R.I.P Mr. Tagore
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.
In reality, today, the poem would have an asterisk on every line, with ‘conditions apply’ written all over it.
It’s true. As a nation, we have progressed far… from where we could have been.
1947. The birth of India. A young, new nation, with so much to dream about, so much to aspire for, so much to do and so much to gain.
Planned and managed correctly, India could have been developed into a model nation, that worked toward alleviation of poverty and hunger, destruction of the caste system, integration of various religious and regional ethnicities, building wealth… evenly, across all strata of society, creating world class infrastructure, integrating development across urban and rural India, better policing, better governance, better education, better population control.
Truth is, our leaders (and as an indirect implication – us… since we voted them into power) have failed miserably and squandered the opportunity to do genuine good for our country.
Which leads me to an explosive question. Is any one of us patriotic? Does any one of us actually love the nation we were born in? Or are we a self centered, bigoted, money crazed population that cannot and will not look beyond ourselves.
There are thousands who would jump at my throat for even making such a suggestion. This is a ‘most unpatriotic’ statement to make. Please don’t question my loyalty to India.
However, I urge you to think before you answer.
If we truly love our motherland, would we accept the situation with the ‘laissez faire’ attitude that we have all become so adept at doing?
Lets face it. Nothing rankles an Indian. Nothing.
We a fatalistic fools who accept (through time immemorial) everything that life doles out to us.
Be it massive corruption scandals (which, put together, would take care of the development needs for our country for decades) or widespread goonda raj, where ‘road rage’ and ‘hit & runs’ are as common as burglary, mugging, rape and murder.
Or maybe the impunity and regularity with which terrorist groups attack our country, prompting the same flurry of ‘we will get to the bottom of this’ bullshit from our politicians.
Have you considered the fact that female infanticide and foeticide will ensure that ‘gay’ marriages will soon no longer be a ‘disease’ (as our honorable health minister claims) but the norm, since there just won’t be any women left.
How about the fact that we are politically an island, with hostile neighbours all around us. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and importantly China.
What about the fact that internally, the situation is not much more promising. We have separatist movements all around us. And it’s in every nook and corner. The north is taken over by Kashmiri separatists. The northeast has its plethora of separatists across each and every state there, Central, East and South India are plagued by the Maoists.
What about regional and factional politics, where right wing (and regional) parties have made sure that every state is purely concerned about their ‘sons of the soil’ with the sole intention of driving out everyone who does not belong there.
How about the state education system, that is rigged so that it does not create an educated population… for one simple reason, education will stop these people from being vote banks of the politicians… if they are enlightened enough to think for themselves, they certainly wouldn’t vote these guys into power.
Or the fact that politicians and religious leaders have ensured that there cannot be peace between the various faiths practiced in our country?
What about the fact that malnutrition is still one of the key issues in India (even now… 60 years after our independence), with over 40% of the Indian population suffering from malnutrition?
Or that fact that the caste system is very much alive and kicking across the country, despite all the reservations, benefit schemes and the ‘so-called’ education of the ‘junta’
Or that we still have the ‘Gora’ complex, where a white skinned carpenter from Germany would get preferential treatment over the highest educated and paid dark skinned Indian?
Veiled behind all the talk and positivity about India becoming a superpower, showing phenomenal growth and competing with the world, lies the simple naked truth.
We are far from Mr. Tagore’s dream.
Sounds scary? Good. You should be scared. Very scared!
Here’s the updated version of the famous poem, with relevant comments. Apologies to you Mr. Tagore… you were a true visionary, but the generations following have reduced your vision to dirt!
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;*
*One look at Tihar and you know that it’s true. Every single politician held on corruption charges holds his head high and lives (as a VIP) without fear. They know nothing will happen to them
Where knowledge is free;*
*At least on paper, it is. We have 350,000 government primary schools, providing free education to children, who unfortunately do not get to learn much, considering that classes are seldom held.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;*
*Reservations for SC, ST, Backward Classes, OBCs. A country that has in the last 10 years added a multitude of new states carved out on the basis of regional and ethnic lines. New reservations planned, more states planned. We are on an overdrive to divide what I thought (wrongly) was once united.
Where words come out from the depth of truth;*
* Actually words nowadays come from the depth of the lungs! He who speaks the loudest is the one who is heard. Nothing is truer than that. Right or wrong doesn’t matter. What matters is how much visibility and support you can garner for yourself.
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;*
*Nowhere would you find people as close to perfection than in the government. Perfection in breaking promises, perfection in lying to the people, perfection in holding on to power, perfection in making money as part of a well oiled machine. And the striving IS tireless! After all we have a limited time in which to make the most money!
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;*
*Corruption would be the dreary habit, which has enveloped the entire country. A handful of people may feel that we are taking steps in the right direction, but we are far from even scratching the surface!
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action…*
*We think of newer ways to cheat the system, to break the law, to find a shortcut to success. And we act on it as one (At least we are united somewhere!)
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.*
*We are truly awake. We are truly free. It is indeed a Free for All!
R.I.P. Mr. Tagore!