“Home and the World”: Colonialism and Alternativity in Tagore’s India
This chapter begins by asking what we mean by “home” and “away.” In raising such a question, it would be impossible, at least for a contemporary Indian with literary leanings, to escape the allusion to Rabindranath Tagore’s Ghare Baire, or its English translation by Surendranath Tagore, as The Home and the World. The encounter between the colonizers and the colonized as shown in this text is marked not just by the exercise of power and of various kinds of resistance to power, but also by the struggle for autonomy and selfhood, the aspiration for svaraj and dignity. Such a careful and critical mediation between political extremes is seen at work both in Gora, an earlier text, and in Ghare Baire, with Tagore using two couples or a love triangle respectively to work out his vision of a new India. Gora becomes Sandeep in Ghare Baire while Binoy is transformed into Nikhil. But while the device of two couples in Gora reduplicates the ideal of masculine-feminine bonding and partnership out of which the new India will be born, the love triangle in Ghare Baire ends in a catastrophe. Both novels, together, show that the nation as envisaged by Tagore would steer clear of the narrow and exclusive identification with a single language, religion, or ideology. At the same time, the universalism that he promoted did not imply either a capitulation to Western culture nor the erasure of the local, regional, or the national. An authentic cultural position did not mean a fanatical rejection of the Other, nor an ingratiating submission to it. Neither collaboration nor conflict was the sole recourse of a vibrant and self-confident culture, but rather a continuous engagement with the particulars of a given situation. Coercion, consent, and resistance did not exist in different compartments for Tagore, but were deeply intertwined.
KeywordsWorld Literature Indian Tradition British Rule Indian Nation Political Refugee
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