Mukerji was among the 15 UN envoys who chose, recited and recorded poems related to the war by authors from their respective countries.
The poems and their recordings were displayed at an interactive exhibition organised by the UK's mission to the UN yesterday as it took over the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of August. Mukerji read verse 96 from 'The Gitanjali', a collection of Tagore's poems originally published in 1910. "When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable," reads the first para of the poem by the legendary Indian philosopher.
The Indian delegation said as the shadows of an impending world war were gathering, Tagore's poems encapsulated a simple faith in man and divinity, a refuge from the crass materialism that was engulfing the world. It said the spirit of Tagore's poems appealed to an entire generation, affording solace, faith and hope by rediscovering truth and beauty in the world.
Among the poignant instances of the popular appeal of Tagore's poetry in war-torn Britain is the story of trench poet Wilfred Owen. After the death of her son on the warfront, Owen's mother Susan got his personal possessions back. In the notebook that Owen carried in his pocket, he had written poem 96 from Gitanjali with Tagore's name inscribed below. Owen had recited lines from the poem when he had bid goodbye to his mother. Owen's mother had written to Tagore in August 1920 recounting the experience, moved by the power of the poem that reverberated in her mind in the voice of her lost son.