Latin America and Bengal share two passions and a link: football, communism and Tagore.
Bengal shares the passion for football with Latin America. The crowds in Kolkatta went crazy when Maradona visited the city in 2008. The rivalry between Mohan Bagan and East Bengal teams and fans reminds me of the super classic rivalry between Boca and River Plate in Argentina and the one between Palmeiras and Corinthians in Brazil. When I was anointed as the fan of Boca Juniors in La Bombanera stadium in Buenos Aires, they told me that I could change my political party, religion, god and spouse but not the loyalty and fidelity to Boca !
MN Roy was a founder of the Communist Party of Mexico before he came back to found the Communist party of India. He spent over two years in Mexico from 1917 to 1919. He became a communist during his stay in Mexico. He was very active in the Mexican leftist politics besides writing articles and books. The Mexican government had given him a diplomat passport with the false name of Roberto Vila Garcia to avoid the British and American harassment due to his communist activities. Roy called Mexico as 'the land of his rebirth'. Today, the house where he stayed in Mexico city has been converted into a vibrant bar/night club with the name MN Roy
Majority of the countries in Latin America have leftist governments. But the New Left of the region has become more pragmatic and less dogmatic. It gives ample space for the private sector to flourish so that they also generate wealth for the country, jobs for the people and taxes for the government.
Tagore spent two months in Buenos Aires where he was looked after by Victoria Ocampo. She introduced him to her social and literary circles in the city and got his articles published in Argentine newspapers. He got rejuvenated and she got spiritual awakening and inspiration. Tagore dedicated his Purabi poems to Victoria. In one of the poems, he says,
I whispered again in your ear
What is your language dear
You smiled and shook your head
And the leaves murmured instead
They had extensive correspondence after the Buenos Aires encounter which was also romantic and platonic besides cultural and literary meeting. Their exchanges have been collected and put in a book ' In your blossoming garden' by Ketaki Kushari Dyson.
In his letters Tagore addressed Victoria as ' Dear Vijaya..my bhalobhasa'. She in turn started her letters with 'Dear Gurudev' and ended with ' Your Vijaya'.
Tagore to Victoria, " you were the only one who came to know me so closely when I was old and young at the same time"
Victoria to Tagore, " The days have become endless since you went away…I miss you"
Tagore confessed to her about his immense burden of loneliness as a celebrity and talked about the woman's love he deserved. She wrote that Gitanjali fell like a celestial dew on her anguished 24 year old heart".
The personal meeting also turned out to be a continental encounter. Tagore wrote,' For me the spirit of Latin America will ever dwell incarnated in your person'. She wrote, 'you are and will always be India to me'
They met in Paris in 1930 when Victoria organized the first-ever painting exhibition of Tagore's works in a Parisian art gallery. It is believed that it was Victoria who encouraged Tagore to start painting.
In his last years, Tagore used to relax in the reclining chair gifted by Victoria and even wrote a poem about it in April 1941, just before his death in the same year.
Yet again, if I can, will l look for that seat
On the top of which rests, a caress from overseas
I knew not her language
Yet her eyes told me all
Keeping alive forever
A message of pathos
When Tagore died, Victoria sent a telegram which said ' Thinking of him'.
This is the title of a movie proposed to be made by Pablo Cesar an Argentine director/producer. The script is about the Tagore-Victoria encounter as well as about the contemporary link between India and Argentina. Cesar is looking for an Indian coproducer.