Post Brexit, the Indo UK partnership has grown from strength to strength. In this backdrop, it is fitting and timely that the Bengal Heritage Foundation commemorated Dwarkanath Tagore – pioneering Indian entrepreneur and philanthropist on his 175th death anniversary – on 1 August 2021.
The sunny London afternoon brightened up further as songs and speeches eulogised Dwarkanath Tagore’s contribution to business, innovation and philanthropy, celebrating his life. Wreaths were placed on the monument to Dwarkanath Tagore by the First Secretary, descendants of the Tagore family and members of Bengal Heritage Foundation. Henry Vivian Neil from the Friends of Kensal Green welcomed all to the commemoration and shared memories from the 150th year of Dwarknath’s death anniversary.
Rohit Vadhwana, First Secretary (Economic), High Commission of India, spoke about how Dwarkanath Tagore set up new milestones in business and entrepreneurship and his relevance today. He reflected on the friendship between India and UK and today’s equal partnership between the two countries had it seeds sown as Dwarkanath set up business relationships with the British. He stressed on the need for pride about heritage within the community. He referred to Raja Rammohun Roy’s statue in Bristol and his final resting place is maintained over the years by the broad Indian community.
Neil Mukherjee, a descendent of the Tagore family and a doctor, referred to his forefather’s philanthropy especially his contribution in setting up of Calcutta Medical College. He shared personal stories from his childhood as he discovered his ancestor through a wonderful portrait of Dwarkanath in the ancestral home. He read excerpts from Kishroi chand mitra’s biography of Dwarkanath and reflected how Dwarkanath the Indian voice in the midst of European narrative of the sub continent.
Amit Guha, from Bengal Heritage Foundation, read excerpts from Krishna Dutta’s works and talked about the various facets of Dwarkanath's remarkable achievements in business, his famous dinners at his country villa, his philanthropy and his travels in Europe and England. He also spoke about the remarkable similarities between Dwarkanath and his grandson Rabindranath: both were drawn to music, theatre and literature; both revelled in travel, often staying at the best hotels; both loved to meet the best minds; both had a keen sense of national pride; and both shared a vision of East and West meeting in cooperation.
Nick Low, British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata, joined in digitally from his quarantine and noted that Dwarkanath was ‘full spectrum’ in today’s parlance. He noted that no one is better to inspire us than Tagore as we embark on the Roadmap 2030 agreed between prime ministers of UK and India which will deliver a quantum leap in the quality of the relationships in a new era.
Jonathan Kennedy, Director (Arts) British Council India, reflected on the long relationship between British Council and Bengal Heritage Foundation and how the commemoration enriched the living bridge between India and UK. Referring to Dwarknath as India’s first Internationalist, he talked about his business collaborations, social reforms, philanthropy, modernity and his endeavour to promote happiness and prosperity of his fellow countrymen.
The talks were interspersed with mellifluous music presented by Anamika Sarkar, Tanusree Guha, Suranjan Som, Joydeep Pal, Amit Guha and Subham Pal, wonderfully curated by Jhuma Bhadra and Tanusree Guha from the music of Bengal – celebrating the life of Dwarkanath Tagore. The host for the event, Nirmal Nag, referred to the Dwarkanath Commemoration in Narayankoori, India and read out a poem from the region in a poignant closing of the programme.