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The Home and the World

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Discuss Ghare Baire (Home and The World By Rabindranath Tagore) as a Critique of Extremist and Expedient Nationalism.
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  George 1 Agey George (140038) Miss. Sharon Pillai BA English Honours 1 October 9, 2014 Discuss Ghare Baire  as a Critique of Extremist and Expedient Nationalism. Rabindranath Tagore was born in 1861, a period during which the nationalist movement in India against the British rule was crystallising and gaining momentum. In 1857, only four years before the poet was born, the first military uprising for self-rule broke out in India. In 1905, the Swadeshi movement started on Tagore‟s doorstep, as a response to the British policy of partitioning Bengal. (2) “ Ghare Baire ”  is a critique of the extremist and expedient nature of nationalism by India‟s incandescent writer and Asia‟s first Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore (1861 -1941). “Patriotism cannot be our final spir  itual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live” (quoted. in Sen 86). Tagore denounced patriotism that, like religious formalism, “breeds sectarian arrogance, mutual misunderstanding and a spirit of persecution ”  (5). In a letter to C.F. Andres, written from New York, he explained, “This is the ugliest side of  patriotism. For in small minds, patriotism dissociates itself from the higher ideal of humanity. It  becomes the magnification of self, on a stupendous scale  —   magnifying our vulgarity, cruelty, greed; dethroning God, to put up th is bloated self in its place” (5 ).  George 2 This anti-nationalistic sentiment  —   as quoted by Mo hammad A. Quayum “...that nationalism is a source of war and carnage; death and destruction, rather than a concept encouraging a more united vision of the country or the world  —    remains at the heart of Tagore‟s imagination..” in most of his writings, including this novel, but yet the utter contradiction occurs, as Tagore himself was highly patriotic and penned 'his' notions about a patriotic nationalist through his characters, like the protagonist Nikhilesh (  Home and The World  ) who championed “ the doctrine of non-violence well before Gandhi , and places humanity above the limitations induced by nationalism, reduced to an incomplete, monol ithic and unipolar ideology ” (2 ) . The Home and The World   tries to deal with three distinctive ideologies about nationalism, through the characterizations of the three main protagonists.  Nikhilesh, an idealistic landowner, is patriotic but wouldn‟t place na tion above truth or conscience, whereas Sandip, supports extreme nationalism, and believes that if he wants something, he must struggle for it, even if he has to force others. “ The two modernists, as change harbingers, present a fundamental opposition between the two contesting ideologies. As the two men negotiate the demands of the nationalist project through different means … to accomplish the common end. ” (7 ) The story unfolds as Bimala, a traditional pativatra who worships her husband [Nikhilesh] and wants to be no where except in her home, must choose between the two men and their respective visions. Bimala is portrayed with a “  physiological and psychological resemblance of t he nation” (3 ) to represent the “dilemmatic view on nationalism” (3 ) and this signifies the crossroad of changes in fate of the entire nation in that era.  George 3 Throughout the narrative Tagore also identifies several of those emblems of nationalism:  bonfires; the image of Bengal or India as a woman and a goddess; and most frequently of all, the  phrase „Bande Mataram‟” (1 ), to portray the dangers of such iconography. “ Gradually, we find her [Bimala] obsessively drawn towards Sandip who, with his flamboyance and jingoistic rhetoric appeals to her own sense of patriotism. ”(1 ) C aptivated by Sandip‟s magnifi cent and dominating persona-an ambitious leader, capable of gathering large crowds, hypnotizing the masses with powerful speeches and using phrase Bande Mataram with deep sense of patriotic passion. She too, blinded by the impulsive passion  becomes willing to do anything for this „ noble cause ‟ , including violently protesting, forcing the  poor traders to stop dealing with foreign good and burning them up in bonfires and even stealing her husband‟s money . Tagore here, conducts a multidimensional analysis; firstly, of the citizens who lacked a fairly incisive political understanding of the movement, but are drawn to it like „ flies to flame ‟  merely excited by the desire of basking in the glory of being a patriot and an insensate love for tyranny, instead of “bailing  the poor out of their pitiable condition, they worsened their condition by forcing the poison of patriotism down their throat ” (8 ), all in the name of „the love for the nation‟ . Sandip argues that “True patriotism will never be roused in our cou ntrymen unless they can visualise the mothe rland…. make a goddess of her [India]” (6 ). “Tagore vehemently opposes the idea of turning the nation into a goddess for it was a superfluous deification of nation. An insidious act of invoking the nation as visual image, that can only appeal to the minds of the Hindus, ignoring Muslim population, goes to illustrate the  George 4 exclusivist and sectarian nature of the movement. (1) This precise harm is also caused by of the over-use of „ Bande Mataram ‟  as it dominates over any other forms of expression, completely shutting out the possibility of any other point of view. Tagore captures the paradoxes of the Swadeshi movement and in turn nationalism, as he brings numerous loopholes into the spot light. He points out these hidden pitfalls of the nationalist movements, created by overzealous tendencies of the apparent „public heroes‟  who become “ so unscrupulous that they do not hesitate to abuse the movement for personal and political gain ” (1 ). “…gradual ly becoming self-obsessed and vainglorious in their cause, losing sight of their dharma of dispassionate, disinterested action (as advised by Krishna to Arjuna in The Bhagavad Gita), and use violence as a fetish for personal gain; thus their early optimism is replaced later by a sense of nada.” (2 )  Nikhilesh acts as Tagore‟s mouthpiece and brings out a lot of his own views in the matter. The reasons cited for such a remark is the striking similarity between real life Tagore and the fictitious character of Nikhilesh, “both the benevolent landlords tried to establish alternate economies to help the poor, did not support the idea of a divided nation and destruction in the name of the Swadeshi” (8 )  Nikhilesh does not use „ the force of his will‟ unlike Sandip, even though he has the power to do that as he thinks that it violates human rights and human. Tagore also uses Nikhilesh to make the readers aware of the perils of nationalist chauvinism, which prompts oneself to declare himself as “an Indian first, a citizen of the world second,” which would then lead to other corollaries invoking caste and creed and so on, also the heartless practice “…of denouncing commodities (even people like Mrs.Gilby as English commodities) simplistically as “foreign” is in fact the
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