There is so much I can write about, Rabidranath Tagore, one of my favorite Indian poets. He is the author of the Indian National Anthem. Many of you may have heard of his Geetanjali, which won him the Nobel Prize for literature. If you are wondering what made this work Nobel Prize-worthy, here is a sample for you.
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.
However, my love for Tagore started with this poem, which appeared in my 11th Std text book. This was from a book called “The Crescent Moon”, which contained a collection of his poems on children and childhood. (Please note this is Tagore’s own English translation of the Bengali poem)
Child, how happy you are sitting in the dust, playing with broken twigs all morning!
I smile at your play with that little bit of a broken twig
I am busy with my accounts, adding up figures by the hour.
Perhaps you glance at me and think, “what a stupid game to spoil your morning with!”
Child, I have forgotten the art of being absorbed in sticks and mud pies.
I seek out costly play things, and gather lumps of gold and silver.
With whatever you find you create your glad games
I spend both my time and my strength over things I can never obtain
In my frail canoe I struggle to cross the ocean of desire,
and forget that I too am playing a game
There was no getting away from Tagore after this. I have read many of his poems and loved most of them. Last week I spotted the Crescent Moon in a book shop and bought it. Here is my favorite poem from the book. Although I have read this many, many years back it stayed with me and it touched me even more when I read it today, maybe because I am a mother, now.
“WHERE have I come from, where did you pick me up?” the baby asked its mother.
She answered half crying, half laughing, and clasping the baby to her breast,– “You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling.
You were in the dolls of my childhood’s games; and when with clay I made the image of my god every morning, I made and unmade you then.
You were enshrined with our household deity, in his worship I worshipped you.
In all my hopes and my loves, in my life, in the life of my mother you have lived.
In the lap of the deathless Spirit who rules our home you have been nursed for ages.
When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals, you hovered as a fragrance about it.
Your tender softness bloomed in my youthful limbs, like a glow in the sky before the sunrise.
Heaven’s first darling, twin-born with the morning light, you have floated down the stream of the world’s life, and at last you have stranded on my heart.
As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me; you who belong to all have become mine.
For fear of losing you I hold you tight to my breast. What magic has snared the world’s treasure in these slender arms of mine?”
Well, it is very hard for me to pick the best poem of Tagore. He had written one on trees where he describes them as valiant warriors who fight to liberate the earth from a drab, colorless existence and help her reach for the heavens, which is her original home. It truly made me take notice of trees. To this day, it pains me to see them chopped. In praise of trees, would definitely qualify as my absolute favorite Tagore poem.