Many a times one is fortunate enough to read a book, which completely overpowers one. One starts living, breathing and empathizing with the characters portrayed. I recently read one such book, Jorasanko by Aruna Chakravarti. I was spell bound and had mentally started living into the many rooms of the huge Tagore mansion in Kolkata.
The book ‘Jorasanko’ is based on the illustrious Tagores, the first family of Kolkata. It was the house of Tagores, to which the famous ‘Bard of the East’ Rabindranath Tagore belonged. For those not aware, it was Rabindranath Tagore who was the first non-European/Asian to win the first Nobel Prize in literature. He won it for his compilation Gitanjali, in 1913.
The book Jorasanko is not just about Rabindranath Tagore. It is about the way of life in the 1900’s Bengal. It is about the women, particularly the daughter’s-in-law and daughter’s of the illustrious family, helmed by the famous and rich, Dawarkanath Tagore. In his times because of his immense wealth, Dawarkanath had earned the sobriquet of ‘Prince Dawarkanath’ when he first visited England.
I had not expected a book that essentially chronicles the way of life of the Tagore family, to grip me so. But it did. The book has all the elements to keep a reader riveted. It has all the possible elements and emotions; intrigue, passion, love and dark-despair. The characters of the house of Jorasanko are fascinating, glittering and dark at the same time.
Post the book, I now see, Rabindranath’s muse, the unconventionally beautiful and intense-honey-tone-skin Kadambari with new eyes. My heart goes out to the young, non-obtrusive, not-wanting-anything-much-from life Mrinalini (Tagore’s wife); she was surely a special soul, to have loved her husband so unconditionally.
I am wowed with Jannandanandini’s (one of the most unconventional daughter’s-in-law of the Tagore household) growth from a spunky young girl of 8 years to a gorgeous young woman, who held her own, and was responsible for the new elegant way of draping the sari way back in 1850’s.
Can I say it is a beautiful book? Yes, it is intensely beautiful and romantic in parts. The book has snatches of poetry penned by Rabindranath for his soul-mate and sister-in-law Kadambari, verses composed when he was out for the first trip out of Kolkata on a train with his father Dawarkanath Tagore, poem when he suddenly chances upon plain-dressing Mrinalini dressed up (Dheere dheere prane amar esho he,madhur hashiye amar bhalobesho he ~Slowly, oh, slowly come into my heart, sweetly smiling, oh, give me your love)….oh! there are many such small gems scattered through the pages.
‘Tomaarei koriyache jeban er dhuruba tara (You are my lodestar, I shall follow your light, Never again shall I flounder, in this ocean of life) ~A favorite poem of mine of Tagore’s finds mention in the book. Rabindranath Tagore had meant it as a wow undertaken before the Almighty, that henceforth he will be guided by His will and decision, but the poet just could not help the visage of Kadambari floating before his eyes when ever he thought of this verse.
The author Aruna Chakravarti while mentioning that the book is to some extent a work of fiction maintains that her book Jorasanko is based on historical facts and is intensely researched.
The USP of the book is that it does not place the poet, or the celebrated family on a pedestal, it does give a glimpse into the not-so-pretty side of the Tagore family members and even the celebrated poet.
Read the book Jorasanko, just to savor and relish the trivia and the inspiration behind some of the poems and verses composed by one of the most famous poets the country has produced. You will certainly emerge richer in thought and emotions post the book.