Partitions, Anthems and Stories

The songs, stories and writings of Rabindranath Tagore have always inspired me immensely. Even the national anthem of Bangladesh composed by Tagore is one of my favourite songs.

tagoreWhile the Indian national anthem, also by Tagore, is more of reverence for the mother land, the one of Bangladesh is more lyrical and full of love for the motherland.This is what makes it, according to me, more “Indian” in its approach as we, as a subcontinent respond more to emotions.

The English translation of “Amar Sonar Bangla” by Syed Ali Ahsan is as given below

My golden Bengal
My Bengal of gold, I love you
Forever your skies, your air set my heart in tune
as if it were a flute.
In Spring, Oh mother mine, the fragrance from
your mango-groves makes me wild with joy,
Ah, what a thrill!
In Autumn, Oh mother mine,
in the full-blossomed paddy fields,
I have seen spread all over sweet smiles!
Ah, what a beauty, what shades, what affection
And what tenderness!
What a quiet have you spread at the feet of
banyan trees and along the banks of rivers!
Oh mother mine, words from your lips are like
Nectar to my ears!
Ah, what a thrill!
If sadness, Oh mother mine, casts a gloom on your face
my eyes are filled with tears!

Here it would help if we know the story behind this song too. This song was written in 1905 during the first partition of Bengal, when the ruling British Empire had an undivided India’s province of Bengal split into two parts. This divide of Bengal, being along communal lines–East Bengal having a majority of Muslims and West Bengal having a majority of Hindus–is claimed to have undermined India’s national movement against British imperialism and to have been politically motivated. Along with a host of others, songs such as this were meant to rekindle the unified spirit of Bengal, to raise public consciousness against the communal political divide.

Now, we are two nations. Has this really helped either nation, rather the people, in any way?  Forget the economics and power dynamics, we should know this is an artificial divide that has severed a naturally  bound region into two for political reasons.

Let us know all divides begin in the mind. Let us not succumb to more such divides to keep alive our nationhood alive.

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