Tagore And His Women
The Bengali polymath was influenced by a number of romantic interests across his eventful life
The most famous of Tagore’s loves, and perhaps his most powerful one, was his sister-in-law, Kadambari Devi. Devi married into the Tagore family when she was 10, significantly younger than her spouse but only two years older than the young Rabindranath. When his mother died in his teens, his sister-in-law formed much of his early female companionship. A young Tagore craved her approval and affection, driving his early genius. There was great speculation surrounding the nature of the relationship between the two, and controversy further arose when Kadambari committed suicide in 1884 for no apparent reason. The young Tagore was heartbroken, and wrote immensely about her.
In 1878, Tagore went to stay in Bombay with a family friend. The family was heavily westernized, and he was taken under their tutelage to learn English customs before he left the country. He became immensely close to the daughter of the friend, Annapurna Pandurang, better known as Anna. Anna played pranks on and endlessly teased the young Tagore, and even as he lacked the drive to pursue further physical matters, he wrote several books dedicated to her and named a character, Nalini, after her.
Tagore then sailed to England and became the paying guest of a man called Dr. Scott. Scott had two young daughters, who both fell in love with the young poet. Although he continued to fail to return the affection, he stated later that he believed the two girls to be his lovers in a previous life, and wrote a book, Du Din (Two Days), on his brief love affairs with Anna and Dr. Scott’s daughters.
Tagore grew to love his wife, who he had dutifully married while still very much smitten by Kadambari. His wife worked hard to become a worthy housewife to him, learning several languages and giving him five children. He wrote her several letters, and when she died at the premature age of 29, he published a volume of 27 poems in her memory, titled Smaran (Remembrance).
He had a notable love affair late in his life as well, with a 63-year-old widower, Victoria Ocampo. The two stayed together in an isolated villa outside Buenos Aires, and the charming lady cared for him in his declining health. He wrote great poetry dedicated to her as well. However, an overriding theme in all his work, even as he moved on to other women, was his undying love for Kadambari Devi.