In ‘Gitanjali,’ I found wisdom, lost it, and found it again — NCR

By: George Nikitin

I had just turned 22, and had just come several months before to Kathmandu, Nepal, to teach at St. Xavier’s School, a Jesuit boarding school for Hindu and Buddhist boys. I was figuring how to teach, how to supervise teenagers in games and recreation and in study hall in the evening, and asking myself what I was doing so far from home.

One evening in September 1973, I was sitting at the front desk of a classroom of some 30 boys, and to pass the time I had before me a book I had selected at haste from the Jesuit library shelf. It was Gitanjali (Garland of Songs), just a little book of 103 poems by Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), a Bengali Hindu writer, written and rewritten in a time of loss, as he lamented the death of his wife and daughter and son. I did not then know that this was the book, published in 1912 in the West, that had won for Tagore the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the first non-Westerner to win any Nobel Prize.