69 years after our nation gained independence, it has grown and changed a lot, lived through five wars and witnessed nearly seven decades. Even today, some of those old heroes, those old freedom fighters, those old men and women to whom we owe all the liberty that we are getting today… are alive. There was once an era, when everyone- from a sweeper to the President thought that whatever they were doing, they were doing it for the nation, even with minimum resources! But let’s get our minds away from all that for a while. What I am going to write about are glimpses of freedom across Santiniketan. Remember Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Prarthona” or “Where the mind is without fear”? Remember the iconic lines “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”? Well, those are the very emotions that Gurudev tried to inculcate in the main atmosphere of Santiniketan, be it the open Visva-Bharati campus, the encouraged participation of outsiders and alumni in school/university functions or the very
essence of “Ashram”. That is what separates Santiniketan from any other place in world.
Recently, I had gone to a village called “Shehalai” which is near Santiniketan. What I saw left an impact on me. It was last year’s Saraswati Puja and I, as part of a local initiative called “Bondhu” was invited to the villager’s Saraswati Puja celebration. The stabbing cold of the winters was slowly going away and the warmth of spring was coming in. Among the villagers was a little girl who liked the red flower in my mother’s hair and wanted one just like it. As there was no other red flower nearby, my mother gave her flower to the girl, who happily put it in her hair… Enter Jadhab- a little boy who was looking at us for quite some time. Suddenly, he said- “I know where red flowers can be found here-follow me!” And so, he took us on a wild trail through farms laden with crops and grasslands, to a single tall silk-cotton tree on which red flowers were blooming. Seeing the height of the tree, my mom became a bit hesitant about the flower, as she was concerned about his safety. But her heart melted when Jadhab tried to be stern by saying “nebe ki nebe na?” (do you want it or not?) and then, he quickly started to climb the tree. We persuaded him, pulled him and coaxed him, till he finally
came down, but today, I think that we should have let him go. He was free because he thought about others… he was concentrating on the flower- not on his torn shirt, bare feet or dirty face. Another day, I was playing with Jadhab, when he took out a small plastic toy car from his pocket “Good, isn’t it?” “Yes”, I replied. In a moment, he said “take it, it’s yours!” I was surprised to hear these words from a five-year old boy, but I liked the car too! Even then, I said “No, play with it, that would make me really happy!” With a twinkle in his eyes, he started playing with the car. Even these are signs of freedom! Jadhab wasn’t bound by his own desires or thoughts, he genuinely wanted to help other people… he wasn’t bound by his own limitations! He was free because he wanted to give. He was free because he knew his place well. He was free because he could make us his friends. He was free because he was free. If a child can be so free, why can’t all of us be? So come on, let us take vow that we will all never be bound by our own limitations. I salute Gurudev and thank him for making Santiniketan “a small place which does not have any boundaries”