Day 6 and 7 in India: Shantiniketan
The next stop on our journey was Shantiniketan, a hub of social, political, and cultural activity in India. A two-hour train ride through rural farmlands delivered us to the Bolpur railway station from Kolkata.
Shantiniketan was made famous by Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He used his prize money to establish a university that would value the expertise of traditional knowledge and wisdom. His philosophy was grounded strongly in non-violence and experimentation, and the openness of the institution attracted people who both sought to teach and to learn.
Move to End Violence with Professor Amrit Sen visiting Rabindra Bhawan and Kala Bhawan
We opened our stay at Shantiniketan with one of Tagore’s famous poems, Where The Mind Is Without Fear:
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.
The vision Tagore communicates in this poem resonated with a concept our group explored the evening before. When we were visiting Anu Kapoor and her Kolkata-based organization SWAYAM, which works to end all forms of violence against girls and women, we talked about “violence-free zones.” There was commiseration about the struggle to actually achieve a zone truly free of violence, a term that was part of SWAYAM’s work and had also been used in one cohort member’s California-based work. To all of us – this picture painted above of a mind without fear could have been defining violence-free zones.
Move to End Violence in an open-air classroom at the university in Shantiniketan
During the afternoon, we met with Dr. Amrit Sen, a professor of English and Tagore studies. He gave us a walking tour of the museum and school campus, sharing the importance of the open-air classrooms, which our group was able to use later in the afternoon for a critical conversation amongst ourselves.
Move to End Violence salon conversation
That evening, we were invited to the Mitali Homestay, a family home that is now used as a guest house and meeting place. There, we met with intellectuals, academics, and activists from Shantiniketan, including Prof. Asha Mukherjee, Prof. Aparajita Mukherjee, Manisha Banerjee, Ayesha Khatun, and Swagata Nandi. Prior to dinner, we were able to introduce ourselves to each other and learn a bit about our work. Then, over a delicious meal, we had the chance to engage in lively conversation.
Asha Mukherjee, a professor of Philosophy at Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan
The following day, we spent a leisurely morning in Shantiniketan, before catching our train back to Kolkata. After a day of experiencing the power and unique environment that was established and inspired by Rabindranath Tagore, it was a powerful space to strive to be in authentic relationships and partnerships with each other.
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