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‘Nari’ (woman)

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Rabindranath Tagore :
In the creation of the human race the woman is ancient. In this race women power may be said to be the soul-power. It is this power that carries the soul in the world of life, the power that nourishes it .
Many ages have passed to make the earth suitable for habitation by living beings. Before this task was half done nature started creating living beings, and pain came upon the earth. Nature has given the first pain of life in the blood of the woman, in her heart. All the desires connected with rearing life has been enmeshed in the body and mind of the woman. These desires have naturally found their place more in the heart than in the mind. it is these desires in the woman that are weaving the web of attachment to hold oneself and others in love, affection, tender patience. That primitive, bond for rearing the family, for preserving it. It is this family that is the basic foundation of civilization of all societies. In the absence of this binding force men and women would have strewn themselves like formless and characterless vapour; they would not have been able to assemble and establish a centre of union anywhere. This, the first task of consolidating a society, belongs to women.
All the creative processes of nature are deeply secret processes, their self-incitements are spontaneous. Women in their character reveal the natural springing of that original life. That is why many a times suddenly a burst of emotion that is observed in women is beyond arguments - it is not like excavating a watertank according to rules; it is like a gushing out whose logic is hidden in reasonless mystery.
The mystery of love, of affection, is very ancient and unfathomable.
It does not await arguments for its fulfillment. When it faces problems it seeks a quick solution. That is why as soon as the woman enters the house from nowhere she turns into the housewife, and the moment the child comes onto her lap she is ready for it. Mature intellect has come much later in the world of living beings. It has found its place by searching, by waging wars. It takes time to move through hesitations. It attains strength and success through stiff struggle with doubts. Century after century goes by through waves of such hesitation, profound mistakes occur and devastate human history. The creations of the male disappear through destructions, requiring him to construct anew the foundation of his achievements. His works keep constantly changing in such repeated trials. If this constant walk through experience advances him then he survives, but if he fails to correct his mistakes then the crack in the chariot of his life keeps widening and pulls him toward extinction.
Such destruction and reconstruction of civilizations created by the male have been continuing since primeval days. In the meanwhile the lady-love in the woman, the mother in the woman, is steadfastly continuing her own work as an agent of Nature. And she is even causing conflagrations in the families in bursts of emotions. These outbursts are like cataclysms of nature, like hurricanes, like forest fires - sudden, suicidal.
The male is over and over again a new visitor in his own world.
Until today he has devised his own rules and procedures countless number of times. Destiny has not set his course of life; he has had to construct his own path treading upon many lands, many a times. The path of one era became the wrong path for another, turning his history upside down, making him disappear.
Through the ups and downs of newer and newer civilizations the main course of life of the woman is moving along a steady path. The treasure of heart that nature has given her has not been permitted to experiment with ever-curious intellect. Women are ancient.
Men move soliciting from door to door, from office to office. Most men are compelled to accept such work for a livelihood for which they do not have the will or ability. They have to do many types of work requiring hard labour - from this seventy five per cent of males do not get a deserving fulfillment. But work of the women as housewife and as mother are their own, naturally suited to them.
Men attain glory overcoming many obstacles and turning many adverse conditions in their own favour by their valour. Men who reach such extraordinary success are small in number. But such women are seen in house after house who have made their households green with the flow of their heart's tenderness. From nature they have got unlearned skills, have obtained with ease the wealth of sweetness. If unfortunately a woman does not possess this tenderness no education, no artificial means can give her fulfillment.
There is a danger of easily gotten wealth. One source of danger is that it is alluring to others. The powerful one wants to grab a nation with natural wealth in its own exclusive interest. It is easy for an infertile country to remain independent. Men take pride in caging the bird whose wings are beautiful and whose voice is sweet; those with lust for possession forget that the beauty of these birds belongs to the whole forest. Men have for a~es kept the sweetness of women's hearts and their skills for tender care under strict control. Women themselves are prone to accept such bondage, and this has thus been so easy everywhere.
In fact, the very task of rearing a life is a private affair. It does not fall into the category of impersonal theory, and hence its pleasure is not the pleasure of grandiose theorizing. Not only so - even though the skills of women have contained a charm they have not yet been sufficiently successful in the task of Creation.
For many ages the woman's wisdom, her prejudices, her conduct, have been constrained by fixed bounds. Her education, her faith, has not gotten the full opportunity to verify itself with the wider experience of the outside. For this reason she has been indiscriminately offering worship to all raise mirits in imaginery fear and unwurthy Jevutioll. If we look at the whole country we see how very disastrous the damage due to this infatuation has been, how very difficult is it to advance along the hard road to progress carrying this immense burden. Not that there is any shortage of muddy-headed males in the country - from their childhood they are raised by women and they are the ones most brutal to women. All these muddy-headed centres that are popping up all around in this country rely chiefly on the blind sense of judgment of women. Thus is the prison of the heart spreading all around the country, and everyday its foundation is becoming firmer.
On the other hand in almost all countries of the world women are coming out of the bounds of individual families. We see evidences of this in modem Asia as well. The main reason for this is that the age of breaking barriers has come everywhere. Those countries which were totally confined within the geographical and national boundaries cannot anymore be confined by such fences today - they are getting exposed to each other. Everyday the span of experience is expanding, the eyesight has crossed the hitherto accustomed horizons. Situations are changing through conflicts with the outside, and changes in customs and considerations are becoming imperative in response to newer and newer needs.
Our young days were the days of the palanquin for women to go out of the house. In aristocratic families the palanquin had a covering over it. My elder sister led the girls who were the first to enter Bethun College. She used to go to school in a palanquin with its doors open, and this gave no small discomfort to the culture of the aristocrats of those days. In those days women wore just one dress, and it was considered immodesty to wear a chemise. It was not easy to travel by train preserving the ruling practice of modesty.
Today that age of covered palanquin has receded very far. Not slowly, but fast. This change has naturally happened with change in the outside - it has not been necessary to organize meetings and conferences for this. The marriage age for girls has advanced in no time, and that also easily. If for naniral causes the quantity of water in the river increases then the limits of its banks keep receding naturally. In the lives of women today from all sides, naturally, the limits of its shores are receding. The river is becoming the great river.    
This change of behaviour in the outside does not remain confined to the outside. This keeps working in the inside as well. The attitude of a woman that is suitable for an enclosed world cannot stay thus, unsuited to a free world. Her mind naturally starts thinking big, judging big, standing on her expanded canvas of life. The process of examining the older practices starts naturally. She may make many mistakes in this situation, but she has to overcome these mistakes crossing obstacles one after another. The way her mind used to judge things within narrow bounds cannot work now without inviting disharmony. There is pain in thus changing habits, there is danger as well; but the tide of modem times cannot be pushed back by such fear.
When the lives of women were confined within the small bounds of the household they could easily live with the natural inclinations of the feminine mind. As they did not need special training for this there has been so much opposition to and farce about women's education. At that time the males had given deliberate indulgence to the very same prejudices in the case of women that they disregarded for themselves, to the opinions that they did not believe in, the rites that they themselves did not observe. At the root of such conduct was this disposition that characterizes that of dictatorial rulers - they knew that an environment of blind prejudices fanned by ignorance creates opportunity for arbitrary rule - this captivated mental condition is most suitable for staying happy even by sacrificing one's human rights. Even today many males in our society have this disposition. But they have got to accept defeat in the fight against time.
As the arena of life of women thus kept expanding, as the women naturally started entering the world of liberty, it became a dire necessity for their self-protection to cultivate, in particular, their intellect and knowledge. That is why the obstacles to this are fast disappearing. Today the shame of illiteracy is the biggest shame for women of elite families, a shame much bigger than the shame in earlier days of women using the umbrella and wearing shoes - the disrepute of not being able to grind spices and whisper rum ours is nothing compared to this. In other words, the valuation of a woman's worth resting on her household skills is not working fully in the marriage market today. Today for valuation of an would-be bride much inquiry is made of those knowledge and skills, going beyond urgent family needs, whose value is universal.
It is by this process that the minds of our modem women are daily graduating in the society of the wider world coming out of the private family.
In the first ages the world was once veiled by the mist of its own hot breath when it could not perceive its own place at all among the planets of the vast sky. Finally one day the sun's rays found a path to enter it. That liberation marked the beginning of the epoch of glory of the earth. Similarly, Once the dense mist of the heart's tenderness had kept the awareness of our women absorbed with the very immediate family. Today rays of light have pierced into their heart that belongs to the free sky, to the whole world. Although the ages of prejudice-laden mesh in which their mind had been entrapped have not fully cleared yet, considerable opening is now being seen. How considerable is known only to ancients like us.
Today women everywhere are stepping out of the door-sill of their homes to stand on the open yard of the world. Now they have got to accept the charge of this wider family; else it will be their shame, their failure.
It appears to me that a new epoch has come to the world. For too long a time the responsibility of human civilization had rested with men. The politics, economics, constitution for social rule of civilization had all been constructed by men. Amidst all this the women had only done housework staying in the invisible background. This civilization had become biased in one direction. This civilization lacked much by way of wealth of the human heart that had been hidden in the vault of the women's bosom under charge of the miserly. Today the treasury has been opened.
The forests that in the earth's young days stood above layers of garbage uninhabited by human beings had for billions of years gathered sun's energy in the marrows of its trees. Those woods got submerged in the womb of the earth and stayed hidden for many ages in transformed states. When finally the gates of that submerged world were opened, men suddenly got those energy, unutilized for hundreds of years, in the form of coal to use for their own purposes. And it is then that the world conquering modern age started.
Just as this happened one day with the external wealth of civilization, today a special mine of wealth, that of the heart, has revealed its accumulations. Everyday domestic women are coming out as women of the world. This addition of a new heart in the creative life of humans has brought a new spirit in human civilization. Today its working is going on perceptibly as well as imperceptibly. Today one hopes that the lack of balance that one observes in the civilization created by men alone will yield gradually to a balance. Fierce earthquake is again and again shaking the foundation of the old civilization. For a long time this civilization has been accumulating forces inimical to it, and hence none can stop the tendency toward destruction. The only big hope is that in this epoch-changing task women have lined up to join in the construction of a new civilization, preparing themselves for this role all over the world. Not only has their physical veil dropped from their faces, the mental veil which had kept most of them concealed from the world is also dropping. The human society in which they are being born is revealing itself before them from all directions and in all fields. It will not befit them now to keep playing dolls made in the factory of blind superstitions. Their natural wisdom for rearing life will now be engaged earnestly in protecting all humans and not just those of their own homes.
From the earliest days the male has constructed the bricks of the fortress of his civilization with the blood of constant human sacrifice they have mercilessly and constantly killed people in order to establish some general order; the wealth of the rich has been accumulated by sucking the life of workers; the mighty has lighted the fire of its might with the sacrifice of the blood of countless weak; the chariot of state power has been run by tying the subjects with ropes with it. This civilization is run by brute power - the place of compassion in this civilization is little. This civilization has been killing countless innocent helpless lives glorifying the pleasure of hunting; this civilization has made humans the most fearsome among living creatures, for human beings as well as for other living beings. Tigers are not frightened to see tigers, but in this civilization human beings are trembling in fear of human beings. It is in such very unnatural circumstances that civilization itself creates its own weapons of destruction. This is what has started today. Along with this, frightened humans are engaged in seeking to construct peace devices; but mechanical peace will not work for those who do not have a peaceful disposition in their heart. A civilization that kills people cannot last.
Let us hope for a new epoch of civilization. If this hope materializes, there is no doubt that this time women will be fully engaged in this creation. If this call reaches the heart of our women let their protective mind not hold dearly to their bosom the unhealthy garbage of ages. Let them free their hearts, brighten their intellect, apply devotion to their search for knowledge. Let them remember that uncritical blind conservatism is against creativity. The age of new creativity is coming.
To qualify for responsibility of this new age one's mind free from delusions has to be made fully respect worthy, one has to lift oneself up from the inertness of ignorance and the downward pull of all kinds of imaginary and real fears. The question of results will come later - it may, even, not come at all - but to qualify oneself for the new epoch is the first task.
Translation :
Md. Anisur Rahman
(Social and Environmental Thinking of Rabindranath Tagore in the light of Post-Tagorian World Development)

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