A hundred years from today - Sept.-Oct. 2020

'A hundred years from today' is the title of one of Tagore's famous poems. But I put it on this page because exactly one hundred years ago preparations were made in the Netherlands for welcoming Tagore. At that time Tagore had mentioned in an interview in one of the Dutch newspapers that he would very much like to visit Holland when asked. So a welcoming committee was set up by the Theosophists and the principality of Amsterdam to invite and welcome Tagore. But it was Frederik van Eeden who actually welcomed Tagore at Amsterdam Central Station when Tagore arrived on Sunday September 19th 1920. That same evening Frederik van Eeden wrote in his diary:

'I met Tagore, awaited him at the railway station. The first thing I noticed was his shiny grey hair in the compartment. He noticed me and it looked as if he recognized me. He is a fine, honourable figure. He was dressed in grey with a blue robe and a high black cap on his head. He wore eye-glasses. His voice is soft and pleasant and a little high. He wears his hair and beard long. A strong sense of purity and serenity surrounds him as well as a fresh and healthy atmosphere. And his presence is majestic and very harmonic.'

 

 

 

Tagore enjoyed himself with the bright cloudy sky and the land just as flat as Bengal. He was accompanied by his son and daughter-in-law. During his stay in the Netherlands which took him a fortnight, he could stay at the villa of Mr and Mrs Van Eeghen-Bossevain in Huizen. Mrs Mary van Eeghen-Bossevain and Tagore became good friends and some years later Mrs Van Eeghen travelled to India and paid Tagore a visit.

The neuwspapers in the Netherlands gave evidence of a very warm reception during Tagore's visit. All lectures were very well attended. People had to be send home when tickets were sold out. He gave lectures in Amsterdam, Leiden, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague. He also paid a visit to the International School of Wisdom in Leusden. Subjects he spoke on were education, the meeting between the East and the West, and he also read some of his own works. But among his audience there were some people who expected more spiritual items and they were quite disappointed after they heard his comments on the so-called western rulers and politicians.

 

Frederik van Eeden was in the end very disappointed not having hardly any private moments with Tagore. He had  longed for a quiet and peaceful reception with him whose work he had been translating for the Dutch readers over a period of six years. However, Tagore's programme was filled with lectures, dinners and other meetings. But Tagore enjoyed his stay in the Netherlands, exactly one hundred years ago, very much so. When afterwards being in Antwerp he wrote to Andrews back in Santiniketan:

'This fortnight has been most generous in its gifts to me. Of one thing you may be sure, that  a communication of heart has been opened up between this little country and Santiniketan, and it remains with us to widen it and make use of it for the interchange of spiritual wealth'.