The tenability of the works of Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore
Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore’s vision of a nation was educated by his dream of a fearless mind, a boundless idea of identity and community, united by knowledge, multiculturalism and internationalism. With processes of Globalisation and looking-inward policies surging and tugging at each other increasingly, the tenability of Tagore’s ideas are felt most pressingly now, more than ever before.
Tagore was a poet, a playwright, an artist and a keen social scientist in his understanding of human behaviour, of political machines and cultural patterns. In the next few days, India shall celebrate yet another Independence Day, remember its martyrs, take pride, and rightfully so, in its republic, in its strife of self-determination and in the triumph of its democracy. And among those remembered will be Tagore, whose contribution to shaping both the discourse around nationhood and the narrative of the freedom struggle is undeniable.
On his death anniversary it becomes pertinent, then, to understand Tagore’s vision for India, a nation he then viewed as different from the definitions of Western Nationalism. India, to his mind, is an aspiration whose salvation lay in inclusion, acceptance, tolerance, coexistence and social freedoms accorded to all citizens, viewed with equity. For him, the true freedom of India lay in the acknowledgement of its diversity and in it the uniqueness of its Nationalism: the rejection of homogeneity or assimilation and a celebration, instead, difference in choices, practice and tradition.
Through his vast legacy of art, music, poetry and prose Tagore has left the world both an incisive understanding of the human mind and a strong-willed political message. In his time Tagore had hoped for an open world, a parley of cultures and minds, a “heaven of freedom” that is not threatened but elevated by knowledge, by questions and by an ambition of holistic growth. Tagore’s remains with us most through his vision of a free world in which his country breaks away from the fetters of selfishness, of a capsized, restricted version of a nation and the pomposity and superiority that traditional ideas of Nationalism are lined with.
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