“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.”
I don’t think there’s anybody who does not recognize this poem, or its author. Rabindranath Tagore was an exemplary writer in his time, and even today, his legacy continues to live on.
We all know him as the poet who wrote our national anthem. We know him as Guruji; the man who founded Santiniketan. We know him as the man who gave up his knighthood in protest against the Jalliawalah Bagh Massacre. We know him as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. We know him as the great poet, the novelist, the musician, the painter, and the playwright.
World over, the general opinion is that all his work was brilliant. I say “general” because in a world with billions of people, views will obviously differ.
It takes effort to take the road not taken; to voice an opinion the majority does not support, for when we do it, the repercussions are severe.
“He was a great poet certainly, one of our greatest. And he got the Nobel Prize in 1913 when most of our modern literature was still in the state of formation. His greatness as a poet is there, his greatness as a thinker is there… he wrote plays, he certainly was a pioneer in breaking away from the unexciting commercial plays…he didn’t direct great plays. The point is he was a mediocre playwright.”
Girish Karnad shouldn’t have made the mistake of saying that. I mean, how dare he? After all, this is Rabindranath Tagore we’re talking about. How could his writing even be questioned? Guruji can’t go wrong. There’s no way he can go wrong.
Girish Karnad is one gutsy chap.
But you know what?
I don’t see what he did wrong. People have their own tastes, and if someone does not consider a person to be as legendary as the rest of the world, he or she is entitled to his or her own opinion. It’s as simple as that.
Sadly, people don’t seem to get it. We see indignant, angry tweets and statuses flood social media websites. We hear the outraged comments of people. We see a lot of hatred directed towards the man.
And why’s that?
Oh, because he decided to tell the world what he thinks. Nowhere did he insult Tagore. Nowhere did he say that he was terrible. All he said was that according to him, he wasn’t a very good playwright.
So what’s the hue and cry about?
It’s ironic how Rabindranath Tagore envisioned a world, “where words came out from the depth of truth”, and yet, we deny the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression to a person who is just as much a citizen of the country as we are.
“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.”
I’m going to take the liberty of assuming that all those who fiercely defended Rabindranath Tagore from Karnad’s comment respect him greatly and value what he said. Let’s not lose the “clear stream of reason” into the “dreary desert sand of dead habit”.
Let us remember that just because a man is highly respected by a majority of the world, it does not mean that he is perfect, for he still remains human. He is not beyond question, and not everyone is going to enjoy his work.
Let us not blindly get defensive over a comment that wasn’t even meant to be offensive in the first place. Let’s use our heads calmly and remember –to each their own. Let us respect other opinions and allow everyone “into that heaven of freedom”, for only then will we truly deserve to be called a democratic country.
Just like Guruji desired.