Dilip's conversations with Tagore

Dilip Roy had so many illumining conversations with Tagore. He used to visit Santiniketan for a few days and they would talk and talk. They also enjoyed their voluminous correspondence.

One conversation was so striking. Dilip was fearless. He said to Tagore, "Kabiguru [Guru of the poets], your songs, why do you not allow others to set music to them? Forgive me, but they could give better melodies to your most beautiful words. Why not allow them? They are great singers. They will do a far better job. Your own melodies are so simple."

Tagore responded, "Look, I give much more importance to my words than to my music. I am totally identified with the words. Words convey what I have from within. Words convey my feelings. When I write, words come to me first. Then the melody I give. Melodies do not convey feeling. So if others can give a better melody to my songs, I will not allow them because I know the words convey my feeling. They come from me directly. They give me such a sweet feeling. Words are so important in my life." This was Tagore.

Then a few years later, to somebody else, Tagore said about his poems which were set to music, "My words are like widows. But when they are set to music, they become like brides, most beautiful. When music comes, it is like a beautiful girl with all kinds of ornaments. But if the poem remains only as words, then it is like an Indian widow. The words have to give up all their beauty."

In those days, Indian widows could not have beauty. They had to cut off their hair, they could not wear jewellery and they had to lead an austere life. They became simplicity incarnate. They were all the time mourning the loss of their husbands.

To Dilip Roy, Tagore had to say that words come first, he did not care for melody, and then to somebody else he said that without melody the poem is a widow, there is no beauty, no charm. He changed his opinion. He gave two versions and I have read both. The thing is, he did allow five or six of his students to compose music for his poems, but it was very limited.