As we commemorate the great poet Rabindranath Tagore on his 159th birth anniversary, it is remarkable how his works, to the present day, resonate with the harsh truths of the world at large and the deepest desires of the heart. 

“My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.”

Poem 28, Gitanjali (1912)

It is no shocker that Rabindranath Tagore, also known by his pen name Bhanu Singha Thakur, was one of the most exceptional literary laureates our world has been blessed with. A poet, novelist, musician, artist, educationist, social reformer, Ayurveda researcher; Tagore’s unparalleled brilliance earned him sobriquets like Gurudev, Kabiguru, and Biswakabi.

He has achieved many accolades in his lifetime – the most substantial being the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He also has the distinction of the only person to have composed the national anthems of three countries – India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

His excellence is most reflected in his literary works that still amaze and entertain people of all ages and diverse walks of life. Children’s stories like Kabuliwala, The Rat’s Feast, The Invention of Shoes, The Parrot’s Training, and so on are delightful and amusing. On reading them one gets lost in the ‘fantastically real worlds’ of sparkling kings and queens, dusty lanes of the village and, swirly, narrow streets of the city.

As one gets older, the stories of Tarapada in Atithi, the poignant tale of Konkaal (The Skeleton), the unbridled attachment of Monimala to her gold jewels in Monihara (The Lost Jewels), the sweet romance in Daliya and many more; pluck those chords of the heart, which transpire the emotions one had been starved of in the hustle-bustle of life. In all of his stories, the way he knits the real face of the society with myths and legends is extraordinary.

Tagore is also highly admired for his portrayal of women in his stories. Set in the late 19th and early 20th-century pre-partitioned Bengal, the female characters are painted as courageous, defiant, and bold who direct the flow of their lives on their terms. In a conservative society, Tagore explores love and sexuality through ‘Binodini’ in Chokher Bali (A Grain of Sand), freeing one’s soul and desires from the shackles of family and responsibilities in Stir Patra (Wife’s letter), courage to discover oneself and fulfill dreams in the form of ‘Giribala’ in Maanbhanjan (Fury Appeased) and finding the meaning of life outside the bondages of an ideal member of the society through ‘Kalyani’ in Aparichita (The Unknown Woman).

Robi Thakur, as he is lovingly called by many of his admirers, was a poet first. The early influences of the artistic atmosphere in his house and his “favourite school” – nature; metamorphosed into beautiful verses of poetry. many of his poems were written as words for music and his book Gitabitan (“Garden of songs”), a collection of all 2,232 songs led to the genesis of a new genre of Bengali music known as ‘Rabindra Sangeet’.

A man of phenomenal literary and artistic accomplishments, Tagore has played a vital role in capturing the social, political, and artistic aura of India of his times. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, wrote in Discovery of India, “More than any other Indian, he has helped to bring into harmony the ideals of the East and the West, and broadened the bases of Indian nationalism.”

Inspired by Vaishnava poets of medieval Bengal and the Bengali folk literature; the classical Indian heritage; and the modern European literary tradition, he took Bengali literature especially, to such great heights that his presence in Bengali social and cultural arena is undeniably manifested.

Buddhadeva Bose in ‘An Acre of Green Grass’ quoted, “The point is not that his writings run into a hundred thousand pages of print, covering every form and aspect of literature, though this matters: he is a source, a waterfall, flowing out in a hundred streams, a hundred rhythms, incessantly.”

Even after years of Robi Thakur leaving for heavenly abode, his artistic and aesthetic flair can still be experienced in his endearing poems, visionary stories, and other literary works, euphonious ‘Rabindra Sangeet’ and in the atoms of the peaceful neighbourhood of Shantiniketan.

May the flame of knowledge, love, humility, and spirituality kindled by him forever guide us all.


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Ipshika Ghosh

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The pride month is here! A time where us queer folks gather in solidarity as big corporates indulge in ‘rainbow capitalism’. Here are 8 Asian authors you need to read this pride month.


Hoshang Merchant

Born in 1947 to a Zoroastrian family in Mumbai, Merchant studied in Los Angeles and Purdue. He is known as the first openly gay poet in Modern India. He edited India’s first gay anthology Yaraana: Gay Writing from India. Merchant is the author of 20 books of poetry and 4 critical studies. He even taught poetry and surrealism at the University of Hyderabad for more than two decades.


Akhil Katyal

Katyal is a New Delhi based poet, teacher and translator. His openly queer poetry revolves around cities and the remnants of the past. Katyal was an Asst. Professor at the Department of English of SGTB Khalsa College, Ramjas College and St. Stephens’ College, he even taught at the Shiv Nadar University. He currently teaches at Ambedkar University, Delhi.  Katyal is best known for his collection of poems, How Many Countries does the Indus Cross? And his collection Night Charge Extra.  He also translated Ravish Kumar’s collection of poems, Ishq Mein Shahar Hona (A city happens in love).


Sara Farizan

Iranian-American Sara Farizan is the author of the 2013 novel If You Could Be Mine, a novel set in Tehran, Iran revolving around two girls who fall in love. The book went on to win the Lamba Literary Award. Farizan wrote the novel after realising her own sexuality and the taboo around it, especially in the Persian Community. She is also the author of Here To Stay and Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel.


Aditi Angiras

Aditi Angiras is the founder of Bring Back The Poets, a spoken word poetry collective. She founded the collective in 2014, after her tryst with music, cinema and rap. Angiras is also a queer activist, intersectional feminist and a TED speaker. One of her notable poems is My Mad Girl’s Love Song based on Sylvia Plath’s poem  Mad Girl’s Love Song. Angiras is also the co-editor along with Akhil Katyal of a digital anthology of South Asian queer poetry.


Vikram Seth

Author of A Suitable Boy and  Mappings, a poetry collection, Seth is possibly one of the most well-known Indian writers of the English language. He is the author of 3 novels, 8 poetry collections and 1 childrens’ fiction book. In 2007, Seth became one of the voices against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. His mother, Leila Seth also refers to his sexuality in her memoir. In 2017, Seth was awarded the Makwan Prize for his queer activism.


Suniti Namjoshi

Born in 1941, Namjoshi is a poet and fabulist. She is best known for her book  Feminist Fables. Her main influences are Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich and Kate Millett. She was also an activist for queer rights. Her work explores her lesbian identity and its definitions in a heteronormative world.


Saleem Kidwai

Kidwai is a medieval historian, queer rights activist and a translator. He taught history at Ramjas College, University of Delhi till 1993. He was one of India’s first academics to come out as queer. His work focuses on Urdu literature, the history of desire and courtesan culture. He is the co-editor of the book Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History along with scholar Ruth Vanita.


Shyam Selvadurai

His name might ring familiar to the English hons students, Selvadurai is the critically-acclaimed author of Funny Boy, a story set in Sri Lanka, building up to the 1983 rights. Selvadurai also released an essay in 1997 titled Coming Out which spoke about the bias and discomfort him and his partner faced in Sri Lanka. He released his fourth novel in 2013, he also has a spider named after him.


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Jaishree Kumar

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While poetry today has seen a drastic growth in terms of its audience in India, we trace down some of the lesser-known poets, whose words mimic magic.

When you hear the word poetry, your mind automatically imagines the romantic verses of Keats or the heavenly meadows of Coleridge’s poetics, often leading us to turn a blind eye to some of the lesser publicized, but equally lyrical, poets of the world.

Here is a collection of some unexplored gems, that are must-reads for those with an inevitable hunger for classic poetry. 

1. Anne Michaels

This Canadian poet and novelist has works translated in more than forty-five countries. One of her most amazing works is “All we saw”, which is a short collection of poems dealing with treats and abrupt desires, love, death and the intimacy and vastness of the connection between two people. Another of her highly acclaimed works includes “The weight of oranges” which bagged her the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas. Her work is easy to read and comprehend, and at the same time has a beautiful foreplay of words.

2. Kobayashi Issa

One of the most prolific Japanese poets of the early nineteenth century, Kobayashi’s works are now translated into English, his works are a deep reflection of the miseries he faced in his life, and how through his travels he gained enlightenment about Buddhist philosophy and incorporating it into his life. His poems are short and crisp, some of the famous ones being, “even with insects”, all the time I pray to Buddha” etc. among many others.

3. Joy Goswami

Joy Goswami is a Bengali poet, and one of the most influential Bengali poets of his generation and a recipient of many literary awards. Some of his best work includes poems like, “Hieroglyph”, “Wars march into the past “among many. He has also won the Sahitya Akademi Award, 2000 for his anthology “pagalo tomara sange”.

4. Emilio Prados

Emilio Prados was a Spanish poet and editor. Some of his best work is now translated into English, for example, “final shadow”, “enclosed garden”, “next to the stream”, etc. among many more.

5. Meena Kandasamy

This Chennai based poet, writer and translator is a published author and has found her poetry in some of the most reputed poetry forums. She expresses the aim of her poetry as that of sending a social message, focusing on her struggles of being a Dalit woman living under the shadows of caste oppression, discrimination and gender relations.

One of her most amazing works is her version of “the seven stages”.

6. Nabanita Kanungo

A teacher-poet hailing from Assam, her debut collection of poems, “A map of Ruins”, highlights her love for her hometown Shillong, and the memories she holds on to from the years gone by.

A sense of nostalgia prevails in her work which attracts readers.

7. Ingeborg Bachmann

She was an Austrian poet and writer, who has published different plays and poetry, expressing her reflective thoughts on languages, and the mix of cultures she has experienced throughout her lifetime.

Some of her works are, “Darkness spoken: The collected poems of Ingeborg Bachmann”, “Die gestundete Zeit”, etc. among others.

These are just a few among the many gifted writers who scintillate their audience through lyric and rhyme. Their poetry is simple and versatile, yet brilliant enough to make you want to come back for more.


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Avnika Chhikara

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