Weapons, battlefields, television sets, press headlines scream and the mounting uproar takes away from peace.
We are walking into the threshold of seventy one years of independence. We have walked a long path, we banished many ills, while we created new ones. We shone often but also languished in the shadows many a time. We zoomed into space and dived into the depth of the seas, only to find that small skirmishes tarnished our image and our peace.
Where have we reached seventy one years after being free? Freedom from whom? Freedom from what? Freedom towards getting where ? Freedom in doing what? Many questions will never have adequate answers and will open up new vistas for thought, reflection and debate. Weapons, battlefields, television sets, press headlines scream and the mounting uproar takes away from peace. No one or nothing can escape this vulture-eyed world of this century. Everything is carrion, often mutilated, disparaged, torn apart without reason.
Art sadly is not spared. A film? Make it this way. A painting? Do not touch our gods. A book? Better learn what to write. Music? Dance? Do this and don’t do that, the chorus never ends, said the song learnt in childhood. Let us keep aside our canonical, puritanical masks and allow for art to flourish in all its multifarious, multidimensional forms inheriting from the deepest roots of this splendid nation, spreading its branches from the most traditional to the most avant-garde, even if it may be shocking. Let free art live and breathe free. Only then can the soil fertilise itself.
That would be my Tagore-inspired prayer. One that the bard dreamt for this nation in the years before independence. We have successfully driven away the external physical enemy. But we also pulled out the flowers alongside the weeds. When and how will we contend with the monsters within that wreck the mind, shatter reason and demolish compassion? I seek permission from the great poet to re-tilt his masterpiece towards my own cry for freedom.
Where the mind is without fear and creation is held high Where art is free, for that I pray seven times over Where fragments make up a whole and a whole sees the place of parts Where listening, presenting, performing, making is unfettered Where music, dance, all art come out from the depth of passion and from none else Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection Where the clear stream of creativity flows on Unebbing, into the fertile soil enriched by chant, dance, sound of music Where the mind is led by the beauty Of raga, kriti, manodharma, hasta, aesthetics in all manifestations For that I pray seven times over Into that design which widens like the eye of the camera, zooming in and out at will Into that heaven of freedom in art, my Father, let my country awake. For that I pray seven times over, seventy times over, seven hundred million times over.
Dr Vasumathi Badrinathan is an eminent Carnatic vocalist based in Mumbai. She can be contacted on email@example.com