Santiniketan, the abode of peace, which is devoted to realization of different aspects of truth from diverse point of views, was perhaps not prepared to face this bizarre truth of a 10-year-old girl forced to lick her own urine as punishment for bedwetting. The universal knowledge centre Visva-Bharati that was conceived by Kobiguru to provide coordinated study of different culture is to-day accused of defending a weird culture that could be appreciated only by a very few godly souls like Swami Agnibesh. The God within the innocent girl of Patha Bhavan died when the hostel warden Ms. Uma Poddar tried the medieval cure on her. Patha-Bhavana, the brainchild of Tagore, was established to stimulating and sustaining the manifold faculties of human personality beyond the accepted limits of intellectual and academic pursuits. The underlying philosophy behind such idea with no stretch of imagination can accommodate the concept of a punishment that exceeds the customary limit of tolerance of any ordinary people.
Evidently, people have forgotten Tagore’s concept. His works have become commodities – traded freely for the purpose of materialistic profit only. People are earning their living by capitalizing on Tagore’s tag. The values, which Tagore had stood for, are far behind us. His message is not touching the soul of our hearts. We have become mindless to the nuances of life, which he had dreamt.
The high pitch loudspeaker installed at roadside lampposts playing Tagore’s song in full blast in a hot humid noon announcing festivities of community “Puja” cannot spread his idea. In the early hours of a holiday morning, when people struggle to catch up with sleep, having their ears assaulted even by Tagore’s songs or poems through a loudspeaker publicizing some public events spread a wrong message. Under similar attack, Tagore himself would have been apologetic for his splendid works. However, people of Bengal have become accustomed to witness such offerings of reverence to Tagore in a fashion that actually betrays an arrogant show of respect. The long lasting impression the lyrics can create, if played in a serene environment, gets lost in such routine outburst and becomes a regular source of revulsion to many. Nevertheless, people are oblivious of others’ feelings!
Reports of unpleasant incidents like theft of Tagore’s Nobel medallion in March 2004, molestation of an American student at Kalo Bhavan in February 2008, fortnight long strike demanding an investigation into ‘irregularities’ committed by vice-chancellor in 2010 and many more untoward incidents still haunt public memory. People are now witness to a tragic “reality-serial” that started with a folly – compelling a budding soul to lick her own urine. The episodes of ridiculing the parents with police arrest and thereafter the show of bias by the university authorities followed back to back. The next two episodes displayed insensitivity of the persons in power with delay of 72 hours in enquiring about the well-being of the victim and then the expression of regret 5 days after the incident that culminated with a “punch-line” by publicly naming the tormented child, violating section 21 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.
The society is yet to come to grips whether to dismiss the happening as stray one or to debate whether Visva-Bharati authorities have strayed. “We Bengalis are too sensitive about Santiniketan and expect it to remain an oasis of high values when the world around is in a state of degeneration and collapse.” A senior teacher reportedly told in defence. May be the torchbearers of Tagore’s legacy are yet to realize that glow of light turns more prominent as darkness becomes more pronounced. Perhaps Tagore’s anguished expression “There is lamp but never a flicker of flame” in Gitanjali (Poem 27) describes the contemporary situation better. Today, his teachings have become more relevant to liberate the society.
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech Tagore had said, “My object in starting this institution was to give the children of men full freedom of joy, of life and of communion with nature. I myself had suffered when I was young through the impediments which were inflicted upon most boys while they attended school and I have had to go through the machine of education which crushes the joy and freedom of life for which children have such insatiable thirst.” Are we not witnessing today the manifestation of a culture in Visva-Bharati that is exactly opposite to Tagore’s dream?
In another paragraph of the same speech, Tagore had mentioned “…. this university should be a place where Western students might come and meet their Eastern brethren and where they might work together and try to find the treasures that have lain hidden in the East for centuries and work out the spiritual resources of the East, which are necessary for all Humanity.” Can we tell it to the world today, as uttered by a SENIOR teacher, not to “expect it (Visva-Bharati) to remain an oasis of high values when the world around is in a state of degeneration and collapse”? Should we announce that the “Eastern brethren” have failed Tagore?
When the custodians of Tagore’s dream falter in their task of protecting the poet’s precious collections, others in Bengal cannot be expected to do better. Common people always look up to the intellectuals to show the right path. That is the reason why the parents had left their 10-year-old girl in the custody of Visva-Bharati with hope that the child would be moulded in the vision of Tagore. However, the manner in which the authorities have failed the child is inexplicable. The ruthless act has attacked the inherent idea behind starting the institution and the bias has shaken its foundation. The “God” within the innocent girl was murdered at Patha Bhavan, her dream was shattered in the Tagore’s dream house and she had to go back home carrying a nightmare. The poor child will never return to Visva-Bharati – “where the whole world forms its one single nest” – even as a day boarder, because she is too afraid! To-day, she is searching a shelter “Where the mind is without fear and head is held high; where knowledge is free”.
Published at indiaopines blog