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The poem Song of India by Vinayaka Krishna Gokak is in the form of a dialog between the poet and our motherland India. The poet asks Mother India what aspect of his country he should glorify through a song. He wonders if he should sing about the snow-clad Himalayas at the North or the three water bodies at the South.
Alternatively, he ponders on singing about the country’s historical temples, the Indian soldiers who died fighting for the nation, the country’s religious saints, and its technologies. However, Mother India requests the poet to sing about the lepers and beggars on her street, the helpless children, and other things or people of less importance.
‘What song shall I sing of you, my Mother?’ I asked ‘Shall I sing Of the Himalayas with their snow-born peaks, Of the three seas that wash your palm? Shall I sing Of your clear dawn with its pure gold-streaks?’ Said the Mother imperturbable, calm: 'Sing of the beggar and the leper That swarm my streets. Sing of the filth and the dirt That foul my sylvan retreats”
The poet asked Mother India if he could sing for her and questioned what type of song would she like to hear. The poet explained that he wishes to sing the beauty of the snow-covered Himalayas and the three oceans that touch our shores. He also wished to sing and describe the beauty of the golden rays of the sun. But Mother India wanted him to sing about the beggar and leper who fill the street. And also, about the dirt and filth, how we have destroyed forests and our environment.
'What song shall I sing of you, my Mother?' I asked. ‘Shall I sing Of your rock-cut temples, epics in stone, Of your children that died to call you their own,’ Their very own? Of the seers and prophets that hewed the straight path For the man that pilgrims alone?’ Said the Mother in indignant words That beat into my ears like gong, That flew about me, a pitiful thing, Like great white birds: ‘Sing of the millions that toil. Sing of the wrinkled face Indexing ignorance. Sing of the helpless child Born in a bleak, dark home.’
The poet ignores their mother’s request and again asked about the topic of the Song. He wanted to sing about temples carved out stones that tell many stories. He wished to sing about soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation. And also, of the seers and prophets who showed a straight and narrow path to us. Hearing the poet’s word Mother India gets upset and angrily asks him to sing about millions of people who toiled and kept their life to a great cause, the experienced old people or ignorant people or helpless children who were very meek and dwelt in dark places.
“Nervous, I yet would ask, Deeming it my task: ‘What song shall I sing of you, my Mother? What song? Shall I sing of the dam and the lake? Of steel mills, the ship-building yard? Of the men that work hard To technologise, to put you on the page Of the Atomic Age?’ Said the Mother: 'Of these you may sing. But sing also of the strikes, early and late, Of iron men that come in their wake, Of class-war and its correlate.”
Even though he was afraid to question her but believed in his work, again he requested her what type of songs she liked whether he can sing about men who had worked hard to develop technologies so that they could step into the Atomic Age. For this mother rejected and said you may sing on these topics but you can sing about the early and the important strikes, brave men and their goal, their achievements or any class wars and their consequences.
“Querulous, I said: ‘Is there no song that I can sing of you’ Heart-whole, unalloyed? A song bathed in the stainless blue Unvapouring in the void? At that the Mother rose, draped in blue sky. Milk-white oceans heaved round her. Their waves Were the entrancing and enthroning light On which she sat and wrote the Book of the Morrow. Her forehead opened like earth's destiny Yielding the Sun-God, cancelling all sorrow. It was clear dawn. Like a nightmare fled the night And the sun-beam was as the Hand that saves.”
At last, the poet became querulous. The poet complained and in a humble condition questioned if there is any song, he could sing for her wholeheartedly and in a pure love that would not disappear into nothingness. The poet said our Mother India has to write the book of our destiny, cancelling our sorrow. Tomorrow should be clear dawn. Our nightmare should fee in the night. The clear dawn represents a bright future of our country.
Through the poem, VK Gokak tries to convey that we must be proud of our tradition, culture, heroes, and industrial progress. However, we must not forget the problems such as poverty and unemployment, class and caste conflicts, illiteracy, and ignorance faced by our country. We must strive to eradicate these problems from our motherland.