexplicably inspired by the Bhatiali song used in the play, Sona bandhoore ami tumaar naam loiya kaanthi…

The song profoundly created the eternal presence of the river on stage. As you all know, river is an integral part of the novel by Hesse. Years later when I was working at Raniganj in West Bengal I had the opportunity to travel the state far and wide. I was exposed to more artists and more songs.  The evening walks with two employees of ECL(Eastern Coalfield Limited) gave infinite opportunities to know Bengal and its culture.  They used to come to my staff quarter and a cup of tea would add more energy to the flights of ecstasy with Bangla music and literature discussion. The late evenings spent with Mr. Jitendra Kundu, a middle aged gentleman who runs an STD booth at Bahadurpur More near Raniganj brought me closer to the rural flavour of Bengal.

On one of my early morning train journeys from Bandel to Raniganj, I woke up after dozing for an hour to realize that the train had taken a different route from Bardhaman and the landscape didn’t show anything familiar like that of Panagarh or Durgapur!! A gentleman sitting opposite to me put my surprise to rest saying that the train was not Black Diamond Express heading for Dhanbad, which I used to take, but another train bound to Bolpur. After some time when the train stopped at Bolpur, I got off alongwith him and took his help in reaching the bus stand. I should catch a bus to reach Raniganj. Even if I do so, I won’t be able to reach my school on time. I decided to spend the day at Bolpur. I knew that Bolpur is known for Tagore’s Shantiniketan. This was a blessing in disguise!! I took a rickshaw and went in and around Shantiniketan. Late afternoon I boarded a bus to Raniganj. Evening when I met my colleague for a walk, I described the experience of a mistaken train journey. At once Sir gave a positive twist to it:

“It wasn’t a mistake. It was an invitation for you from Rabindranath!!”

All my recitation of GITANJALI were later converted into a CD form and is still in my laptop though much has been lost. I used to gift GITANJALI to many of my soul mates and quote lines from it on many occasions. One of the many miracles and blessings that Nepal gave me, the latest came on 26th July, 2013 when I was asked by Indian Cultural Centre, Indian Embassy, Kathmandu to recite verses from GITANJALI to the accompaniment of songs by a renowned scholar and singer, Dr. Reba Som at Russian Cultural Centre, Kamal Pokhari, Kathmandu. The programme began at around 5.30 p.m. and it started with Dr. Reba Som singing “Aye Moni Haar Amay nahi Saaje” after I read out her English translation of it. As she sang more and  more songs from Tagore, I recited those lines from GITANJALI that have always been close to my soul. This is an unforgettable moment, a great blessing from Gurudev himself.

watch an extract of the programme here:

                                  appreciation from Honourable DCM, Sri Jaideep Mazumdar

                                    word of appreciation from Dr.Geeti Sen, Director of ICC
                                                      watching the Documentary

After watching the documentary on GITANJALI by Dr. Reba Som, when I approached her for an autograph on the first page of the book I carried with me, she wrote:

“Tagore taught us that Destiny shapes our lives. I believe, you, Santhosh Kumar, were destined to read the poems to accompany my song rendition today in Kathmandu on the 26th of July, 2013.” with warm good wishes, Reba Som.

The Himalayan Times newspaper on 28th July, 2013 covered a brief report of the programme titled CELEBRATING TAGORE’S GEETANJALI:

I would like to quote a verse from GITANJALI that aptly summarizes my feelings about this unforgettable moment of my life:

When thou commandest me to sing it seems that my heart would break with pride; and I look to thy face, and tears come to my eyes.
All that is harsh and dissonant in my life melts into one sweet harmony—and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird on its flight across the sea.
I know thou takest pleasure in my singing. I know that only as a singer I come before thy presence.
I touch by the edge of the far-spreading wing of my song thy feet which I could never aspire to reach.
Drunk with the joy of singing I forget myself and call thee friend who art my lord.