Where the Mind is Without Fear- Rabindranath Tagore

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
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

In light of certain cases which have currently been dominating the news feed in India, let us take some time to compare our visionaries’ inspirational ideals to our current conditions with a line-by-line analysis of this beautiful poem. 

Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where the Mind is Without Fear” is a poem that envisages a country where there is no fear of oppression, where discrimination is eradicated, where illogic and superstitions have no place and where the people have dignity and embrace reason and knowledge. In the form of a prayer to the Almighty, Tagore sets the ideals that he believed would make India flourish. Even the Constituent Assembly adapted Tagore’s ideals into the Preamble of the Constitution, where India is declared to be a sovereign republic, free from internal and external coercions. When the Constitution was brought into effect, India became free from external oppression, but internal compulsions have still not vanished. We still cling to some of the worst issues that a society can possibly face.

In the decade of 1940, the world saw two iconic events which continue to be explored today in extensive detail. The pre-independence struggle of India spread a powerful message of rebellion against imperialism, whereas the Holocaust intended to revive hatred and discriminatory beliefs against certain minorities. At the same time when the horrors inflicted by Adolf Hitler on Jews and other minorities in Europe spread ramifications all over the world, the non-violent Gandhian struggle for India’s independence spread another powerful message; a message that the world respected, a mass freedom movement, Satyagraha, that relied on truth and insistence, ultimately forcing the British to withdraw and transfer power. It later influenced the American civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr., and the anti-Apartheid movement of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. In spite of our glorious freedom struggle, the question is, have we attained the ‘heaven of freedom’ envisioned by so many revolutionaries apart from Rabindranath Tagore?

No country in the world has truly achieved freedom, in terms of mindsets and societal issues. Even the seemingly perfect Western democracies have a long way to go, suffering their own problems of mass-shootings, hostility towards immigrant workers and increasing jingoism. The growing culture of Trumpism is creating intensely nationalistic conditions worldwide. So, in India, is our problem the lack of nationalism? Certainly! Saluting the flag, standing up for the national anthem, beating up anyone who does not do so and spewing hatred towards people online under the garb of anonymity is our brand of nationalism. We do not pay adequate attention to the constructive nation-building programmes, in which we can actively participate. We are a nation which happily discusses the political views of actors and celebrities and maligns them for days, considering ourselves nationalists. To achieve Tagore’s ideals, we must be selflessly patriotic, not selfishly patriotic, which is what we are heading towards.

Tagore envisioned a country where the mind exists without fear; even today, there are several fears among people. There is fear to speak out against wrongdoing; the resulting severe backlash and the branding as being ‘politically incorrect’ forces people into submission. There is fear to expose corruption of high officials, consequences being harassment and even killing. Money and wealth define status; people in impoverished communities still cannot hold their heads high with dignity. People blame women for the crimes against them and lawyers defend those criminals. Victims of such crimes still have not been empowered enough to hold their heads high with dignity.

Knowledge is still not free; government schools lack the infrastructure to cater to the talents of their students and private education is still the monopoly of the higher income groups. Even reservation systems in schools are exploited by those who do not need it. Economically stable students portray themselves as backward to cash in the benefits of the reservation system, depriving those who truly need it. This is only leading to an increase in the number of sub-par engineers, sub-par doctors graduating. A sizeable population of ‘independent’ India still represents an emaciated nation submerged in poverty and illiteracy.

Tagore idealised a country where narrow domestic walls do not fragment the nation and words emerge from the depth of truth. However, in undeveloped regions, age-old prejudices, casteism and honour killings still persist. In the name of diversity and adequate representation, the huge body of Parliament exists, but its sessions are washed away with trivial issues, blame games and politicians trying to defend their self-worth. Resolutions do not come out in benefit of the people and the depth of truth, rather the interests of the ruling party. The judiciary hesitates in implementing the Uniform Civil Code across all religions.

The poet prays that the clear stream of reason does not vanish in the dreary desert of age-old customs and superstitions do not override the ability to make right judgements. He wants the mind to be led forward by the Almighty, into open-mindedness and a willingness to embrace change. With growing urbanisation and the rise in a younger, more free-thinking population, people have indeed abandoned their superstitions and are gradually eliminating irrelevant age-old customs. However, due to the restrictive nature of our education systems and mindsets, even with such a talented and young population, India still cannot boast of twenty-year-old billionaires and innovative start-ups. We are a country where the Prime Minister needs to start a cleanliness drive (Swachh Bharat Mission) across the nation to remind us to keep our surroundings clean.

India so far is the most developed of the developing countries and our country’s youth and large working population is our biggest asset. We are growing and becoming self-aware, however, there’s a journey of a thousand miles ahead, which we must begin with a single step. We must focus on helping the underprivileged, caring for our own surroundings and empowering each other. We must actively encourage the feelings of brotherhood in our community to completely dismantle the goals of any politician trying to play by caste or religion and only then can we truly be selfless patriots and say “I love my India”.

Many of these thoughts have been coursing through my head for a considerable period of time now and I must admit, I am also guilty, to a large extent, of not participating in the constructive programmes that I have described. I have written this post, not to criticise anyone, but to put my own guilt into words. I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading this post!

28 thoughts on “Tagore’s Ideals and Our Progress

  1. Awesome post!! And this what i like about you MS🙃!! You stay afloat, you stay connected with time!! You talk about random lights, democracy, education, constitutional integrities, Tagore and Mahatma.. and self-introspection😇😇 These are kind of some beautiful traits to become a responsible person ahead- 💛☺️
    Ps. I don’t know how I should say it, but i believe this will certainly make your writings more vivid and powerful… , Try to write as if you’re conversing with your readers.. Or simply write as if someone is listening to you.. ! I mean, just try floating in your expressions..!! ☺️☺️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your appreciative comment! I try to write some posts as essays and some posts just as fun sketches of my life and personality, which hopefully are amusing to the reader. I’m trying to branch out to different styles of writing, but many thanks for your input!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls” – beautiful words of Tagore and the most problematic one that India is facing today in the form of nationalism that you’ve rightly addressed. True nationalism, or better = Patriotism, can only be achieved by supporting the underprivileged, empowering young people, addressing the honour killings and caste-system and, unfortunately, so much more. The form of nationalism right now, as you said, is very Trumpist, indeed. Do you recall the ban on Pakistani artists in Indian cinema? Which is only really a few steps away from Trump’s ban on Muslims entering America, and when you are verging on Trump territory, you know that the mindset is bordering on discrimination. This is not the India that Tagore envisioned, no it is not.
    On the plus side, wonderful article! Political writing is clearly one of your strengths. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Merci beaucoup! Yes, I agree that Tagore’s vision was truly beautiful, but it is indeed upsetting that we haven’t even scratched the surface of achieving it. The form of dirty nationalism we see now is not what got our country freedom. And yes, I do recall that frivolous ban on Pakistani artists entering India, which as you pointed out, is akin to Trump’s racist Muslim ban. I’m so glad that the US courts overruled the Muslim ban, though.

      Thank you for your insightful comment and appreciation of my writing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No no no!! That would be so wrong to call India or it’s government(present or past) anywhere around being or becoming Trumpist!And why even drag Trump here?? It was nowhere around discriminating!! I would totally disagree there on that! First of all it was not at all an official ban(let’s not go deep into that for now), secondly it was not a ban on muslims or pakistanis!! So absolutely wrong to say that..!! India had suffered a coward trerrorist attack back then(let’s skip how and from whom part too,we all know that)! So it was a general notion or sentiment prevaling that time, that those artists from our neighbouring nation must condemn it on moral and ethical grounds! Or just as a goodwill gesture!! Not for the support of India, but to condemn their own government’s internal and external policies.Or simply condemn the act of attack itself!! But unfortunately.. they all didn’t utter a single word of sentiment or morality, not for India and not even on general grounds! That was more cowardice than the attack itself!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Completely agree with several of your points. I just used the term Trumpism to describe the global problem of jingoism and extremely aggressive nationalism. A lot of Indians hold the sentiment that the current Indian government is becoming increasingly autocratic, due to the government’s lack of transparency in some of the complex measures that they have undertaken. Please do note that I’m not advocating support for any party or hatred towards another, I’m just describing the current mindset of people that I see around me.

        As far as the ban on Pakistani artists is concerned, I’m glad it was never fully officiated. You’re absolutely right that this wasn’t a Muslim ban; this ban was only because they didn’t utter a word to condemn violence and terror attacks. I wholeheartedly agree that violence is condemnable, regardless of religion, and it is fair to assume that the artists would use their celebrity status to condemn the terrorist attacks. But then again, consider this. Why would an artist, who is perfectly happy with hiss/her film career, even step into politics? If they said anything against violence, or anything that might be interpreted as against their country, they would be blasted by their own media, not to mention online trolls and backlash. Fearing for their reputation, a lot of artists stayed quiet on the issue of the terror attacks, though they might have privately condemned it.

        It disappoints me to say that even in the US, which many people perceive as an ideal democracy, artists and comedians are held to higher standards than politicians and the President. People accept that politicians can be idiotic, but they hope for political correctness from artists.

        On a lighter note, this is getting too long. You and Sophia can discuss this matter from now onwards. I can’t do this anymore…too tired…:)

        But thanks for your comment. It’s great food for thought.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I wonder in annoyance sometimes that i voted for a PM or a star election campaigner 😁😁!!Or someone who simply distorts history boldly anywhere and anytime,renames institutions,etc etc!! But let this matter be aside, political conundrums like this and like now are too big to just opine about them here and we are too big democratic nation to become autocratic!! Don’t see it coming and hope it never does!
        Now coming directly to the ban-artists point!
        It’s not about which country you belong to or what religion you are from! Humanity and general ethical quotients doesn’t differentiate between one’s Sense of sensibility and sensible quotients! It was not a political issue. It was a damn terrorists attack with known preparators- simply put Terrorists!! It was not about condemning the government of some(own) country but to condemn the act of terrorism! And seeing the sentiments running around that time.., those artist could had voiced theirs general ethos on terrorism only, but they chose to leave silently. Wasn’t it too cowardice or too professional to be called an artist?? You come to some country to earn big bucks but lack sheer emotional intelligence to at least show some ethical gesture! What kinda artistic value is that?!?! Not long ago,Peshawar too had suffered a cowrdly brutal attack on school, and i remember.. we Indians along with whole world condemned it our hearts out!!
        Voicing on these simple yet acute things don’t drag someone into politics, but staying quiet and lamely professional doesn’t either makes one humane-who ever they be!
        Haha.. i admire you and your this spirit to stay put in these complex issues!! ☺️ Relax.. these topics are not easy, they are ought to run lengthy cuz these just don’t define a nation’s complex issues but along these,it defines who we are as individuals too and how we gonna contribute in building our nation and world as in general.
        Breathe… 😊😊

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, our PM is a star election campaigner alright. Autocratic rule may sound far-fetched, but a lot of scholarly people have compared some of our PM’s tactics and measures to being almost dictatorial. But the opposition is equally funny. In 2019, both parties will use the same slogan—
        BJP: Vote for Congress and make Rahul Gandhi your PM. (This is meant in a mocking way).
        Congress: Vote for Congress and make Rahul Gandhi your PM. (This is meant seriously).
        I agree with you that terrorism has no religion and it should be condemned universally, regardless of political views, but to me honestly, it makes no difference if some actors choose not to condemn it. It’s their choice and their own conscience they have to deal with. It can be called lamely professional, but, I expect nothing from those actors.
        I’m proud to know that we, as a society, condemned the Peshawar attacks; this shows our morals and the deep-rooted social awareness of our people.
        Thank you for such lavish praise regarding my writing; I have never met a more appreciative reader than you. 🙂
        I’m sorry for not responding earlier. I was actually travelling and had no Internet connectivity.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Seems like you hooted for the party that became the single largest party in Karnataka today 😛 . Like i voted and hooted in last general elections. 😀
        Well i have no qualms in having RAGA as next PM! Why not him? He’s atleast steadily growing,maturing around what he had been already brought up with! Yeah sounds lame. Right! But why not he can be given a chance??He’s just 47. We have grown-up mocking him every now and then,we still do massively, but certainly he seems to be working on his collective efforts of becoming a promising politician(read future leader).He must! Cuz ultimately India does need a strong opposition and may be next future Leader in him too! And We must not unseen the fact he’s picking up a fight and actually is giving a promising challenge to someone who’s far massively experienced in his own domain.
        Anyway.. !! 🙂
        Okay.. that seems your set of opinions about few set of people who can choose to respond according to their conscience! No problem there. They can !!
        What’s your opinion when a terrorist kills on his own conscience ??
        Now i am not comparing a set of foreign artists with some set of terrorists and their respective conscience. No i am not. Absolutely not! I am only saying if its about conscience only, then every one is right on their own stance. A foreign artist or a terrorist !
        It was never about what they chose according to their conscience. We didnt start with that subject! Did we?
        It was about having a wrong perception(your’s actually) that our country allowed ban on them. India never banned them.
        Them or some other foreigners, they are human first and professional-actor-artist later! So if their conscience can push them to stay mute and utmost professional, then, would their conscience act same if this whole set of events was other way around ?!?! I can just wonder !!
        No, why wonder? We recently had an episode around Afridi and that too when he acted naively foolish and dumb.
        You go to some other country where you’re respected,admired and paid many folds more than what your own country couldn’t ever!Not yet! And when there is a situation like terrorist attack and that too on proven grounds about the origin and nature of attack, you would choose to play your conscience and expect that the country hosting you, giving you solid reception would not even demand a simple humane gesture of reacting ethically?? I think that would be absolute shame maanini.
        I get your point, you’re somewhat apt there.But there’s a little edgy situation in that particular episode.
        It was never about them as actors/artist coming here. It was about them staying here, living and making most outa their life here, but still refusing to appreciate it by showing a tiny gesture of showing simple ethical behavior!
        It was never about what we expect outa someone native or alien. It was about being humanly spirited.
        And moreover, when it’s about national interest-in a situation alike external attacks, country will always comes first, not some individual pride and their nature of being.

        certainly.. i do admire the way you engage! It’s really promising to see someone of your stage so profoundly takes on complex topics like these. 🙂
        It’s alright, i am glad you did it. I will be away for a while, so i think it was good time to catch up with you. Take care 🙂

        Ps. You might not concur with whatever i said, you don’t have to. I just felt somewhere at some point it’s not about an individual’s personal take, but his/her collective take for greater good on certain situations. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Love the way you articulated the point and that’s why I nominated you for the award. 🙂
        RaGa for PM? Oh, I don’t think a lot of people would like that one. Though I’m not eligible to vote yet, I don’t know if he’s a good choice. 😉
        I agree with what you believe about a simple ethical gesture on part of the actors and I like the way you described your point of view. I think I might even concur, because of your way of putting the point across. Ahh, but none of this matters because the ban was never even officiated. Thanks for your words and providing such food for thought. You should do a lot more political writing. Who knows? You might become a prominent political writer, eventually….:)

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Hahaha… Thank you so much, Dear😊
        😀 Good and bad choices show their true nature on giving chances, else we can act critical for someone and something forever..!! And without giving chances no one would ever know how bad the good choices could be and vice-versa 😉.
        Hahaha.. Maanini.. i am so naive at politics and writing🙈😁😇😋.
        But thanks.. 😇

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent summation of so many issues world wide and to draw on my favorite devotional poet of all time
    Thank you, your words help us all work together 🙏

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! Really appreciate that and yes, he’s my favourite too. I can’t believe that we still haven’t matched up to the genius of our forefathers and the high esteem they held this country in.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. At a time when the western world is needing to reinvent itself, perhaps we have more in common with India than ever. I see many of our challenges mentioned in the post above.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you and I appreciate your honesty in bringing the Western democracies at par with our situation in India. Thanks for your insightful comment.


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