This Day in History (15-Nov-1913) – Ravindranath Tagore received the message that he was awarded with Noble Prize in literature for his collection of poems “Gitanjali”

Rabindranath Tagore is the most eminent Bengali renaissance poet, philosopher, essayist, critic, composer and educator who dreamt of a harmony of universal humanity among the people of different origin through freedom of mind and spiritual sovereignty.  Gitanjali is a collection of poems by Rabindranath. The original Bengali collection of 157 poems was published on August 14, 1910.

On the way over to England in 1912, Rabindranath began translating, for the first time, his latest selections of poems, Gitanjali, into English. Almost all of his work prior to that time had been written in his native tongue of Bengali.He decided to do this just to have something to do, with no expectation at all that his first time translation efforts would be any good. He made the handwritten translations in a little notebook he carried around with him and worked on during the long sea voyage from India. Upon arrival, his son left his father’s brief case with this notebook in the London subway. Fortunately, an honest person named Rothenstein took help of his friend W. B. Yeats, the famous Irish poet and finally published the book through India Society of London. The English Gitanjali or Song Offerings is a collection of 103 English poems . It contained translations of 53 poems from the original Bengali Gitanjali, as well as 50 other poems which were from his drama Achalayatan and eight other books of poetry — mainly Gitimalya (17 poems), Naivedya (15 poems) and Kheya (11 poems).

The translated poems were extremely well received. In 1913, Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, largely for the English Gitanjali. The English Gitanjali became very famous in the West, and was widely translated. The word gitanjali is composed from “gita”, song, and “anjali”, offering, and thus means – “An offering of songs”; but the word for offering, anjali, has a strong devotional connotation, so the title may also be interpreted as “prayer offering of song”.

“… Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action,
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”



This Day in History (15-Oct-1888) – Gopal Ganesh Agarkar started daily newspaper ‘Sudharak’

Agarkar became associated with Lokmanya Tilak while studying in college. By then, they were both fired with the idea of serving their motherland. In 1881, Agarkar and Tilak together started the English newspaper Maratha and the Marathi newspaper Kesari, with Agarkar as the editor of Kesari. Later they also formed the Deccan Education Society and under its auspices started the Fergusson College in 1885. Agarkar started teaching in this college and later became the Principal of the College, holding the office until his death. He believed that social revolution should occur first, that all undesirable social practices like child marriages and untouchability should first be expelled before attaining political freedom. This led to differences between him and Lokmanya Tilak, who gave supreme priority to attaining freedom.

Unable to work together anymore under these differences, Agarkar resigned from the editorship of Kesari in October 1887 and started his own newspaper Sudharak (reformer) in 1888. He propagated individual freedom, rationalism and social justice through the medium of Sudharak. He also strongly voiced his opposition to unfair social practices like the Caste System (unequal treatment to people of lower castes), child marriage, making widows bald and Grantha-Dharma-Pramanya (blind following of religious scriptures and practices without present day context). Sudharak was published both in English as well as Marathi languages. Namdar Gopal Gokhale shouldered the responsibility of the English version of Sudharak for a brief period of time.

Agarkar was a staunch supporter of individualism. He also presented modern views about women’s dressing, before the society. He was a secular rationalist. He considered equality, consent and freedom to be important factors in the political and social context; that manmade social inequality should be kept to a bare minimum. He defined social progressiveness simply as having a system that provides reasonably equal comforts for all. He believed that intellectual debate is essential for social health.  Agarkar expired unexpectedly, at the young age of thirty-nine years.



This Day in History (26-Sep-1946) – 1st edition of Tintin (Kuifje), publishes until June 1993

After leaving school and beginning work at the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle, cartoonist Hergé oversaw a weekly supplement for children entitled Le Petit Vingtième. This got him thinking about a new character: “A-journalist, yet with the spirit of a Boy Scout.” Hergé’s job provided him access to all the latest news, including the real-life exploits of French reporter and investigator Albert Londres. Londres’s career, as well as stories from Belgian and foreign papers, became fodder for Tintin’s adventures. Tintin himself was modeled with a round head, a button for a nose and two dots for eyes — but with the iconic quiff that makes him instantly recognizable.

The first Tintin adventure in 1929, ‘Tintin in the Land of the Soviets’, was an instant hit with children and adults alike. As the adventures progressed, Hergé added all kinds of characters — some of whom he based on famous people (such as Bianca Castafiore, whose character was inspired by the opera singer Maria Callas). He also based some characters on friends and family (such as Thomson & Thompson, who were inspired by his father and his father’s twin brother).

The idea for a magazine came up after a meeting between Hergé and the Belgian publisher Raymond Leblanc. After dealing with the financial aspects, Leblanc founded the publishing house Lombard and one of Belgium’s most prestigious comic magazines was born. Soon a Flemish version followed, titled ‘Kuifje’. Tintin was the Belgian magazine for realistic comics during the second half of the 20th Century. It brought forth legendary series such as ‘Blake & Mortimer’, ‘Alix’, ‘Ric Hochet’ and of course ‘Tintin et Milou’. The first issue appeared in 1946 and the magazine ran until its final rendition in 1993.



This Day in History (18-Jul-1925) – Hitler publishes Mein Kampf (My Struggle)

Although it is thought of as having been ‘written’ by Hitler, Mein Kampf is not a book in the usual sense. Hitler never actually sat down and wrote, but instead dictated it to Rudolf Hess while pacing around his prison cell in 1923-24 and later at an inn at Berchtesgaden. Reading Mein Kampf is like listening to Hitler speak at length about his youth, early days in the Nazi Party, future plans for Germany, and ideas on politics and race. In his book, Hitler divides humans into categories based on physical appearance, establishing higher and lower orders, or types of humans. At the top, according to Hitler, is the Germanic man with his fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes. Hitler refers to this type of person as an Aryan. He asserts that the Aryan is the supreme form of human, or master race. Hitler assigns the inferior position to Jews and the Slavic peoples, notably the Czechs, Poles, and Russians.

Mein Kampf also provides an explanation for the military conquests later attempted by Hitler and the Germans. Hitler states that since the Aryans are the master race, they are entitled simply by that fact to acquire more land for themselves. But in order to achieve this, Hitler states, Germany must first defeat its old enemy France, to avenge the German defeat of World War I and to secure the western border. Hitler bitterly recalls the end of the First World War, saying the German Army was denied its chance for victory on the battlefield by political treachery at home.

When Mein Kampf was first released in 1925 it sold poorly. However, after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, millions of copies were sold. It was considered proper to own a copy and to give one to newlyweds, high school graduates, or to celebrate any similar occasion. But few Germans ever read it cover to cover. Although it made him rich, Hitler would later express regret that he produced Mein Kampf, considering the extent of its revelations. Those revelations concerning the nature of his character and his blueprint for Germany’s future served as a warning to the world. A warning that was mostly ignored.



This Day in History (26-Jun-1284) – Pied Piper lures 130 children of Hamelin away

In the year 1284 a mysterious man appeared in Hameln, Germany. He was wearing a coat of many colored, bright cloth, for which reason he was called the Pied Piper. He claimed to be a rat catcher, and he promised that for a certain sum that he would rid the city of all mice and rats. The citizens struck a deal, promising him a certain price. The rat catcher then took a small fife from his pocket and began to blow on it. Rats and mice immediately came from every house and gathered around him. When he thought that he had them all he led them to the River Weser where he pulled up his clothes and walked into the water. The animals all followed him, fell in, and drowned. Now that the citizens had been freed of their plague, they regretted having promised so much money, and, using all kinds of excuses, they refused to pay him. Finally he went away, bitter and angry. He returned on June 26, early in the morning at seven o’clock, now dressed in a hunter’s costume, with a dreadful look on his face and wearing a strange red hat. He sounded his fife in the streets, but this time it wasn’t rats and mice that came to him, but rather children: a great number of boys and girls from their fourth year on. Among them was the mayor’s grown daughter. The swarm followed him, and he led them into a mountain, where he disappeared with them.

All this was seen by a babysitter who, carrying a child in her arms carried the news back to the town. Within the hour messengers were sent everywhere by water and by land inquiring if the children. In total, one hundred thirty were lost. One little boy in shirtsleeves had gone along with the others, but had turned back to fetch his jacket and thus escaped the tragedy, for when he returned, the others had already disappeared into a cave within a hill. This cave is still shown. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, and probably still today, the street through which the children were led out to the town gate was called the bunge-lose (drumless, soundless, quiet) street, because no dancing or music was allowed there. Indeed, when a bridal procession on its way to church crossed this street, the musicians would have to stop playing.


This Day in History (19-Jun-1978) – Garfield, holder of the Guinness World Record for the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip, makes its debut

Garfield is a comic strip created by Jim Davis. A humorous strip published since June 19, 1978, it chronicles the life of the title character, a fat, lazy, cynical orange cat Garield, who loves lasagna, coffee, and his remote control; his owner, the long-suffering Jon Arbuckle; and Odie, a sweet but dumb dog. Garfield was named after the grandfather of Davis.  In June 1978, Garfield appeared in 41 US Newspapers. In a year it crossed 100 newspapers. Garfield at Large, his first book, hits #1 on The New York Times bestsellers list in 1980 and stays there for nearly two years. In 1982, seven Garfield books appear simultaneously on The New York Times bestsellers list…a never-before-seen feat that has yet to be matched! Same year, Garfield made the cover of People magazine as America’s #1 personality.

As of 2013, it was syndicated in roughly 2,580 newspapers and journals, and held the Guinness World Record for being the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip. It’s read daily by 260million people around the world. People relate to Garfield because Garfield is them. “He’s a human in a cat suit,” as creator Jim Davis likes to say. Garfield loves TV and hates Mondays. He’d rather pig out than work out; in fact, his passion for food and sleep is matched only by his aversion to diet and exercise (he prefers lay-downs to sit-ups). He’d like mornings better if they started later. Coffee “strong enough to sit up and bark” is the only way to start the day. What could be more human?

Originally created with the intentions to “come up with a good, marketable character”, Garfield has spawned merchandise earning $750 million to $1 billion annually. In addition to the various merchandise and commercial tie-ins, the strip has spawned several animated television specials, two animated television series, two theatrical feature-length live-action films and three CGI animated direct-to-video movies. Part of the strip’s broad appeal is due to its lack of social or political commentary; though this was Davis’s original intention, he also admitted that his “grasp of politics isn’t strong,”



This Day in History (26-May-1897) – The classic novel Dracula goes on sale in London

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker.  Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. The novel touches on themes such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexual conventions, immigration, colonialism, and post-colonialism. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

Stoker had been publishing horror stories since 1875 and published his first novel, Snake’s Pass, in 1890. The horror genre, which was born of folk tales and legends, had received a boost in 18th century England through the Gothic movement. The Dead Un-Dead was one of Stoker’s original titles for Dracula, and up until a few weeks before publication, the manuscript was titled simply The Un-Dead. Stoker’s notes for Dracula show that the name of the count was originally “Count Wampyr”, but while doing research, Stoker became intrigued by the name “Dracula”, which means Devil in Romanian.

When it was first published, in 1897, Dracula was not an immediate bestseller It did not make much money for Stoker; the last year of his life he was so poor that he had to petition for a compassionate grant from the Royal Literary Fund, and in 1913 his widow was forced to sell his notes and outlines of the novel at a Sotheby’s auction, where they were purchased for a little over 2 pounds. It only reached its broad iconic legendary classic status later in the 20th century when the movie versions appeared.