I quote the famous poem from Gitanjali below –
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
– Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 for Gitanjali.
Tagore had this vision in 1913, of a world where true freedom was achieved. Where the foundation of this freedom was truth. In the last 100 odd years, many things have become better. In India the caste system is not as bad as it was in 1913. In the US discrimination with respect to the skin color is not the same as it was in 1913. Women have a lot more rights then what they had in 1913. Yet, I feel we live in a very primitive society. I cannot talk about the way the global society behaves, but I sure can say about things that happen around me.
We have a small online shop called Pettikada. In 2001, we had an order for a cake by an American lady to be delivered to somebody in Kottayam, Kerala. When our boy went to deliver the cake, the lady in Kottayam refused to take the cake. She told us that the cake was sent by her American daughter-in-law. We felt quite sad, the American girl was just trying to make the relation between her husband and her mother-in-law better again. But that would never happen. After all she was a foreigner. I guess, our society is still broken up in fragments by narrow domestic walls.
The last 3 years our organization has grown to over 100 people and we interact with most of them a lot. Personally, for me interacting with the youngsters makes me feel like a 24 year old again. The sad part is that I really can’t help them.
Here’s one such typical story. Guy and girl fall in love in college. They both pass out of college with flying colors and start working. They are from well educated homes, they earn a good amount of salary and are kind of settled in life. They then decided that it’s time they got married. And boom… hell breaks loose. The reason they are both religiously from different communities. The girl’s family is agitated and they start thinking about what the entire community around them would say. In that fear the girl’s father falls sick and is admitted to the hospital. The girl’s mother tells her that she is responsible for all this. If her father dies it would be because of the girl. The girl breaks down emotionally. On one hand she has her family members whom she loves a lot. She would even sacrifice her life for them. On the other hand she has our true love whom she loves just as much. She would do anything for her love…. And she does just that. She scarifies her love. The boy and girl break up. The girl is married off within days to some stranger.
The boy is completely shattered. His dream of a cozy home, wonderful car, great job and a life together with his partner is fully shattered. He starts thinking of leaving his present job. Maybe he thinks it is better if he goes and studies for his masters or doctorate. He starts dreaming more and thinks less about his job. He is not able to give his 100% at work which makes him feel even more guilty. His boss starts scolding him. He now starts hating his job, the city he lives in, and even his car does not seem like the dream car that it was just a few months back.
All this happened for just one reason – The boy and girl were from different religious communities. The boy and the girl were never religious in the first place. They followed the particular religion only because their parents were following it. For them love was surely more important. But they did not have the freedom to choose or even love.
Let’s hope that soon we have a world where such stories are just a reminder of our past. Where we have the freedom to live freely. Where words come out from the depth of truth …. Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
And while my country is still sleeping, I just wish I had a solution for my kids in office. I wish I could solve their problems. I wish their lives were more like that of Locinvar, a wonderful poem, by Sir Walter Scott, I read when I was a kid. I know it is just a poem, but seeing them so sad, sometimes I just wish….
I quote below –
H! young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none.
He rode all unarmed and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.
He stayed not for brake and he stopped not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none,
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love and a dastard in war
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.
So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall,
Among bridesmen, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all:
Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword,–
For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,–
‘Oh! come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?’–
‘I long wooed your daughter, my suit you denied;
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide–
And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.’
The bride kissed the goblet; the knight took it up,
He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup,
She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand ere her mother could bar,–
‘Now tread we a measure!’ said young Lochinvar.
So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bride — maidens whispered ”Twere better by far
To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.’
One touch to her hand and one word in her ear,
When they reached the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
‘She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,’ quoth young Lochinvar.
There was mounting ‘mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
Fosters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see.
So daring in love and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?