Where the mind is without fear and the head 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
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One’s journey in life is incomplete, rather a nonstarter, if you havent been influenced by other lives born before, with and after you. A person’s life, actions and deeds, can be very important effects. But sometimes even words can have lasting impacts. Eka, written by Rabindranath Tagore is one such song.
I started blogging on the erstwhile Yahoo360, with a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, Heaven of Freedom. I had read and studied that during my school days, and so it was not a difficult choice to pick it up as a topic for a blog. And for me, it even made excellent choice for a first blog post. Ekla Chalo Re, i dont quite recall when i had first come across this song or poem. But any lasting impression must be credited to AR Rahman for setting this to tune for the movie, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero. But the real reason to blog, comes from my second encounter when i heard the song in the movie Kahaani.
I spend a bit more time and effort to understand the lyrics and the meaning of the full song, and not just the first two lines. What i, at first, thought was walk alone, now meant a lot more. While, ‘walk alone’ is still the shortest way to describe the song, one must not look at those words in isolation.
Bengali Lyrics (romanized, as best possible by me, with a lot of www help)
Jodi tor daak shune keu naa ashe tobe ekla chalo re
Tobe ekla chalo, ekla chalo, ekla chalo, ekla chalo re
Jodi keu kothaa naa koye, ore ore o abhaagaa,
Jodi shobai thaake mukha phiraaye shobai kore bhoye
Tobe poraana khule o tui mukha phute tur monera kothaa, eklaa bolo re
Jodi shobai phire jaaye, ore ore o abhaagaa,
Jodi gohana pothe jaabaara kaale keu phire naa chaaye
Tobe pothera kaataa o tui rokto maakhaa choronatole eklaa dolo re
Jodi aalo naa dhore, ore ore o abhaagaa,
Jodi jhora-baadole aadhaara raate duyaara deye ghore
Tobe bajraanole aapon bukera paajora jbaaliye niye ekalaa jbalo re
Rabindranath Tagore’s transalation of the song, written in Bengali. (courtsey wikipedia).
If they answer not to thy call walk alone,
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
O thou unlucky one,
open thy mind and speak out alone.
If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,
O thou unlucky one,
trample the thorns under thy tread,
and along the blood-lined track travel alone.
If they do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm,
O thou unlucky one,
with the thunder flame of pain ignite thy own heart
and let it burn alone
Walk alone, speak alone, tread alone, burn alone, these words exalt you to be the first if required and the last as required, to speak and do the right things. Many times in life, you are often required to the make these small choices. In those times, lets hope these words inspire you to make the right choice, Ekla Chalo Re.
During my school days, when we had to study history as a subject, i used to wonder ‘why we needed to know so much of detail of what, why, how, when things happened’? The boredom only increased manifold, in trying to track names and dates, the before and after etc. Appreciation for this subject didnt hit me till i actually started working and i guess when i felt i will never have to study this or another subject again. Another facet of this study started intriguing me, that facts changed. Well, it appeared that geography was not the only thing that changed in a land, its history too changed, based on who wrote it and when it was written.
For almost 20+ years in my life, just like many others, i believed that Christopher Columbus, discovered America, by accident, in his attempt to find a different sea route to India. Well, thats a load of humbug now. And just like the facts sorrounding Columbus, many other factoids continue to be changed and rewritten every single day. The white man, specially the english speaking variety, was quick to pass judgements that resulted in his superiority over any others. Thanks, to english being the most widely spoken language on the planet, people tend to believe everything written in english is closer to truth, than in any other language. This alone contributed to the largest amount of ‘history’ being crafted to the taste of particular sect of people.
Recently though, things have begun to change, several things for that matter. The internet, even though it is again dominated by the same language, has helped in playing a role of an equalizer. The global economy has changed, shifting power center, even though not fully, but atleast balancing it out. And a new set of numbers have rocked the very foundation of many people across the globe, like 9/11, 3/7, 26/11, 13/12, 7/7 etc.
Inspite of all the facts and findings before, newer revelations, shifting powers, history continues to be a victim, suffering from truth vs fiction more than ever. It is becoming even more difficult to believe something, because it is bound to change soon or some important fact or theory was overlooked. It is important to look at the source of the information, which will then help you understand their perception of this history. Yes, unfortunately it appears, history belongs predominantly to the creator, taking on the shape of a fiction novel more than ever. I wonder if the usual disclaimer is appropriate ‘any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental’.
Further reading: “Mohammad Ali Jinnah as The Hindu saw him“
I have debated and discussed about the effects of Gandhiji and his teachings, philosphy, life and message with many of my friends and family. There are many in India, while acknowledging his message about ahimsa, do question if that was the way to accomplish freedom from the British, or more importantly the role he played immediately after independence with regards to Pakistan. While there could be a lot introspection there, and as the years roll by, history will unravel itself and we will know more.
Gandhiji, the freedom struggle, ahimsa, non-volience and the British and Pakistan are all connected and a very integral part of his message. The struggle to throw the British did take a long time, if you consider that Gandhi began the Salt Satyagraha (Dandi March) in 1930. The independence movement started catching steam only in 1942, with the Quit India movement. However, even then, there is a lot of questions about whether the British finally sucumbed to the constant riff-raff with Gandhi and his million and millions of satyagrahis, or did they (british) wake up, after just about scraping themselves thru’ the WorldWarII, and finding an invigorated Indian Army, that had begun revolting thanks more in part to Subash Chandra Bose’s INA.
While these dictate and show us some insights into how the freedom struggle may have played out. I think, it doesnt in anyway dampen the message of ahimsa. The reason is manyfold. I believe our country, is what it is today, primarily because of Gandhiji and his legacy in the Congress party. For good or bad, the thoughts of many who came before him and after him, simply didnt stand the test of time and didnt measure up to the people’s will. This is not measured against any economic scale, but from a more egalitarian scale, the ram rajya that Gandhi wanted. I think we are closer to that state, than any other country in the world. Again i am not attempting to measure this in terms of wealth.
And, the concept of non-voilence has something poetic about it, that the courage required to sit and recieve a blow from your oppressor seems, and is, far more superior than the will and ability to strike back harder and faster. We can see today, how this is playing out in Iraq, Israel, Palestine and even in our own J&K etc. And there-in lies the tragedy too, that no one, even in our country completely believes that the concept can actually work. However, time and again, events and history prove that might can only control things for a moment, before they soon get out of hand.
Yesterday’s call for bandh (work stoppage) by the Govt of TamilNadu (rather by the party that runs it), the contrarian view held-up by the Supreme Court, the tough message sent later to the Chief Minister in Tamil Nadu, to stop or face consequences, the message from the leaders accusing the judiciary for evangelising, all of which are signs of a vibrant democracy in action. Not at any time, did the Police, army reserve or the military step in to control this chaos. Compare this to all the sorrounding neighbours that are facing a run-in with their military day in and day out. I think this too is a legacy of the same ahimsa that Gandhi propogated. So while this causes a lot of unnecessary strikes and other satyagrahas which may not ring the same the ones called by Gandhi. Each of those are a sign that his concept is slightly better than to have a discussions through the barrel of a gun.
But then, one wonders whether anyone is really interested in accepting his message or living by it. We believe it is justice done, if we think about Gandhi today, on his b’day and again 3 other times in the year, on Indepdence and Republic days and his death anniversary. There was a time, when the country would have all the liquour shops close down on 2nd Oct, as a sign of solidarity to his teachings. I think there was no bigger mockery than that. All politicians reject it publicily, only to consume them in a more private space. And the annual importance given to spinning and buying kadhi. Gandhi invented the concept to take on english cotton mills, not to fight our own.
I am no different from everyone, as i too believed i have done my duty by writing this blog, and getting it off my concsience. But then again, its not easy to be a Gandhi, and if we can be him, even if for one day, we have done ourselves a great favour.
Heaven of Freedom
by Rabindranath Tagore
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,
Where Knowledge is free,
Where the world has not been broken 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 sand of dead habit,
Where the mind is lead forward by thee into ever widening thought and action,
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, Let my country awake.