How to Draw Rabindranath
By Sumana Roy
The mirror asks for leave when we draw Rabindranath.
Gandhi was easy –
an arc for a bald head, two circles his eye glasses, a line his stick;
The other Gandhi, Indira, was easier – a catapult nose.
My brother drew them once –
they were his ‘practice’ before he arrived at Rabindranath.
I remember the seven year old, the lines moving out of his hand,
accumulating at the chin and cheeks. A poet’s beard.
I remember thinking how everyone could draw grass.
Until mother told him: ‘Write Rabindranath below it. Or how else …’
Portraits cannot protest. Or else imagine the cacophony,
the anger against misrepresentation.
The production of clones is now a marketplace narcotic.
So many Tagores and the loss of urgency.
Like the god of his surname, he lives in various forms –
the tie and dye batik, his hair and beard broken into cracks,
the lines joined in our minds only by the faith in light;
on clay moulds whose underside I touch to feel old Rabindranath’s sunken cheeks.
There are the block prints – on wood, where Rabindranath is a body
composed of holes, like cells and membranes.
The printer’s dye sticks lazily to his skin and beard –
Slap, Slap, Slap Rabindranath – the printer dabs paint and punches the cloth.
Tagore becomes a rubber stamp. His face his signature.
I’ve known many Rabindranaths.
I’ve seen his body lose heat and turn into a habit.
I remember a cartoonist speak in Malayalam,
his words as unfamiliar as his Tagore.
‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,’
he said, and drew the poet’s head.
Tagore’s eyes were closed, the word for ‘beard’ moved like ink.
Rabindranath became Jesus.
Ganesha has his trunk, Rabindranath his beard.
Before Tagore, the cartoonist had drawn Rajnikanth.
The traces had remained – the democracy of canvas.
I’ve seen many draw Rabindranath.
Like Rabindranath, they are now anonymous.
[About the image: Self-portrait by Rabindranath Tagore. Source: Here]
Sumana Roy writes from Siliguri, a small town in sub-Himalayan Bengal, India.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.