Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Nationalism by Rabindranath Tagore, reviewed by Naveen
Rabindranath Tagore does not need an introduction to lovers of Indian literature but a book presenting a collection of his lectures certainly does need one. This book sent to me courtesy of Penguin India, has an excellent introduction by Ramachandra Guha. He uses anecdotal evidence to give us a perspective or rather a framework to understand the ideas that Tagore has put forward in his lectures. Students of history will immensely benefit from the extensive references that Guha has added at the end of his introductory piece.
The book Nationalism is a compilation of three lectures delivered by Rabindranath Tagore. The three lectures published in this book are: Nationalism in Japan, Nationalism in the West and Nationalism in India.
Nationalism is a complex concept to understand. It is supposed to act as the force that breathes life into the combined aspirations of the citizens of a country. The feeling of nationalism is usually manifested in a pride for local culture and a certain amount of self interest governing the actions of nations. If this is your idea of nationalism, then Tagore’s lectures will give you a broader canvas to build your thoughts on nationalism.
Tagore dwells on the interdependencies of cultures as opposed to the narrower definitions of nations and nationalities to exhort his audience to elevate their thinking to include nobler thoughts of compassion and mutual help. He is quite sure that self interest should not play a dominant role in the actions of world leaders.
These lectures are highly relevant in the present day international scenario when the concept of community living is overshadowed by considerations of caste and religious affiliations. I recommend that this book should be read by Indian youth to understand the vision that our founding fathers had for our country and to assess how far we have diverged from their path in the first sixty years of our independence.
Find out more about Rabindranath Tagore's Nationalism here.