Like waves on the shore

Before I came to the US, I had a little time on my hands one day as I was roaming around in Kolkata for the US Visa. The best way, of killing time for me is to go through some books in a book store. The Oxford book store (on Park Street, probably?) was the closest one at hand, and I hopped in wanting to kill an hour or so.

After browsing through some random sections, I came across a corner where the there was a plethora of books written by Rabindranath Tagore. Due to the recent expiry of the copyright, many publishers had launched their own versions of either his complete works or selected novels, short stories, etc. I picked up the Gitanjali, and started reading through it. Some of the poems I had read earlier, but others I had never gone through before. And I stood there, reading through them.

All those poems suddenly began to make sense to me that day. I remembered how I had hated reading through some Bengali poems earlier as a kid in school --- something that I had had to half-heartedly gulp down. But now all of them made sense. Even poems that I had read earlier: I could see them in a new light altogether. Like waves of the ocean breaking upon the same shore, I saw new meanings, newer dimensions and new light in them each time I read through something. Even though they were from the same ocean of thought, yet each crest and each trough presented a new perspective of the meaning immortalised through the black print upon those pages. And soon the book became overwhelming; I could not read beyond 5-6 poems, I had to put it down and let the head process and churn through the thoughts. I just stood there staring blankly for some time.

I so wanted to buy that book that day. But it wasn't so easy: there was the consideration of weight limits on airplane luggage, there was the consideration of not being able to pay off the credit card dues because I was about to leave Indian shores. And so I just stepped out of the shop empty-handed, into the sunshine and walked quietly for a long way back to the house, my brain agog with a subtle mirth I hadn't known for a long time.

But, here's the advantage of studying at one of the top places in the US: I've found multiple copies of the book here in the university library! And there is so much more literature to read, so much to explore! You will understand my feeling here only if you know the joy of just walking through stacks of books and staring at them. The library here has a policy of unlimited borrowing for graduate students: I can borrow all the (10 million plus :) ) books in the library for an entire semester! And it feels so good to read through them again... just live through the glory of these words:

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.



  1. that one moment when something you have known for a long time suddeny falls into place and makes sense ... beautiful post

    read about thakur da somewhere else today - why do all the blogs suddenly remember him? rabindra jayanti? lost track ...

  2. Sigh, wonderful poem that, to end the piece. I am sure it is from Gitanjali, am I right?


  3. Ricercar, thank you! And may I add (as I said in the last post's comments as well) that the 'prerona' behind this one was your last comment :)

    Suyog, yes sir... you're right :)

  4. I think we are truly living in such difficult time where it is so much of a struggle to find who we are ?? And almost century old poems making sense - it seems you are hanging between that time and current time.

    I enjoy Bengali literature , however I have to rely on english medium...!Such a pity...!

    Very nice post...I sincerely hope you write more of your musings !!- I have a copy back good to get the link while being on Road. Thx

  5. R, poems like these are timeless --- much like the human emotions, bliss, serenity of the moonlight, etc that people have felt over the ages. Any word written about them even a thousand years ago would be still as true.

    My posts depend on my mood and the current thought in my head. But I'll try to post more of such things as and when I feel them.

  6. Sudipta,
    I love that poem by Tagore. And everytime I read it I feel stronger and rejuvenated. I am not a great reader, but yes I did buy a book on poems by Rabindranath Tagore.. Translated into English, just as "r" said even I had to rely on English..

    I like your blog, the "Tips" section, you are a great help to many aspirants ..

    And as for the masterpiece by Tagore... Amen! :)

  7. 'where the mind is without fear' is one of my favorite lines of all times, everytime i hear these magical words i fall deeper in love with tagore's thoughts. i remember hearing these lines as a child from my grandpa and when he explained me the profound meaning that these words conveyed, i felt proud to be an indian...these words still bring back that feeling..thanks for sharing :)

  8. Maithily, thanks a lot! And welcome onboard... I am glad that they were of help.

    Life lover, of course... one wishes you understood Bengali and lived through the beauty of those words in the original as well! Anyway... you're welcome :)

  9. sudipta, if i were to learn one language other than the one i already know (hindi), i would opt for is the sweetest sounding one and it is the language tagore expressed his thoughts in, so tell me if you would like to teach and you have a student all ready and eager to learn :)

  10. Life lover, of course, of course!! My pleasure, ma'am ... anytime!

  11. Hey - I just shared the lines from Gitanjali with some one....!Somehow it blended well with what I wanted to contribute to the conversation. Yeah ...beautiful lines !!

    Thanks once again for sharing your thoughts!!

  12. Arundhati Chatterjee11:15 AM, March 03, 2007

    It is true as you grow & get to understand life in its variegated shades
    so many things unfold themselves. Particularly the beautiful poems of Rabindranath capture these with full intensity. The more you read the more you are entranced. They seem to open up life in its kaleidoscopic aspects with the subtleties, delicacies and symbolic layers of meaning.You are uplifted, elevated and blissful.There are such sublime thoughts arrested in such touching and powerful words, you feel inspired and comforted.

  13. Maa, posted your comments... and thank you so much

  14. Well... I’ve not yet read any of Tagore’s poetry. But I can relate very well to the “the joy of just walking through stacks of books and staring at them”. It is one that has to be experienced first-hand and enjoyed.

  15. Alpine path, yes... that is something that must be felt first-hand

  16. Beautiful,,,its a art to allow your life carry you farther.

    1. Thank you, Unknown - they truly are inspirational each time you read them!


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