It was a chilly and crisp Halloween evening in Canada. Duke Ashrafuzzaman, an immigrant from Bangladesh, and few of his friends sat together discussing Tagore, Bengali culture, and a desire to promote their love for everything Bangla. This was in late 2010. 2011 was Tagore’s 150th birthday, and these passionate Bangalis wanted to make it memorable, 180 degrees around the home country of the visionary bard. Thus was seeded the first thoughts of the Vancouver Tagore Society!
The First taste of success
What was conceived, must be executed! The group of individuals then set out to organize a joint venture with World Poetry. What resulted was a breathtaking performance, showcasing Tagore and his creations. One of the founders,
“At that time, we were just a group of organizers, that included Leena Chatterjee, Anuradha Mitra, Raihan Akhter, Tan Lee, Santanu Mitra and me. There was no association, or even a name for this motley bunch of enthusiasts. At one point during the joint venture, Ariadne Sawyer, the president of World Poetry, asked for an organizational name, to put on the promotional literature. After that, we, the original six, brainstormed on a suitable and long-term name. After some deliberation, we unanimously agreed upon Raihan Akhter’s proposal, ‘Vancouver Tagore Society'”
This caught the eye of the local Diversity coordinator, Alan Hill. What started as a living room conversation is now a full-fledged, government-funded, not-for-profit body. It is indeed the measure of a country’s forward thinking when the government promotes diversity and acceptance of global cultures. Canada is totally on track in that way.
In the past seven years, this organization has grown in leaps and bounds. Interestingly, a larger part of the connoisseurs is not of Bengali ethnicity. Chinese, Korean, English, American, among various other people, from various walks of life showcase immense interest in knowing and being a part of this culture.
Another unique feature of this community is Bengalis from India, and Bangladesh has come together, their unifying factor being Tagore, music, and love for culture. They have attracted artists across Canada and America. Some of the in-house talents like Arno Kamalika, a prominent dancer in Canada, have made the team culturally stronger. Not just professionals, kids, and amateurs get to showcase their love in their way at the programs organized by the Society.
Cultural, not Religious
I asked this question while interviewing Duke, as most Indian societies that crop up outside India are tied to some particular religious beliefs. “We just had one vision, promoting the rich heritage of Bengali to one and all. If you look at our team, we are very diverse. Tagore unites us. And that is what we want to spread.”
Workshop on Tagore’s creations
On their 7th year of operation, Vancouver Tagore Society is taking the next big leap. They launched a workshop series where they conduct paid sessions, and teach dance forms, songs, and the poetry of Tagore. While some of it is paid for by the government, gathering the rest of the funds remains the primary challenge, says the founder.
However, he is hopeful in the youth, energy, and enthusiasm of the current team. He is confident that with support from the community, and with the love of Tagore in their hearts, the team will be able to take this society many leagues forward, in the years to come.
Team Blank Slate Chronicles lauds Vancouver Tagore Society for their commendable effort.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold; service was joy.” -Rabindranath Tagore
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