Sunday 24 July 2016

Where the mind is without fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high 
Where knowledge is free 
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments 
By narrow domestic walls 
Where words come out from the depth of truth 
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection 
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way 
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit 
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 

There are often times when we wonder about the problems that have plagued our country and end up so tangled in the thought of them that we drop into the pit of cynicism. The big bad words flash before our eyes everyday – corruption, rape, terrorism, drugs, and dirty politics, just to name a few. We find our dear journalists struggling to say the same story with different names as if it was the most horrendous thing they’d ever heard. On the receiving end, it is perpetual déjà vu.

One cannot blame either for we have gotten into a death dance, a vicious cycle (if I may call upon this overused expression) or as Tagore would say - lost our way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit. Often when we have a long list of tasks to accomplish we make to-do lists for ourselves. The humble to-do list can be called a sad by-product of the human habit of forgetting things, things which are sometimes very important. A list gives us perspective when we are lost in the alleys of a supermarket dazed by products wrapped in every colour of the rainbow. We realize what is important and what can wait.

Maybe the common man today is lost in that part of the supermarket of where they sell things like gloom, hopelessness, cynicism and despair. At such a time it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a look at the to-do list which our forefathers made while fighting for the freedom of our country. Why were they fighting the British anyway? Why not just live in complacency? One of the reasons I believe was that they realized that there was something about the British rule which was fundamentally against the flourishing of India as a country, breathing, thinking and acting on its own based upon its own ideas of what was right and wrong. They had a vision, a dream, for India. That vision was their list which we inherited. Sadly, for our part we have done a pretty bad job with it. This particular poem by Tagore is part of that inheritance. It is a dream within a nightmare. A lot of people would find it of little use beyond poetry recitals but I insist stubbornly that each and every verse in this poem can and will be achieved if only we start working towards it.

This poem should serve as a wakeup call for every couch critic, every teacher, social worker, politician, every Indian out there. It is human to get lost in despair but it is equally human to gravitate towards hope and to realize it through action. I don’t have to write a summary of the poem for you. You already know it – it is your to-do list and now that you have seen it, it is time that you rejuvenate and remove yourself from the shelves which contain jars of despair and packets of gloom. Maybe you won’t be able to complete the job but you would make it much easier for your son or your grandson.

(Contributed by:-Monib Ahmed)

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