Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
- Rabindranath Tagore
Inside the hallowed portals of Visva Bharati, the ancient knowledge and wisdom imparted by Tagore are slowly dying, akin to plants that wilt away, uncared for, writes Sushanta Dattagupta, physicist and the former Vice Chancellor of Visva-Bharati, in his book A Random Walk in Santiniketan Ashram.
Visva Bharati, he feels, has reached a fork in the road, where it must choose between holding on to Tagore’s liberal ideals, embedded in every brick of the university, or give in to the partitive tendencies in education.
A Random Walk in Santiniketan Ashram chronicles the journey of Visva-Bharati as an educational institution built on the ideas of Rabindranath Tagore.
The book gives one an insight into the mind of the great poet and philosopher, who firmly believed that education should be holistic and arts like music and painting should be considered as equally important aspects to be cultivated through education.
The book takes a hard look at the disturbing practices of the contemporary universities which are far from the ideals envisaged by Tagore and poses one vital question: Will Visva-Bharati, like all other universities, succumb to vices that have eroded the sanctity of education institutions in India?
Dattagupta, through his book, has drawn attention to the multiple facets of the revered poet and his diverse interests. Tagore evidently cherished an abiding interest in science - a fact, which has for long, managed to conceal itself behind his identity as a bard.
Dattagupta talks about the connection between science and Rabindrasangeet in his book and avers that Tagore’s poetry and songs, are all imbued with the his ineffable attraction to science and are results of his deep reflection on the subject.
A staunch lover of nature and curiously fascinated about the mysteries of the universe, Tagore’s proclivity for the subject led him to write ‘Visva Parichay’- Tagore’s only book on science where his extensive conversations with Albert Einstein have been recorded.
Despite his genius and profound contributions to the world, Tagore had a child-like sense of wonder, and was exquisitely simple in his way of life.
The poet who wrote in an essay, ‘Man’s unbound enlightenment, shackled with words, is imprisoned in the papers in black and white’, felt that within the confines of its pages, a book held the purest forms of expression.
Tagore regarded libraries as essential instruments for progressive development, would not have objected to libraries transitioning to digital future.
Amongst the plethora of poems and writings by Tagore, Dattagupta, has presented excerpts from Gitanjali and Purabi and has also included snippets of his discussions with J C Bose and Einstein in his book.
In his discourse with the later, Tagore talks about his ideas regarding the Higgs-Boson particle, Quantum physics and the unfathomable depths of the universe.
As the narrative progresses, each word uttered by the Tagore acquires a deeper meaning, and one can hardly stop marveling at the brilliance of the poet.
A well written book, A Random Walk in Santiniketan Ashram introduces to its readers – Tagore, in a completely different light. Dattagupta has beautifully etched the tale of poet’s life, and has subtly drawn readers into Tagorean philosophy without being didactic. The book, full of illuminations about the bard, leaves a lasting impression.