Tagore, Rabindranath (1861 -1941)
Rabindranath Tagore was a polymath - born to an aristocratic Bengali family, he was a poet, novelist, song writer, playwright, essayist, artist, educator and visionary. He was the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Tagore introduced new verse forms and prose techniques in Bengali, modifying the rigid 'classical' written language to one that was closer to the spoken form and more intimate. He reshaped Bengali and Indian culture in far reaching ways. In short, he is to Bengali what Shakespeare is to English. He was also awarded a knighthood, but surrendered it in protest against the British brutality in Jalianwala Bagh in Punjab.
I grew up with his nursery rhymes, songs and poems, fiction and musicals - 'dance-drama' as all Bengalis of my generation do. Today my prompt is his poem Where the Mind is without Fear written in the context of colonial oppression and the Indian resistance to it, which is still read and revered wherever freedoms are valued.
It'll be okay - either way
I will let your words take me wherever they want
in time, in space, in spaces of the mind
to their immeasurable, ancient battlefronts
where weapons and words are both ill-defined
and uncertainty stares at me with its blind
eyes and blinding terror. I shall not be afraid
to crawl, and fall, openly petrified,
vulnerable underbelly defenceless, blades
grazing the tender skin then ripping it wide
but I’ll press on without thoughts of turning aside;
it’s a long road to where the mind can be fearless
but I shall not cavil with you, I’ll accept
wherever they lead, peaks and valleys of darkness
I’ll follow them through every crevice and cleft,
jagged stone, without once looking right or left.
If in the end, there’s nothing gained, no epiphany
then that’s fine too, no complaints, no words from me.
One footstep on solid rock, the next on scree,
an endless path sans charms, sans destination,
every footfall an empty torment, no greenery
to lighten loads – barrenness, futility.
Even in that there’s a seed somewhere, a life lesson.
The paths spin their scenes and their own purpose
and every seed, whether it sprouts or is hidden,
will come to mean something, small but momentous
without the jolts and bolts, without drama and fuss.
All words and seeds ripen in time and split open.
And yours will too, I’ll carry them cupped like grain
in my hand and hold them close and walk on
step after step. Torment is just a terrain -
degrees of slope, sharpness of rock, flats of plain.
All paths peter out with time and are redrawn.
And if in the end, they don’t flatten, and nothing’s gained
then that’s fine too, I’ll keep the grain, and no complaint.
T is also for Tennyson, whose Ulysses is one of my favourite poems across all poets and and all times. Enjoy!
T is for Trouble, which I had last night trying to find bloggers that are still keeping on with the A-Z. Among the ones I clicked, several had stopped. Not a wildly successful reading session. A bit disheartening that but never mind, I shall Trudge on. Tomorrow is another day :)
Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2015