The Immortal Bard
The Telegraph, 12.07.2007
Ramachandra Guha has delivered a rallying call to shift Rabindranath Tagore from the regional to the national pedestal. Guha could not have been more right at a time when India seems to be so fascinated by everything Western. In his address at the inauguration ceremony of Cheena-Bhavan in Visva-Bharati on April 14 1937, Tagore said, “We had, for over a century, been so successfully hypnotised and dragged by the prosperous West behind its chariot that, though choked by the dust, deafened by the noise, humbled by our helplessness, overwhelmed by speed, we yet agreed to acknowledge that this chariot-drive was progress, and that progress was civilization. If we ever ventured to ask, however humbly: Progress towards what, and progress for whom? It was considered to be peculiarly and ridiculously oriental to entertain such doubts about the absoluteness of progress. It is only of late that a voice has been heeded by us, bidding us take account not only of the scientific perfection of the chariot, but of the depth of ditches lying across its path.”
Fortunately for Tagore, he found Gandhi, who did question the speed and direction of the chariot’s progress. Since we have neither Gandhi nor Tagore today, we must look up to their words to avoid those ditches.