When Rabindranath was seventeen it was decided he would go to England. But before sailing he was sent to stay with his second brother Satyendranath, or Mejodada, the first Indian member of the Indian Civil Service who was posted at the time as a judge in Ahmedabad.
Satyendranath was expecting to go on furlough to England where his wife and children were staying at the time. It was decided that Rabindranath should accompany him. From his own admission Rabindranath felt a bit ‘torn up by the roots’ to leave the editorial board of Bharati and move to Ahmedabad.
But he took his marching orders alright and went to Ahmedabad in March 1878. Satyendranath had a wonderful library where young Rabindranath could satisfy many a curiosity. Those Bharati essays on European literature that he contributed were the outcome of his explorations in Mejodada’s library.
The two brothers sailed for England on 20 September 1878. Rabindranath went to the University of London for a few months and took classes in English Literature. In London he stayed with an English family about whom he has written fully in his Reminiscences.
The letters he wrote from England are his diary of that visit. They were published as Europe Prabasir Patra in 1881. But he regretted the attitude with which he wrote those letters which contained many brash comments. Indeed, he recanted those comments in his maturity and paid tribute to that visit when he wrote,
“I received no shock calculated to shatter the original framework of my life – rather East and West met in friendship in my person.”
This article was written by Uma Das Gupta
Professor Uma Das Gupta is a historian and a renowned Tagore biographer. She is the author of many books and articles on Tagore. Some of the most recent are: Rabindranath Tagore: My Life in My Words. New Delhi, Penguin Books, 2010; Rabindranath Tagore: An Illustrated Life. New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2013.