Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tagore on Life and Death

Thou Hast Made Me Endless- Part XIII

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941 AD) Nobel Laureate of 1913
(Some translated pieces from his Bengali works)

Translator:RAJAT DAS GUPTA: Calcutta: e-mail:

Tagore on ‘Death’ (2)
In the first chapter under this caption published on 2nd March 2008,. it has been mentioned that Tagore’s thoughts on ‘Death’ are mostly Upanishad (more than 4000 year old Indian scripture in Sanskrit language) based. We have Tagore’s interpretation of this Upanishada aplenty in his book ‘Santiniketan’ (in Bengali) an extract from which is translated below.
[…..From age to age Man is deriving wisdom through ignorance, he is gaining bliss by annihilation of sin and blight. Through strife he is getting Truth, there is no other means for it. Those who think that this ‘light’ is untruth, Utopia is a mere fiction, had they been right, Man would remain same as he was on the day of his advent on this earth, he would not grow any more. Because Amritam (Immortality) is inherent in him, man has made way through Death to radiate his Immortality;. Through the narrow outlet of Death, Amritam founts. Those who had visualized this, gave their call- “Be not afraid; this darkness is not true, neither Death is; you are successors of Amritam. Don’t accept serfdom to Death; if you surrender to your physical instincts, you’ll insult your inheritance to Immortality”. As insects nibble the flower, so does your physical instincts to your Immortality. He Himself had said –“Thou art the sons of Immortal; like Me.” Shall we belie his words every day?
…….’Whatever we piled up, we shall guard for ever’; what sort of piety is this? Just as our penchant for our torso to guard which our relentless frantic attempts go futile. However much we may pine for it, because our relation with it is for long, we cannot protect it, as to do so is to protect Death itself. We have to kill Death only by shunning our body……………….]
Thus, in Tagore’s dissertations on ‘Death’ we more hear about ‘’Life’ and his songs/poems on ‘Birth’ and ‘Death’ are hand in glove. A few examples follow.

1) A Tagore’s song on birthday:

He nutan dakha dik arbar
Janmero prathama subhakshan
[Note: There has been a boom of celebration of birthday parties of young and adults alike in the Western style even in our country with the trite song ‘Happy birthday to you …..etc.’ preceded by the ritual of cutting/eating of delicious birthday cakes to be followed by sumptuous dishes and, of course, the incumbents are flooded with costly gifts from their guests. Thus, the birthday parties do provide plenty of enjoyment. However, it may be interesting to compare this ethos with that which pervades the whole of Bengal during the Kabi Paksha (Poet’s fortnight) which starts on the 25th day of Baisakh (this month in the Bengali calendar synchronizes with the mid April to mid May period), the birthday of the Poet, when the entire clime here is inundated with Tagore’s songs/recitals etc. in various functions taking us deep into the perception of Creation’s mystery, which we badly miss in our said birthday rituals which, one may feel, are in utter mediocrity once one has experienced the ecstasy and philosophical height in Kabi Paksha. Out of many other recitals relevant to the profundity of ‘birthday’ the following song is sure to be heard on this occasion ]

O Ever New, may Thee reappear
Through Life’s holy primal hour;
With the mist torn
Like Sun be Thy manifestation.
From the midst of inane
Thy victory be over its bane.
Let be hailed by Thy glow
And my heart’s trumpet blow;
Music of Life’s marvel
Infinity’s eternal wonder to reveal;
The clarion call to the Ever New be sent
At the advent
Of Baisakh the twenty fifth
For its un-blighting gift.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Poem No: 39 of the book ‘Sesh Saptak’ written in 1933, about 8 years before his death in 1941 at the age of 80.

[Translator’s note: Tagore’s wonderful interpretation of Upanishada is found in a large number of his essays which helps us understand this oldest scripture of mankind in Sanskrit which founted from the profound spiritual inspiration of the sages of ancient India more than 4000 years back. The following quote from Tagore’s essay ‘Dukkha’ (=Woe) is a sample of such interpretation which also appears to me very relevant to this poem on Death, the extreme form of woe according to the limited perceptions of lesser mortals like us. Only a saintly frame of mind, as the Poet had, can perceive Death in the vast canvas of Creation where Death’s severity is so diluted.
“Those who lack in spiritual and devotional power, want to perceive as total truth the manifestation of God only amidst happiness, pleasure and wealth. They say, wealth and fame are gift of God, beauty evinces Him and that worldly success is His blessing and reward for our virtuosity. Benevolence of God, to them, is tender and piteous. These infirm with their euphoric reveries take the mercy of God as an aid to their greed, delusion and cowardice with their fragmented fads. But O Awful, where do I confine Your mercy and joy? Only in my happiness, wealth and a panicles life? Shall I have to split woes, hazards, fear and death to juxtapose against You for my knowledge about You? Not so. O Lord, You are sorrow, hazard, fear and death. The blazing flames of Your face are gutting out the mortals, Your vigour is warming up the whole world. O Terrible, we can get rid of the illusion of grief and death only by sighting Your awful form. Else, in Your world we have to go around with a coward’s inhibition, failing to surrender totally to Truth. Then I address You as Benevolent and implore Your mercy and, on its denial, complain against You and lament for my protection from You. But O Terrible, I beg of You that strength which will enable me to deem Your mercy not for my self-comfort and narrow utilities to deprive myself with Your incomplete perception. Let me not deceive myself by approaching You with a trembling heart and a moistened eyes to earn Your compassion. From age to age You are rescuing Man from untruth to Truth, from darkness to illumination, from death to immortality, the journey for which is not one of comfort, but of the severest ordeal.”]

They came to me to say –
“O Poet, tell us about Death, pray”.
Said I, “Death is my very intimate,
Its rhythms my heart vibrate;
Entangled in my vein
Joy of its flow in my blood lain.

Says He – ‘Go ahead
With your burdens shed;
Go on dying every second,
At my pull, on my moment.”

Says, “if you sit static
Everything to grip –
In your world flowers will harsh
Rivers will marsh,
The stars will fade –
Stop not” – so He said;
“Don’t look back –
Get across the old, ruins weary that slack.
I’m the Death shepherd
Driving Creation’s herd
From age to age
Pasture to pasture to graze.

When Life’s stream flowed,
I followed.
Allowed it not to ditch,
Lured it past the guard of its beach;
Led it to the vast sea,
That is none but me.

The Present aims permanence,
Imposes on you hence
All its load; all your virtues
To this glutton you lose.
On its surfeit, this monster
Craves a stall in wakeless slumber.

The Creation to rescue from the grip
Of this hibernate Present, is my severe sweep;
That eternal stumbling block
To smash with my disastrous shock,
To pave the way for the pageant perennial
Of the yet to appear, those newcomers to hail.”

* * * * * * * ** * ** * * ** ** * * ** ** ** * **

Poem” Punarabartan (Re-incarnation) from the book Geetali (Music) written in Buddha Gaya in 1914.

[Translator’s note: The Hindu belief in re-incarnation may conflict with the scientific mindset if we try to interpret it in a physical sense. But even scientists will never be able to explain the mystery behind the mortal life which apparently terminates while new life re-appears. Are these totally isolated phenomenon or linked up? The Poet is inclined to accept the latter. Incidentally, recital of this piece goes both as a poem as well as a song, the starting of which in Bengali is as follows –

Abar jadi ichcha karo abar ashi phire,
Dukkha sukhar dheu khelano ei sagarer tire….]

Here I revert to if you’ll wish so
This shore dashed by the waves of weal and woe.
Float my boat again,
On the dust play my game –
Run after the elusive golden deer
Only to flood in tear.
In the dark night, on the road thorny
Again I start my journey –
Either to succumb to my injury
Or survive its fury.
Again in disguise me to beguile
You play with me all in smile;
With my renewed mirth
Again I love this Earth.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Globalisation of Tibet

From The Statesman

ND Batra

China will once again succeed in crushing the Tibetan uprising which has spread from the politically reorganised region known as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to the outlying provinces, Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai, where Tibetans have a significant presence.

Once again silence would descend upon Tibet and its people would retreat into their hearts and prayers. But that would hardly be a remarkable achievement for a rising global power, especially when it is trying to show off to the world how the country’s stupendous economic growth has transformed the lives of the people, including, as China claims, those who for centuries suffered the “tyranny of Tibetan feudalism”.

During more than half a century of total domination over Tibet and its cultural and religious institutions, including the massive settlement of ethnic Chinese and their businesses into the heartland of Tibet, China was supposed to have reformed and re-educated Tibetans into total submission to China’s “superior culture”, not to mention hegemony. Why, then, has one of the most authoritarian states the world has ever known failed to brainwash and control the minds of a tiny minority of six million mostly illiterate and leaderless people? Why would these “wretched Tibetans” listen to the voice of the “splittest” from Dharamsala?

After all, the mighty Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was able to crush innumerable uprisings including the bloodiest students’ and workers’-led brief revolution on 23 October 1956 in Hungary. The USSR, as China is doing now, sent in tanks and troops and, in spite of the fact that there were worldwide protests against the Hungarian suppression including in India, the Soviets succeeded in re-establishing their yoke on Hungary. That was an era of Cold War, a balance of terror and mutual annihilation, and the USA and the Soviet Union had other battles to fight. Hungary was forgotten in the vast oblivion until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

Tibet’s storyline is different. First, in 1959, after the failure of the Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama along with 80,000 Tibetans escaped to India; and thanks to the Gandhian spirit still alive in India at that time, the Nehru administration let the young Tibetan leader gradually establish an international political and spiritual presence instead of turning him and his people into perpetually ghettoised refugees. Since the Great Escape, Tibetans ~ young and old alike ~ have been braving the hazards of Chinese occupation forces and have kept coming to Dharamsala. This year, another 2,500-3,000 Tibetans will escape to India. Many of them eventually go to Europe and the USA, where they imbibe the spirit of freedom and keep the spirit of Tibet alive.

The rise of the Dalai Lama as a global spiritual leader is an amazing phenomenon. Nothing has diminished him. How could this man who has been termed by a top Chinese official as a “wolf wrapped in a habit, a monster with a human face and an animal’s heart”, whose people are suffering a cultural genocide, still be so forgiving and so loving?

Visiting the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, the Speaker of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful, courageous and compassionate women living today in the USA, told her audience that Chinese atrocities against Tibetans were “a challenge to the conscience of the world”. Was she chiding India for being chicken-hearted? “If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world,” she admonished.

Last September, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel received the Dalai Lama in her office, Chinese authorities were enraged because it amounted to giving the monk recognition as the political leader of Tibet. But Sino-German relations had begun to mend until the peaceful protests by Buddhist monks in Lhasa turned into a spontaneous eruption in the entire greater Tibet region and suddenly lifted the massive public relations smokescreen that the Chinese had succeeded in casting over the world about the “improvement” in its human rights record.

Through the miracle of cell-phone video, the Internet and YouTube, the whole world watched what the Chinese authorities were doing to Tibetans. Of all the Europeans, Germans are the most sensitive about human rights issues. The Genocide and Holocaust are eternally etched into their collective consciousness and historical memory. German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul was quoted as saying, “Violence can never be a solution. The two sides can only arrive at a solution through dialogue.” But there can be no dialogue between two sides unless they accept each other. Tibet’s Communist Party secretary, Zhang Qingli, told regional officials, “We are engaged in a fierce battle of blood and fire with the Dalai clique, a life-and-death struggle between the foe and us.” Whatever happened to China’s pretensions to a “peaceful rise” and the “journey of harmony”?

While Germany has been more outspoken about China’s oppression in Tibet, even suspending environmental technology aid talks, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been no less bold in his decision to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits London. He told parliament about his phone conversation with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao wherein he urged him to ensure that there “had to be an end to the violence in Tibet”. He also said that he “called for constraint” and “an end to the violence by dialogue between the different parties”. But China considers the Dalai Lama a runaway rogue and trouble-maker rather than a party to the dispute.

China has two alternatives.
It may attempt to “resolutely crush” the Tibetan people’s uprising as the Communist Party’s official daily newspaper has urged the government to do and turn Tibet into an Orwellian Panopticon, much like the Soviet Union had done in Hungary and its other satellite countries. But in the age of wireless mobility, texting, networking and decentralised global organisations fighting for human rights everywhere, the Communist leadership may not succeed in using the great Chinese propaganda machine and the digital firewall to control the Tibetan mind without doing the same to the rest of the population.

Alternatively, China may consider establishing a genuine dialogue with the Dalai Lama and restore to Tibet internal sovereignty and autonomy and in the process transform itself into one country, multiple systems ~ as is the USA, India or the evolving European Union.

(ND Batra, the author of Digital Freedom, teaches communications and diplomacy at Norwich University. He can be reached at

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

American Presidency

Unfolding political drama in America

From The Statesman
ND Batra

Since the Republican presidential nomination race has been finally settled in favour of the 71-year-old Vietnam War veteran Senator John McCain, all that he has to do is to keep himself alive in the media so that during the intense and protracted primary contest between two Democratic contenders, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, the old man is not forgotten. However, public attention, no less than the news media, is focused on Democratic contenders for their party nomination.

Just out of curiosity, I casually asked a visitor, the insurance appraiser who had come to inspect my car for collision damage, as to who he would prefer in the Democratic primary that was being held that day, Clinton or Obama; he responded that Obama sounded better. The Obama people called him the previous night asking for his vote. I could feel the uncertainty in his voice when he added that he liked Clinton too but insisted that to him gender and race did not matter. Although this might not have been a representative voice, the ambiguous response has been the trend throughout the country, in spite of the fact that blacks everywhere have been overwhelmingly voting in Democratic primaries for Obama, a 48-year-old charismatic African-American senator from Illinois, with a remarkable gift of eloquence.

Obama traces his biological lineage to his black African father from Kenya and his white American mother from Kansas. He has been saying publicly that his father walked out on the family when he was only two years old and he was “raised by a single mom”. But he seldom mentions that his mother, according to Janny Scott’s report in The New York Times, was a highly energetic intellectual woman and somewhat of an adventurer with wanderlust. After her second marriage to an Indonesian, the family moved to Indonesia, where Obama’s half-sister was born. Perhaps because Obama comes from a racially and culturally mixed background, African, Asian and American, he has such broad public appeal, though the blacks won’t let him forget that he is, after all, a black. In the Mississippi primary, 90 percent of blacks voted for him. Nor would his wife, Michelle Obama, who comes from a Chicago black family, let him forget who he is: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” she told a political gathering sometime ago in Milwaukee, “because it feels like hope is making a comeback.” Her remark raised lot of controversy and she receded into background.

When Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nominee and a Clinton fundraiser remarked that Obama is leading in the primaries because of who he is and “if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position, ” she was accused of stirring racial controversy. She quit the campaign but refused to disown her comments.

Race is a factor, no doubt, but it seems to be favouring Obama more than Clinton. Since the beginning of the primary season last year, Americans have been deeply engrossed and conflicted about the Democratic nomination race for the White House particularly between these two powerful political personalities, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama; between their respective claims of political experience and the necessity for change in Washington; and between their catchy slogans “Yes, we will” and “Yes, we can.” The upsurge in political engagement amidst all demographic and social strata, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, women and youth, has been unprecedented.

For the first time in decades, few Americans have remained aloof from the vital political process, which is partly due to the foreign policy conundrum regarding the war in Iraq and the impending recession triggered by sub-prime lending and the sliding housing market. But more than that, it is the first time that a woman and an African-American have dared go to the top and emerged as very competent and viable presidential candidates; and because they have come so far might change the course of American history, whether they win or lose.

Perhaps no one would have put the voters’ quandary better than former President Bill Clinton, who while addressing a church group last month, said, “I’ve been waiting all my life to vote for an African-American president. I’ve been waiting all my life to vote for a woman for president. ... I feel like God is playing games with our heads and our hearts.” And lately he has been suggesting that perhaps there would be a dialectical synthesis between the two senators’ positions on healthcare, war in Iraq, free trade (NAFTA), job outsourcing, immigration and other issues, bringing them together on a joint platform and making them an unbeatable team against the Republican presumptive nominee, Senator McCain.

From Regular Joe to Joe Millionaire ~ and let us not forget women, who have been playing a tremendous role in this election ~ everyone is excited as well as divided about Clinton versus Obama, and how either of them would face a most redoubtable opponent, the Vietnam War veteran McCain, who has said repeatedly that he would rather lose the presidential campaign than the war in Iraq, which he called “necessary and just.” In sharp contrast, both Clinton and Obama have vowed to bring American troops back home at the earliest convenience and within a reasonable timeframe.But with Iraq front becoming comparatively quiet thanks to Bush’s surge policy that McCain wholeheartedly supported, another “necessary and just” war is raging at the home front, which no one knows how to fight. And it is called Recession.

(ND Batra is professor of communications at Norwich University, Vermont.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When kids go digitally mobile

Kids of the mobile revolution

ND Batra
The Statesman

Kids of the mobile generation want to be connected with their friends through social networks, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube, though they may not be always aware of the risks of exposure.

But don’t blame the parents; they just can’t stop worrying that the Internet, like guns and drinking, can be dangerous. Kids do not have the maturity of judgment and self-restraint to prevent accidental injuries to themselves and others. Especially now-a-days when cell phones are becoming multimedia mini-laptops and millions of kids are using them day and night, parents and health and law-enforcement officials are becoming increasingly concerned about cybercrimes against children.

Part of the problem is that parents and teachers cannot keep up with emerging technologies and do not know how kids are using them. It was easier to control the desktop because parents would just hover around to see where kids were surfing; but there is no way that a Web-enabled cell phone can be monitored.

The Internet could cause harm to children, for example, when stalkers and predators prowl chatrooms, assume fake identities and make propositions for romance and sex.

Several surveys have found that majority of teenagers online are contacted by people whom they never met before; and many kids do respond to e-mail and instant messages from strangers. Although some teen recipients do worry about unsolicited messages, most of them don’t care or treat them as a passing nuisance.

Reports after reports have urged parents, teachers and health-care professionals to educate children on how to deal with online sexual solicitations and other hazards of virtual life. Of course, dealing with risks is part of growing up. Just as we watch children on the playground, we should watch them in cyberspace, it is argued, rather than altogether preventing them from venturing into the wonderland of cyberspace.

According to a recent online victimization of youth research report from The National Children for Missing & Exploited Children, “Approximately one in seven youth online (10 to 17-years-old) received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet.”

Some online predators pursue their intended victims aggressively by calling them on phone and sending them letters through mail, money and gifts, according to the report. More than one-third of the surveyed children received “an unwanted exposure to sexual material -- pictures of naked people or people having sex.” Some children do inform their guardians or parents but majority of them do not bother, the report said. In response, some parents install software such as Net Nanny, Cybersitter, Safe Eyes or some other filters that are flooding the market.

Kids are normally reluctant to share their passwords for social networking sites, MySpace or Facebook; but a few parents do prevail and watch what their children are doing online. Looking at the rapid growth of mobile technology, the question is not how soon kids should go online because there is no way of stopping them at any age. The education market place, too, is pushing parents to put their children online, lest they be left behind in the digital age.

As Rory Cellan-Jones of BBC recently reported, “Children are at the cutting edge of the mobile internet revolution and both teachers and the phone industry can learn from them….While the teachers here are worried about aspects of mobile phone use such as bullying texts and explicit videos, they are aware that a ban is becoming untenable.” Since parents and teachers can’t stop them, the best way is to re-direct the cell phone use by adding educational value to it, it is suggested. “And they (teachers) are even beginning to explore how mobile phones could be used in lessons – one class was using phones to film simple animations,” said Cellan-Jones.

Although not much research is available at present to assess the impact of computers on educating children, no one wants his or her child to be left behind. Being there, being in cyberspace, is important. In an effort to bridge the digital divide and educational gap, some schools in the United States make available to students’ families a home connection to enable kids to do their homework and allow their parents to be in touch with the teachers.

Occasionally one comes across reports that students who had access to the network did better in mathematics and English scores than those who did not have such an opportunity. There are some educators who believe that letting even four-year old children surf the Internet would blossom their minds. Earlier the better, for which currently there is no hard research data available, but so strong is the passion of parents for their children’s future that even some politicians are ready to support the myth of early blossoming of the mind with their political demagoguery.

For children interactive cartooning and games can be great fun, but certainly not as much as they can have with biking, block building, finger-painting, and playing with mud, or just plain pushing and hustling. There are educators who still believe that the most precious natural gift for children is their imagination.

It is through tactile sensations and make-believes that they explore and make sense of their surroundings. The challenge before child psychologists, educators, health professionals and parents is to find a balance between the real and the virtual, so as to engage children emotionally and imaginatively. Let children grow at their natural pace rather than forcing them to ripen prematurely and create early bloomers.

(ND Batra is Professor of Communications, Norwich University, and is the author of Digital Freedom: How Much Can You Handle?)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When the dollar falls

Recession is worse than terrorism

From The Statesman


One word that frightens Americans most today is not terrorism; it is recession.

As if trying to stop the spiral of gloomy news, President George Bush told reporters on Thursday that the US economy is not in peril, not on the brink of recession. After expanding for seven long years, the economy is slowing now, he said. During the fourth quarter of 2007 the US gross domestic product, which measures total goods and services, crawled to less than one per cent, while the ranks of unemployed swelled more than the forecast. The mighty dollar has been falling in value and causing pain and anxiety. Of course when a 13-14 trillion dollar economy creaks, it seems like an earthquake. Consumer confidence is down.

Consumers are not spending enough on durable goods such as cars, appliances, business equipment, electronic equipment, home furnishings and fixtures, and house-wares and accessories. People are not buying houses even though house prices have declined 10-15 per cent since last year and the mortgage rates too are down. To stem the slide, President Bush and Congress came up with a $152 billion stimulus plan under which most tax payers will get from the government $300 to $1,200 which they hope would be plowed back to consumer spending and lift the sagging economy. But with gas prices going up with the possibility of $4 a gallon during the summer, extra money in the pocket would be helpful.

President Bush sounded as if he were whistling in the dark when he said: “We believe in a strong dollar policy and we believe, and I believe, that our economy has got the fundamentals in place for us to be, to grow and continue growing more robustly, you know, hopefully more than we are growing now.”

But the market did not listen. In fact, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned during the second day of his semiannual testimony before a congressional committee that even some banks might fail due to bad real estate loans, the stock market shrank in fear. It did not help much when he said that the overall banking system is in good shape.

How could he be so brazen when some of the biggest financial institutions like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch have gone begging for billions of dollars of cash infusion from foreign government controlled sovereign wealth funds? The levers of political power in Washington DC have little effect upon Wall Street, which runs on its own convoluted logic, alternating between irrational exuberance and unfounded fear.

It seems to me that Americans’ feelings of prosperity, the collective sense of well-being, is tied up with the market price of their homes, which makes me think further that economics, in spite of all econometrics and data collection and theorising by Nobel laureates, is essentially nothing but the psychology of fear and hope.

Last year, before the housing bubble began to deflate, my hometown Hartford re-evaluated the price of my home by almost 50 per cent, and by golly, I felt suddenly rich and good. But when I realised that I would have to pay more property taxes, which was the town’s (evil) intention for re-evaluation of my property, I felt conflicted and wondered whether I should appeal against the property re-evaluation. I did not want the worth of my house to go down. Nor does anyone else, but that is exactly what is happening in the housing market today. Due to poor home mortgage lending practices, or you might say greed, banks began to give loans on low adjustable interest rates to less credit-worthy people, hoping that since home prices were going up borrowers would re-finance their loans based on increased home equity. But somewhere a domino fell, lenders and borrowers began to lose trust in each other, and what earlier seemed to be a robust housing market turned into a speculative bubble, and hence the resulting panic.

The American dream begins with having one’s own home, so there is nothing more humiliating for a person than losing his home to bank foreclosure. Being driven out from one’s home is like being driven naked out of the Garden of Eden.

Foreclosures have been rising as the low initial interest rates on adjustable subprime mortgages are re-adjusted, which means interest rates for borrowers go up to market interest rates. Falling housing prices create negative equity, which means the mortgage relative to the value of the house is much greater. Some people who bought houses with small or no down payment are simply walking away, because their houses now are worth much less than they originally bought for.

Foreclosures add to the market glut, so home prices keep sliding down; and Americans feel less wealthy. They don’t feel like spending on non-essential goods, going to restaurants, buying a new a sofa, for example; and they postpone buying a new car for another six months or even year. Besides, when the home prices go down, the homeowners’ ability to borrow money against the equity value of their homes in order to buy big items, or go on vacations also goes down.

Banks shrink in fear lest consumers default, so they push up the lending bar thereby reducing credit availability, which adversely affects economic activity further. So when President Bush tells Joe Six-Pack, here’s $1,200, go and spend it, it is on the assumption that these millions of small acts of consumer spending would have a multiplier effect, preventing the much feared recession from becoming the economists’ self-fulfilling prophecy.

George W Bush would not like recession to become a parting gift to the nation.

(ND Batra is professor of communications at Norwich University, Vermont. He can be reached at

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Tagore: Such is Thy pleasure

Thou Hast Made Me Endless- Part XII

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941 AD) the Nobel Laureate of 1913 was introduced to the West primarily through the collection of English translation of some of his poems/songs captioned as ‘Gitanjali’ (=Offering of Songs).More translations of his works followed by the poet himself and others after he had won the Nobel, including poems/songs, dramas, short stories etc. However, such efforts were sporadic and sluggish, mostly on individual initiative, which still remain so.As a result, a vast volume of the poet’s works remains un-translated while, it appears, it is an impossible proposition to translate even a substantial part of the poet’s total works to permit those, not privileged by the knowledge of Bengali language, a reasonably broad view of his myriad creations where unfathomable perceptional depth of top grade aesthetics runs through, literally true to his song “Thou hast made me endless / Such is Thy pleasure”.Notwithstanding this, an upsurge of Tagore translation took place in the last decade of the twentieth century by virtue of a good number of eminent poets/translators e.g.William Radice, Joe Winter, Ketaki Kushari Dyson, to name a few, all of whom left their valuable contribution to this oeuvre and my book THE ECLIPSED SUN is a modest addition to this. I have put stress on a few aspects of the poet’s works, particularly those in his twilight years, which seemed to me quite inadequately covered so far. The followings are presented mostly based on this book. RAJAT DAS GUPTA: Calcutta: e-mail:
Tagore on ‘Death’ (1)
Tagore’s poems/songs on ‘Death’ are numerous, as those are on almost any other subject he had penned down. However, ‘Death’ being an awe to the humans since their advent on this earth, it may be fascinating how Tagore breaks away from this eternal ‘awe’. His thoughts on ‘Death’ draw mostly on the oldest scriptures on Earth e.g. Vedas & Upanishadas that evolved in India more than 4000 years back, that said (in Sanskrit) –

“Srinnantu Biswe Amritasya Putra;
Aa Ye Dhamani Dibyani Tasthu
Vedahamatam Purusam Mahantam….”

[Hearken the sons of Immortal
Residing in this heavenly abode;
I’ve known that person Great…]

As Tagore interprets it – Those who uttered “I’ve known Him…” assured us at the outset, “You are the sons of ‘Immortal’ in your heavenly abode, not of ‘Death’ in this mundane Earth…”

This message of Upanishada echoes in all the dissertations of Tagore on ‘Death’. A few poems/songs in this series may illustrate this.

Poem: KANKAL (Skeleton) of the book Purabi: on board Chapad Malal in December 1924.

[Translator’s note: Saint Aurobindo said that the biological evolution in the animal world , which had started with amoeba, dinosaur etc ages back, has ended with Man after which no better species has evolved. According to Aurobindo, now the objective of the Creator is to raise Man to the level of divinity (in spite of the massacre in the animal world by the genetic engineering?). We get an echo of this theory in this poem.. The Poet refuses to accept that Man has appeared only to be turned into a carcass. As in his numerous poems/songs and other dissertations, here also he reiterates Upanishada that humans are sons of the Immortal and that they are pacing towards a glorious spiritual objective in association with their untiring advancement in science and other areas of wisdom to explore the mysteries of Creation.]

The carcass lays aside
On the grass there wayside;
The grass that once nourished it
Gave repose too after its feast –
Only a few pale bones left there
To hint Time’s silent laughter;
Towards Death to direct,
Allusive of my same fate
Where with animal I don’t differ –
And that too will end there;
That, as will end my life’s nectar
In dust will be left the broken clayware.

Said I, O Death, I believe not
In Thy mock of naught.
Mine is not the life to terminate
Bankrupt of all treasures in the ultimate;
At the end of the day
The debt of my meal and sleep to re-pay.
Whatever I’ve thought, told or heard,
Or sang in my music abrupt –
Could not be seized by Death,
Measureless are what I’ve got or will bequeath.

Dance of my mind excelled
Life and Death, and traveled
To the land of music
Its eternal beauty to seek
A countless times
Merely to belie all its sublimes
At the skeleton’s threshold
In mere flesh is my true self to be told?
No, my moments didn’t torment me to tire,
Bereft, to cast me at the wayside dust there.

From the lotus of form on the earth here
I’ve drunk that formless nectar,
Amidst sorrow to glimpse joy
Has been my ploy;
In my heart to have the signal
Of the message of the silent Eternal;
I’ve seen light’s passage
At the brink of darkness;

I’m not mere
The Creator’s satire;
With boundless treasure
Is composed my noble disaster.

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