“Who will break the lock of my room
And take me away from my home?”
These two lines from Tagore’s famous song Venge Mor Ghorer Chabi vividly express his earnest desire to break free from the confines of his home. It’s an urge which we find in many of his songs as well as in several poems, stories and dramas that he composed. It’s not only a person’s physical desire to go out – but an artist’s emotional urge to break free.
Even today most artists are caged; for art isn’t quite considered a suitable field of pursuit. Whether the barrier is cultural or financial, our society still has some prejudices against the creative field as a choice of career. Art gets limited to hobbies not as a means to earn or live by. And sometimes even that is restricted.
Society tends to chain those with an artistic talent and tries to bind them in certain socially acclaimed roles and ordinary jobs. But that conversely leads to a greater outburst of creativity. For the innate tendency of the mind is to express itself and the soul’s most intimate desire is freedom. And so, when an artist doesn’t seem to find a way out from the social cage, he or she tends to find the escape route through their art.
Thus, the bondage only serves to enhance their skills.
Although the reason behind Tagore’s house arrest was his tender age and high status, yet the emotional turmoil and the artistic response was exactly the same. The more he felt caged, the more he wrote to escape. The more he felt bonded, the more he sang of freedom.
This is perhaps something by which we can also explain the recent outburst of creativity in the current lockdown: where bondage has turned people into exploring their creative mind. Social media is flooded with poems, paintings, songs, recitations, handicrafts, calligraphy and what not. People have really proved that while it’s not so hard to stay away from work – it’s absolutely impossible to live without a little bit of creativity.
Now, if we go a little back in time, to our ancestors who lived in caves, we will find that they too couldn’t live without art. And that explains all the cave paintings and stone writings. For them, it was their only way of communication and self-expression – while standing as exhibition of their creative talent.
We all are still unconsciously carrying within us the seed of creativity that we received from our ancestors. Every single one of us has that artist within us; it’s just that we are not aware of it. Daily activities and the chaos of the modern world have suppressed the artistic urge we were born with. We soon began to live by habits, which is a great deadener, indeed.
But when suddenly the world stopped, the chaos subdued and the routines disappeared, our habits faced a massive change. We felt helpless, caged, chained at the hands of a pandemic. We found ourselves locked in the house and our soul realised its bondage within the body. Soon, it began to search a way of escape. It can no longer use the body which refuses to go out. So, the soul urged the mind to find a solution.
And that’s what I call “an artist’s urge for freedom”.
While the mind kept searching for the route to express oneself, the heart came up with a brilliant resolution—creativity. And an artist is born; or rather, rose from the ashes of its forgotten self. For the artist has resided within us all along, we failed to find it. We needed imprisonment to know the value of freedom.
So was the case of Rabindranath Tagore, too. For a long time, he wasn’t allowed to leave the premises of his house. But he wanted to see the outside world. When someone visited their house, young Tagore asked them to narrate stories of the world outside. The more he heard, the more his desire rose.
Yet, there was no escape.
His emotional turmoil boiled up as his urge for freedom surged. Finally, when he could take no longer, all his pent up emotions came out through words. Weaving words upon words became his only way to break the cage and bring peace to the mind. And that’s exactly how an artist is born.
However, decades later, Rabindranath Tagore is still caged—in the bookshelves of the elite class. He has failed to reach the house of the commoners. He wrote for them, but his voice never reached them. He was born with the stamp of upper class; and throughout his life, he couldn’t break free from that. Thousands of poems, stories and songs, couldn’t free him. He still belongs to the aristocrats, to the rich elite families.
But it’s high time now that we drag him out of his confinements, out into the streets so that he can enter into the house of the commons—the ordinary people for whom he wrote. Because, for all I know, that’s where he always wanted to belong, but was never given the opportunity to.
Let us all strive together to bring that peace of belonging to him. Even if that requires us to translate his works into other languages and play his songs on guitar. Let the world know him in its own way and discover him in whichever form they like. Let him roam freely in the heart of every person alive on Earth.
And that will be our greatest tribute to Rabindranath Tagore, to the great poet of the world.
“Season after season the flower garden will testify
My love for this world.
This love is true, it’s the gift of birth;
While saying goodbye,
This immortal truth will deny death.”