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Tagore: To discipline means to teach, not to punish

Sir Frank Peters :: As from Sunday, the 155th birth anniversary of the Nobel Laureate and eternal Rabindranath Tagore is being celebrated across the country, and rightly so.

Tagore, who was a prolific composer with 2,230 songs to his credit, began his climb to fame and his lifetime journey into the annals of Asian history, as a mere lad of eight when he penned his first poem. From there he graduated to short stories and dramas, which contributed to his international acclaim. This was confirmed in 1913 when his masterpiece Gitanjali won the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature.

Among the countless words he wrote and the wisdom he expressed therein, the eight words that are still alive and known to most school pupils today, although over a century later, are: “To discipline means to teach, not to punish”.

Tagore abhorred corporal punishment. Not only is the horrific act unlawful and morally wrong, but deplorable and grossly insulting to the great man that his teachings should be beaten-in to children through corporal punishment at schools. He would never condone it.

If only some parents and some ‘teachers’ in schools and madrassas were to learn that single lesson taught by Tagore over 100-years ago, Bangladesh society would profit enormously.

Verbal, musical, song and dance tributes to the Nobel Laureate and one of Bangladesh’s most esteemed and honoured sons of the soil, are all good, appropriate, and have their place, but their lifespan is considerably short.

A more befitting ever-lasting honour to bestow upon the literary giant would be to create a society in which his wise words “to discipline means to teach, not to punish” spring to life and corporal punishment in all settings is abolished forever. That would be a memorial worth creating in his honour. That would be a memorial, no doubt, he would appreciate.

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