Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Humility of Creation

Recently I attended an event here in Indore to mark the sesquicentenary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore the only Nobel Laureate in Literature from India. There I heard an interesting anecdote from a person who had attended the Viswa Bharati University at Santiniketan as a student of Fine Arts and was there at the time of the birth centenary celebrations of Tagore in 1961. The great modern Indian sculptor Ramkinkar Baij, who was discovered by the Bengali intellectual Ramananda Chatterjee at the age of 16 and later brought to Santiniketan to further hone his skills, was commissioned to make a statue of Tagore for the occasion. He did so and the sculpture is shown above. The statue shows Tagore's head as slightly bent down towards the front. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then all powerful Prime Minister of India, had come down to Santiniketan for the celebration and it was he who unveiled this statue. While giving his speech, Nehru said that this statue did not suit Tagore's stature as a world poet because it showed him with his head bowed down instead of held aloft. At this Ramkinkar burst out into raucous laughter and said - " Jawahar what a fool you are. Don't you know that to create something one has always to bend one's head down and work?".
The first thing that struck me was that Ramkinkar had no awe of the Prime Minister and could call him a fool. But was it from arrogance that Baij said what he did? Or was it an expression of humility. The humility of the true creator. He could not have given such a pat answer if he had not thought hard as to how to portray Tagore. And he hit the nail on the head because Tagore is one of the most humble creators. In his poetry he comes across as a humble worshipper of nature and the supreme spirit. It is a greatness of those times that Nehru too immediately realised his mistake and said that his understanding of the process of creation was inadequate and he was grateful to Baij for this insight.
Humility is a quality that has vanished in our age. Today one has to sell oneself continuously to survive. If you want funds to pursue some creative activity then you have to advertise yourself. In the process you lose humility and so end up producing trash instead of creating masterpieces. So much of the literature, art and music of our age is nothing but trash.
Even when angry or in anguish Tagore was always humble as expressed in the famous poem Prosno or Question which he is himself reciting here in Bengali -

The rough translation of this poem is -

God, you have sent your emissaries through the ages to this merciless world
"Forgive and love all and wipe out the hatred from within you" they have urged
They are to be remembered and praised but even so in today's bad times, standing at my door, I have to turn them away with respect
Because I have seen secret violence in the shadow of deceitful night attacking the defenceless
Because I have seen the voice of justice crying in silence and seclusion due to lack of redress against the crimes of the powerful
Because I have seen young boys running madly and dying in great pain fruitlessly banging their heads against stone.
Today my voice is silenced, my flute is musicless, the prison of the moonless night has submerged my world in nightmares.
So I ask you in tears – " Have you forgiven and loved those who have vitiated your atmosphere and snuffed out your light?"


Bhaswati Ghosh said...

The anecdote you shared reflects the magic that happens when one master recreates another. Both Ramkinkar and Tagore were original in their creations and thus spoke from a place of deep conviction, not from one driven by the market. When I first read about this episode, I found myself nodding and saying to Ramkinkar, "Of course! You are right."

Anonymous said...

u are a star translator...thank you for this favor to humanity.