Born when Britain controlled India, he embraced his Indian identity and the Bengali language, writing in Bengali, but often translating his own work into English. Tagore wrote eight novels, and hundreds of songs and poems. Finally, he founded a school - Shantiniketan - at which students learned outdoors, as he felt they should be exposed to nature and the change of seasons.
For this special day in class, I wore a lime green Punjabi (thanks Ruby) and played Tagore's music as the class worked on the quiz. After teaching them a bit about Tagore, we dove into the short story he wrote, Broken Ties. I regret to write, this was not their favorite reading of the semester. I think they found it hard to understand. To fully understand this work, a deep understanding of the history of India, and of Hinduism, is necessary, and we didn't have time for that in one class period. Broken Ties highlights the stark contrast between "Westernized" atheists and devout Hindus. The two main characters, Satish and Srivlas, begin as confirmed atheists, but when Satish's atheist uncle dies, he becomes a devout Hindu, following a swami and eventually becoming a mystic in his own right. These two men embody the extremes in Indian culture. The story has a lot of layers, and symbolism -- their house is literally divided in half, with the atheist brother living in one half, and the Hindu brother in the other half -- symbolizing the divided nature of many Indians under British rule. The women in the story play an important, though secondary, role, and both die. Broken Ties has been described as a "complex exploration of the contradictions and ambiguities within Indian culture."
Although the class did not fully embrace the story, they did enjoy the music! Here are some links to songs by Tagore. Enjoy!