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Remembering Rabindranath Tagore: the youth perspective

Here 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…..
Into that heaven of freedom, our Father let our country awake.'

Rabindranath Tagore

This evocative patriotic verse is on the lips of many a school child in India. In Bangladesh, Tagore's heritage lives on in the form of Rabindra Sangeet, his poems, plays and short stories. However, though well known as the composer of the National Anthem, there are disturbing signs about the future of Tagore's rich legacy.

For one, adolescents have only a sketchy knowledge of Tagore's works, though they study his life story. The problem is more acute in the English medium schools. However, the saving grace is that some of these schoolsnamely Scholastica, Sunbeams, Sunnydale and Maple Leaf International, among othersare stronger in the Bangla culture and art forms.

August 6 this year is Tagore's death anniversary. The Daily Star opportunely spoke to six young people to decipher their affinity for Tagore, his works and musical compositions. A look at the response from the future citizens of Bangladesh:

Rukhsar Osman, Class 7, Greenherald School
'Two years ago, Tagore's life story, poems and songs were a part of our syllabus.
I would like to read his works but there are now distractions such as the television and other books. For instance, I am currently reading the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinback.
Yes, I did learn Rabindra Sangeet when I was about eight to nine years old but then stopped classes because my mother discontinued her lessons.

I also remember going to Shantiniketan when I was around 10 years old. It was very picturesque. I plan to go back to learning Rabindra Sangeet.'

Fariba Omar Laura, awaiting her A level results, Mastermind
The daughter of well-known artist Rokeya, Laura has inherited her mother's fondness for Rabindra Sangeet. 'I recall dancing to Tagore's composition Phooley phooley dholey dholey as a young girl of eight. I also remember other lyrical songs in the same genre, such as Shokatorey, Ananda Lokey and Amar Shonar Bangla.

My mother did her master's degree in Art from Shantiniketan so I developed a fondness for Tagore and his work. Being a singer in my own right, I particularly enjoyed his songs that would come straight from the heart.

I could empathise with Tagore's loneliness since I felt the same way as an only child. I also learnt Rabindra Sangeet for one year when I was 16. That's because I particularly enjoy band music. I have performed vocals and keyboard in concerts in Dhaka, Khulna and even Chicago in 2001. I am in the process of recording for my solo rock music album, titled Astitya.

However, I have been to several Rabindra Sangeet concerts with my mother. Sometimes when the mood strikes us, my father (a professional band player) picks up his guitar and together with other friends we sing Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul geeti and modern pop.

It will take some more growing up in order to understand the Tagore ethos.'

Rashed Mohammad Mahfuzullah, finished A level from Maple Leaf International School
'When I was eight years old, along with my family I went to see his homes in Kushtia and Shantiniketan. I have studied his work and particularly enjoyed Shesher Kabita. I have learnt about his life and his poetry touches the heart. I do want to read more of his works as I enjoy reading. Some of the books that I am reading are Stephen Hawking's Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays and The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra.'

Niloy, finished Class 10 from Oxford International School
'I have read Tagore's poems and stories. His writing is emotional and it captivates the reader. I particularly enjoyed Choto Bou, a short story that depicts the struggle of a wife with a new family into which she has married. She has a very sensitive role in the family, being a Muslim married into a Hindu clan.'

Tawsif Saleheen, finishing Class 12 from Will's Little Flower School
I don't think school children are encouraged to learn about Tagore. We never studied any of his novels in our school. I really miss that because my family, especially my mother are avid readers of his poems and short stories. My mother also knows Rabindra Sangeet and is a good singer. I recollect her singing Esho he boishakh.

I don't have any favourites and don't remember what I have read. However, as I read Great Expectations and Wuthering Heights, I wonder why Tagore's works are not similarly on the must read list of literature in schools.

I feel that Tagore expresses himself in a down to earth manner. His characters are common people who have certain emotions and it is possible to relate to that.'

Durdana Ghias, final year of Honours in economics from Dhaka University
'I used to and still read Bangla books. I particularly enjoy Liberation war stories. I have only read Tagore's short stories and among my favourites are Stri Patro and a humorous work called Icchapuran.

I particularly enjoyed the former because it depicts a wife sending a letter to her husband and the central theme of her writings is how men treat females. The story touched me because here was Tagore, a male author, empathising with a woman. On the other hand, I didn't like the novel Chokher Bali because the language was outdated and I didn't find it interesting.’

By Kavita Charanji

Overcoming shyness

Are you afraid to act or interact in public? Do you feel awkward presenting yourself in front of people? Are you constantly in fear of being ridiculed in presence of others?

Well…not any more. Now is the time to fight back your shyness and emerge as a confident and determined person.
Shyness is a nearly universal human trait.

Of course there is nothing wrong in being reserved, but as harsh as it may sound, in this rapidly developing world, there really is no place for introverts. If one has to establish oneself in today's society, he or she must come out of their turtle shell and interact with others. He or she has to be able to stand out amongst others and not become just another face in the crowd.

Shyness cannot be called a disease or an abnormality. It is just a state of the mind, which evokes nervousness into a person and steals away the confidence of saying or doing something. People feel nervous and awkward to present themselves in public or to interact with others.

In extreme cases people might have an inferiority complex which in other words means that they start to believe that they are inferior to others. There are many people in this world who suffer from shyness. They feel that they are unfit in the society and thus choose to escape from it. In this way they soon become social outcasts. Shyness may intrude into a person's life at any point of time, but there is no definite time to try to overcome it.

By the time they reach the teen age, most children start to develop some certain characteristics. Some of them are sociable and outgoing, while others tend to stay shy and reserved. These children usually tend to stay quiet and they refrain from indulging in the various forms of interacting activities like sports and games. Thus they end up having very few friends.

Their shy nature might later make it difficult for them to reach their desired goal in life or to attain fame and popularity. However, they can easily overcome this problem.

In order to overcome your shyness, all that you need is perseverance and willpower. You must believe in yourself and your own abilities.

Even if you think that others are better than you in some way or the other, do not let this fact trouble you. In such cases do not lose hope or give up. Sit down with a relaxed mind and analyse your own character and fields of interest. You will surely find some area that you also excel in, even if it is something trivial like possessing a certain good habit or trait. Never underestimate yourself. It is very important to believe in oneself and have confidence in your abilities.

Do not feel undermined by what others say about you. If you feel shy to present yourself in front of people, then take some time and practice talking in front of the mirror. (It will only be your image that will be watching you!) Take help from parents or close friends. Start small conversations with them on topics that interest you.

You will thus gain the flow of speech. When performing on stage or in a public place, do not lose your nerves by imagining how many pairs of eyes are scrutinizing you. Instead, imagine that you are performing in an empty room and concentrate on your performance. As you become immersed in your performance, you will soon feel that the crowd will not bother you anymore.

In today's world, we might have come across many shy people, whom we do not seem to notice, because of their quiet and reserved nature. In other words, we literally ignore them, thus indirectly forcing them to hide their faces away from the society. Instead, we should try and help them out.

If we endeavor to extend a hand of friendship towards them, we might actually be able to help them overcome their shyness. Parents should never be too critical with their children, as this might lead to the child developing an inferiority complex. Instead they should encourage their child and support them in their quest to conquer shyness.

By Nusrat

Campus news

The Aga Khan School provides aid to the flood victims

The murky brown water continues to sweep across the Dhaka City as the flood situation deteriorates. Water levels in the lakes and rivers are inching up at an alarming rate. In such circumstances, food is increasingly scarce. Many people starve for days and many inevitably encounter their mortality. The water carries a wide range of diseases, which makes death all the more common.

Aga Khan School Charity Club started this academic year with a mission to fulfill. Throughout the last week, the staff and the student body were encouraged to be generous and contribute to the flood relief fund.

Then came the shopping. Hundreds of packets of 'cheera', 'gur', energy biscuits and oral saline were bought. Cheques and cash kept pouring in, and flowing out with each shopping round. There were reciepts to be submitted, cheques to be cashed, NGOs to be contacted…
the work was, in a word, monumental. The members stayed back after school for the packing, another intensive task. However, everyone was enthusiastic and it all paid off.

The club already had had an agreement with BRAC, who would distribute the goods to the flood victims. The articles were finally handed over to the organisation, and thus ended the busy week.

This was only the end of the first stage. As more and more donations keep coming in, there is more shopping to do, many more NGOs to meet with, and yet more activities to come. The Club plans to arrange the goods in several batches. Most will be distributed though the many voluntary organisations in the city, while the rest will be done by the school itself.

There are thousands of Bangladeshi people in need of help. The Aga Khan School has decided to reach out. So can you.

By Saadi



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