Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul, an excerpt from:
(Poem #1714) Geetanjali
Obstinate are the trammels, but my heart aches when I try to break them. Freedom is all I want, but to hope for it I feel ashamed. I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee, and that thou art my best friend, but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death; I hate it, yet hug it in love. My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet when I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.
It's been a while since we did a Tagore poem (the last one was in Jan 2004), so figured would send in one of my personal favourites. I'm not as a general rule a big Tagore fan. Maybe it's because as a true city person I find all his bucolic charm difficult to relate to. Maybe it's because I'm too cynical to approach simple beauty with anything but active suspicion. Whatever the reason, I've always found him somewhat long-winded, cloying and repetitive. I can open Geetanjali at random and read a poem or two and be moved by them, but every time I've tried reading the whole thing through I end up with a vaguely queasy feeling in my stomach - like eating too many rosogullas. This poem is the one exception - it's a poem that I'm haunted by, a poem whose very words have become almost a habit of thought (if we were still running the 'poems you remember' theme, this one would qualify). Part of why I like it is the abruptness of it - the lines here are short, the rhythm a brisk point-counterpoint. Tagore doesn't go on and on, he deals instead in a desperate precision that pierces straight to the heart. There is a sense (as in all of Tagore's best work) of every word being carefully selected. As a result, it is an intensely honest and heartfelt poem. If the real beauty of Tagore is in his simplicity, then I can think of few better examples. But for all the simplicity of the language, it is also an extremely difficult poem, because the mental state it describes - a sort of shrinking away from hope and expectation - is a fundamentally complex, if a scarily real one. And that perhaps, is why it is my favourite Tagore poem - because instead of expressing simple devotion or childish wonder (or muttering high sounding platitudes - witness 'Where the mind is without fear', Poem #177), Tagore gives us a portrait of a real state of mind, so that (for once) I find myself truly able to relate to his work. Aseem.