Tagore plaques in China shine again thanks to Patil

June 3rd, 2010 - 11:44 am ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
Shanghai, June 3 (IANS) “The world talks to me with its pictures and I reply with the music from my soul.” A plaque containing these immortal lines by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore has for long lain hidden from the public eye in this Chinese commercial hub.

It has now got a new lease of life thanks to President Pratibha Patil who visited this city during her six-day trip to China that ended Monday. She also unveiled a bust of the poet on a busy road in Shanghai to mark Tagore’s visit to the city 86 years ago.

A source close to the president told IANS that the plaque lay hidden even though it was on a wall at the entrance of a thoroughfare right opposite the gigantic Russian-built Shanghai Exhibition centre, a well-known landmark.

The marble plaque carries Tagore’s name and his poems inscribed in Chinese in black ink.

“Patil took the initiative and directed the consul general to clear the site. People had put up posters on it and so it was hidden. Now efforts are on to restore its original shine so that Chinese people can relate to the great poet. This is one way of encouraging people to know India,” the source told IANS.

Patil, it is learnt, had read media reports about the shabby condition of two Tagore plaques and had requested Consul General Riva Ganguly Das to look into it.

Das found out that the two plaques, not far off from each other, were hidden away behind weeds, posters and overhanging wires. Incidentally, the plaques are on a lane that used to house some famous Chinese literary figures of that time.

“Overall the place wore a shabby look. The two plaques were covered in weeds and the black ink on the plaque made of marble was coming off and the words were not clear. In fact, the first two letters of Tagore’s name were missing,” the source told IANS.

The second plaque, also undergoing a makeover, has a poem by Tagore that reads: “Trees are the longing of the earth, As they look skywards on their toes.”

Tagore had visited the city in 1924-25 and had stayed in his friend Xu Zhimo’s house, not far from the place where the plaques lie. Xu had another house in Maoming Road and Tagore had lived there too. On this road now stands Tagore’s bust, which was unveiled by President Patil.

“It’s a community area and is known for its past literary standing. With the plaques now visible again, Chinese people will get to know of India’s connection with its Asian neighbour,” the source told IANS.

As India has begun year-long celebrations to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore, the focus is also on student exchanges.

“An MoU (memorandum of understanding) has been signed between Jinyuan Senior Secondary School here and the Tagore International School, Delhi. In November, around 30 students of this Delhi school will come and interact with their Chinese counterpart,” officials added.

During the president’s visit, China announced it will establish a gallery in Kolkata in remembrance of the bard.

(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at kavita.d@ians.in)

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