“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”

The title of this post is taken from one of Rabindranath Tagore’s particularly famous book of poems, Geetanjali, and I was reminded of it by its use in Dr Kalam’s speech that I covered in my previous post. It made me think about what it means, to be without fear and to hold your head high. It’s interesting that while I’m ethnically Indian and carry an Indian Passport, I never completely felt this way in India, in the decade I lived and worked there.

Diego Rodriguez touches upon the ‘mystique’ of the Bay Area where he says,

Living in a place as innovation-friendly as Silicon Valley or the U.S.
as a whole, it’s easy to overlook the important role that society,
government, and culture play in creating a supportive stage
innovators to do their thing.

And while I feel as though, looking back upon my life, that it sometimes echoes the lyrics of the Eurythmics [yes, yes, I’m dating myself] most famous song "I’ve travelled the world and the seven seas" – I must acknowledge the truth of the fundamental freedoms of this nation, founded on rational principles, unique amongst all others in the world. I cannot change the way I look or the way I speak – or as someone recently exclaimed "You have an accent" – a stranger in a strange land. But what I do know, and it was brought home to me on my recent trip to India, that it has been here, in these United States, and particularly here, in San Francisco, that I’ve truly understood these words written by Tagore decades ago. I cannot deny that it would not be the case were I of a different gender, which, in itself, makes it all the more poignant in a way.

Here is the poem in full:

Where 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
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

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