REPORT: Did Rabindranath Tagore Die Of Prostate Cancer?

A new exhibition to reconstruct the poet's last days and illness.

08/08/2016 8:59 AM IST | Updated 08/08/2016 1:33 PM IST
Bengali poet, writer and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore in an undated photo. (AP Photo)

Seventy-five years after Rabindranath Tagore's death, a university named after him is reconstructing his last days and the illness that killed him in an exhibition.

According to a Times of India report, a team of experts from Kolkata's Rabindra Bharati University, which is also responsible for taking care of Tagore's ancestral home Jorasanko, has embarked on a project to recreate the final days of the Nobel Laureate's life.

On the basis of existing documentation, efforts are being made to reimagine the time when Tagore had to undergo surgery in a makeshift operation theatre outside his balcony. So far, the subject of the poet's mortality has been largely brushed aside. Jorasanko does not have too many objects associated with his old age, except for the room in which he lived, which has been preserved in its entirety.

But the time has now come for all this to change.

Speaking to the Times of India, Sabyasachi Basu Roy Chowdhury, the vice-chancellor of the university said, "It is not that no one knows how Tagore suffered his end. The fact that the verandah outside his room was converted into an operation theatre for the final surgery is also part of recorded history. But most people don't know that he may have been suffering from prostate cancer."

On 15 September 1940, Tagore had severe pain in his abdomen in Kalimpong. Doctors claimed he had an infection of the urinary bladder and ought to be rushed back to Jorasanko, where he stayed briefly before moving back to Santiniketan.

While Tagore wanted to continue with ayurvedic treatment, he was forced to remain under the supervision of the famous doctors, Bidhan Chandra Roy and Nil Ratan Sircar, both of whom suggested surgery, which Tagore was adamantly resistant to.

His condition became so critical that he had almost stopped passing urine. Doctors diagnosed him with uraemia and other complications and it was decided that a surgery could not be postponed any further. The poet was brought back to Jorasanko and a sterilised OT was created there for the procedure. While the doctors did not operate on the enlarged prostate, they did a bypass surgery to take out accumulated urine.

Tagore died in 1941 at the age of 80.

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