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Tagore women in the words of a Tagore

The women of Thakurbari have always evoked a sense of myth and mystery and who better to shed light on them but a Tagore herself — Sharmila Tagore, along with Aruna Chakravarti, author of the historical “biofiction” Jorasanko, spoke about the fascinating lives of the Tagore women.

London-based filmmaker and film historian Sangeeta Datta steered the engaging chat on the famous family “that transitioned from tradition to modernity”.

Asked to share her memories of growing up in a joint family, Sharmila said: “At any given time there were around 10 or 15 of us young people in the house. We never had television or toys but there was never a second that we got bored. There were many aunts and everybody was equal. We learnt so much just by being with all the people. Every month there was some puja and everything — be it the tubri for Kali pujo or the manja for kite-flying — was made at home. We never needed to go to a museum to learn about art. It was all around us. The whole visual of all the women sitting cutting potato in a certain way on the boti, to me was also a thing of art. It was a beautiful way of growing up.”

Chakravarti, who was born and brought up in Delhi, said she was drawn to the theme “with a sense of great pride in being a Bengali where the Tagore family played an important role”.

“What intrigued me is that whatever I read said nothing about the women in the family. I’ve always been fascinated with women’s issues and with the past. This brought both interests together,” she said.

Sharmila read out excerpts on Digambari Devi (Dwarkanath’s wife) and Jogamaya (Debendranath’s wife) as the conversation veered through riveting portrayal of them apart from “the very progressive” Gyanadanandini, who Sharmila said was one of her favourite characters because “she had a mind of her own”. And, of course, Kadambari, whose portrayal Chakravarti said was largely “fictionalised through dreams and nightmares”.