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Tagore’s Stride into the World

The slight obstruction of the screen seemed unbearable to me. I don’t remember when, quite unaware of my action, I parted the screen a little, thrust out my face and gazed steadily at him….at one point I noticed that Sandipbabu’s eyes, bright as Orion in the sky, settled on my face. I was past caring. At that point I was no longer the daughter in law of this aristocratic household: I was the sole representative of all the women in Bengal and he was its hero.



Bimla did not know that at that very instant, she had taken her first step into the world which was so far obscure to her. Her tryst with destiny’s path had begun and her life which was so far passing like a dormant stream of river now realized that she was capable of bringing havoc.

Up until then I had been a nameless river in a village – I had a certain rhythm, a language. But suddenly, with no warning, the ocean flooded me…Where was the old me?

Home and the World‘, originally titled ‘Ghare Bhaire’ (in Bengali), a modern classic novel written by Rabindranath Tagore raised the many important issues of that time when India’s struggle for freedom from British colonization was at its peak. The book was published in Bengali in 1916, after Tagore had won the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature for his literary contribution. This book was the result of his conflict with the ideas of extreme nationalism.
He cautions against blind nationalism which runs as the background theme of the book while the major focus of the book remains on the relationship shared by the three protagonists, an unconventional but liberal hero, a radical anti-hero and a heroine finding awakening through conflict between liberalism and radicalism.

Once I had asked Bimal to come out into the world. Bimal was…confined to a small space, caught up in trivial duties….I didn’t want something being kept under lock and key in an iron chest: I desired her who can only be had when she wanted to give herself to me…
At that time I hadn’t thought of one thing: that if you really must see a person in her true, free self, then you can not expect to lay any definite claims on her. Why didn’t I think of it then?…I had complete faith in love.

Nikhilesh wants her wife to make a choice on her own, to explore what life has to offer and not remain limited to what the life of his household had to offer. He understood the anxieties of Bimla when she became restless at his calm response in comparison to the reactionary Sandip. Nikhilesh believed that a truly strong person does need not apply force because force was the weapon of a weak person.

The weak man doesn’t dare to judge fairly. He will avoid the responsibility of following justice and arrive at his goal quickly through unfair means.

But Bimla sure was attracted towards the display of strength, the use of strong words, force and even violence and in Sandip she saw the antithesis of her husband. All that she wanted him to be, Sandip reflected that. Sandip was the force of destruction that had come to remove the inhibitions that she had and in that process find her true energy.

The story weaved around the philosophical dilemma of violence over non-violence, ignorance over knowledge, home over the world is written in absolute poetic style which reflects the genius of Tagore in each paragraph and sentence of the book.

Yes, I am coarse, because I am Truth, I am corporeal, I am instinct, I am hunger, shameless and heartless – just as shameless and heartless as the gigantic boulder that’s dislodged from the mountainside by the rains and comes rolling down onto the heads of human habitation, irrespective of lives lost or saved.

When the boulder gets dislodged it brings a lot of destruction but once the storm has passed, everything becomes clear, all the dilemma clears away and decisions are taken.



Picture Courtesy: Ahranya© (The cover of ‘Home and the World’, Rabindranath Tagore. Published by Penguin Books under Modern Classics)

** Contains Spoilers 



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Filed under Classics, Fiction, Literature, Novel