“Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.”
(Excerpt from ‘Where the mind is without fear’ – by Rabindranath Tagore).
Fear; we’ve all felt it. Fear for ourselves, fear for others, fear for the future. It’s a really powerful and unsettling feeling. It can make us feel sick, panicked, stressed. It has the ability to make us turn cold towards others. To put up isolating barriers.
History tells us that in times of fear and uncertainty, it’s all too common for this to happen – for people to turn away from one another. The sentiment expressed by Pastor Martin Niemöller in his poem “First they came for…” is no less relevant today – when fear and intolerance threaten to divide us.
Never before has the need to break down barriers been more important.
Tagore wrote his iconic poem ‘Where the mind is without fear’ in 1900. In it, he sketched his vision of the nation he wanted India to be. He dreamt of an awakened country where freedom of the mind and spirit would remove all fear of ‘the other’. Where differences of caste, creed, religion or any other prejudices aren’t cause for division and separation.
Five years later, in 1905, he witnessed the British try to break up Bengal on the basis of religion. In one move, a close-knit community of Hindus and Muslims would be pulled apart and set against each other.
Rather than allow his beloved country to be divided, Rabindranath-ji made a stand for unity by invoking the spirit of Raksha Bandhan (in Sanskrit, ‘the knot of protection’). He asked the people of Bengal to take to the streets and tie rakhis on one another as a vow of protection and mutual respect between Hindus and Muslims. The statement was clear: Do not divide us. We are all brothers and sisters here.
We wholeheartedly share in Rabindranath-ji’s vision, and we believe it is now our turn to say: Do not divide us. We are all brothers and sisters here.
So last Raksha Bandhan we made our own call for unity. Every person that visited our cafés on the day of Raksha Bandhan was offered a rakhi – white, as a symbol of peace – and invited to tie it on someone of a different faith, nationality or culture, as a vow of solidarity and protection.
Tying one of these rakhis created a bond, which meant that you would stand up for that person, regardless of who they are or where they are from.
The bonds that were tied last year, still exist now and hold a deep and important significance for us all. They show that we are all committed – bonded – together to protect and care for one another; that tolerance and compassion visibly outweigh intolerance and prejudice; and that we choose to support each other and celebrate our differences, rather than be divided by them.
We can think of few more apt things to do at this time and so this year, we’re celebrating Raksha Bandhan again and inviting you all to tie rakhis on one another. We hope to see as many of you (if not more!) joining us as we strengthen the bonds that bind us.
The sun is momentarily out again. Calendars are fast filling up. There’s many a thing to do and many a friend to meet. And if we may kindly add to the excitement and the plan-making, here’s our list of what we’re looking forward to in September.
While we were at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we caught Evening Conversations, an engaging show by Sudha Bhuchar. We caught up with her after the show to talk about her journey and her views on South Asian representation on screen, which you can read below. And for those who didn’t walk down the cobbled streets of the city or stumble into an impromptu performance this year, we highly recommend it for 2024.
Each year as August dawns, the streets and rooms and corners of Edinburgh fill with music, art, laughter and song. Wander into grand halls and pokey pubs, as the morning sun rises or in the dark of night, to see creations of every kind as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In honour of this wonderful celebration of the performing arts (and as a little treat), here’s a special edition Dishoom Loves, covering all the acts we’ve circled on our festival programme.
For anyone looking to learn or read more on Partition, this page holds a series of resources, for all ages, created by people knowledgeable and knowing about such matters. It is by no means definitive – we have simply found them to be useful, inspiring and accessible.