Tagore didn’t like the timid attitude of the people of Shillong. In the last part of his life in his letter dated 30th April, 1938 to Hembala Debi, the poet wrote comparing Kalimpong and Shillong, “The atmosphere over here is not like Shillong’s clerks and their masters (British Government)”.
On 31st October 1919 Tagore left for Guahati. From there he went to Sylhet and Tripura. In each place, he was felicitated and honoured. He returned to Santiniketan on 13th November, 1919.
Before Tagore left Shillong in October 1919 he bought a piece of Khasi cloth for Ranu as her birthday gift. From this incident it is obvious that Nobel Laureate must have had some contact with the Khasi community.
Shillong’s beauty captivated Tagore forever. The poet laureate’s finest tribute to Shillong is his celebrated novel “Shesher Kobita” (Farewell My Friend, translated from Bengali by K.R. Kripalini), which he wrote in 1928 during his visit to South India. Nearly 13 of the 17 chapters of “Shesher Kobita” are based on Shillong. Geographically and historically, the backdrop/ scenic description of “Shesher Kobita” matches Shillong’s Brookside and the locality.
The poet was invited by the Oxford University to deliver the “Hibert lecture”. Accordingly, Tagore decided first to reach Madras (now Chennai). Then he would go to Colombo to catch the ship for Europe in May 1928. During this period the poet got sick and stayed in the city at Kannur in Pithapuram of South India. After 10days he went to Colombo. But due to his illness he couldn’t board the ship and came back to Bangalore at Brajendra Shil’s house. There Tagore stayed for three weeks.
At Kannur, the poet started composing “Shesher Kobita”. He continued his writing during his visit to Colombo and completed the novel on 25th June, 1928 at Brojendra Shil’s house in Bangalore.
(Excerpted with permission from the author)
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