“Where the heart is without fear and the head is held high”. Those were some of the first words written by one of my inspirations, Rabindranath Tagore, that I still remember from back then. Everything in India is quite competitive, so it wasn’t strange that my parents had me enroll in competitive reciting at the age of 4. I couldn’t read back then, so I had to memorize all the poems I had to recite.
For a long time I was repelled by Tagore and by what I had recited. Not because of what I had to recite, but because I had to do it. However, when I hit puberty and got back into listening to Tagore’s music, the lyrics struck me as beautiful and true. He inspired me in more ways than one.
Tagore, who was a creative polymath, was inspired by work and cultures from all over the world. He was a humanist, universalist, internationalist and ardent anti-nationalist and was the first non-European to win the nobel prize for literature. A fun fact is that they asked him, an anti-nationalist, to write the National Anthem! Something we now have to listen to in the cinema every time we go to the movies 🙂
I consider myself a humanist as well. I believe it’s not the differences that connect us, but what it is that we share that does. Things like basic emotions, appreciation for human values and reason, and the energy and things that free us as human beings.
Coming from Calcutta, the capital of West-Bengal,considered the cultural capital of India, I had a rather liberal and international upbringing. India has a strong British background and because my parents never got the chance to learn English due to the communist governing of West-Bengal, they found it very important that I learn the language, sending me to an English school. Though we used to speak Bengali at home, my thoughts were mostly in English. And when I had my first girlfriend we exchanged diaries, all in English, as a way of communicating when we were not together.
Being educated in English and reading all those novels and poems from Tagore and others gave me a more outside look on things, and helped me appreciate more what it is that connects us, instead of what makes us different. Moving to another country has only amplified this.
Amsterdam is maybe the most beautiful place I have lived in. There’s a lot of hunger for life and the fact that things are taken care of so well here allows you to worry less and have time to meet new friends, learn things and find a job. Besides, people don’t hide what they keep inside, which I really love. It’s so much easier to express yourself. That, in combination with a great work-life balance, allows me to spend time on my writing. For now, it’s just poems and short stories. Maybe one day, if I have the focus and discipline, I will work on a novel…Dedicated to Tagore 😉