Tagore’s works ideal for politicians and leaders

Tagore’s works ideal for politicians and leaders
Photo : Rabindranath Tagore

Tuesday May 7, 2019 marks the 158th birth anniversary of Indian laureate, Rabindranath Tagore and his relevance as a poet, original thinker, dramatist, and philosopher whose life and works must continue to be respected and replicated not only in Trinidad and Tobago, or the Caribbean, but globally.

He was born in May 1861, 16 years later after the first set of East Indian labourers came to our land to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations.

Today 2019, his poem, “Gitanjali” among several others still resonates, even though silently, in a world society plagued by terrorism, poverty, violence, climate control, political discrimination, corruption and human trafficking. He was the first non -European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Tagore’s thoughts regarded non-violence as a moral principle spring from the depths of the mind and must not be forced on man from any outside appeal. And that is why diversity in our Trinidad and Tobago must not be used as a political tool to satisfy a particular issue, but rather it must be utilized to construct a durable foundation stone for all generations.

 This remains a strong political vision which should be repeated in Parliaments, Councils of Nations of the World, and specifically the United Nations. Additionally, India’s first Prime Minister, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru ended his powerful analysis of civilization, entitled, “Glimpses of World History” which was a collection of letters Nehru wrote to his daughter, Indira Gandhi while he was in prison in his fight for India’s Independence.

The verse:

“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 from the depths of truth;

Where tireless stretches its arm towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into dreamy desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by these widening thought and action; Into the heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

This verse is inspirational, thought-provoking and contains a universal appeal for all mankind. Our country’s first Prime Minister, then Premier, Dr Eric WillIams, celebrating the birth centenary of Tagore at Queen’s Hall, Port-of-Spain, 6th May 1961. “… I seek to penetrate, for the benefit of own people, the political significance of Tagore’s poetry, dramas and novels in order to draw lessons for our society in the West Indies”.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran, who fifty years later, addressing the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore on Saturday May 7, 2011 at Divali Nagar, Chaguanas said: “It was very interesting to see, the combined effect of three persons, Rabindranath Tagore was indeed the philosopher, who set the values of the Indian Independence; Mahatma Gandhi was indeed the political strategist who charted the road forward and, Jawaharlal Nehru became the practitioner of that Independence”.

Dookeran added: “It is an important distinction to see the coming together of these three men and these three sets of ideas that culminated in what turned out to be the beginning of the decolonization period in the world. What lessons does that point to us`.”

Photo : Paras Ramoutar

He continued: “It is that strategy without philosophy will not be successful, and that practice without strategy will also not be successful and that philosophy without strategy and practice will also not be successful as a nation shapes its own future. And as we assess our own political situation, we must find the right equilibrium between getting the philosophy right, getting the strategy right and getting the practice correct.”

Dookeran’s thought remains an identifying feature for our own Independence, after 57 years ago.

 We need a new philosophy for our Independence, not manifestoes glibly produced at election times, and after election the winning party discards it to the dustbin of history.

Development is not coined by an assembly of words from the alphabet. Development must be sufficient water in our pipes, and not blame the lack of it on climate change, the failure of not boosting agriculture, or an inefficient public service or no transportation or clean governance. Development must take a new paradigm and meaning in the third decade of the 21st century.

Trinidad and Tobago could well take a page from the political synthesis and strategy of the wisdom of Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru for their works against colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism are readily available not for academic exercises, but for the socio-economic and political development of nations, for future generations.

Our own Independence movement has failed us so far, and with 57 years of Independence, we are still groping in the dark, pilfering excuses after excuses, thus compounding the failure to ensure that true national development and nation building traits are enshrined with a new framework

Taking a cue from Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru, and not to forget Dr. S. Radhakrishnanan,  let us rework and restart the development process.  We can do it if we try, and try hard.