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Chapter: 11th English : UNIT 5 : Prose: The Convocation Address

The Convocation Address: Reading Activity

English Prose: The Convocation Address by Dr. Arignar Annadurai.


Have you heard of Open Letters?

An open letter is a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally through newspapers and other media, such as a letter to the editor or a blog.


Sociologists, scholars, anthropologists and historians have written open letters. Letters patent are another form of open letter in which a legal document is both mailed to a person by the government and publicized so that all are made aware of it. Open letters can also be addressed directly to a group rather than any individual.


Reading such letters will also help to improve your vocabulary. Here are some easy ways to improve and expand your vocabulary.


 Read as much as you can. As you read, try to understand the meaning of new words from the context or by referring to a dictionary.

 When you refer to a dictionary, learn the pronunciation, meaning, synonyms, antonyms and derivatives of the word.

 Note down the new words you learn for future reference.

 Make it a habit to learn one new word a day.

 Play word games such as word search, crossword, scrabble etc. to expand your vocabulary.

 Listen to conversations, learn and discover new words and then start using them.


The following is a letter by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore to Mahatma Gandhi. Follow the diction, fluency and style of the great Indian writer who has contributed excellent writings to Indian Literature. You can improve your vocabulary by familiarising some of the words used in the letter using a dictionary.


Gandhi Letter 23A: From Rabindranath Tagore


Shanti Niketan,

April 12, 1919.


Dear Mahatmaji,


Power in all its forms is irrational — it is like the horse that drags the carriage blindfolded. The moral element in it is only represented in the man who drives the horse. Passive resistance, a force which is not necessarily moral in itself, can be used against truth as well as for it. The danger inherent in all force grows stronger when it is likely to gain success, for then it becomes temptation. I know your teaching is to fight against evil by the help of the good. But such a fight is for heroes and not for men led by impulses of the moment. Evil on one side naturally begets evil on the other, injustice leading to violence and insult to vengefulness. Unfortunately, such a force has already been started, and either through panic or through wrath our authorities have shown us the claws whose sure effect is to drive some of us into the secret path of resentment and others into utter demoralization. In this crisis you, as a great leader of men, have stood among us to proclaim your faith in the ideal which you know to be that of India, the ideal which is both against the cowardliness of hidden revenge and the cowed submissiveness of the terror-stricken...


I have always felt, and said accordingly, that the great gift of freedom can never come to a people through charity. We must win it before we can own it. And India’s opportunity for winning it will come to her when she can prove that she is morally superior to the people who rule her by their right of conquest. Armed with her utter faith in goodness she must stand unabashed before the arrogance that scoffs at the power of spirit. And you have come to your motherland in the time of her need to remind her of her mission, to lead her in the true path of conquest, to purge her present day politics of its feebleness which imagines that it has gained its purpose when it struts in the borrowed feathers of diplomatic dishonesty. This is why I pray most fervently that nothing that tends to weaken our spiritual freedom may intrude into your marching line, that martyrdom for the cause of truth may never degenerate into fanaticism for mere verbal forms, descending into the self-deception that hides itself behind sacred names.


With these few words for an introduction allow me to offer the following as a poet’s contribution to your noble work:


Give me the supreme courage of love,

this is my prayer,

the courage to speak,

to do, to suffer at thy will,

to leave all things or be left alone.


Give me the supreme faith of love, this is my prayer,

the faith of the life in death,

of the victory in defeat,

of the power hidden in the frailness of beauty,

of the dignity of pain that accepts hurt,

but disdains to return it.


Very sincerely yours,

Rabindranath Tagore


A. Answer the following questions.


1.   Who according to Gandhi, can fight against evil and how?

According to Gandhi, heroes can fight against evil with his teachings.

2.   What is Gandhiji’s ideal?

The ideal is both against cowardliness of hidden revenge and the cowed submissiveness of the terror stricken.

3.   According to Tagore, when will India get the opportunity to win the gift of freedom?

According to Tagore, when India can prove that she is morally superior to the people who rule her by their right of conquest, India will get the opportunity to win the gift of freedom. Armed with her utter faith in goodness, she has to stand unabashed before the arrogance.

4.   How does Tagore acknowledge Gandhi’s noble work?

Through a verse, Tagore acknowledges Gandhi’s noble work.

5.   Find words from the passage which mean the same as the following.

a.a malevolent desire for revenge (para 1) - vengefulness

b. tactful (para 2) - Diplomatic

c.despise (para 3) - disdain

6.   Find words from the passage which are antonyms of the following.

a.artificially (para 1) - naturally

b.strength  (para 2) - weakness

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