A Tribute to Tagore in the Time of COVID-19

In this time of COVID-19 let us recall that poem of Tagore which was a clarion call for fearlessness, adherence to reason, universal humanism and empathy for “Others” who are not us.  

In this tribute to Tagore I have elaborated Tagore’s original lines (in red, italics and underlined) to emphasize that nothing much has changed in the world. George Floyd’ death in USA and Jamlo Makdam’s death in India brings out the bitter truth that Tagore’s lament is still valid.

Let us have a world

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where any nation state does not lord over others

Where aggression is not justified by patriotism

Where visas are not used to deny a human being to meet a loved one

                      Where knowledge is free;

Where science is not locked down in private enclosures

Where books are not burned by priests of “Other Gods”

Where beliefs do not banish logics

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where race, caste, tribes, color, language and gods do not create strangers to us

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where truth evolves and not handed down

             Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where innovation rules, ideas confront ideas, paradigm changes;

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

Where a child is not to afraid call out an Emperor naked

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

Where humans can reach for space and brings and an end to its childhood on Earth

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The last line is a tribute to Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End

Cry Jamlo Makdam Cry

In a heartbreaking tragedy, a 12-year-old child labour – Jamlo Makdam died on 20th April after walking for 150 km from her workplace Bhupalpally in Telengana to her native place, Bijapur district in Chattisgarh. She was working in Chilly fields in Kannaiguda village.

see here

I have written a poem in her memory.

Cry not -my beloved country- Cry not

                Save your tears

                for Jamlo, the chilly-picker,

She needs them plenty

to keep her walking.

Only a mile afar

 mother waiting to hug her

quench her thirst -before she moves to a land unknown.

Running away from coronavirus, with week’s hunger in belly,

100 rupees tucked in her skirt, bedecked with chilly flakes,

a mere 150 kilometers to walk,

no marathoners to accompany

she is walking, walking, and walking.

On a lonely road

Sun blistering above

With no helpful winds to blow away the heat

She is walking, walking, and walking.

Thirsty blood, tearless eyes

Saliva-less tongue

Still her dream dies hard

home, sweet home and mother awaiting – her final resting place.

Hunger, her best friend, she is not afraid of,

because she must walk, walk, and walk.

Stars are shining

in their AC cooled rooms,

cutting hubby’s hair short, sweeping floors – a first time in life

singing paeans to Lockdown, Lockdown and Lockdown

A 100K like in Instagram -no wonder.

Leaders are busy in their virtual world

With Mask on

Conferring on matters of life and death

gravitas overflowing

may be talking about Michelangelo

and heart beating about Jamlos at large.

But our Jamlo is not even a footnote.

Which country owned Toba Tek Singh?

Gods only know.

Which state owns Jamlo for her to receive some succor?

The answer is blowing in the wind

To her mother’s arm that is the only place on earth she belongs to.