Intimate Glimpses of the Man Behind the Mask
Radha Chakravarty
‘KOBI’ & ‘RANI’: MEMOIRS & CORRESPONDENCES OF NIRMALKUMARI MAHALANOBIS & RABINDRANATH TAGORE by Somdatta Mandal with a Foreword by Dipesh Chakrabarty Birutjatio Sahitya Sammiloni, Bolpur, 2020, 536 pp., 900.00
August 2021, volume 45, No 8

In the making of Rabindranath Tagore’s public image, apart from the voices of the critical establishment and the poet’s own forms of self-projection, the reminiscences of those around him also played a part. A compulsive globe-trotter, Tagore often travelled with companions who knew him closely, and were privy to intimate glimpses of the man behind the mask. One such co-traveller was Nirmalkumari Mahalanobis, wife of eminent statistician Prasantachandra Mahalanobis.

Part of the inner circle that surrounded the poet, she enjoyed a special, affectionate relationship with him during the last 15 years of his life. For those keen to know more about the human being behind the public stereotype of the revered ‘Gurudev’, the present volume offers rich fare. Compiled here, in Somdatta Mandal’s lively English translation, are Nirmalkumari’s memories of her experiences as part of Tagore’s entourage during his travels to Europe and Southern India. Alongside, the book also includes a selection of letters from ‘Kobi’ (Nirmalkumari’s term of address for Tagore) to ‘Rani’, the name by which he affectionately called her; and three other essays on Tagore, written by Nirmalkumari.

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