Click below to see the recitation
The dumb earth looks into my face, and
Spreads the arms about me,
At night, the fingers of the stars touch my dream
They know my former name.
Their whispers remind me of the music
Of a long silent lullaby;
They bring to my mind, the smile of a face
Seen in the gleam of the first day break
There is a love in each speck of Earth, and
Joy in the spread of the sky
I care not if I become dust, for the dust
Is touched by his feet
I care not if I become a flower, for the flower
He takes up in his hand.
He is in the sea, on the shore; he is with
Ship that carries all.
Whatever I am I am blessed, and blessed
Is this earth of dear dust.
Publisher’s Note No: 14. Utsarga (1914). This translation by Gurudev is an interesting illustration of how the Poet faced the almost impossible task of giving a full and faithful rendering of some of his original composition. The first sentence is a translation of only the last two lines of the third stanza of the original; next four sentences are rendering of the fourth stanza; the sixth sentence of the first two lines of the eighth stanza; the seventh and eighth sentences of the first four lines of the ninth stanza and the last two sentences are of the last four lines of the tenth stanza. Translation retrieved by Sankar Datta.
Yet, not too far in space and time from where Tagore wrote this beautiful poem, other men caused misery to millions of human beings. One such even was the Great Bengal Famine of 1943, in which over 3 million people died, in a year when there was little overall shortage in rice production. One person who studied this tragedy was Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning economist, who in fact, still has a house in Shantiniketan, and indeed we passed by it. Sen’s elegant explanation of famines, when there is no absolute shortage of food, deals with a “failure of entitlements” . Another blogger has explianed it much more elegantly:
I’ve just finished (the main text of) Amartya Sen’s ‘Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation’. Sen (famously) argues that, contrary to conventional belief, most famines aren’t created by food shortages. Harvest failures, reductions in food imports, droughts, etc, are often contributing factors – but far more important are the social systems that determine how a society’s food is distributed. Absolute scarcity – insufficient food to feed everyone – is extraordinarily rare. Vastly more common is for an adequate supply of food to be beyond the reach of those who need it most. Sen advocates shifting our attention from questions of food availability to questions of distribution, or to the social systems that guide this distribution. “If one person in eight starves regularly in the world, this is… the result of his inability to establish entitlement to enough food; the question of the physical availability of the food is not directly involved.” (p. 8). See more at:
I remember seeing Satyajit Ray’s Asani Sanket about the Bengal Famine in 1973, thirty years after the event, in the dark cool comfort of the Regal theatre in Delhi, yet sweating, holding the hand of my Bengali girl friend of those days…And that was just three years after the horrors of the genocide in East Pakistan in 1970, which brought millions of Bengali refugees to India and led to the birth of Bangladesh. How is it possible, for a land to be witness to both – the romance of Tagore’s humanism and the cruel “realism” of the Bengal Famine and the Bangladesh War?
After a few days , when I met Siddharth, we exchanged notes on what the trip to the Sunderbans and Shantiniketan meant to us, and this is how the brief dialogue went. This link is to just a three minute long conversation and in English.