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LADY RANU MUKHERJEE (1906-2000)


Born Priti Adhikary in Varanasi, Lady Ranu Mukherjee was to become the muse of Rabindranath Tagore in his last years. Tagore first met her as a child in her parents’ house when she rushed out to greet him in innocent nudity. He met her again when she was fifteen and had grown into a striking young girl on the verge of womanhood. She was a mercurial child, she could show great maturity as when she acted a role beyond her years in the Thakurbari amateur dramatics, but she also had a whimsical playfulness that the aging poet found very refreshing.

She nicknamed him ‘Bhanuda’ after the character in his Bhanu Singher Padabali. Sunil Gangopadhyay wrote a novel, Ranu o Bhanu, in which he hinted that Tagore and Lady Ranu had become lovers. That there was great attraction between them was undeniable; Tagore trusted Ranu to handle many important literary matters for him, even after her marriage to Biren Mukherjee. She too was powerfully attracted, but there is no evidence of anything actually happening between them. She spent thirteen years at Shantiniketan where she learnt drawing from Nandalal Bose.

In later live Lady Ranu became an active patron of the arts, helping with the running of the Academy of Fine Arts from 1947.
 
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