PEOPLE AROUND TAGORE’S ABODE OF PEACE
PEOPLE AROUND TAGORE’S ABODE OF PEACE
The election duty for the 16th Loksabha completely shook me up with incessant waves of heat for two grueling days after a sedate air-conditioned existence otherwise at office & home. In reality I was fairly confident of my heat-proof abilities honed by regular weekly forays in country side with camera even in this blazing heat; but the continuous exposure to heat during almost twelve hours in day time and with little respite at night for these two days took a heavy toll my confidence. Though physically I survived the onslaught with little perceptible effect, I am already thinking of ways to pull myself out of election duty if the election is held in summer again! Well – hopefully! But, perhaps more than the heat I was severely disappointed by the confused and indecisive mood of the voters at grass root level in villages; by the high handed coercive treatment meted by their leaders in election times leading to disillusionment of the common people. Politics have made the rural folks almost like puppets in the hand of their masters; ironically a practice perfected by CPM in this part of the world was counter applied to them in a very effective manner! The history may repeat again and again in future too. It is a sad story in many villages in Bengal and I consider myself really fortunate that I live in a town and not in a politically stifling village of Bengal. The freedom of expression that we- the city and biggish town guys cherish so much almost in a festive mood is nonexistent in villages; well there could certainly be exceptions here and there. As for me, I definitely know I could not have even articulated this much in a web magazine if I was living in a village!
I have heard somewhere in distant past that Rabindranath Tagore thought seriously about rural development; and that all educated (and hence emancipated as per Rabindranath) people should focus on rural India to express solidarity with our motherland. In fact sympathy was an important criterion in Tagore’s vision on education- the knowledge gleaned from an education system should not be viewed as facts but those facts need to be treated with sympathy as well to give a true expression of one’s own inner self. Tagore visualized human beings as sympathetic creatures; which appears to be a gross understatement of human character! Perhaps Darwin was more specific – it was actually always a game of survival of the fittest where sympathy does not really fit into the scheme of things at all! So, both Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi seem far away hazes just popping up once in a while in our life; when we can indulge in the absurdity of some spare time and pen down such meaningless thoughts.
What the future can hold for these folks in India? What does Prof Sen’s welfare economics or Prof Bhagwati’s free market force says about them? Both have not taken into account the corruption factor and hence after the Indian Govt spending so much on rural welfare, these people hardly have any future in India; on the other hand the Coal Block & Spectrum allocation scandals manage to wipe off thousands and thousands of crores from Govt coffers. The doctrines of Prof Sen and Prof Bhagwati remain good models for further PhD probes, but that’s all they mean to these villagers! Recently I fancifully indulged in a Prof Sen v/s Prof Bhagwati dialogue initiated in facebook chiefly by my upper middle class city dwelling friends; how irrelevant such arguments appear in the ground level- whatever may be the national policy, the fate of these people hardly changed in last 30 years or so (that I am aware of), these guys live hardly with any future projection and are always deeply engrossed with the present tense of survival. I think it is time the academic economists and social scientists try to probe ‘economics in the perpetual present tense’- can be an interesting treatment really with a complete prohibition of using old data to predict the future- everything needs to be assessed and valued at the present tense.
Gleaning through my photographs, taken more out of familiarity with my childhood- a kind of nostalgia we are fond to revert back, I was amused at that time when this girl child of the brick kiln labourer was happy to be photographed by me while collecting cow dung—later I realized that though I have the luxury of holding a camera now to collect such photographs this particular child remained at the static state of living for the last 45 years or so! The only thing was that she was surprised to find me tracking even this trivia in this blazing summer heat; I reckon no one cares to have a good look at her these days! Does she have any worthwhile future in India within one kilometer of the Abode of Worthy Minds created by the great visionary Rabindranath?
So, that’s how we have moved, the learned middle class, high and low, of Santiniketan & Sriniketan, being content in the pleasing thought of leaving some property, cash & valuables for our offspring while most of us started from ‘zero’ in our lives. In fact many of us are quite proud about this achievement of ours, reasonably so! That’s the net end result of Tagore’s vision on rural reconstruction now, as it seems – oh what an incorrigible dreamer he was! This particular posture towards Tagore suits me fine too; except occasionally- like now- thoroughly shaken up by the election duty in rural Bengal, exposed to rural psyche out of my natural curiosity, I have just got that bit sensitive about such issues. Well folks, at least let us think about our country for a fortnight now, it is a fashionable practice at times like elections to get concerned about one’s own country, and we may conveniently move within our own spheres and forget about the whole episode for next five years! After all I myself is not too sure about the efficacy of the term ‘sympathy’- sounds too utopian or academically romantic too me!
The kid, without his clothes, appeared in a happier mood- notably because still ‘future’ is an unfamiliar term for him. Well, kids are always gems, capable of enjoying life at all circumstances. In fact that is the only trade secret I have distinctly tried to nurture from past; the most vibrant part of Santiniketan which I still cherish- we had remarkable kid days. It is this aspect of life at at Tagore’s Abode of Kiddish Adventures which still draws me fairly strongly to the place, and well Rabindranath certainly had a big part in it. But, social reform or the Patha Bhavana led inspection of villages, the ‘Gram Poridorshon’ to learn about the state of affairs there- oops a fancy ritual really! Well, I am unaware of any positive ventures Patha Bhavana and Siksha Satra have taken in rural Bengal around Santiniketan in last 40 years or so. It appears interesting when academicians and Tagore lovers spend heaps of worlds on rural reconstruction efforts of Rabindranath at Sriniketan- well a good topic certainly for PhDs and for academic seminars. However I must also mention that the Social Work department in Sriniketan is a very successful department of Visva Bharati as far as employability of its students is concerned. Dr Anupam Hazra an ex-student and young faculty member of the same department, having a proven scholastic bent of mind, have now forayed into the hotbed of action in the social sector being the aspirant Member of Parliament from Bolpur Constituency for the Loksabha Elections 2014. It is to be seen how he can merge the theory with actual practice in governance and policy making if elected. Are academicians of Visva Bharati apt enough to execute in the actual playing field- well only time will tell. In any case a fresh breath of air and ideas should augur well for the folk around Tagore’s Abode of Interactive Social Existence.
Usually the highly positive mindset so familiar with me has got a bit jolted by the election process in which I was also a part on behalf of Election Commission of India. I must confess for several reasons best untold that I am not in the right shape of mind at present. The phase will be over soon, as, scheduled from next week work on the Eco/Butterfly/Sculpture park at Lalbandh will start in full steam and I would have little time to indulge in such sarcastic thoughts. For the future tense, again along with the ex-students and the community here, I would very much like to form a Nature Club as an association to look into nature related issues in a scientific basis around this place. I already had a talk with the MP contestant Dr Anupam Hazra over this (I sincerely hope he wins!), and he pledged his support in form of establishing contacts with Government agencies and NGOs working along similar lines. It is one thing to be an outright skeptic without getting involved into anything- the preferred stance of many intellectuals; but I would like to interact with Government agencies to explore any workable solution. I think it is a better perspective than turning a skeptic without even trying to interact with the Government machinery. So, the off mood phase after the election process will be shortly over and I shall again be rooting for futuristic positive improvements- well with all yours blessings and best wishes invariably. I think that’s where Rabindranath Tagore lives within each of us- quite an unflinching dreamer really!
I rediscovered the ‘Kunch’ seeds. As a kid I was terribly fond of stuffing these seeds in my nostril and then to sneeze them out, a weird kiddish game as usual; which made my mother terribly anxious lest I accidentally inhale them! In fact I was strictly prohibited to carry these Kunch seeds in my half pant pockets. Now, however I was only content with taking photographs, and yes carried a few seeds back for replanting them at Lalbandh! Decades perhaps turned me wiser-eh?
End spring, I was rather excited to locate this hitherto unknown butterfly fluttering around the ‘Bonpulak’ flowers. This is not too a common species (Spot Swordtail-Graphium nomius) in and around Santiniketan. I shall need to locate the host plant for this species to plant it at Lalbandh area too.
Yes, Butterfly Park might be a fanciful idea; but in reality though Government of India spends quite a large amount for welfare of rural folks, hardly anybody is inclined to spend on butterflies/birds etc! A few ex-students of Visva Bharati will be spending in between Rs 50K to 100K to protect these uncared creatures at one small corner of Santiniketan right now- though people in general still feel it is a fanciful idea at the best even within Santiniketan- that much for the environment conscious elite of Tagore’s Visva Bharati! Once a Professor of Botany of Visva Bharati enquired to me whether the park was conceived to attract film stars to shoot at Lalbandh which made me completely speechless!
Perhaps they are right in a sense; the other kind of cinema is too real for all of us. I myself feel terribly haunted by the lone man’s journey in similar scorching heat few years ago, I do not know if this old man is still alive to take on such lonesome journeys- I certainly feel an urge now to ask him ‘Sir, How are You?’. I know, I would never get the chance to say so- he might have faded into oblivion silently by now like many others in our country.