To India My Native Land

Pic: courtesy indiapost.gov.in

Perhaps one academic memory that I.C.S.E. students are uniformly nostalgic about is the timeless collection of poems (Panorama). When it was finally time to launch Sarika.org, it was no wonder that Henry Louis Vivian Derozio’s classic inspirational poem To India My Native Land came to mind.

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My country! In thy day of glory past

A beauteous halo circled round thy brow,

And worshipped as a deity thou wast.

Where is that glory, where that reverence now?

Thy eagle pinion is chained down at last,

And groveling in the lowly dust art thou:

Thy minstrel hath no wreath to weave for thee

Save the sad story of thy misery!

Well – let me dive into the depths of time,

And bring from out the ages that have rolled

A few small fragments of those wrecks sublime,

Which human eyes may never more behold;

And let the guerdon of my labour be

My fallen country! One kind wish from thee!

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Three decades later, learnt some insightful things about Derozio from the Wikipedia page:

  • Of Anglo-Indian heritage, Derozio was appointed teacher of English literature at the new Hindu College in 1826. He was 17!
  • Derozio’s intense zeal for teaching and his interactions with students created a sensation at Hindu College. He organised debates where ideas and social norms were freely debated. His students came to be known as Derozians, whose motto was “He who will not reason is a bigot, he who cannot reason is a fool, and he who does not reason is a slave.”
  • Due to his unorthodox (legendarily free) views on society, culture and religion, the Hindu-dominated management committee of the college expelled him.
  • Though facing penury, he continued his interaction with his students, indeed, he was able to do more, helping them bring out several newspapers. However, at the end of the year, he contracted cholera, which was fatal at the time, and died at the age of 22.

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