Photographer's Note

The moral ethos of the Bengali middle class was strongly shaped by Victorian influences borrowed into Bengal by the founders of the Brahmo-samaj. Among these we count the Tagore family, chief among them was the grandfather of the poet. Tagore the poet was a rebel, as most poets are, and quickly got into romantic dalliances while still a teenager in England and later had a rather fond relationship with his elder sister-in-law, barely older than him in age, Kadambari devi. One can only speculate what happened when Tagore was suddenly married off without much fanfare at age 22, and Kadambari, a talented poet in her own right, committed suicide a few months later. Tagore was devastated but recovered. As Andrew Robinson writes in “Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye', that Ray at the time of researching for Charulata, the film rendition of a story by Tagore entitled Nashtaneer (A Broken Nest), had seen "a very early manuscript of the story by Tagore with marginalia which refer many times to Hecate”, the nickname given by Tagore to Kadambari. Hecate, the Greek goddess, is associated with witchcraft and magic. The magic of the female sexuality as a profound determinant of the life and fate of man is evidently pre-biblical in origin. Tagore, some thirty years later as he chanced upon a long lost portrait of Kadambari, wrote, “Are you only an image, writ on canvas?...Not true, not true…You have been forever in the center of my mind and thus outside of my circle of attention…” (translation by yours truly, terrible, I know!)

The forces that restrained Tagore were hardly constraining for him, yet one does not doubt that they were so for Kadambari. Manik Bandyapadhyay, a youthful novelist of the mid-twentieth century, first described a different class of the society less fettered by the Tagorean norm in his DibArAtri’r KAbya (Poems of Light and Darkness). We see there a more sultry, almost pungent expression of the female sensuality, as a mother past her youth attempts to hang on to her body in a drunken frenzy and competes with as well as protects like a feline mother her daughter who dances through the night on a courtyard suffused with moonlight, while the male protagonist looks on with ambiguous intent.

Another half a century has passed, but I wonder whether the Bengali woman has yet come to terms with her sexuality out in the open, and for a Bengali man to accept that assertion.

[Thanks to Salil-da (Salil_B) for company while we had coffee here in this restaurant. Hope he likes the image]

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Additional Photos by Animesh Ray (AnimeshRay) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 689 W: 44 N: 846] (9089)
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