Rabindranath Tagore in Balatonfüred, Hungary
We are just over three weeks from our charity gala film premiere of Chitrangada, including a live, multilingual performance of The Story of Gitanjali.
These days almost every evening actors have been visiting us to rehearse or audition for the live performance. It is very nice to hear the same Tagore poem in different languages. Every language has it’s own flow.
For the last couple of evenings we are taking the audition and rehearsing with Hungarian actors. The actor we finally selected to read a poem in Hungarian for The Story of Gitanjali is Ágnes Kaszás. She is very enthusiastic about Tagore’s work and had read Tagore’s poetry in high school.
We were telling Ágnes about our experience in Balatonfüred, a small town on the shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary.
In 2009 we went to Hungary specially for Balatonfüred where Tagore has been treated in a heart hospital for three weeks when he had been taken ill while visiting Budapest in 1926.
The promenade along the shore of Lake Balaton is called Tagore Sétány.
We were in Balatonfüred for just over a week, staying at a guest house recommended to us by Hungarian friends in Brussels. We were thrilled to see different things associated with Tagore around Balatonfüred.
Before we went to Balatonfüred, Supriyo Da (Supriyo Tagore) had told me that there is a tree which Tagore had planted while he was there. Then we heard from Somen Da (Somendranath Bandyopadhyay) that, near the tree Tagore had planted, there was a sculpture by the great Indian sculptor Ramkinkar Baij.
However, the statue of Tagore on Tagore Sétány turned out not to be the original sculpture by Ramkinkar Baij we had heard about but a hollow and very simple bust!
After two days, with the help of our host, we went to see the room in the functioning hospital where Rabindranath Tagore was treated.
A nurse at the hospital kindly allowed us to see the room when she heard that I was from Tagore’s home town.
As you see, the original Ramkinkar Baij sculpture was housed in the room Tagore had used as his study. He had written his poem Lekhon here.
Tagore’s association with Hungary is summarised in this article. Ketaki Kushari Dyson provided more details in her review of the book Hungry Tiger by Imre Banghe.
It is not obvious why the Ramkinkar Baij statue was moved from the promenade to the hospital and replaced by a more modern bust. We were told that the reason was that it was not a very flattering sculpture as Tagore was presented by Ramkinkar Baij leaning forwards with age. Unfortunately, the more recent bust has been placed on the same plinth, which means that Tagore now appears to look out over the heads of people at Lake Balaton.
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