BENGALURU: Have you ever fallen in love with a book? Falling in love with a book is like discovering your best friend. They are special in their own unique way, and you can go back to them anytime. As author Donald Miller said, “Some people find beauty in music, some in painting, some in landscape, but I find it in words. By beauty, I mean the feeling you have suddenly glimpsed another world or looked into a portal that reveals a kind of magic or romance out of which the world has been constructed, a feeling there is something more than the mundane, and a reason for our plodding.”
While I always loved books and there are some in particular that I have re-read, there is one book that I fell in love with as soon as I had it in my hands. It was a copy of The Golden Book of Tagore. Printed in 1931 as a tribute to Tagore on his 70th birthday, this privately produced book was brought out on the suggestion of Nobel Laureate Romain Rolland. Rolland and Tagore had been in contact since 1919, but first met in 1921 in Paris. An important collection of writings, it was sponsored by leading intellectuals, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Kostes Palamas, and Rolland himself. The book goes to show how regarded Tagore was world-over.My copy is the 881 numbered copy (out of 1,500 printed). What is special is not only that the almost 90-year-old book is in great condition but has a moving handwritten note by Tagore. The 51 words in Tagore’s beautiful handwriting captures his gratitude as only a poet of Tagore’s calibre can express.
Written on a Visva-Bharati University letterhead, an institute that Tagore founded in 1921 and became one of India’s most renowned places of higher learning, the letter is addressed to no one in particular and begins “… It is hard for me to say in a few faltering words how I feel when voices greet me from my own country and across the seas..”. The letter was signed and dated December 27, 1931.
The book has many portraits of Tagore in photogravure, including a picture by Martin Vos, as frontispiece. Of the remaining 29 plates, many are tipped-in colour plates (with tissue guards carrying titleand artist’s name), including Abanindra Nath Tagore, Nanda Lal Bose, A D Thomas, Gogonendra Nath Tagore and Samarendra Nath Gupta. Other plates are reproductions of works by Chinese and Japanese artists, portraits of Tagore by eminent Indian and Western artists and early photographs of Tagore.
What is even more interesting is to find the provenance of the book. This rare copy was given to me by my favourite bookseller, Krishna (owner of Bookworm) who always gives me the first right of refusal to any rare book that comes his way. The book came from estate of Jahangir Baba and was gifted to the legendary Homi Jahangir Bhabha. Another copy of the book had surfaced in Bengaluru many years back and the letter is now framed and kept at The Blossom Book house, Church Street. I vividly remember looking at the letter, never imagining that in a couple of decades, a copy of the rare book will find its way into my hands!