THE SPACES OF CHILDHOOD


I had been wondering for sometime to evaluate ‘space’ in one’s childhood. It is not only space in real terms, also the space created in mind—the mind space. Going back to my childhood at Patha Bhavana, I am invariably greeted by a huge sense of awestruck space as the very first hug. It is pretty true that the school offered a huge space for us, not only to run around, but also to imagine, rather wildly. Aided by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s thriving lyrics the nature was ever so uniquely mysterious. Thanks to those songs, nature still remains very much a living entity to me.

Incredibly in my childhood in late 60s and early 70s fair amount of dark space also existed in Santiniketan; ghosts were almost a real entity here. Fair amount of ghost stories circulated around, with few seniors, that is to say faculty or staff members of the university, at times indulged in ‘planchet’ too, a kind of crazy witch craft, in which we also tried our hand just out of curiosity but without any tangible or even intangible result! Nights used to settle in Santiniketan with mysterious significance at several corners, and honestly speaking we avoided some buildings pretty religiously, even in our night raids in search of some fruits or hens to steal.

The most significant aspect of space is perhaps the freedom it offers. The expansion of mind into free space invariably forms an everlasting identity—the soul. I can distinctly feel and very proudly proclaim that even in our childhood, we were free souls. To possess an exclusive soul from a tender age of 10 or 11, or perhaps even earlier in sublime form, is notably the greatest gift to us from Patha Bhavana and Santiniketan. In today’s context it takes decades of complex living just to locate the soul, if any, in a human being!

The soul, an entity created in Santiniketan, which does not change in its basic encrypted codes, has been the core element in our undeniable permanent association with Santiniketan. It is very much an encrypted code in our psyche. Later with accumulation of life and times, the basic codes evolved into more complicated structures for us, en route to a continuous journey spilling us all over away from Santiniketan.

The space, sense of freedom, and possession of an early soul, could we pass them to our next generation? We all know that ‘genext’ is more practical and smarter than us, mostly evaluated by level of internet compatibility and smartness to impress people, with ofcourse natural exceptions. But is that all we inherited from Santiniketan? No is the rather categorical answer. On the other hand, it is considered that no space is really free in India, hence the existence of soul is a troublesome reality now. The young guns with a distinct soul are rare and complicated story now, with few takers around; even the parents feel awkward handling such souls.

So, somewhere down the line, I wonder at the space offered to us at Santiniketan. The affluence of sunrays passing through the space to illuminate every corner of our mind; the huge space and speed of communication getting us scintillating alignment with stars millenniums away; we could actually crystallize time within us to feel the sense of immortality of creation. The span, now, has narrowed into small fragments of time frames lasting only months and years, we have lost the sense of life even a decade afar. In short, we have stopped to live; we can’t even imagine life after 5 years from now. The continuity has been snapped.
The conclusion would be, naturally, only space and freedom is continuous, and only the soul can undertake this unique journey. Everything else is just a mortal experience. It is to be pondered if the ‘Soul’ is still offered as Tagore’s gift to the students of Patha Bhavana, or the school has now became enmeshed with too much discontinuity, loss of space and devoid of the essential freedom. Well, I do wonder….
Perhaps Santiniketan tried to convey these words to us…
Regards, Shubhashis

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