23 HEAVEN OF FREEDOM
[Fearlessness, purification of one's existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, charity, self-control, performance of sacrifice, study of the Vedas, austerity and simplicity; nonviolence, truthfulness, freedom from anger; renunciation, tranquility, aversion to faultfinding, compassion and freedom from covetousness; gentleness, modesty and steady determination; vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, freedom from envy and the passion for honor-these transcendental qualities belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.]
-Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16, Verse 1-3
Two days have been passed. Samrat is beyond the wall and I’m unable to stop thinking about him for a minute these days. But tonight I’m feeling something strange. Since evening something inside my chest is crying. It’s crying that something unthinkable has happened to him.
What – I don’t know.
Did he disobey Nirbhaya?
No, he didn’t – he has promised me.
Did he fall from the broken building?
No, it couldn’t happen.
What had happened to him?
I’m struggling with myself. I’m telling nothing wrong has happened but on the other hand, I know something terrible has happened. My gut says me.
I leave the cot and get myself a glass of water. I make noise in my footsteps to check if my mother is awake. She is curled in a ball another end of the cot
She doesn’t crane her neck at the voice means she is asleep. My mother cranes her neck at the hut door on every small noise thinking that my father has come back.
But now, I know he would come back never.
I reach the wooden case in the corner and open its lid. Inside it is everything of my father – his old clothes, his old boots, his muffler, his waistband belt, his agriculture knife, and innumerable things of him.
I fumble through them. It takes me more than two minutes to get what I’m searching for – a paper.
It’s a paper. My father has given me when he last time went beyond the wall.
“Keep this,” he said to me.
“For what?” I asked.
“One day you will learn to read,” He said, “that time it would be useful.”
I’ve secured that paper in the old case of his belongings. Sometimes when I feel lonely in the night and my mother is asleep I take out that paper and read it. It’s like a remembrance of my father.
Tonight I need it. I’m alone, I feel lonely.
I sit under the lantern in another corner and unfold the paper, my hands shaking. I feel fear every time I read it. I always read it at night and in my hut. I don’t know where else to read it but I know nowhere else is safe to read it.
Why did my father give me this? I never get the answer.
The paper in my hand feels me heavy as if I’m holding memories of my whole childhood with my father in my hand.
As I unfold the paper my eyes gaze the words, the words seem odd as usual even though I can read it.
In starting I didn’t know what it is but now I know it is the poetry. My father has given me a paper from a book of poems. I’ve never heard him singing one or never seen him reading a book. He was a thief, he just stole the book. He was a book thief and I doubt he could even read.
I read the very first line and tear threatens my eyes. The old memories rush to me, with each word I remember a day I’ve spent with my father, on his shoulder, in his lap, walking with him and jogging after him, arguing with him and eating with him.
Where the Mind is without Fear
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 out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
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
The line under the poem reads: By Rabindranath Tagore.
I’m reading this poem umpteenth time but tonight I understand more of its meaning than I ever have. Toning I understand why my father gave it to me.
It’s about freedom. Very first line of the poem says that the countrymen should be free from any fear. We shouldn’t fear anything. Everyone has the right to hold his head high and live with dignity. Every person should be fearless in a free country.
Means we aren’t free.
Then what are we?
I’ve no answer.
Why someone has written it?
I see date under the poem: 7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941.
It was written by someone who lived even further in the past than the creator.
So long ago, I think. So long ago before Pralaya he lived and died.
And he, like my father, will never come back.
I try to understand the next two line – they emphasize on the unity. Unity of the world. And these lines clearly say there should be no division among people based on their cast, creed, colour, religion or other baseless superstitions.
Then why the Creator has divided us into groups and broke the unity of the world?
Again, I’ve no answer.
I can’t stop myself. I read the entire poem, again and I understand the meaning of line 7 and 8. They say people should have rational thinking and logic should rule over baseless beliefs.
But there is no logic in why we are Sunya. They just say we are Sunya and no one has demanded the reason why we are Sunyas.
The last confuses me. Why does the poet ask his father to wake the country? I read the last line over again several times.
Then it hit me. He isn’t calling his father, he is addressing father of the world means the God. The old God lived in the stars and who was so Kind. Heaven of Freedom means everyone is equal and no one is forced to do work without his wish.
Was the country like that before Pralaya?
But why did he write it?
Were the people in a condition like us before Pralaya?
Were they asleep like us and he wanted god to awake them?
What does the poem want to say?
The poem says to be fearless like Nirbhayas. It tells us to fight – fight for your right.
I flip the paper. There is another poem on the other side of the paper. It is ‘Freedom’.
It is also by the same Poet.
I read that poem, too. I read the poem again and again until it fills my eyes with tear and rescues my heart from fear.
Freedom from fear is the freedom
I claim for you my motherland!
Freedom from the burden of the ages, bending your head,
breaking your back, blinding your eyes to the beckoning
call of the future;
Freedom from the shackles of slumber wherewith
you fasten yourself in night's stillness,
mistrusting the star that speaks of truth's adventurous paths;
freedom from the anarchy of destiny
whole sails are weakly yielded to the blind uncertain winds,
and the helm to a hand ever rigid and cold as death.
Freedom from the insult of dwelling in a puppet's world,
where movements are started through brainless wires,
repeated through mindless habits,
where figures wait with patience and obedience for the
master of show,
to be stirred into a mimicry of life.
BY Rabindranath Tagore
I fold up the paper and put it back in the case, under my father’s old shirt.
As I close the lid of the case it hit me: why they have banned books in the wall?
Because the Creator fears if we have knowledge we would ask for our freedom. We would wish for the heaven of freedom as the poet has wished for his people.
I go to the cot. Now, I lie down on my side, another side is my mother. I curl my hand around her. She looks pale and exhausted with life. My father would always say she’s strong enough to go without him. I’ve heard them talking – my father’s said Dixa, you are brave and if I won’t come back you won’t do anything stupid because it wouldn’t help me once I’m gone. I close my eyes and think of my father’s poetry instead of his last words.
Heaven of Freedom. Rabindranath Tagore. Freedom.
I couldn’t stop reciting the poem again and again until I surrender to sleep and night covers me.
That night, I dream that my father comes back from beyond the wall with too many books in his bag. “Read these all, my dear,” he tells me. So I do. I open each book. To my surprise, each book has the same poems written on the first page. Why all books have the same poems? This puzzles me, but I read them all as my father wished me to do so.
Next morning, I wake up with the lines of these poems in my heart and head.
To be continue.....
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