<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/eMV6kKMTVvg?start=9" title="Nitin Pai speaks at Manthan Samvaad 2017" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>
This is the text of a talk I have at Manthan Samvaad, Hyderabad on 2017-10-02.
## The Poem
>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.
\- Rabindranath Tagore, [Gitanjali](https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Gitanjali)
## The Prayer of a Patriot
[[Rabindranath Tagore]] published this poem in English in 1912, in a collection titled “Gitanjali”….He won the Nobel Prize for Literature the subsequent year.
In fact, he had written the original poem in Bengali around 1901. He gave it the title “Prarthana” or “A Prayer” in an anthology called “Naibedya”, “An offering.”
Tagore’s political views had changed between the publication of the Bengali poem in 1901 and its translation in 1912.
He was always against protests and violence…but by 1912 he had moved away from the nationalist leadership in Bengal.
He was patriotic. In the sense that he loved his country.
And wanted freedom and development of his people. But he was ambivalent about nationalism. And later, in the 1920s and 30s, became its vocal critic.
> “I am not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. What is the Nation?
> It is the aspect of a whole people as an organized power. This organization incessantly keeps up the insistence of the population on becoming strong and efﬁcient. But this strenuous effort after strength and efﬁciency drains man's energy from his higher nature where he is self-sacriﬁcing and creative.”
Amazingly, a person so critical of the idea of a Nation is the only person to have authored the National Anthems of two nation-states. Created on the basis of national self-determination!
Anyway, “Where the mind is without fear” was written before Tagore’s scepticism of nationalism became full blown. In it we see ==the prayer of a patriot seeking Freedom and Enlightenment for his people.==
## Reorienting India towards Tagore's vision
The Republic of India (in 2017) is far from the values set forth by its great poet. Seventy years after achieving political freedom, we might not be any closer towards turning “[[Into that heaven of freedom]] that Tagore visualised.
We are no longer heading toward the Heaven of Freedom. We might be one wrong turn away from the Hell some of our neighbours have arrived at.
I am a public policy analyst by profession. That means my day job is to offer policy recommendations, that as we all know, governments are unlikely to adopt.
My job is also to educate young people and equip them to become public leaders. I often give them lectures.
But I do not intend to use this platform to give you lecture.
Instead, I will tell you what I tell my children. I am a father of three young children. ==My wife is in charge of their schooling. I am in charge of their education.== Or so I like to believe. Anyway, here’s what I tell them.
## The whole poem
[[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.