The one where I discover Tagore!

I was first introduced to Tagore in the pages of a General Knowledge book. “Who has written and composed the national anthem of India?” Rabindranath Tagore. “Who was the first Indian to receive the Nobel Prize?” Rabindranath Tagore. My knowledge of Tagore expanded to include the little detail that he was from West Bengal. That was my schooling.

As I grew older, I came to know through my interactions with people that Tagore was quite the literary mind, having spun magic with his words in Bengali. He was not only a poet, but also had a hundred short stories to his name. People who knew of him, spoke about him with an air of reverence. I never really quite understood it. Since I do not understand Bengali, I never really entertained the thought of reading Tagore. It never struck me to search for his translated works, I wasn’t intrigued enough. I remember humming “Ekla Chalo Re” as popularized by the Amitabh Bacchhan version. Someone had mentioned that it was a part of a vast collection of songs, collectively known as Rabindra Sangeet. So Tagore had fine musical sensibilities. Another feather to his illustrious cap. Yet, my mind never bothered to dig deep.

Only when I was introduced to Tagore as a philosopher, did my curiosity finally rise from its long spell. I was spellbound when I first heard of “Siksha Satra“- Tagore’s ideas of education manifesting into an institution. In my limited exposure to the varied philosophies in education, I had never come across someone who had managed to put forth their explanations in such a simple yet effective manner. For the rest of this post, I will be discussing a few excerpts from my readings of Tagore, and I urge anyone who has even a mild interest in anything in general, to tug a few strings of Tagore’s literature.

Let us first look at how Tagore saw children. This one’s close to my heart and makes the world seem like a brighter place.

“Simplicity, capacity to grow and native frankness; children seem to carry a life force that helps them live this life with abundance and joy. Untrammeled by tradition, driven forward by inherent instinct they carry on their own research in the field of life, gathering knowledge from experience with an abounding joy that is rarely exceeded later.”

Children were believed to possess a certain “life-force”. This idea was so powerful, and it hit home. Children aren’t burdened by norms and they do act according to their own accord unless stopped by an interfering adult. Their eyes are always wandering, always seeking. Think of all the times when you have observed children. What are the first few words that come to your mind when you think of children and childhood?

Carefree.
Live-wires.
Curious.
Happy.

All of these words orient themselves and find a place in the few lines quoted above. Based on a foundation that springs from such a crux, the institution of Siksha Satra takes root.

“The aim then, of the Siksha-Satra is, through experience in dealing with this overflowing abundance of child life, its charm and its simplicity, to provide the utmost liberty within surroundings that are filled with creative possibilities, with opportunities for the joy of play that is work- the work of exploration, and the work that is play- the reaping of a succession of novel experiences; to give the child that freedom of growth which the young tree demands for its render shoot, that field for self-expansion in which all young life finds both training and happiness.”

Can such a place exist? Can such a place ever fit in the idea of what we know as a ‘school’? This sounded too good to be true. At the same time, it pulled me towards it as it was impossible to not consider the possibilities it presented. I did not realize how much this idea resonated with me, then. It was only with time and experience that I could see my natural beliefs overlapping with a lot of Tagore’s ideas. I had internalized his ideal of education without even realizing it. I strove to achieve elements of it in my own classroom without really consciously attempting to do so.

“to give the child that freedom of growth which the young tree demands for its render shoot, that field for self-expansion in which all young life finds both training and happiness.”

These words will always remain with me at the back of my mind, always guiding me when I am lost. All throughout my Fellowship, I was trying to build this exact space. The field of “self-expansion” where a child could grow. Tagore also elaborates on how to create such an environment, but all I needed was this gentle push of his words.

Two years after the first wave of his ideas, I again came across some of his writings. This time, what blew my mind was his understanding of aesthetics and how he defined the relationship between man and nature.

“In the morning the sun comes out brightly, in the dusk the stars hold up their lights. But these are not sufficient for us. Until we light our own little lamps, the world of lights in the sky is in vain, and unless we make our own preparations, the wealth of the world preparations remains waiting like a lute for the finger touch.”

What Tagore refers to as “our own little lamps” is perhaps called passion in today’s language. It is the fire that resides within all of us, just waiting to be discovered. The world can revel in all its marvels and beauties but it will hold no joy for a person who hasn’t discovered the beauty within.

His understanding of human nature was quite unique. He believed that art was a result of the “surplus in man”- an excess in energy that man doesn’t have the use for.

“Of all living creatures in the world, man has his vital and mental energy vastly in excess of his need, which urges him to work in various fields of creation for its own sake.”

According to Tagore, to comprehend our identity and place ourselves within this vast framework of creation, it is important to delve into the truth offered by artistic creativity.  “The creative spirit of the artist was, for Tagore, indistinguishable from the creativity apparent in every aspect of life. So intricately are art and life entwined that the entire process of living is akin to the act of creation.”1

(1– (Lal, 1998) “Tagore’s ideas of Aesthetic Education”)

If we just pause for a moment and look at our lives from the lens that Tagore offers, I personally think that would be a valuable exercise to undertake. For him, the very essence of the human being was to create a symbiotic relationship with nature and live with harmony. Art was the true manifestation of man’s creative energies and when art marries nature, the potential of a human is realized.

To conclude, I know that I have stumbled across an ocean of awesomeness. I have so much more to explore, so much more to think upon. But for now, I am satisfied by the thought of traversing the depth of his few ideas that have already touched me. If my calculations are correct, a lifetime is simply not enough to marinate the treasures with which Tagore has left us.

“The highest mission of education is to help us to realize the inner principle of the unity of all knowledge and all the activities of our social and spiritual being.”

This will suffice for now. If not, I leave you with this poem which is a recent discovery that has left me with a lot of lingering thoughts.

“I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side. The works 
that I have in hand I will finish afterwards. 

Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite, 
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shore less sea of toil. 

Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and 
the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove. 

Now it is time to sit quite, face to face with thee, and to sing 
dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.”

🙂

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room

Usually, I never think before I post something on my blog. This time around, it was different. Perhaps because of the immense societal dogma and hype that surrounds this particular topic, I was reluctant to openly express my views about it. For the same reason, I won’t be sharing this post on any social media. But I had to put it out of my mind. Now that I have made my mind about it, I hope you read it with an open mind as I am certain that you will most definitely have some opinion about the matter.

Elephant in the room

When an Indian girl reaches the “ripe” age of 25, her parents naturally start freaking about her marriage. Needless to say, this post is about the institution of marriage and how I look at it. I want to mention right at the outset, that I do believe in it. I believe in finding a person with whom you can share your life through thick and thin, and who’d be brave enough to start a family with you in this godforsaken world. But as many would agree, no one wants to get married for the sake of it. It isn’t a checkpoint in life. It is just something that comes along the way and if done right, can make the ride smoother.

First, let’s get some context. I am open with my parents about my views, and more often than not, I try to make them understand my point of view by patiently explaining to them how things are different in our time than it were during theirs. I also respect their point of view because I know they are responding to the situation according to their upbringing and set of beliefs. So when they bring up the topic, even though it is massively awkward for me, I do not completely reject them and hear them out.

Arguments and discussion with parents

Argument 1:
According to my parents, there is a certain age by which a girl must get married. I have reasoned with them about this, and there was something to learn on both sides. My parents agreed that earlier, the academic life of a person usually ended at 20. Now that there is a lot of academic presence in our lives and even employers look out for people who have given a boost to their graduate degrees, it has almost become like a natural progression for the middle class at least, to opt for further studies. I had to agree that finding a companion during a time when you are also in the process of establishing your identity does make sense. It is easier to adapt, to change, to build a future together, to make important lifestyle choices. The struggle and the confusion are the parts which I do not want to miss out on especially. To give an analogy- I would not want a well presented, cooked meal which is ready to eat, but made single handedly by one person. I would rather prefer to handpick the ingredients, make mistakes along the way, and finally enjoy a meal that was cooked by both together.

Another reason which is not central but I couldn’t deny it when my mother presented it in front of me. There is a biological clock that we girls operate upon. And if you’d like to have healthy children, it is far easier if done before a certain age. I did some research about it and while there are many examples that negate my mother’s assumption, the general belief surrounding this idea affirms it.

Argument 2:
My parents fear I will be left all alone in this world if I do not marry.

“We will be gone in another 20-25 years. Whom will you call family then? Who will be there for you in times of need. Life is difficult anyway, make it easier by sharing it with someone.” they said one day.

“Well, that is not true! I will have my friends by my side”, I said.

“Will your friends live with you?”, pat came the reply.

D:”Why not? We can all be flatmates, it would be super cool.”

P: “Humans are social, they need someone constantly to share their day to day events with. The physical presence is underrated. Having someone literally by your side makes a whole lot of difference, beta.”

D: “I can do that even with a friend who is living with me, with whom I share my room with. Can’t I?”

P: “Will that friend always stay?”

D: “Will a husband always stay, what’s the guarantee?”

P: “Of course, that depends on how well you both want to make it work. The purpose of assigning a societal tag of a ‘husband’ or a ‘wife’ is so that when someone decides to leave, it is only done so as a last resort. It isn’t easy to break a marriage. Your husband won’t leave you because of an impulsive reaction to a fight. With friends and roommates, not much thought shall be put before making a career choice to another city, before moving out. Marriage is a responsible institution wherein it teaches you how to hold your ground when the going gets tough.”

D: “Yeah, I get what you’re saying. You will think many times before getting into it and even more before getting out of it. There is a certain amount of stability.”

P: “Also beta, what about children, don’t you want your child to grow up with a loving father?”

*silence*

Argument 3:
My parents feel the more mature and accomplished a woman is, the more difficult it is for her to find a man.

This one is absolute nonsense, a classic patriarchal upbringing as an example. I feel that the more mature and accomplished anyone is, the easier it is for them to make a wise choice, any life choice for that matter.

Argument 4:
Arranged marriage. For my parents it’s quite simple. They have given me the freedom to choose my own partner, albeit with certain non-negotiable conditions. If I cannot find one on my own, they will start looking for someone within their circles. *shudder*

The reason why arranged marriages worked in the past I believe is because people got married young. Like I already mentioned, it is easier to mold yourself to any situation in that age. Your bond becomes stronger as you cross one hurdle after another. Also, the ideas and thoughts floating around during our parent’s time were much more simpler, primary. I don’t believe it’s the same today.

The reason why love marriages don’t happen early because most of us have our noses buried under professional or academic commitments. The general opinion is also that we want to enjoy life and after marriage, that supposedly becomes impossible. That is what I try explaining my parents, and thankfully they understand. Which is why, Argument 4.

I don’t have a valid reason as to why I feel hesitant about arranged marriages. Logically speaking, it is like a gamble. But my parents urge me to be open about it and I do not like closing myself completely to any idea.

In conclusion

Let parents do their thing, and you do yours. If you do want to get married, don’t be apologetic about it because suddenly it is cool to reject the idea of marriage.

I am lucky that I have parents who support and understand. But it isn’t easy anymore, to wrap the idea of marriage around our heads. Marriage or no marriage, in the end, it’s a choice. So make a sensible one which suits you. And it’s sometimes good to let your parents know about your thoughts. They have been brought up with a certain framework of life, you need to help them update it.

That’s all. Like always, at the end of every post, I take a deep breath of satisfaction. It always feels good to reduce the load off your mind. This blog is like my pensieve, and I just performed the memory extraction spell.

 

 

Posted in Experiences | Leave a comment

Reveries of the night.

All I know April is, I want to feel things. Really – feel them, you know. How’s that for an ambition? – Frank Wheeler, Revolutionary Road (2008)

That’s my ambition as well, Frank. Insane as it may sound, it does make sense to me. For the longest time (and even now) I have been grappling with the big question of purpose. Every time I think of this word “purpose”, I can’t help but think how pompous it all is. Each and everyone of us, trying to find their “purpose” in life. Trying to see what it is that makes us so unique, so important. Keeping all empirical evidence on the table, I believe there is no realization of that purpose. There is just navigation and further discovery.

However, I won’t be as cynical as dismissing the importance of having the illusion of a purpose. A purpose is the summation of all your beliefs, capitalizing on your strengths. Think of it as a compass, which will tell you if you’re lost in life. In life, just a vague sense of where we’re headed is sometimes enough for us to move ahead. And that is exactly what purpose does. It gives you some kind of assurance, that you’re on the right path.

All of this of course, is subjective. Concepts like ‘being lost’ or ‘on the right path’ may vary from person to person. They change meaning as you change cultures, they change meaning as you look at different times. I have often wondered about the existence of such ideas, which validate your life with a stamp. As I understand it, everyone creates their own set of validating ideas and that is extremely important in the meaning making process of life. And thus, validating the necessity of the illusion of a purpose.

To state it simply, it is important to differentiate between the “purpose” which places you at the center and the “purpose” which you use to navigate life. The former is a bit self-centered (as humans can tend to be) and gives rise to unnecessary expectations and pressure. The latter, is a useful tool to survive. In other words, the former uses you while you end up using the latter.

A lot of bullshit can be filtered if we keep this in mind. The mindless gimmicks of religion or nationalism fall under the first category while the larger consciousness of humanity asking you to create, falls under the second. But this is not why I started to write this post. I ended up explaining the purpose bit because I did not want it to be misunderstood.

Getting back to the quote- and it’s a personal opinion- that all I find worth doing is so that I can feel things. That’s the only concrete thing that has given me peace. To experience life in its absurdity, ecstasy and sorrow. To revel in the present, to marvel at the past and to wonder about the future. People who think, are often at loggerheads with people who feel. But tell me, when you think, do you not feel? Or when you feel, do you stop thinking?

Which brings me to the next part- the need of the hour in my humble opinion is to act. While debates spring up often in every nook and corner of the social media and dinner table conversations, they stay frozen at those avenues. ‘All said and done’ can’t exist if things are just left said and undone! Increasingly, people are becoming enclosed by their words instead of being set free. I am one of those people. Ironic that I am writing it out. We’ve grown so accustomed to the depository way of learning, we forget that learning remains incomplete without application. (Depository way of learning is the traditional methods that schools use to educate their pupils- overload of information and negligible time for synthesis or action) It’s been a while since we all learned something, hasn’t it?

“The world at large needs more doers than thinkers” – Anshu Gupta, Founder, Goonj (2016)

In an age of muzzled priorities and lustrous opportunities, the soul takes a beating. Do something, to fulfill those promises you made to yourself. Create something, to carve out the person you wanted to be. Act on your thoughts, to save yourself from regret. Please don’t let the best ideas stay inside your head. Let them breathe too. That’s all for now, I best stop writing and start doing. Although writing is an action, isn’t it? 😉

P.S. This post was not written on purpose. (pun intended)

Okay bye.

 

Posted in Musings | 2 Comments

Fly, you fools!

​It’s so easy to fool people,
Post a happy picture, write a cool caption.

The eyes that do not smile,
Tell a story of their own, only if you wait for a while.

Why are we scared, constantly afraid,
Of reaching out?

Well, I can only tell you my side,
I know everyone wishes to confide;

In someone they know they can trust,
In someone they know is pretty robust.

Then why don’t we do that, you may ask?
What is the need, to wear such a happy mask?

It’s because everyone has their own struggle within,
Everyone is trying to win.

Everyone has their own battles,
Everyone’s dreaming of building castles.

Sometimes they do want to be there,
But are locked in their worldly lair.

The only people who stay, are the ones who see the world with you,
Those lives that intertwine, are the ones that will see you through.

Today, it’s easy to wander astray,
Say our goodbyes and stay far away;

To think of ourselves as islands of regret,
Awaiting the merger, into a continent.

Where do I stand, am I ahead of the line?
Just fully being alive for the time being, will be just fine.

Posted in Experiences, Musings | Leave a comment

Powering through.

When air becomes suffocating to breath,
You’re scraping through.

When familiar faces look back through strange eyes,
You’re scraping through.

When bonds become bondage,
You’re scraping through.

When you feel like you’re running, even while you’re still,
You’re scraping through.

When the mind disobeys, and takes you for a ride,
You’re scraping through.

When you feel like screaming your lungs out,
You’re scraping through.

When the future starts to haunt instead of excite,
You’re scraping through.

When you live in a plane, but think on another,
You’re scraping through.

But when there’s a little tune to sing, and a waltz to dance,
In spite of what I said before, you’re powering through.

When there is love to be felt and dreams to be dreamt,
You’re powering through.

When there are fights to be fought and morals to be taught,
You’re powering through.

When there are stories to inspire and passions set afire,
You’re powering through.

When there is me as me, and you as you,
We are powering through.

Posted in Experiences, Musings | Leave a comment

I am.

Often have I wondered, why do we exist?
We are like plague, devastate as we please.

Life is not just a four letter word,
I have heard that line a million times;

But I feel we make pompous meaning out of nothing,
Searching for water in an expanse of sand mines.

Why do we feel we are important?
What is this obsession with identity that we have?

I am, and therefore is the world,
I am, thus extend my boundaries of real.

If you really think about it, life makes no sense at all,
It’s the fodder of heretics that tells us these lies;

Rationale and logic, connecting the dots,
Of course if you drew random points on a plane, you can connect it nevertheless!

I have searched far and wide, but there is no answer,
Ideologies will differ, but none of them really matter.

We are insignificant, I know I am,
The only difference I seek to make, is in my lifetime.

Scattered are my thoughts, scattered is my spirit,It will have to be unbelievable, for me to give it a try;

Not to fall prey to concepts created by men,
Pay heed to your rhythm, dance to the music of the soul.

Amidst a hundred thousand galaxies, here we are,
Trying to fool ourselves and prove how right we are!

A voice inside me tells me that this is not how it should be,
Maybe this is how it is, but the change you can be.

Throw away notions of happiness and peek into your being,
Do not chase after shadows, they often cause their own undoing.

But what I want is not so easy, especially today,
In a world so bleak, I don’t even need to say.

I am, and so I need to live,
Just existing is not an option, what is the point anyway?

And if I am to live, I would like it to be worthwhile,
Be true to myself, and be the best at what who I am.

Aside | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tangled threads…

As I picked up my pen today, I knew I had a lot on my mind,
But the pen wouldn’t move as I did not know what to write;

Where do I begin from, do I start from the end,
Do I start from the cause or the mess that I have become?

I know everyone must have felt it, at some point in their lives,
But how come no ones talks about it as they happily disguise?

Questions galore, I had about myself and who I am,
These weren’t the normal career or personal life blues,
These had consequences in real time;

I will ask myself the same questions again tomorrow,
I don’t know what will change in that time,
I just know that I cannot stop, without reason or rhyme;

Have I become a little mechanical, have I lost my emotions?
Have I, in the pursuit of becoming more ‘grounded’, traded for a thousand suns?

Some say it is good to be confused, in what universe is what I ask,
They say bask in the possibilities it creates, I say laugh at the fool it masks;

But I cannot laugh at the way life is taking this turn,
I see failures on the way, from them I cannot really run;

Tomorrow is another day, another arc of the sun,
I can’t think of anything extraordinary that might just happen;

I sense that I just have to keep on going, try to keep my head up high,
Going away somewhere is not the problem, the point is what do I do, when I do get there.

15 - 9

Gazing into a world far away that is out of reach

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments