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Rabindranath Tagore’s First Love – Annapurna

14 February, 2021 09:41:08
Rabindranath Tagore’s First Love – Annapurna

Annapurna, Anna, Nalini… call her by any name, she would have always remained Rabindranath Tagore’s first love. And it’s always said ‘First Loves’ can never be forgotten, they are like the waft of the first Spring breeze, like the innocence of the first sapling that rises its green head from a dispersed seed.

But who was Annapurna Turkhud? Krishna Kripalani in the book Tagore -- a Life has given a lucid account of Tagore’s interaction with Annapurna. He was only 17 then, when before leaving for his studies to England, Rabindranath stayed for two months in Bombay. This was the year 1878. The house in Bombay where he stayed belonged to Dr Atmaram Pandurang Turkhud, an eminent physician and founder of the Prarthana Sabha. Dr Atmaram was a friend of Satyendranath Tagore, the elder brother of Rabindranath.

Satyendranth expected that Rabindranath’s stay with the anglicized Turkhud family would help his younger brother improve on the English language and imbibe British manners. His mentor and teacher for this endeavour was to be Annapurna (Ana), the second daughter of Dr Atmaram. About three years elder to Rabindranath, Annapurna had just returned from England and was conversant with the culture, society and the language of England.

But who was Annapurna Turkhud? Krishna Kripalani in the book Tagore -- a Life has given a lucid account of Tagore’s interaction with Annapurna. He was only 17 then, when before leaving for his studies to England, Rabindranath stayed for two months in Bombay.

As the preparatory classes progressed, an intimacy developed between the two, so much so that the highly creative Tagore gave his first love a new name – Nalini. The very name that he later immortalized in his poetry. Annapurna was swayed by the young poet and even wrote to him: ‘Poet, I think that even if I were on my death-bed, your songs would call me back to life.’ Anna somehow did not like young Tagore with a beard and even asked him not to keep it. At the age of eighty, Tagore writes: ‘Everyone knows that I have not followed that advice. But she herself did not live to see my disobedience proclaimed upon my face.’

Tagore could never express his love, due to his shy nature. He bid Anna adieu and left for England. In 1880 Annapurna married a Scot named Harold Littledale, Vice Principal of the Baroda High School and College. Subsequently the couple left India for England and Annapurna died in relative obscurity in 1891 at Edinburgh at the age of only thirty-three.

According to the book The Myriad Minded Man, Ana’s father visited Calcutta with Ana and another of his daughter in early 1879, when Tagore was in England. Almost certainly he came to see Debendranath Tagore at Jorasanko Thakurbari and it is believed he raised the topic of their marriage. But he was rejected by Debendranath. Ana could never forget Tagore though and continued to use the name Nalini. Even for Tagore, her memory inspired him to write many poems where she uses the name over and over again, including the following poem where he asks Nalini to rise from sleep as the poet had arrived: 

Shono Nalini kholo go ankhi
Ghum akhono bhangilo na ki
Dakho tomari duar porey
Shokhi esheche tomari Robi
Shuni probhater gatha mor
Dekho bhengeche ghumer ghor
Dekho jogot utteheche noyon meliya
Nuton jibon lobhi
Tobe tumi go sojoni jagibe na ki
Ami je tomar kobi    

Story Tag:
  • Rabindranath Tagore, Anaapurna

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