Saturday, November 24, 2012

'Country' could be you

never had much guest posts in my blog. From what I recall, it was only once, and it was from Fernando Pessoa, the well-known and Portuguese poet. It was a passage written by him that I included, years back. At this moment, I think about guest posts again. The reason is very extraordinary and simple at the same time.

For the past few days I have been thinking a line from a poem by an Indian poet. This is the line “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.”
This line is from Rabindranath Tagore’s Githanjali, a collection of spiritual songs, for which he won the Nobel Prize for literature. He was the first and last Indian to bring the Nobel here. But that doesn’t count as much as how deep his verses are. None of the other poets in the tradition of Indian English literature have been able to bring such a depth within such a concise verse format.   

I taught this poem at the university and studied it myself as a young graduate. In all these years, most of the courses in Literature, teach this poem as a political poem, as an odd one in the collection of spiritual and philosophical verses.

Here is the complete poem:
Image Courtesy: Google

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 
Rabindranath Tagore

What propels the reader to take this poem as a political statement by Tagore might be the word, “country” at the ending line of the poem. The simple consideration of a possible metaphoric status of that word can reveal an altogether different and philosophical side of the poem. The word country could be suggestive of the human stature. It could be body, or self. You or me. what if the word suggests our mind? Then the poem, without any question, becomes a garden of varied flowers, the ones that never bloomed anywhere near and with such magnificent charm that it brings no others in comparison. 


sarath said...

Let me ask one question, what is the meaning of the phrase "my Father" in the last poem... We Indians normally won't address God as Father.. Would you please enlighten me/.

Anu Lal said...

My friend, I have in no means the capacity to enlighten you.That phrase, to be frank, never stuck odd to me. Perhaps due to my Christian spiritual tradition. I do address God as Father. Addressing God as mother is not exactly an 'Indian' way of using it, instead a 'Hindu way'.There is a difference. A serious and demographic dementia has been in operation when Indians are labelled uni-cultural. We must not forget, even before the arrival of the British and even before the institutionalization of Hinduism, other religious systems, institutional or not, existed in India, and many of them addressed God neither as Mother nor Father.

Tagore in these lines must not necessarily talking about God alone, I believe personally. It is rather a philosophical stand, as Father is a term that stands for order, rule, structure, etc. It need not be confused with mystical idea of God. It could be the philosophy of structure and the spiritual idea of 'Atman' or the inner being.

sarath said...

I have one objection to the view that "Addressing God as mother is not exactly an 'Indian' way of using it, instead a 'Hindu way'". It is because in ancient 'sambradayika' systems and other pre-historic times and even in Harappan tradition, you can see 'mother' figure; The term 'Hindu' is an Aryanized version...

Anu Lal said...

They say, the "Aryan invasion theory" is just a hoax to justify certain similar changes in Hinduism. And Aryan invasion never happened; they were always here. In prehistoric times, in the pagan tradition, even in the middle east, people worshiped the sacred feminine. It's not particularly an Indian phenomenon.