Nandalal Bose, China and Japan Tour, 1924​

In a postcard to Ramesh Charan Basu Majumdar, dated 16th Magh, 1924

 

Nandalal writes that on 21st March, six of them – him, Rabindranath Tagore, Kshitimohan Sen, Kalidas Nag, Elmhirst and Miss Green – were travelling to China. On their return, they would be visiting Japan, Korea and Java. The entire trip would be for 6-7 months, part of their expenses for this tour had been raised by subscriptions [chanda] from Visvabharati. He was leaving behind Suren [Surendranath Kar] and his students at Santiniketan.

 

A letter of 4 small pages written from Tokyo, dated 12 June 1924 

 

Two sketches accompany the letter in the second page – “A Japanese woman’s and man’s “pronam” [respective postures of paying respect], before very revered and talented persons, even men do the same as women.” In the next page, he writes of Rabindranath Tagore completing his 200th lecture and his extraordinary stamina and will to work – “…we are getting injured and tired [the word he uses is “jakham”], but Gurudev alone is still standing erect.” He writes of his own homesickness, his longing to return home, and missing the seasons in India.

 

There are passing comments on Japan being an expensive country [“the condition here has become like bilet/ England”]; in the same line, on the remarkable cleanliness of homes [“one had to search for an iota of dirt here”]; and on the leisurely nature of every meal, which are spread over 3 hours with conversations. He ends the letter – “Japan is like a small Japanese painting. Neatly organised like a children’s play room, it is a land not unlike Bengal, except that it has two small mountains. Bengalis are able to easily mingle with them and find here a likeness of minds…In all, Japan is like a beautiful, complete floral garland…” The contrast he draws here is with China, which, earlier in the letter, he describes as “a vast country…filled with handicrafts, but everything here lies in fragments, scattered like parts of a torn garland.”

 

Photograph: Nandalal Bose and Yokoyama Taikan, at Taikan’s home in Ueno, 1924