It’s ‘C-time’ and, yes, you guessed it right – we bring you CHILDREN! And what better way to do it than through beautiful poems from three of the most well known names across the world. No, Shakespeare is not one of them. We have an Indian, an American and a Chilean. One of them, we borrowed from to name our blog.
We present Rabindranath Tagore, Khalil Gibran, and Gabriela Mistral. They come from different cultures and different parts of the world. Interestingly, they belong to the same era – from the second half of the 19th Century to the first half of the 20th. A time when the world was in flux – the emergence of nation states, the two world wars and the newly liberated countries asserting their identity after centuries of colonial domination. Their poetry carries universal truths and, sometimes, uncomfortable truths.
We also introduce at the end, our very own, Dr Vandana Prasad.
Rabindra Nath Tagore (1861 – 1941)
Excerpt - “Where have I come from, where did you pick me up?” the baby asked its mother.
She answered half crying, half laughing and clasping the baby to her breast – “You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling….
As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me; you who belong to all have become mine.
For fear of loosing you I hold you tight to my breast. What magic has snared the world’s treasure in these slender arms of mine?”
The ‘Bard of Bengal’, Rabindra Nath Tagore was a poet, novelist and a painter, best known for being the first non – European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1913, for his book Gitanjali: Song Offerings. It was solely for its profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, he had made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words. Born in a cultured family in Kolkata, he started writing poems from his very childhood. His subtle’’ artistic sense, his wisdom, deep understanding of human character and the uncommon beauty of his language and his style, soon established him as the greatest poet and writer of all times. His repertoire included musical dramas, dance dramas, essays of all types, travel diaries, and two autobiographies, one in his middle years and the other shortly before his death. Tagore also left numerous drawings and paintings, and songs for which he wrote the music himself.
Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)
Children are not your children
Excerpt - Your children are not your children….
They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
Born in the north of modern – day Lebanon, Khalil immigrated with his family to the United States where he studied art and began his literary career, writing in both English and Arabic. Regarded as a literary and political rebel, philosophical essayist, novelist and poet, his writings are are full of lyrical outpourings and express his deeply religious and mystical nature. He wrote: “You are my brother and I love you. I love you when you prostrate yourself in your mosque, and kneel in your church and pray in your synagogue. You and I are sons of one faith – the Spirit”. As an artist, he also created some of the most fascinating drawings during his lifetime. Gibran held the first exhibition of his drawings in 1904 in Boston. The Prophet, Gibran’s best known work, is a book of poetic essays originally published in 1923, has been translated into over 40 languages, and never been out of print.
Gabriela Mistral (1889 – 1957)
A child's tiny feet,
Blue, blue with cold,
How can they see and not protect you?
Oh, my God!
Tiny wounded feet,
Bruised all over by pebbles,
Abused by snow and soil!
Man, being blind, ignores
that where you step,
a blossom of bright light,
that where you have placed
your bleeding little soles
a redolent tuberose grows.
Since, however, you walk
through the streets so straight,
you are courageous, without fault.
Child's tiny feet,
Two suffering little gems,
How can the people pass, unseeing.
A Chilean poet, educator, diplomat and feminist, she became the first female Latin American poet to win the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. Her poems included themes of love and sorrow and her belief in afterlife influenced her poetry and outlook in life. She, as an engaged and committed intellectual, defended the rights of children, women, and the poor; and the need for peace in times of social, political and ideological conflicts, not only in Latin America but in the whole world. In one of her famous work Tala she deals with the themes of nostalgia, death, suffering and the innocence of childhood, very typical of Gabriela Mistral.
She, famously, wrote:
“We are guilty of many errors and many faults but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need, can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow’. His name is ‘Today.’
Dr. Vandana Prasad
Pulse and Dreams
I listen to their chests
I run my hand over their stomachs
to feel their livers
I play the game of hunting for their pulse
in their thin wrists
So long as I don’t have to see in their eyes
their shining, doomed dreams
Dr. Vanadana Prasad – A pediatrician, who came to India in 1998, after having worked in the United Kingdom for a long time. She came back with a clear intension of involving herself with India’s children, poverty, hunger and deprivation. In Mobile Creches, she found an opportunity to work with the children, observe them intensely, and understand the challenges of survival in the harsh circumstances of construction sites. This gave her a glimpse into what was confronting the children in this country. She continued to work with children as a doctor and also made her entry into the field of socio-economic and health policies. She plunged straight into leadership and engagement with the Right to Food, Right to Health and built campaigns for ensuring fundamental issues that impact families and children.
Today, Vandana is a public health expert and has been engaged with the social sector for over two decades. She is also a National Convenor and technical expert for Public Health Resource Network (PHRN) and a member of the Right to Food Campaign.
Her long association with Mobile Creches and expertise in the area of malnutrition and child rights is commendable. This poem, penned by Vandana a few years back is close to our hearts and to the harsh reality of children.
We want to hear from you – send us your favorite poems about or for children, in any language. Translations in English will help.
#Mynameistoday, the Mobile Creches blog, will attempt to inform, provoke and connect, on issues of critical importance to our present and our future.
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