Poetry Study Aid: Where the Mind is Without Fear Rabindranath Tagore Questions and Answers

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Where the Mind is Without Fear

Rabindranath Tagore

The poet Rabindranath Tagore delineates a poignant portrait of the nation he wishes his country India to become. The poem was written when India was under the British rule and the Indians were deeply involved in snatching their country’s freedom from the British imperialistic tyranny.  
The poet envisages a country where her people hold their heads high with their pride as their country is a free country and all are liberated and united without any discrimination based on narrow commitments of caste, creed, gender or religion. He desires the Indians to strive for perfection in the clear light of logical reasoning, freed from all sorts of social inequalities and superstitious rituals. 
The poet further conveys his yearning that his country to be roused to a realm where its citizens are truly rational and constantly contemplates of reaching perfection in every facet of life. They will be free from irrational thinking and outdated customs and superstitious conventions.
Finally, the poet implores God to give his countrymen the faculty to enlarge their minds to noble thoughts and actions. Consequently, India will become the country of his dreams “heaven of freedom” liberated from all kinds of ills and evils.
Extract 1
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 form the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
(a) What form of freedom does the poet envisage?
The poet is Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel Laureate. The poet envisages his country to achieve all kinds of freedom — political, religious, spiritual, moral and intellectual. And only then it will attain the delightful heaven of freedom, a utopia where his countrymen would be able to hold their heads high in self-respect, will not have a hazy and distorted idea built on prejudices and strive determinedly to reach perfection in every domain of life.
(b) What are narrow domestic walls? What are the results of constructing narrow domestic walls?
According to the poet, narrow domestic walls refer to narrow loyalties of caste, creed and religion. Prejudice and superstitions narrow the mind and divide the people. They are called ‘narrow’ by the poet because they are based on ancient customs and traditions and not on the basis of logical thinking. These narrow domestic walls break the nation into pieces and fostering disunity and chaos. These narrow domestic walls have to be pulled down to nurture an unprejudiced and progressive humanity. 
(c) How do people hold their heads high as stated by the poet?
People hold their heads high with pride as their country is a free country and all are liberated and united without any discrimination based on narrow commitments of caste, creed, gender or religion. 
(d) What do you understand of the poet on the basis of the extract?
This extract of the poem ‘Where the mind is without fear’ mirrors the poet’s deep-rooted love for his homeland. He is spiritually inclined and possesses profound humanism. The poem puts forward the poet’s dream of one ideal country where all will relish freedom which is truly desirable and meaningful.
(e) Do you perceive the modern world as broken up in fragments by narrow domestic wall? Explain. 
The modern world that we live in is still a world broken up in fragments by narrow domestic walls. Nowadays we preach about ‘Unity in diversity’ as a core of the Indian culture, but practically, we experience that caste-based oppression and suppression, the subjugation of the poor by rich, the communal riots, the terrorist attacks, the gendered discrimination and war still disturbing not only our noble feelings and values everyday but also the whole humanity is under the menace of terrorism. 
Extract 2
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.
(a) Explain: ‘Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way?’
Reasoning allows a person to have clarity of thoughts without being restricted by narrow domestic walls such as caste, colour, creed, religion, region and superstitions. Hence it has been compared to a clear stream which is free of all impurities.
(b) What does the poet mean by ‘dead habit’? Why are dead habits likened to a ‘dreary desert’? 
By ‘dead habit’, the poet implies that the worn-out inflexible traditions that are being pursued pointlessly by the Indians. These blind superstitious habits of thought and action have extinguished the light of reason and spread darkness and misery in the society.
The dead habits are compared to a ‘dreary desert’ because in a desert there is no growth. Similarly, dead habits also prevent any progress or advancement and the society is stunted. 
Dreary dessert sand of dead habit is a metaphor- Through this metaphor the poet wants to say that his countrymen should work for perfection in everything and should not be lead astray from their goal in the dry desert of dead habits; that is, a place where obsolete customs and traditions arc practised.
(c) Explain: ‘ever-widening thought and action’.
The idea of ‘ever widening thought and action’ suggests that the thoughts that are broadened are capable of a wider vision and people are able to act embracing a broadened vision that has eschewed the narrow irrational thinking. The poet desires that irrelevant practices and obsolete rituals do not stifle true perception and unbiased judgement.
(d) How does the poem bring out poet’s profound faith in God?
Tagore’s love and faith towards the God Almighty is reflected in his belief that the path of truth is the path to God. Tagore categorically asserts that a nation enjoying divine guidance will certainly progress towards perfection. 
In the concluding line of the poem, Tagore invokes God, the Universal Father and implores Him to bring to fruition his vision of an impartial and truly liberated country. India, his motherland, can achieve her rightful freedom not only by accepting a universal outlook but also by striving, with an everlasting passion, for the fruition of great human ideals. 


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