Nestled along the western boundary of Santiniketan, on Sriniketan Road, stands an aging white house with green windows and doors that gracefully open onto a breezy veranda. The low railings and the surrounding grove of trees evoke the spirit of Rabindranath Tagore’s vision for Visva-Bharati, where he advocated against homes being fenced off or concealed behind high boundary walls.
However, the winds of change have gradually swept through this university town in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, leaving their mark not only on the locked doors of the ashramiks (residents) who now seek a sense of security but also on the loss of the majestic sal trees, making way for concrete structures. Another visible sign of change is the presence of a police force stationed near a mango tree, heavy with the abundance of summer fruit. Their tent remains occupied day and night, guarding the ancestral home of the esteemed economist, Professor Amartya Sen.
Pratichi, as the ancestral home is fondly known, stands as a symbol of intellectual prowess and the principles that Prof. Sen holds dear. The eminent economist’s belief in the power of knowledge and freedom of thought echoes the spirit of Visva-Bharati, which was founded by Rabindranath Tagore as a center for holistic education and intellectual discourse. The house itself exudes an air of wisdom, as if every brick and beam has absorbed the countless conversations and ideas that have flowed within its walls.
In this changing landscape, some may argue that the locked doors and the visible police presence contradict the open and inclusive vision of Visva-Bharati. Yet, it is important to understand that times have evolved, and concerns for safety and security have become more pronounced. The transformation of the once serene ashramiks, who now find solace in locking their doors, reflects the universal human desire for protection and peace of mind. The encroaching concrete structures, while lamentable, also signify the growing demands of a burgeoning population and the need for modern amenities.
As for the police force stationed outside Pratichi, their presence represents the sad reality of a society where intellectual figures like Prof. Sen, despite their contributions and wisdom, are not exempt from potential threats or controversies. It serves as a poignant reminder that even those who strive for truth and progress must navigate the complex dynamics of the world they seek to improve.
While change has certainly left its mark on Santiniketan, it is important to recognize that the spirit of Visva-Bharati and the ideals it represents still endure. The aging white house with its green windows and doors remains a beacon of knowledge and enlightenment, inviting both residents and visitors alike to partake in the intellectual legacy that emanates from within. It is a testament to the lasting impact of visionaries like Tagore and Sen, who have shaped the intellectual and cultural landscape of this revered university town.
As the sun sets on the mango tree, casting a golden glow over the tent occupied by the steadfast police force, one cannot help but feel a sense of hope. It is a reminder that amidst change and the challenges that accompany it, there are individuals who continue to safeguard the values that underpin our society. And within the confines of Pratichi, the ancestral home, the spirit of intellectual curiosity and the pursuit of truth continue to thrive, as a timeless tribute to the enduring legacy of Santiniketan and the ideals it represents.