Tagore, Revisited

Sinnce remixing old compositions seems to be a trend that’s here to stay, this week we are attempting to go with the flow by jumping on to the bandwagon.

And in keeping with the philosophy of aiming for the sky to reach for the stars, we are revisiting the classic to top all classics, Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo – a masterpiece more familiar to most of us in its English translated form, Where The Mind Is Without Fear.

Arguably one of the best-known works of inarguably the best-known literary and artistic figure to emerge out of India, Rabindranath Tagore, the lofty and inspirational poem represents the Nobel Laureate’s idealistic vision of what a free India ought to be like. More than a century after the poem’s publication and seven decades after the country’s independence, the Bard of Bengal’s words remain as relevant (and unfortunately, unrealised) today as they ever were.

But since the job of the remixer is to refresh the source material for a new generation, and align it with current reality, we have taken the liberty of making a few alterations to the original text. To the legions of Gurudev’s admirers (a group that includes us), let us emphasise that neither disrespect nor offence is intended. However, in case you do find the words that follow inept and/or inappropriate, let us not forget that the championing of creative and other freedoms was one of the hallmarks of this multifaceted giant of a man – as borne out by the original poem itself.

So, with that advisory in place, here goes:

 

Where the lips are without paint and the burqa is held high

Where Punjab is drugs-free

Where the world has not been broken up into pieces

By fictional celluloid tales

Where words come out from the depth of official sanction

Where creative striving bows its head to moral perfection

Where the clear stream of reason has lost its way

Into the dreary red tape of arbitrary diktat

Where the mind is led backward by thee

Into ever-narrowing thought and action

Into that craven fiefdom, Our Censors, let my industry awake.

 

But perhaps we are being too harsh on those that are tasked with the onerous responsibility of upholding a nation’s morality. Though how do you define ‘morality’ and who defines it is a somewhat perplexing question. No less mystifying is the question about how this nebulous morality shall be protected by strictly regulating what one can watch on the less than 10,000 cinema screens in our country when virtually unfettered access to all shades of content is available on the over 1 billion mobile phones in India.

Nonetheless, there is a job to be done and it is being done zealously, so let us offer some words of encouragement to these hardworking folks. And our message to them is:

Don’t get cowed down or modify your stance because of the critical comments you may see in your RSS feeds. Most of this social media intercourse is led by cowards without a modicum of understanding of what this land of Gandhi – that Mahatma from Gujarat – really stands for. So keep up the good work, and remember those words sung by Kishore Kumar: Ruk jaana nahin, tu kahin haar kar…

Oops! On reviewing our message, we realise that it contains certain words or references that have been deemed inappropriate by the very people the communication is intended for. So with the offending bits blacked out, here is the sanitised version once again:

Don’t get cowed down or modify your stance because of the critical comments you may see in your RSS feeds. Most of this social media intercourse is led by cow ards without a modi cum of understanding of what this land of Gandhi – that Mahatma from Gujarat – really stands for. So keep up the good work, and remember those words sung by Kishore Kumar : Ruk jaana nahin, tu kahin haar kar…

Hmm… doesn’t make too much sense, does it? Well, in the context of the subject of this note, that’s pretty much par for course.

Nitin Tej Ahuja
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