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Light - Rabindranath Tagore

I think my favourite thing about Rabindranath Tagore is his relentless idealism. In his poetry, art and his songs there is an effusiveness, a utopic vision which rarely loses steam. Tagore saw in the world around him a profound innocence and eternal beauty. His odes to spring, childhood, nationhood, innocence and nature hold in their zestful dance a hope that is so simple, that the labour of intellectual work that has gone into making it seem so obvious is often hidden. This flourish that is evident in his poetry reminds me of a line from Wislawa Szymborska’s “Under One Small Star” - “Don't bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words, then labour heavily so that they may seem light.” Indeed I think of “light” when I think of Tagore - an apt metaphor don’t you think? The light of love, of a mind fascinated with learning, of a “mind without fear”, and of freedom. Today’s poem is filled with this sense of effusivenes and unconditional love. It is as if the persona is filling the entire world with the warmth of his embrace, tipping each particle, each cell, with light. It is Deepavali today, and I found myself engaged in the business of celebration with renewed vigour. The times are bleak, with revolutionaries and keepers of conscience imprisoned or constantly under the fear of retribution by the ruling dispensation and their followers, while others walk free with bloated badges of patriotism. I’m sharing this poem about light to contribute to the movement that is intent on reclaiming festivities, reclaiming the meaning of faith and togetherness. Deepavali is about light. The sight of a million diyas is enough to drive away the darkness from our lonely souls.

Tagore’s ode to light, like his other poems, engulfs us with its abundance. I cannot help but be carried away in the glorious torrent of his metaphors, and rest my conscience for a few moments in another’s clarity of vision. As “the sky opens, the wind runs wild” I pray for a future where freedom isn’t a commodity that is reserved for the highest bidder, where we can cherish the light in each other’s souls, and spread an idea of faith that is as expansive and vibrant as laughter. Happy Deepavali!


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