In 1970 When India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addressed the United Nations, in the face of tremendous opposition of the United States and its western allies, making her case for an Independant Bangladesh, she invoked Robindronath Thakur’s “Ekla Cholo Rey”: She recited:
“Jodi Tor Daak Shuney Keu Naa Ashey (If no one listens to your call) Tobey Ekla Cholo Rey” (Then go it alone)
Its an amazing poem, with multiple levels of messages about standing up on your own, carrying your own beliefs and moving forward – even if the world is not ready for you – or disagrees with you. To listen to the musical rendition, please click: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPqdlR_X1Vk)
There are times in our lives, as individuals, this message has a stronghold of significance.
I remember, when I first graduated from college, I took a relatively low-paying job (even though I had a technically oriented, post-graduate degree); many of my peers, professors and family friends discouraged me from taking that job. Just like now, in 1992, the US economy was uncertain (Iraq war, recession) and I didn’t have the coveted “Green Card”. I saw this role as a “no-regrets” option; I did work for this small, family-owned company for 4 years and it turned out to be one of the most challenging and entrepreneurial roles I have ever had.
For a young man, struggling to make ends meet, Ekla Cholo, is about taking a job that may not be the right role for you – because it pays the bills; for a young girl in love, it may mean marrying someone that your family dislikes; for another unwed mother, it may mean carrying a baby even though your own community disowns you.
For a nation, like Israel or Bangladesh, it may mean facing the odds – even if the whole world disagrees, creating a nation based on principles of a people that have a common bond!
Whatever the significance, this Going it Alone, is something almost everyone faces, at some point. Recently, I faced a struggle, where many (of my well-wishers) called me; without knowing the subtext of conditions, they urge me to take one path or another in my journey.
Upon contemplation, it’s clear that I cannot really let these forces sway me. Whatever decision one makes, we make someone unhappy. Even if we make everyone else happy, at the end, we ourselves may not be happy!
In social structures, it’s common to articulate a view of “for the greater good” – which (typically) isolate and denigrate the individuals view or interest. Most organizational, social, church and national norms are designed on this basis of limiting the individual interest (over the greater good). In social and tribal structures, especially old ones, the rights of the individual are often overlooked or underplayed, to “benefit the greater good”.
United States is the only nation, that was founded on the basis of individual liberty and justice; this society respects the individual right more than most other traditional societies. While greater good is emphasized, it is not the only determinant of social norms.
I remember, as a child, my mother always reminded me of this same song and my favorite part of the song was,
“Jodi keu kotha na koy (If all stops talking to you),
Jodi shobai thakey mukh pheraye, shobai korey bhoi (if everyone looks away scared),
Tobey Poran khuley, mukh phootey tor moner kotha ekla bolorey (speak out and let everyone hear your solo voice)”
At the end, the truth always prevails; Bangladesh and Israel survive on their own right; similarly, individuals who bear the hard truth risking going against the tide, will also prevail. It maybe painful and solitary at times – but at the end, the message remains crystal clear.