প্রভু, বলো বলো কবে/ Prabhu, bawlo bawlo kawbe/ Lord, I beseech you, tell me when

প্রভু,   বলো বলো কবে

তোমার    পথের ধুলার রঙে রঙে আঁচল রঙিন হবে।

              তোমার বনের রাঙা ধূলি  ফুটায় পূজার কুসুমগুলি,

    সেই ধূলি হায় কখন আমায় আপন করি’ লবে?

    প্রণাম দিতে চরণতলে  ধুলার কাঙাল যাত্রীদলে

    চলে যারা, আপন ব’লে চিনবে আমায় সবে॥

রাগ: ভৈরবী
তাল: দাদরা
রচনাকাল (বঙ্গাব্দ): 1342
রচনাকাল (খৃষ্টাব্দ): 1936
স্বরলিপিকার: শৈলজারঞ্জন মজুমদার

Lord, I beseech you, tell me when

My robes will turn red in the dust that rises from the path that leads to you

              The red dust in your forests takes the form of the blooms that I offer at your feet

    When will that dust alas accept me as one of its own?

    Those who journey to your feet, craving the dust as a blessing

    They too will then know me on sight.

Raga: Bhairavi
Beat: Dadra
Written: 1936
Score: Shailajaranjan Majumdar

 

Follow the link, to hear Suchitra Mitra:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwqJqoFcUSs

This entry was posted on September 4, 2014, in Prayer/Puja.

তোতাকাহিনী/Totakahinee/The bird’s tale

তোতাকাহিনী

এক-যে ছিল পাখি। সে ছিল মূর্খ। সে গান গাহিত, শাস্ত্র পড়িত না। লাফাইত, উড়িত, জানিত না কায়দাকানুন কাকে বলে।

রাজা বলিলেন, ‘এমন পাখি তো কাজে লাগে না, অথচ বনের ফল খাইয়া রাজহাটে ফলের বাজারে লোকসান ঘটায়।’

মন্ত্রীকে ডাকিয়া বলিলেন, ‘পাখিটাকে শিক্ষা দাও।’

রাজার ভাগিনাদের উপর ভার পড়িল পাখিটাকে শিক্ষা দিবার।

পণ্ডিতেরা বসিয়া অনেক বিচার করিলেন। প্রশ্নটা এই, উক্ত জীবের অবিদ্যার কারণ কী।

সিদ্ধান্ত হইল, সামান্য খড়কুটা দিয়া পাখি যে বাসা বাঁধে সে বাসায় বিদ্যা বেশি ধরে না। তাই সকলের আগে দরকার, ভালো করিয়া খাঁচা বানাইয়া দেওয়া।

রাজপণ্ডিতেরা দক্ষিণা পাইয়া খুশি হইয়া বাসায় ফিরিলেন।

স্যাকরা বসিল সোনার খাঁচা বানাইতে। খাঁচাটা হইল এমন আশ্চর্য যে, দেখিবার জন্য দেশবিদেশের লোক ঝুঁকিয়া পড়িল। কেহ বলে, ‘শিক্ষার একেবারে হদ্দমুদ্দ।’ কেহ বলে, ‘শিক্ষা যদি নাও হয়, খাঁচা তো হইল। পাখির কী কপাল।’

স্যাকরা থলি বোঝাই করিয়া বকশিশ পাইল। খুশি হইয়া সে তখনি পাড়ি দিল বাড়ির দিকে।

পণ্ডিত বসিলেন পাখিকে বিদ্যা শিখাইতে। নস্য লইয়া বলিলেন, ‘অল্প পুঁথির কর্ম নয়।’

ভাগিনা তখন পুঁথিলিখকদের তলব করিলেন। তারা পুঁথির নকল করিয়া এবং নকলের নকল করিয়া পর্বতপ্রমাণ করিয়া তুলিল। যে দেখিল সেই বলিল, ‘সাবাস। বিদ্যা আর ধরে না।’

লিপিকরের দল পারিতোষিক লইল বলদ বোঝাই করিয়া। তখনি ঘরের দিকে দৌড় দিল। তাদের সংসারে আর টানাটানি রহিল না।

অনেক দামের খাঁচাটার জন্য ভাগিনাদের খবরদারির সীমা নাই। মেরামত তো লাগিয়াই আছে। তার পরে ঝাড়া মোছা পালিশ-করা ঘটা দেখিয়া সকলেই বলিল, ‘উন্নতি হইতেছে।’

লোক লাগিল বিস্তর এবং তাদের উপর নজর রাখিবার জন্য লোক লাগিল আরও বিস্তর। তারা মাস-মাস মুঠা-মুঠা তনখা পাইয়া সিন্ধুক বোঝাই করিল।

তারা এবং তাদের মামাতো খুড়তুতো মাসতুতো ভাইরা খুশি হইয়া কোঠাবালাখানায় গদি পাতিয়া বসিল।

সংসারে অন্য অভাব অনেক আছে, কেবল নিন্দুক আছে যথেষ্ট। তারা বলিল, ‘খাঁচাটার উন্নতি হইতেছে, কিন্তু পাখিটার খবর কেহ রাখে না।’

কথাটা রাজার কানে গেল। তিনি ভাগিনাকে ডাকিয়া বলিলেন, ‘ভাগিনা, এ কী কথা শুনি।’

ভাগিনা বলিল, ‘মহারাজ, সত্য কথা যদি শুনিবেন তবে ডাকুন স্যাকরাদের, পণ্ডিতদের, লিপিকরদের, ডাকুন যারা মেরামত করে এবং মেরামত তদারক করিয়া বেড়ায়। নিন্দুকগুলো খাইতে পায় না বলিয়াই মন্দ কথা বলে।’

জবাব শুনিয়া রাজা অবস্থাটা পরিষ্কার বুঝিলেন, আর তখনি ভাগিনার গলায় সোনার হার চড়িল।

শিক্ষা যে কী ভয়ংকর তেজে চলিতেছে, রাজার ইচ্ছা হইল স্বয়ং দেখিবেন। একদিন তাই পাত্র মিত্র অমাত্য লইয়া শিক্ষাশালায় তিনি স্বয়ং আসিয়া উপস্থিত।

দেউড়ির কাছে অমনি বাজিল শাঁখ ঘণ্টা ঢাক ঢোল কাড়া নাকাড়া তুরী ভেরি দামামা কাঁসি বাঁশি কাঁসর খোল করতাল মৃদঙ্গ জগঝম্প। পণ্ডিতেরা গলা ছাড়িয়া, টিকি নাড়িয়া, মন্ত্রপাঠে লাগিলেন। মিস্ত্রি মজুর স্যাকরা লিপিকর তদারকনবিশ আর মামাতো পিসতুতো খুড়তুতো এবং মাসতুতো ভাই জয়ধ্বনি তুলিল।

ভাগিনা বলিল, ‘মহারাজ, কাণ্ডটা দেখিতেছেন!’

মহারাজ বলিলেন, ‘আশ্চর্য। শব্দ কম নয়।’

ভাগিনা বলিল, ‘শুধু শব্দ নয়, পিছনে অর্থও কম নাই।’

রাজা খুশি হইয়া দেউড়ি পার হইয়া যেই হাতিতে উঠিবেন এমন সময়, নিন্দুক ছিল ঝোপের মধ্যে গা ঢাকা দিয়া, সে বলিয়া উঠিল, ‘মহারাজ, পাখিটাকে দেখিয়াছেন কি।’

রাজার চমক লাগিল; বলিলেন, ‘ঐ যা! মনে তো ছিল না। পাখিটাকে দেখা হয় নাই।’

ফিরিয়া আসিয়া পণ্ডিতকে বলিলেন, ‘পাখিকে তোমরা কেমন শেখাও তার কায়দাটা দেখা চাই।’

দেখা হইল। দেখিয়া বড়ো খুশি। কায়দাটা পাখিটার চেয়ে এত বেশি বড়ো যে, পাখিটাকে দেখাই যায় না; মনে হয়, তাকে না দেখিলেও চলে। রাজা বুঝিলেন, আয়োজনের ত্রুটি নাই। খাঁচায় দানা নাই, পানি নাই; কেবল রাশি রাশি পুঁথি হইতে রাশি রাশি পাতা ছিঁড়িয়া কলমের ডগা দিয়া পাখির মুখের মধ্যে ঠাসা হইতেছে। গান তো বন্ধই, চীৎকার করিবার ফাঁকটুকু পর্যন্ত বোজা। দেখিলে শরীরে রোমাঞ্চ হয়।

এবারে রাজা হাতিতে চড়িবার সময় কানমলা-সর্দারকে বলিয়া দিলেন, নিন্দুকের যেন আচ্ছা করিয়া কান মলিয়া দেওয়া হয়।

পাখিটা দিনে দিনে ভদ্র-দস্তুর-মতো আধমরা হইয়া আসিল। অভিভাবকেরা বুঝিল, বেশ আশাজনক। তবু স্বভাবদোষে সকালবেলার আলোর দিকে পাখি চায় আর অন্যায় রকমে পাখা ঝট্‌পট্‌ করে। এমন কি, এক-একদিন দেখা যায়, সে তার রোগা ঠোঁট দিয়া খাঁচার শলা কাটিবার চেষ্টায় আছে।

কোতোয়াল বলিল, ‘এ কী বেয়াদবি।’

তখন শিক্ষামহালে হাপর হাতুড়ি আগুন লইয়া কামার আসিয়া হাজির। কী দমাদ্দম পিটানি। লোহার শিকল তৈরি হইল, পাখির ডানাও গেল কাটা।

রাজার সম্বন্ধীরা মুখ হাঁড়ি করিয়া মাথা নাড়িয়া বলিল, ‘এ রাজ্যে পাখিদের কেবল যে আক্কেল নাই তা নয়, কৃতজ্ঞতাও নাই।’

তখন পণ্ডিতেরা এক হাতে কলম, এক হাতে সড়কি লইয়া এমনি কাণ্ড করিল যাকে বলে শিক্ষা।

কামারের পসার বাড়িয়া কামারগিন্নির গায়ে সোনাদানা চড়িল এবং কোতোয়ালের হুঁশিয়ারি দেখিয়া রাজা তাকে শিরোপা দিলেন।

পাখিটা মরিল। কোন্‌কালে যে কেউ তা ঠাহর করিতে পারে নাই। নিন্দুক লক্ষ্ণীছাড়া রটাইল, ‘পাখি মরিয়াছে।’

ভাগিনাকে ডাকিয়া রাজা বলিলেন, ‘ভাগিনা, এ কী কথা শুনি।’

ভাগিনা বলিল, ‘মহারাজ, পাখিটার শিক্ষা পুরা হইয়াছে।’

রাজা শুধাইলেন, ‘ও কি আর লাফায়।’

ভাগিনা বলিল, ‘আরে রাম!’

‘আর কি ওড়ে।’

‘না।’

‘আর কি গান গায়।’

‘না।’

‘দানা না পাইলে আর কি চেঁচায়।’

‘না।’

রাজা বলিলেন, ‘একবার পাখিটাকে আনো তো, দেখি।’

পাখি আসিল। সঙ্গে কোতোয়াল আসিল, পাইক আসিল, ঘোড়সওয়ার আসিল। রাজা পাখিটাকে টিপিলেন, সে হাঁ করিল না, হুঁ করিল না। কেবল তার পেটের মধ্যে পুঁথির শুকনো পাতা খস্‌খস্‌ গজ্‌গজ্‌ করিতে লাগিল।

বাহিরে নববসন্তের দক্ষিণহাওয়ায় কিশলয়গুলি দীর্ঘনিশ্বাসে মুকুলিত বনের আকাশ আকুল করিয়া দিল।

cage

Totakahinee or The Bird’s Tale

1
Once there was a bird. It was uneducated. It used to sing, but it had never read the scriptures. It hopped about and it flew but it did not know what good manners were.
The king said, ‘This kind of bird is of no use, for it eats the fruits of the forest and this is leading to losses in the markets.’
He ordered the minister, ‘Teach the bird a lesson.’

2
The duty of training the bird fell upon the shoulders of the king’s nephews.
The learned men sat and discussed at length why the accused creature was versed in the wrong kind of knowledge.
They concluded that the nest the bird built out of ordinary straw was not enough to hold a great deal of knowledge. Thus the first thing needed was the construction of a good cage.
The pundits went home happily with their grants from the king.

3
The goldsmith set about making a golden cage. This was so amazing that people from near and far came to look at it. Some said, ‘This is the ultimate in education!’ Others said, ‘Even if it is not educated, it got a cage out of all this! What luck!’
The fellow got a sack filled with money as payment. He set off for home in high spirits immediately.
The wise man sat down with the bird to teach it. He took a pinch of snuff and said, ‘This will never do with a few books.’
The nephew then sent for the writers. They made copies of books and then copies of the copies till there was a mountain of paper. Whoever saw this said, ‘Bravo! This is education if nothing else.’
The scribes had to carry their rewards home by bullock cart. They went back quickly too. From that day onwards there was no more need in their homes.
There was no end to the attention the nephews gave the costly golden cage. There were ongoing maintenance costs. It also needed regular dusting and polishing which made everyone agree, ‘This is improvement.’
Many people had to be employed and many other people were engaged to keep an eye on the first lot of employees. This army filled their coffers with fistfuls of cash each month.
They and all the cousins they had of every hue were now able to behave like men of means and leisure.

4
There is need of every kind in life, but never a shortage of critics. They now said, ‘The cage is an improvement, but what news of the bird?’
This remark made its way to the king’s ears. He called for his nephews and said, ‘Royal nephew, what is this I hear?’
The nephew said, ‘Oh Great King, if you wish to hear the truth, send for the goldsmith, the learned men and the scribes, call those who repair the cage and summon those who keep an eye on those that repair the cage. The naysayers are the ones who have not made any profit out of this.’
The king understood exactly what was going on and gifted a golden chain to his nephew immediately.

5
The king expressed a wish to see for himself how the great education of the bird was going. One day he arrived at the classroom with all his courtiers.
At that very moment the gates rang out with conch shells, bells, drums of every kind, cymbals, flutes and gongs, The learned men were loudly reciting the lessons , their sacred tufts of hair shaking with the effort. There was a welcoming roar from the masons, the goldsmith, the scribes, the overseers and their supervisors as well the various cousins.
The nephew said, ‘King, you see what a great affair this is!’
The king said, ‘Astounding! And so noisy too!’
The nephew answered, ‘Not just noise, there is much meaning to all of this.’
The king happily crossed the gate and was just about to mount his elephant when a critic hiding in the bushes said to him, ‘Great king, but did you see the bird?’
The king, startled though he was, had to admit, ‘Alas! That completely slipped my mind. I did not get to see the bird.’
He came back and said to the pundit, ‘I should like to see how you teach the bird.’
He went and saw. It pleased him greatly. The pomp surrounding the bird was so great that it was hardly to be seen. And to tell the truth, it did not seem that important that one saw the creature. The king understood that there was no lapse in the arrangements. There was no food in the cage, nor any water; but the pages of a hundred wise tomes were being stuffed into the bird’s mouth. It was unable to open its beak even to shriek, let along sing. It was truly thrilling.
This time while mounting the elephant, the king told his principal ear-boxer to box the ears of the critic very soundly indeed.

6
The bird grew more and more civilized each day as its life drained away. Its guardians understood that the situation was very encouraging. And yet the bird still fluttered its wings most annoyingly each morning as it gazed upon the morning light, thanks to its intemperate nature. It was even observed that on some days it tried to gnaw through the bars of its cage with its puny beak.
The jailer said, ‘What insolence!’
The blacksmith was brought to the schoolhouse, complete with his bellows, hammers and furnace. With a tremendous clanging an iron chain was fashioned and the bird’s wings were also clipped.
The king’s sycophants made glum faces and shook their heads saying, ‘In this kingdom the birds are not just ignorant, they have no sense of gratitude either.’
Then the wise men picked up pens in one hand and spears in another and gave a demonstration of real teaching.
The blacksmith made so much money that his wife was able to buy herself gold jewellery and the king rewarded the jailer’s vigilance with a title.

7
The bird died. No one had even noticed when this had happened. The good for nothing critic went about saying, ‘The bird is dead.’
The king called for his nephew and asked, ‘Royal nephew, what is this I hear?’
The nephew said, ‘Great king, it has been educated.’
The king asked, ‘Does it flap around anymore?’
The nephew answered, ‘Dear God, No!’
‘Does it fly anymore?’
‘No.’
‘Does it burst into song anymore?’
‘No.’
‘Does it shriek when not fed?’
‘No.’
The king commanded, ‘Bring the bird to me once, I so wish to see it.’
The bird came. The jailer came with it, as did the guards and the mounted policemen. The king poked the bird; it did not utter a single sound in agreement or in protest. There was just a rustling from the dry paper that filled its body.

Outside the palace, the southerly winds of spring sighed among the new buds and drove the skies above the flowering forests quite mad.

Image: http://antiquesimagearchive.com/items

আমার যে দিন ভেসে গেছে চোখের জলে/ Amaar Je Din Bheshey Gecche/ Those days I once spent in tears

আমার   যে দিন ভেসে গেছে চোখের জলে

          তারি   ছায়া পড়েছে শ্রাবণগগনতলে॥

সে দিন যে রাগিণী গেছে থেমে,    অতল বিরহে নেমে   গেছে থেমে,

          আজি   পুবের হাওয়ায় হাওয়ায়   হায় হায় হায় রে

                   কাঁপন ভেসে চলে॥

          নিবিড় সুখে মধুর দুখে জড়িত ছিল সেই দিন–

              দুই তারে জীবনের বাঁধা ছিল বীন।

     তার ছিঁড়ে গেছে কবে     একদিন কোন্‌ হাহারবে,

              সুর হারায়ে গেল পলে পলে॥

রাগ: কালাংড়া-ভৈরবী

তাল: কাহারবা

রচনাকাল (বঙ্গাব্দ): 1344

রচনাকাল (খৃষ্টাব্দ): 1937

স্বরলিপিকার: শৈলজারঞ্জন মজুমদার

***

Those days I once spent in tears

          Have cast their shadows upon the skies filled with rain.

The tune that died out that day, losing its voice in unending sorrow

         Today in the breezes from the east, alas once again

                   It trembles, affecting the senses.

          That day was bound with both deepest happiness and sweetest sorrow –

              As two strings taut upon this harp of life

     Then the strings fell apart   amidst much lamenting,

              And those tunes were lost, those moments too.

Raga: Kalangra Bhairavi

Beat: Kaharba

Written: 1937

Score: Shailajaranjan Majumdar

Seduced by Nationalism: Yone Noguchi’s ‘Terrible Mistake’. Debating the China-Japan War With Tagore

The letters

41 Sakurayama
Nakano, Tokyo
July 23rd, 1938

Dear Rabindranath,

When I visited you at Shantiniketan a few years ago, you were troubled with the Ethiopian question, and vehemently condemned Italy. Retiring into your guest chamber that night, I wondered whether you would say the same thing on Japan, if she were equally situated like Italy. I perfectly agreed with your opinion and admired your courage of speaking, when in Tokyo, 1916, you censured the westernization of Japan from a public platform. Not answering back to your words, the intellectual people of my country were conscious of its possible consequence, for, not only staying as an unpleasant spectacle, the westernization had every chance for becoming anything awful.

But if you take the present war in China for the criminal outcome of Japan’s surrender to the West, you are wrong, because, not being a slaughtering madness, it is, I believe, the inevitable means, terrible it is though, for establishing a new great world in the Asiatic continent, where the “principle of live-and-let-live” has to be realized. Believe me, it is the war of “Asia for Asia.” With a crusader’s determination and with a sense of sacrifice that belongs to a martyr, our young soldiers go to be [the] front. Their minds are light and happy, the war is not for conquest, but the correction of mistaken idea of China, I mean Kuomingtung [Kuomintang] government, and for uplifting her simple and ignorant masses to better life and wisdom. Borrowing from other countries neither money nor blood, Japan is undertaking this tremendous work single-handed and alone. I do not know why we cannot be praised by your countrymen. But we are terribly blamed by them, as it seems, for our heroism and aim.

Sometime ago the Chinese army, defeated in Huntung [Honan] province by Hwangho [Yellow] River, had cut from desperate madness several places of the river bank; not keeping in check the advancing Japanese army, it only made thirty hundred thousand people drown in the flood and one hundred thousand village houses destroyed. Defending the welfare of its own kinsmen or killing them, — which is the object of the Chinese army, I wonder? It is strange that such an atrocious inhuman conduct ever known in the world history did not become in the west a target of condemnation. Oh where are your humanitarians who profess to be a guardian of humanity? Are they deaf and blind? Besides the Chinese soldiers, miserably paid and poorly clothed, are a habitual criminal of robbery, and then an everlasting menace to the honest hard-working people who cling to the ground. Therefore the Japanese soldiers are followed by them with the paper flags of the Rising Sun in their hands; to a soldierly work we have to add one more endeavour in the relief work of them. You can imagine how expensive is this war for Japan. Putting expenditure out of the question, we are determined to use up our last cent for the final victory that would ensure in the future a great peace of many hundred years.

I received the other day a letter from my western friend, denouncing the world that went to Hell. I replied him, saying: “Oh my friend, you should cover your ears, when a war bugle rings too wild. Shut your eyes against a picture of your martial cousins becoming a fish salad! Be patient, my friend, for a war is only spasmodic matter that cannot last long, but will adjust one’s condition better in the end. You are a coward if you are afraid of it. Nothing worthy will be done unless you pass through a severe trial. And the peace that follows after a war is most important.” For this peace we Japanese are ready to exhaust our resources of money and blood.

Today we are called under the flag of “Service-making,” each person of the country doing his own bit for the realization of idealism. There was no time as today in the whole history of Japan, when all the people, from the Emperor to a rag-picker in the street, consolidated together with one mind. And there is no more foolish supposition as that our financial bankruptcy is a thing settled if the war drags on. Since the best part of the Chinese continent is already with us in friendly terms, we are not fighting with the whole of China. Our enemy is only the Kuomingtung government, a miserable puppet of the west. If Chiang Kai-shek wishes a long war, we are quite ready for it. Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? As long as he desires, my friend. Now one year has passed since the first bullet was exchanged between China and Japan; but with a fresh mind as if it sees that the war has just begun, we are now looking the event in the face. After the fall of Hankow, the Kuomingtung government will retire to a remote place of her country; but until the western countries change their attitude towards China, we will keep up fighting with fists or wisdom.

The Japanese poverty is widely advertised in the west, though I do not know how it was started. Japan is poor beyond doubt, — well, according to the measure you wish to apply to. But I think that the Japanese poverty is a fabricated story as much as richness of China. There is no country in the world like Japan, where money is equally divided among the people. Supposing that we are poor, I will say that we are trained to stand the pain of poverty. Japan is very strong in adversity.

But you will be surprised to know that the postal saving of people comes up now to five thousand million yen, responding to the government’s propaganda of economy. For going on, surmounting every difficulty that the war brings in, we are saving every cent and even making good use of waste scraps. Since the war began, we grew spiritually strong and true ten times more than before. There is nothing hard to accomplish to a young man. Yes, Japan is the land of young men. According to nature’s law, the old has to retire while the young advances. Behold, the sun is arising, be gone all the sickly bats and dirty vermins! Cursed be one’s intrigue and empty pride that sin against nature’s rule and justice.
China could very well avoid the war, of course, if Chiang Kai-shek was more sensible with insight. Listening to an irresponsible third party of the west a long way off, thinking too highly of his own strength, he turned at last his own country, as she is today, into a ruined desert to which fifty years would not be enough for recovery. He never happened to think for a moment that the friendship of western countries was but a trick of their monetary interest itself in his country. And it is too late now for Chiang to reproach them for the faithlessness of their words of promise.

For a long time we had been watching with doubt at Chiang’s program, the consolidation of the country, because the Chinese history had no period when the country was unified in the real meaning, and the subjugation of various war-lords under his flag was nothing. Until all the people took an oath of co-operation with him, we thought, his program was no more than a table talk. Being hasty and thoughtless, Chiang began to popularize the anti-Japanese movement among the students who were pigmy politicians in some meaning because he deemed it to be a method for the speedy realization of his program; but he never thought that he was erring from the Oriental ethics that preached on one’s friendship with the neighbours. Seeing that his propagation had too great effect on his young followers, he had no way to keep in check their wild jingoism, and then finally made his country roll down along the slope of destruction. Chiang is a living example who sold his country to the west for nothing, and smashed his skin with the crime of westernization. Dear Rabindranath, what will you say about this Chiang Kai-shek?

Dear poet, today we have to turn our deaf ears towards a lesson of freedom that may come from America, because the people there already ceased to practice it. The ledger-book diplomacy of England is too well known through the world. I am old enough to know from experience that no more worse than others. Though I admit that Japan is today ruled by militarism, natural to the actual condition of the country, I am glad that enough freedom of speaking and acting is allowed to one like myself. Japan is fairly liberal in spite of the war time. So I can say without fear to be locked up that those service-crazy people are drunken, and that a thing in the world, great and true, because of its connection with the future, only comes from one who hates to be a common human unit, stepping aside so that he can unite himself with Eternity. I believe that such a one who withdraws into a snail’s shell for the quest of life’s hopeful future, will be in the end a true patriot, worthy of his own nation. Therefore I am able not to disgrace the name of poet, and to try to live up to the words of Browning who made the Grammarian exclaim:
“Leave Now for dogs and apes! Man has Forever”.

Yours very sincerely,

Yone Noguchi.

Sketch of Noguchi

Uttarayan
Santiniketan, Bengal
September 1, 1938

Dear Noguchi,

I am profoundly surprised by the letter that you have written to me: neither its temper nor its contents harmonise with the spirit of Japan which I learnt to admire in your writings and came to love through my personal contacts with you. It is sad to think that the passion of collective militarism may on occasion helplessly overwhelm even the creative artist, that genuine intellectual power should be led to offer its dignity and truth to be sacrificed at the shrine of the dark gods of war.

You seem to agree with me in your condemnation of the massacre of Ethiopia by Fascist Italy but you would reserve the murderous attack on Chinese millions for judgment under a different category. But surely judgments are based on principle, and no amount of special pleading can change the fact that in launching a ravening war on Chinese humanity, with all the deadly methods learnt from the West, Japan is infringing every moral principle on which civilisation is based. You claim that Japan’s situation was unique, forgetting that military situations are always unique, and that pious war-lords, convinced of peculiarly individual justification for their atrocities have never failed to arrange for special alliances with divinity for annihilation and torture on a large scale.

Humanity, in spite of its many failures, has believed in a fundamental moral structure of society. When you speak, therefore, of “the inevitable means, terrible it is though, for establishing a new great world in the Asiatic continent” — signifying, I suppose, the bombing on Chinese women and children and the desecration of ancient temples and Universities as a means of saving China for Asia–you are ascribing to humanity a way of life which is not even inevitable among the animals and would certainly not apply to the East, in spite of her occasional aberrations. You are building your conception of an Asia which would be raised on a tower of skulls. I have, as you rightly point out, believed in the message of Asia, but I never dreamt that this message could be identified with deeds which brought exaltation to the heart of Tamer Lane at his terrible efficiency in manslaughter. When I protested against “Westernisation” in my lectures in Japan, I contrasted the rapacious Imperialism which some of the nations of Europe were cultivating with the ideal of perfection preached by Buddha and Christ, with the great heritages of culture and good neighbourliness that went to the making of Asiatic and other civilisations. I felt it to be my duty to warn the land of Bushido, of great Art and traditions of noble heroism, that this phase of scientific savagery which victimised Western humanity and had led their helpless masses to a moral cannibalism was never to be imitated by a virile people who had entered upon a glorious renascence and had every promise of a creative future before them. The doctrine of “Asia for Asia” which you enunciate in your letter, as an instrument of political blackmail, has all the virtues of the lesser Europe which I repudiate and nothing of the larger humanity that makes us one across the barriers of political labels and divisions. I was amused to read the recent statement of a Tokyo politician that the military alliance of Japan with Italy and Germany was made for “highly spiritual and moral reasons” and “had no materialistic considerations behind them”. Quite so. What is not amusing is that artists and thinkers should echo such remarkable sentiments that translate military swagger into spiritual bravado. In the West, even in the critical days of war-madness, there is never any dearth of great spirits who can raise their voice above the din of battle, and defy their own warmongers in the name of humanity. Such men have suffered, but never betrayed the conscience of their peoples which they represented. Asia will not be westernised if she can learn from such men: I still believe that there are such souls in Japan though we do not hear of them in those newspapers that are compelled at the cost of their extinction to reproduce their military master’s voice.

“The betrayal of intellectuals” of which the great French writer spoke after the European war, is a dangerous symptom of our Age. You speak of the savings of the poor people of Japan, their silent sacrifice and suffering and take pride in betraying that this pathetic sacrifice is being exploited for gun running and invasion of a neighbour’s hearth and home, that human wealth of greatness is pillaged for inhuman purposes. Propaganda, I know, has been reduced to a fine art, and it is almost impossible for peoples in non-democratic countries to resist hourly doses of poison, but one had imagined that at least the men of intellect and imagination would themselves retain their gift of independent judgment. Evidently such is not always the case; behind sophisticated arguments seem to lie a mentality of perverted nationalism which makes the “intellectuals” of today to blustering about their “ideologies” dragooning their own “masses” into paths of dissolution. I have known your people and I hate to believe that they could deliberately participate in the organised drugging of Chinese men and women by opium and heroin, but they do not know; in the meanwhile, representatives of Japanese culture in China are busy practising their craft on the multitudes caught in the grip of an organisation of a wholesale human pollution. Proofs of such forcible drugging in Manchukuo and China have been adduced by unimpeachable authorities. But from Japan there has come no protest, not even from her poets.

Holding such opinions as many of your intellectuals do, I am not surprised that they are left “free” by your Government to express themselves. I hope they enjoy their freedom. Retiring from such freedom into “a snail’s shell” in order to savour the bliss of meditation “on life’s hopeful future”, appears to me to be an unnecessary act, even though you advise Japanese artists to do so by way of change. I cannot accept such separation between an artist’s function and his moral conscience. The luxury of enjoying special favouritism by virtue of identity with a Government which is engaged in demolition, in its neighbourhood, of all salient bases of life, and of escaping, at the same time, from any direct responsibility by a philosophy of escapism, seems to me to be another authentic symptom of the modern intellectual’s betrayal of humanity. Unfortunately the rest of the world is almost cowardly in any adequate expression of its judgment owing to ugly possibilities that it may be hatching for its own future and those who are bent upon doing mischief are left alone to defile their history and blacken their reputation for all time to come. But such impunity in the long run bodes disaster, like unconsciousness of disease in its painless progress of ravage.

I speak with utter sorrow for your people; your letter has hurt me to the depths of my being. I know that one day the disillusionment of your people will be complete, and through laborious centuries they will have to clear the debris of their civilisation wrought to ruin by their own warlords run amok. They will realise that the aggressive war on China is insignificant as compared to the destruction of the inner spirit of chivalry of Japan which is proceeding with a ferocious severity. China is unconquerable, her civilisation, under the dauntless leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, is displaying marvelous resources; the desperate loyalty of her peoples, united as never before, is creating a new age for that land. Caught unprepared by a gigantic machinery of war, hurled upon her peoples, China is holding her own; no temporary defeats can ever crush her fully aroused spirit. Faced by the borrowed science of Japanese militarism which is crudely western in character, China’s stand reveals an inherently superior moral stature. And today I understand more than ever before the meaning of the enthusiasm with which the big-hearted Japanese thinker Okakura [Kakuzo or Tenshin] assured me that China is great.

You do not realise that you are glorifying your neighbour at your own cost. But these are considerations on another plane: the sorrow remains that Japan, in the words of Madame Chiang Kai-shek which you must have read in the Spectator, is creating so many ghosts. Ghosts of immemorial works of Chinese art, of irreplaceable Chinese institutions, of great peace-loving communities drugged, tortured, and destroyed. “Who will lay the ghosts [to rest]?” she asks. Japanese and Chinese people, let us hope, will join hands together, in no distant future, in wiping off memories of a bitter past. True Asian humanity will be reborn. Poets will raise their song and be unashamed, one believes, to declare their faith again in a human destiny which cannot admit of a scientific mass production of fratricide.

Yours sincerely,

Rabindranath Tagore

PS I find that you have already released your letter to the press; I take it that you want me to publish my answer in the same manner.

Sketch of Tagore

41, Sakurayama
Nakano, Tokyo
Oct. 2nd, 1938

Dear Tagore,

Your eloquent letter, dated Sept. 1st. was duly received. I am glad that the letter inspired me to write you once more.

No one in Japan denies the greatness of China, — I mean the Chinese people. China of the olden times was great with philosophy, literature and art, — particularly in the T’ang dynasty. Under Chinese influence Japan started to build up her own civilization. But I do not know why we should not oppose to the misguided government of China for the old debt we owe her people. And nobody in Japan ever dreams that we can conquer China. What Japan is doing in China, it is only, as I already said, to correct the mistaken idea of Chiang Kai-shek; on this object Japan in staking her all. If Chiang Kai-shek [alters his course]; on this object Japan is staking her hands for the future of both the countries, China and Japan, the war will be stopped to once.

I am glad that you still admire Kakuzo Okakura with enthusiasm as a thinker. If he lives to-day, I believe that he will say the same thing as I do. Betraying your trust, many Chinese soldiers in the front surrender to our Japanese force, and join with us in the cry, “Down with Chiang Kai-shek!” Where is Chinese loyalty to him?

Having no proper organ of expression, Japanese opinion is published only seldom in the west; and real fact is always hidden and often camouflaged by cleverness of the Chinese who are a born propagandist. They are strong in foreign languages, and their tongues never fail. While the Japanese are always reticent, even when situation demands their explanation. From the experiences of many centuries, the Chinese have cultivated an art of speaking for they had been put under such a condition that divided their country to various antagonistic divisions; and being always encroached by the western countries, they depended on diplomacy to turn a thing to their advantage. Admitting that China completely defeated Japan in foreign publicity, it is sad that she often goes too far and plays trickery. For one instance I will call your attention to the reproduced picture from a Chinese paper on page 247 of the Modern Review for last August, as a living specimen of “Japanese Atrocities in China: Execution of a Chinese Civilians.” So awful pictures they are — awful enough to make ten thousand enemies of Japan in a foreign country. But the pictures are nothing but a Chinese invention, simple and plain, because the people in the scenes are all Chinese, slaughterers and all. Besides any one with commonsense would know, if he stops for a moment, that it is impossible to take such a picture as these at the front. Really I cannot understand how your friend-editor of the modern Review happened to published them.

It is one’s right to weave a dream at the distance, and to create an object of sympathy at the expense of China. Believe me that I am second to none in understanding the Chinese masses who are patient and diligent, clinging to the ground. But it seems that you are not acquainted with the China of corruption and bribery, and of war lords who put money in a foreign bank when their country is at stake. So long as the country is controlled by such polluted people, the Chinese have only a little chance to create a new age in their land. They have to learn first of all the meaning of honesty and sacrifice before dreaming it. But for this new age in Asia, Japan is engaging in the war, hoping to obtain a good result and mutual benefit that follow the swords. We must have a neighbouring country, strong and true, which is glad to co-operate with us in our work of reconstructing Asia in the new way. That is only what we expect from China.

Japan’s militarism is a tremendous affair no doubt. But if you condemn Japan, because of it, you are failing to notice that Chiang’s China is a far more great military country than Japan. China is now mobilizing seven or eight million soldiers armed with European weapons. From cowardice or being ignorant of the reason why they had to fight, the Chinese soldiers are so unspirited in the front. But for this unavailability you cannot forgive Chiang’s militarism, if your denial is absolute and true. For the last twenty years Chiang had been trying to arm his country under the western advisers; and these western advisers were mostly from Italy and Germany, the countries of which you are so impatient. And it should be attributed to their advice that he started war; though it is too late to blame the countries that formally provided him with military knowledge, it is never too late for him to know that the western countries are not worthy of trust. There is no country in the world that comes to rescue the other at her own expense. If you are a real sympathizer of China, you should come along with your program what she has to do, not passing idly with your condemnation of Japan’s militarism. And if you have to condemn militarism, that condemnation should be equally divided between China and Japan.

It is true that when two quarrel, both are in the wrong. And when fighting is over, both the parties will be put perhaps in the mental situation of one who is crying over spilt milk. War is situation of one who is crying over spilt milk. War is atrocious, — particularly when it is performed in a gigantic way as in China today. I hope that you will let me apply your accusation of Japanese atrocity to China, just as it is. Seeing no atrocity in China, you are speaking about her as an innocent country. I expected something impartial from a poet.

I have to thank you that you called my attention to the “Modern intellectual’s betrayal of humanity,” whatever it be. One can talk any amount of idealism, apart from in reality, if he wishes, and take the pleasure of one belonging to no country. But sharing patriotism equally with the others, we are trying to acquit the duty of talk [of] Heaven when immediate matter of the earth is well arranged.

Supposing that we accept your advice to become a vanguard of humanity according to your prescription, and supposing that we leave China to her own will, and save ourselves from being a “betrayal of the intellectuals,” who will promise us with the safety of Japanese spirit that we cultivated with pairs of thousand years, under the threat of communism across a fence? We don’t want to barter our home land for an empty name of intellectuals. No, you mustn’t talk nonsense! God forbid!
Admitting, that militarism is criminal, I think that, if your humanity makes life a mutilated mud-fish, its crime would never be smaller than the other. I spent my whole life admiring beauty and truth, with one hope to lift life to a dignity, more vigorous and noble; from this reason, I face in madness, with three wild eyes, promised me with a forthcoming peace. And also at Elephanta Island; near Bombay, I learned from the Three-headed Siva a lesson of destruction as inevitable truth of life. Then I wrote:

“Thy slaughter’s sword is never so unkind as it appears.
Creation is great, but destroying is still greater,
Because up from the ashes new Wonder take its flight.”

But if you command me to obey the meekness of humanity under all the circumstances, you are forgetting what your old Hindu philosophy taught you. I say this not only for my purpose, because such reflection is important for any country.

I wonder who reported to you that we are killing innocent people and bombing on their unprotected towns. Far from it, we are trying to do our best for helping them, because we have so much to depend on them for co-operation in the future, and because Bushido command us to limit punishment to a thing which only deserves it. It was an apt measure of our Japanese soldiers that the famous cave temples of the 5th century in North China were saved from savage rapacity of the defeated Chinese soldiers in fight. Except Madame Chiang with frustrated brain, no one has seen the “ghosts of Chinese institutions and art, destroyed”. And if those institutions and art, admitting that they are immemorial and irreplaceable, had been ever destroyed it is but the crazy work of Chinese soldiers, because they want to leave a desert to Japan. You ought to know better since you are acquainted with so many Japanese, whether or not we are qualified to do anything barbarous.

I believe that you are versed in Bushido. In olden time soldiery was lifted in Japan to a status equally high as that of art and morality. I have no doubt that our soldiers will not betray and tradition. If there is difference in Japanese militarism from that of the west, it is because the former is not without moral element. Who only sees its destroying power is blind to its other power in preservation. Its human aspect is never known in the foreign countries, because they shut their eyes to it. Japan is still an unknown existence in the west. Having so many things to displease you, Japanese militarism has still something that will please you if you come to know more about it. It is an excusable existence for the present condition of Japan. But I will leave the full explanation of it to some later occasion.

Believe me that I am never a eulogist of Japanese militarism, because I have many differences with it. But I can not help accepting as a Japanese what Japan is doing now under the circumstances, because I see no other way to show our minds to China. Of course when China stops fighting, and we receive her friendly hands, neither grudge nor ill feeling will remain in our minds. Perhaps with some sense of repentance, we will then proceed together on the great work of reconstructing the new world in Asia.

I often draw in my mind a possible man who can talk from a high domain and act as a peace-maker. You might write General Chiang, I hope, and tell him about the foolishness of fighting in the presence of a great work that is waiting. And I am sorry that against the high-pitched nature of your letter, mine is low-toned and faltering, because as a Japanese subject I belong to one of the responsible parties of the conflict.

Finally one word more. What I fear most is the present atmosphere in India, that tends to willfully blacken Japan to alienate her from your country. I have so many friends there, whose beautiful nature does not harmonise with it. My last experiences in your country taught me how to love and respect her. Besides there are in Japan so many admirers of your countrymen with your noble self as the first.

Yours sincerely,

Yone Noguchi.

Uttarayana
Santiniketan, Bengal

October, 1938

Dear Noguchi,

I thank you for taking the trouble to writer to me again. I have also read with interest your letter addressed to the Editor, Amrita Bazar Patrika, and published in that journal.* It makes the meaning of your letter to me more clear.

* The following is the text of the letter referred to:

Dear Editor,

Dr. Tagore’s reply to my letter was a disappointment, to use his words, hurted me to the depths of my being. Now I am conscious that language is an ineffective instrument to carry one’s real meaning. When I wanted an impartial criticism he gave me something of prejudiced bravado under the beautiful name of humanity. Just for a handful of dream, and for an intellectual’s ribbon to stick in his coat, he has lost a high office to correct the mistaken idea of reality.

It seems to us that when Dr. Tagore called the doctrine of “Asia for Asia” a political blackmail, he relinquished his patriotism to boast quiescence of a spiritual vagabond, and willfully supporting the Chinese side, is encouraging Soviet Russia, not to mention the other western countries. I meant my letter to him to be a plea for the understanding of Japan’s view-point which, in spite of its many failures, is honest. I wonder whether it is a poet’s privilege to give one whipping before listening to his words. When I dwelled on the saving of the people of Japan at the present time of conflict, he denounced it as their government’s exploitation “for gun running and invasion of a neighbour’s hearth and home.” But when he does not use the same language towards his friend China his partiality is something monstrous. And I wonder where is his former heart which made us Japanese love him and honour him. But still we are patient, believing that he will come to senses and take a neutral dignity fitting to a prophet who does not depart from fair judgment.

“Living in a country far from your country, I do not know where Dr. Tagore’s reply appeared in print. Believing that you are known to his letter, I hope that you will see way to print this letter of mine in your esteemed paper.

Yours sincerely,

Yone Noguchi.”

I am flattered that you still consider it worthwhile to take such pains to convert me to your point of view, and I am really sorry that I am unable to come to my senses, as you have been pleased to wish it. It seems to me that it is futile for either of us to try to convince the other since your faith in the infallible right of Japan to bully other Asiatic nations into line with your Government’s policy is not shared by me, and my faith that patriotism which claims the right to bring to the altar of its country the sacrifice of other people’s rights and happiness will endanger rather than strengthen the foundation of any great civilization, is sneered at by you as the “quiescence of a spiritual vagabond”.

If you can convince the Chinese that your armies are bombing their cities and rendering their women and children homeless beggars — those of them that are not transformed into “mutilated mud-fish”, to borrow one of your own phrases –, if you can convince these victims that they are only being subjected to a benevolent treatment which will in the end “save” their nation, it will no longer be necessary for you to convince us of your country’s noble intentions. Your righteous indignation against the “polluted people” who are burning their own cities and art treasures (and presumably bombing their own citizens) to malign your soldiers, reminds me of Napoleon’s noble wrath when he marched into a deserted Moscow and watched its palaces in flames. I should have expected from you who are a poet at least that much of imagination to feel, to what inhuman despair a people must be reduced to willingly burn their own handiwork of years’, indeed centuries’, labour. And even as a good nationalist, do you seriously believe that the mountain of bleeding corpses and the wilderness of bombed and burnt cities that is every day widening between your two countries, is making it easier for your two peoples to stretch your hands in a clasp of ever-lasting good will?

You complain that while the Chinese, being “dishonest”, are spreading their malicious propaganda, you people, being “honest”, are reticent. Do you not know, my friend, that there is no propaganda like good and noble deeds, and that if such deeds by yours, you need fear no “trickery” of your victims? Nor need you fear the bogey of communism if there is no exploitation of the poor among your own people and the workers feel that they are justly treated.

I must thank you for explaining to me the meaning of our Indian philosophy and of pointing out that the proper interpretation of Kali and Shiva must compel our approval of Japan’s “dance of death” in China. I wish you had drawn a moral from a religion more familiar to you and appealed to the Buddha for your justification. But I forget that your priests and artists have already made sure of that, for I saw in a recent issue of “The Osaka Mainichi and The Tokyo Nichi Nichi” (16th September, 1938) a picture of a new colossal image of Buddha erected to bless the massacre of your neighbours.

You must forgive me if my words sound bitter. Believe me, it is sorrow and shame, not anger, that prompt me to write to you. I suffer intensely not only because the reports of Chinese suffering batter against my heart, but because I can no longer point out with pride the example of a great Japan. It is true that there are no better standards prevalent anywhere else and that the so-called civilized peoples of the West are proving equally barbarous and even less “worthy of trust.” If you refer me to them, I have nothing to say. What I should have liked is to be able to refer them to you. I shall say nothing of my own people, for it is vain to boast until one has succeeded in sustaining one’s principles to the end.
I am quite conscious of the honour you do me in asking me to act as a peace-maker. Were it in any way possible for me to bring you two peoples together and see you freed from this death-struggle and pledged to the great common “work of reconstructing the new world in Asia”, I would regard the sacrifice of my life in the cause a proud privilege. But I have no power save that of moral persuasion, which you have so eloquently ridiculed. You who want me to be impartial, how can you expect me to appeal to Chiang Kai-shek to give up resisting until the aggressors have first given up their aggression? Do you know that last week when I received a pressing invitation from an old friend of mine in Japan to visit your country, I actually thought for a moment, foolish idealist as I am, that your people may really need my services to minister to the bleeding heart of Asia and to help extract from its riddled body the bullets of hatred? I wrote to my friend:

“Though the present state of my health is hardly favourable for any strain of a long foreign journey, I should seriously consider your proposal if proper opportunity is given me to carry out my own mission while there, which is to do my best to establish a civilised relationship of national amity between two great peoples of Asia who are entangled in a desolating mutual destruction. But as I am doubtful whether the military authorities of Japan, which seem bent upon devastating China in order to gain their object, will allow me the freedom to take my own course, I shall never forgive myself if I am tempted for any reason whatever to pay a friendly visit to Japan just at this unfortunate moment and thus cause a grave misunderstanding. You know I have a genuine love for the Japanese people and it is sure to hurt me too painfully to go and watch crowds of them being transported by their rulers to a neighbouring land to perpetrate acts of inhumanity which will brand their name with a lasting stain in the history of Man.”

After the letter was despatched came the news of the fall of Canton and Hankow. The cripple, shorn of his power to strike, may collapse, but to ask him to forget the memory of his mutilation as easily as you want me to, I must expect him to be an angel.
Wishing you people whom I love, not success, but remorse,

Yours sincerely,

Rabindranath Tagore

http://www.japanfocus.org/-Zeljko-Cipris/2577/article.html

চিরকুমার সভা/Chirokumar Sabha/ Society for the eternally unmarried

নৃপ তাহাকে টানিয়া লইয়া চলিল

(চলিতে চলিতে) এলে খবর দিয়ো মুখুজ্জেমশায়, ফাঁকি দিয়ো না। দেখছ তো সেজদিদি কিরকম চঞ্চল হয়ে উঠেছে।–

গান

না ব’লে যায় পাছে সে

আঁখি মোর ঘুম না জানে।

অক্ষয়।

ভয় নেই, ভয় নেই। একটা যায় তো আর-একটা আসবে। যে বিধাতা আগুন সৃষ্টি করেছেন পতঙ্গও তিনিই জুটিয়ে দেবেন। এখন গানটা চলুক।

নীরবালা।

কাছে তার রই, তবুও

ব্যথা যে রয় পরানে।

অক্ষয়।

নীরু, এটা তো আগন্তুকদের লক্ষ্য করে তৈরি হয় নি। কাছের মানুষটি কে বলো তো।

নীরবালা।

যে পথিক পথের ভুলে

এল মোর প্রাণের কূলে

পাছে তার ভুল ভেঙে যায়

চলে যায় কোন্‌ উজানে,

আঁখি মোর ঘুম না জানে।

অক্ষয়।

এ তো আমার সঙ্গে মিলছে। কিন্তু ভাই, জেনেশুনেই পথ ভুলেছি, সুতরাং সে ভুল ভাঙবার রাস্তা রাখি নি।

নীরবালা।

এল যেই এল আমার আগল টুটে,

খোলা দ্বার দিয়ে আবার যাবে ছুটে।

খেয়ালের হাওয়া লেগে

যে খেপা ওঠে জেগে

সে কি আর সেই অবেলায়

মিনতির বাধা মানে।

আঁখি মোর ঘুম না জানে।

অক্ষয়।

গান

না, না গো, না

কোরো না ভাবনা–

যদি বা নিশি যায় যাব না, যাব না।

যখনি চলে যাই

আসিব বলে যাই,

আলো ছায়ার পথে করি আনাগোনা।

দোলাতে দোলে মন মিলনে বিরহে।

বারে বারেই জানি তুমি তো চির হে।

ক্ষণিক আড়ালে

বারেক দাঁড়ালে

মরি ভয়ে ভয়ে পাব কি পাব না।

নীরবালা।

বড়ো নিশ্চিন্ত হলুম। তা হলে ঘুমোতে পারি।

অক্ষয়।

নির্ভয়ে।

[ নৃপবালা ও নীরবালার প্রস্থান

শৈলবালা।

মুখুজ্জেমশায়, আমি ঠাট্টা করছি নে– আমি চিরকুমার-সভার সভ্য হব। কিন্তু আমার সঙ্গে পরিচিত একজন কাউকে চাই তো। তোমার বুঝি আর সভ্য হবার জো নেই?

অক্ষয়।

না, আমি পাপ করেছি। তোমার দিদি আমার তপস্যা ভঙ্গ করে আমাকে স্বর্গ হতে বঞ্চিত করেছেন।

শৈলবালা।

তা হলে রসিকদাদাকে ধরতে হচ্ছে। তিনি তো কোনো সভার সভ্য না হয়েও চিরকুমার-ব্রত রক্ষা করেছেন।

অক্ষয়।

সভ্য হলেই এই বুড়োবয়সে ব্রতটি খোয়াবেন। ইলিশমাছ অমনি দিব্যি থাকে, ধরলেই মারা যায়; প্রতিজ্ঞাও ঠিক তাই, তাকে বাঁধলেই তার সর্বনাশ।

রসিকের প্রবেশ

রসিকদাদার সম্মুখের মাথায় টাক, গোঁফ পাকা, গৌরবর্ণ, দীর্ঘাকৃতি

অক্ষয়।

ওরে পাষণ্ড, ভণ্ড, অকালকুষ্মাণ্ড।

রসিক।

কেন হে মত্তমন্থর কুঞ্জকুঞ্জর পুঞ্জঅঞ্জনবর্ণ।

অক্ষয়।

তুমি আমার শ্যালী-পুষ্পবনে দাবানল আনতে চাও?

শৈলবালা।

রসিকদাদা, তোমারই বা তাতে কী লাভ।

রসিক।

ভাই, সইতে পারলুম না, কী করি। বছরে বছরেই তোর বোনদের বয়স বাড়ছে, বড়োমা আমারই দোষ দেন কেন। বলেন, দুবেলা বসে বসে কেবল খাচ্ছ, মেয়েদের জন্যে দুটো বর দেখে দিতে পার না। আচ্ছা ভাই, আমি না খেতে রাজি আছি, তা হলেই বর জুটবে, না তোর বোনদের বয়স কমতে থাকবে? এ দিকে যে-দুটির বর জুটছে না তাঁরা তো দিব্যি খাচ্ছেন দাচ্ছেন। শৈলভাই, কুমারসম্ভবে পড়েছিস, মনে আছে তো?–

স্বয়ং বিশীর্ণদ্রুমপর্ণবৃত্তিতা

পরা হি কাষ্ঠা তপসস্তয়া পুনঃ।

তদপ্যপাকীর্ণমতঃ প্রিয়ংবদাং

বদন্ত্যপর্ণেতি চ তাং পুরাবিদঃ।

তা ভাই, দুর্গা নিজের বর খুঁজতে খাওয়া-দাওয়া ছেড়ে তপস্যা করেছিলেন; কিন্তু নাতনীদের বর জুটছে না বলে আমি বুড়োমানুষ খাওয়া-দাওয়া ছেড়ে দেব, বড়োমার এ কী বিচার। আহা শৈল, ওটা মনে আছে তো? তদপ্যপাকীর্ণমতঃ প্রিয়ংবদাং–

শৈলবালা।

মনে আছে দাদা, কিন্তু কালিদাস এখন ভালো লাগছে না।

রসিক।

তা হলে তো অত্যন্ত দুঃসময় বলতে হবে।

****

Nreepo pulled her away.

(As she went) Please let us know when they arrive, Mr. Mukhujje! Do not trick us! See how agitated my sister is.

Song:

For fear that he should go without telling me

My eyes know no rest.

Akshay: Do not fear, do not fear. If one goes, another is sure to follow. The same creator who has made fire will surely supply moths in plentiful sacrifice. Let us now hear the song.

Neerobala:

I cling to him and yet

My heart still hurts.

Akshay: Neeru, this is certainly not sung with our guests in mind. Who is this man you feel so close to, may one ask?

Neerobala:

The traveller who loses his way

And ends up in my heart.

For fear that he should discover his error

And leaves on some unknown tide

My eyes know no rest.

Akshay: This sounds just like me. But I made my errors knowingly, and there is little way of fixing that.

Neerobala:

He comes breaking all my walls,

He will leave through the open door

His whims blow him

Like a madman awoken

Will he listen to reason

Or request in that untimely hour.

My eyes know no rest.

Akshay sings:

No, No, No, No

Do not worry yourself

Even if the night fades, I will not go, no!

Whenever I leave

I always promise to return by and by

Stepping lightly on shaded paths

My mind sways between happiness and pain

Each time I know, that you are everlasting

Beyond the shadows

You come and stand a while

I could simply die of fear, what if I do not have you?

Neerobala: I am greatly reassured. I will be able to sleep now.

Akshay: Without fear.

[Nripobala and Neerobala exit]

Shailabala: Mr Mukhujje, I am not jesting – I want to be a member of the Eternally unmarried Club. But I want a friend there with me. Can you not join again?

Akshay: No, I have transgressed. Your sister broke my pledge and deprived me of heaven.

Shailabala: Then we must get Rashikdada. He has maintained a pledge of everlasting bachelorhood despite not being affiliated to any club.

Akshay: He will forfeit his pledge at this ripe old age the very moment he joins. Just as hilsa fish are best when free, but catch them and they die straight away; pledges are just like that, try to formalize them and they are bound to fail.

Rashik enters; he is balding, fair and tall with a white moustache.

Akshay: Oh you stony hearted fake! You precocious pumpkin!

Rashik: Why say such things?

কেন হে মত্তমন্থর কুঞ্জকুঞ্জর পুঞ্জঅঞ্জনবর্ণ।

Akshay: Do you want to set fire to the flower gardens where my sister-in-laws kive?

Shailabala: Of what benefit is that to you Rashikdada?

Rashik: Sister, I could not bear it, what can I do. Your sisters grow older each year, but why does aunt blame me? She says I just exist to fill my belly with two square meals a day, why can’t I find them a pair of husbands. Tell me, I can give up my food but will that find them the needed husbands or help them shed the years? The ones who do not have husbands are happily eating their fill! Shaila, do you remember what you read in the Kumarshambhava?

স্বয়ং বিশীর্ণদ্রুমপর্ণবৃত্তিতা

পরা হি কাষ্ঠা তপসস্তয়া পুনঃ।

তদপ্যপাকীর্ণমতঃ প্রিয়ংবদাং

বদন্ত্যপর্ণেতি চ তাং পুরাবিদঃ।

Well brother, Durga gave up food and drink and meditated to find a husband for herself; but what kind of justice is it to deprive an old man like me of his food because my granddaughters cannot be married off? Shaila, you must remember this?

তদপ্যপাকীর্ণমতঃ প্রিয়ংবদাং–

Shailabala: I remember, but Kalidasa is not what I need at this moment.

Rashik: Then these are the worst of times indeed.

To read Part One:

https://animikha.wordpress.com/2015/04/30/%E0%A6%9A%E0%A6%BF%E0%A6%B0%E0%A6%95%E0%A7%81%E0%A6%AE%E0%A6%BE%E0%A6%B0-%E0%A6%B8%E0%A6%AD%E0%A6%BE-chirokumar-sabhasociety-for-the-eternally-unmarried/

Rabindranath Tagore and the recent interest in his ‘love life’

This is my translation of an article in Anandabazar Patrika in Kolkata. The link is given below.

http://www.anandabazar.com/editorial/bengalis-do-not-want-to-understand-rabindranath-never-understood-him-1.151521#.VWcD3ATYQBI.facebook

Regardless of whether Bengalis read Rabindranath Tagore’s work with attention or not, lately curiosity in Rabindranath as a person has flared up. This eagerness has recently found a new focus. This is what might be described as Tagore’s ‘love life.’ One notices a lot of discussion, writing, serialized accounts and films that deal with this. There is no point rueing this eagerness. Rabindranath never labelled himself an ascetic of any sort. But one must look into the recent phenomenon affecting Bengalis, namely their overwhelming interest in Tagore’s ‘love life.’ It is worth considering what Tagore has been reduced to in this cyclical waxing and waning.

One might describe this current uproar over Tagore’s loves as an ‘opposing reaction.’ He was the founder of the school at Santiniketan and his robed and bearded appearance as Gurudev is the image most Bengalis think of. Many adore him, almost as an otherworldly presence. They feel that it is utter sacrilege to even think about his love life. They keep their Tagore safe by judging his love poems through abstract comparisons and in the guise of philosophical discussions of the infinite. Perhaps this hysteria regarding the purity of Tagore was once so great in Bengali society that we are now seeing an opposing reaction to it. Marketability plays a big role here. The personal life of the poet is now a top billed item in the market. During his life he was not bereft of female company. Many people from near and far were keen to be in the company of the talented, good humoured and handsome poet and there were women among this devoted following. Neither was he averse to life. The life of a man who once wished to experience life in all its diversity has today become a subject of stories of mere physical attraction at the hands of contemporary purveyors of Bengali culture; this is hardly surprising seeing that today’s Bengali culture has blossomed as a opposing reaction to the past. The names of Kadambari, Ocampo and Ranu are heard again and again. Especially that of Kadambari owing to her suicide. Bengalis do not have the mental fortitude to take part in a great tragedy but on the whole they have a great inclination and interest in light melodrama. That need has been fulfilled by the relationship between Tagore and Kadambari. This is a sign of two complementary traits seen in Bengalis. Firstly, Bengalis are not aware of appropriateness and hence secondly, they have no empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel the same feelings as someone else. One must have empathy to understand and know another person and this is helped by having some idea about the person we need to understand. One has to study deeply and learn much for that. In the West a lot of work has been done on the personal lives of famous thinkers but at present Bengal lacks even the smallest part of the effort, intelligence and imagination that is at work in those ventures. Tagore had wished to make imagination a partner to empathy. This imagination is characterised by the ability to be as another or the desire to do so. One must first understand the other. If one studies Tagore’s life and reads his work with attention to detail, one can see how he attempted all through his life to especially honour the equation between men and women. Tagore never denied that physical attraction is ever present in the relationships between men and women and within the human heart. He singled out his predecessor Vidyasagar for special praise because Vidyasagar recognised that a widow’s body did not turn to stone simply because her husband passed away. Tagore was thus different from the ‘path of selfless sacrifice’ adherents of the nineteenth and twentieth century who declared that this natural desire for physical love was to be suppressed for the sake of society and country. Bankim Chandra decreed in ‘Mrinalini’ and later in ‘Anandamath’ that personal feelings of love were to be locked away so that one might serve the country. But Tagore did not sacrifice Ela and Antu’s love for the sake of the country in his novel ‘Char Adhyay’.

He believed that a woman’s self esteem played a very important role in marital relations and that this self esteem was not found only in educated women living in cities but in all self aware women, no matter what their economic background. In his story ‘Shasti’ or Punishment, it is this self respect that gives the wrongfully blamed Chandara the strength to refuse a meeting with her accuser and husband Chidam before she is hanged. It was self respect again that gave the rural woman Mrinal the courage to leave her husband’s home (Streer Potro).

Tagore did not merely wish to define and construct a new language for femininity; he created a new definition for masculinity as well. His ideal male does not occupy a woman but rather attempts to understand women through his own pliant humanity. Nikhilesh of ‘Ghawrey Bairey’ and Madhusudan of ‘Jogajog’ are noteworthy in this respect.

It is only natural that he who placed such importance on the mutually sympathetic understanding in relationships between men and women would himself become a person trusted by women in his personal life at a time when not understanding the female mind was the rule. He had relationships with various people such as Ranu, Kadambari and Ocampo. Those relationships differed in both importance and significance. Kadambari’s death made Tagore grow as a writer and the memories surrounding her death have returned again and again in many of his writings. And yet he is seen as a loving and dutiful husband to Mrinalini. Various women who were spellbound by his qualities came into his life after Mrinalini’s death. These human interactions all enriched his life. Our minds seek varied experiences. It is as though he enjoyed that variety of experience through his varied relationships. He never insulted anyone’s self respect.

The average Bengali is happy enough with their success in reducing the great to their own stature. But the act of reducing everyone to one’s own measurements without attempting to understand them is in fact a form of terrorism. If we persist in the terrorist act of pulling everyone down to our level, the stature of the Bengali people will keep lessening till we are able one day to sit on the kerb and still find our feet swinging in the air.

নিঃস্বার্থ প্রেম / Selfless Love Part 1

নিঃস্বার্থ প্রেম

দেখো ভাই, সেদিন আমার বাস্তবিক কষ্ট হয়েছিল। অনেকদিন পরে তুমি বিদেশ থেকে এলে;  আমরা গিয়ে জিজ্ঞাসা করলুম। “আমাদের কি মনে পড়ত?’ তুমি ঠোঁটে একটু হাসি, চোখে একটু ভ্রূকুটি করে বললে, “মনে পড়বে না কেন? উত্তরটা শুনেই তো আমার মাথায় একেবারে বজ্রাঘাত হল; নিতান্ত দুঃসাহসে ভর করে সংকুচিত স্বরে আর-একবার জিজ্ঞাসা করলুম, “অনেক দিন পরে এসে আমাদের কেমন লাগছে।?’ তুমি আশ্চর্য ও বিরক্তিময় স্বরে অথচ ভদ্রতার মিষ্টহাসিটুকু রেখে বললে, “কেন, খারাপ লাগবার কী কারণ আছে?’ আর সাহস হল না। ও-রকম প্রশ্ন জিজ্ঞাসা করা আর হল না। বিদেশে গিয়ে অবধি তুমি আমাকে দু-তিনখানা বৈ চিঠি লেখ নি, সেজন্য আমার মনে মনে একটুখানি অভিমান ছিল। বড়ো সাধ ছিল, সেই কথাটা নিয়ে হেসে হেসে অথচ আন্তরিক কষ্টের সঙ্গে, ঠাট্টা করে অথচ গম্ভীরভাবে একটুখানি খোঁটা দেব’, কিন্তু তোমার ভাব দেখে, তোমার ভদ্রতার অতিমিষ্ট হাসি দেখে তোমার কথার স্বর শুনে আমার অভিমানের মূল পর্যন্ত শুকিয়ে গেল। তখন আমিও প্রশ্নের ভাব পরিবর্তন করলুম। জিজ্ঞাসা করলুম, “যে দেশে গিয়েছিল সে দেশের জল-বাতাস নাকি বড়ো গরম? সে দেশের লোকেরা নাকি মস্ত মস্ত পাগড়ি পরে, আর তামাক খাওয়াকে ভারি পাপ মনে করে? এখান থেকে সেকেণ্ড ক্লাসে সেখেনে যেতে কত ভাড়া লাগে?’ এইরকম করে তোমার কাছ থেকে সেদিন অনেক জ্ঞান লাভ করে বাড়ি ফিরে এয়েছিলুম! তোমার আচরণ দেখে দুঃখ প্রকাশ করেছিলুম শুনে তুমি লিখেছ যে, “প্রথমত আমার যতদূর মনে পড়ে তাতে আমি যে তোমার ওপর কোনো প্রকার কুব্যবহার করেছিলুম, তা তো মনে হয় না। দ্বিতীয়ত, যদি-বা তোমার কতকগুলি প্রশ্নের ভালোরকম উত্তর না দিয়ে দু-চার কথা বলে উড়িয়ে দিয়ে থাকি, তাতেই বা আমার দোষ কী? সে রকম প্রশ্ন জিজ্ঞাসা করবারই বা তোমার কি আবশ্যক ছিল?’ তোমার প্রথম কথার কোনো উত্তর দেওয়া যায় না। সত্যই তো, তুমি আমার সঙ্গে কোনো কু-ব্যবহারই কর নি। যতগুলি কথা জিজ্ঞাসা করেছিলুম, সকলগুলিরই তুমি একটা-না-একটা উত্তর দিয়েছিলে, তা ছাড়া হেসেও ছিলে, গল্পও করেছিলে। তোমার কোনোরকম দোষ দেওয়া যায় না। কিন্তু তবু তুমি আমার সঙ্গে ভালো ব্যবহার কর নি; সে তোমাকে বা আর কাউকে আমি বোঝাতে পারব না সুতরাং তার আর বাহুল্য উল্লেখ করব না। দ্বিতীয় কথাটি হচ্ছে, কেন তোমাকে ও-রকম প্রশ্ন জিজ্ঞাসা করেছিলুম। আচ্ছা ভাই তোমার তো হৃদয় আছে, একবার তুমিই বিবেচনা করে দেখো না– কেন জিজ্ঞাসা করেছিলুম। তোমার ভালোবাসার উপর সন্দেহ হয়েছিল বলেই কি তোমাকে জিজ্ঞাসা করেছিলুম, যে, “আমাদের কি মনে পড়ত’ কিংবা “আমাদের কি ভালো লাগছে’, না তোমার ভালোবাসার ওপর সন্দেহ তিলমাত্র ছিল না বলেই জিজ্ঞাসা করেছুলম? যদি স্বপ্নেও জানতুম যে, আমাকে তোমার মনে পড়ত না, কিংবা আমাকে তোমার ভালো লাগছে না, তা হলে কী ও-রকমের কোনো প্রশ্ন উত্থাপন করতুম। তোমার মুখে শোনবার ভারি ইচ্ছা ছিল যে, বিদেশে আমাকে তোমার প্রায়ই মনে পড়ত। কেবলমাত্র ওই কথাটুকু নয়, ওই কথা থেকে তোমার আরও কত কথা মনে আসত। আমার বড়ো ইচ্ছা ছিল যে, তুমি বলবে– “অমুক জায়গায় আমি একটি সুন্দর উপত্যকা দেখলুম; সেখেনে একটি নির্ঝর বয়ে যাচ্ছিল, জায়গাটা দেখেই মনে হল, আহা ভা– যদি এখানে থাকত তা হলে তার বড়ো ভালো লাগত!’ একটা ছোটো প্রশ্ন থেকে এইরকম কত উত্তরই শুনতে পাবার সম্ভাবনা ছিল। যখন প্রশ্নটি জিজ্ঞাসা করেছিলুম তখন মনের ভিতর এইরকম অনেক কথা চাপা ছিল!

আমি তোমার কাছে দুঃখ করবার জন্যে এ চিঠিটা লিখছি নে; কিংবা তোমার কাছে অভিমান করাও আমার উদ্দেশ্য নয়! আমি ভাই, কোনো কোনো লোকের মতো ঢাক ঢোল বাজিয়ে অভিমান করতে পারি নে; যার প্রতি অভিমান করেছি, তার কাছে গিয়ে “ওগো আমি অভিমান করেছি গো, আমি অভিমান করেছি’ বলে হাঁকাহাঁকি করতেও ভালোবাসি নে। যদি আমি অভিমান করি তো সে মনে মনে। আমার অভিমানের অশ্রু কেউ কখনো দেখতে পায় না, আমার অভিমানের কথাও কেউ কখনো শোনে নি; অভিমান আমার কাছে এমনই গোপনের সামগ্রী। তাই বলছি তোমার কাছে আজ অমি অভিমান করতে বসি নি। তোমার সঙ্গে আমার কতকগুলি তর্ক আছে, তার মীমাংসা করতে আমার ভারি ইচ্ছে।

তোমার সমস্ত চিঠিটার ভাব দেখে এই মনে হল যে তোমার মতে যারা নিঃস্বার্থ ভালোবাসে তারা আর ভালোবাসা ফেরত পাবার আশা করে না। যেখানে ভালোবাসার বদলে ভালোবাসা পাবার আশা আছে সেইখানেই স্বার্থপরতা আছে। এ সম্বন্ধে তোমাকে একটি কথা বলি শোনো। আমরা অনেক সময়ে ভালো করে অর্থ না বুঝে অনেক কথা ব্যবহার করে থাকি। মুখে মুখে কথাগুলো এমন চলিত, এমন পুরোনো , হয়ে যায় যে, সেগুলো আমরা কানে শুনি বটে কিন্তু মনে বুঝি নে, নিঃস্বার্থ ভালোবাসা কথাটাও বোধ করি সেইরকম একটা কিছু হবে। যখন আমরা শুনে যাই তখন আমরা কিছুই বুঝি নে, একটু পীড়াপীড়ি করে বোঝাতে বললে হয়তো দশজনে দশ রকম ব্যাখ্যা করি। স্বার্থপরতা কথা সচরাচর আমরা কী অর্থে ব্যবহার করে থাকি? আহার করা বা স্নান করাকে কি স্বার্থপরতা অতএব নিন্দনীয় বলে? আহার না করা বা স্নান না করাকে কি নিঃস্বার্থপরতা অতএব প্রশংসনীয় বলে? মূল অর্থ ধরতে গেলে আহার বা স্নান করাকে স্বার্থপরতা বলা যায় বৈকি? কিন্তু চলিত অর্থে তাকে স্বার্থপরতা বলে না। সকল মানুষই মনে মনে এমন সামঞ্জস্যবাদী, যে, যখন বলা হল যে, “আহার করা ভালো’ তখন কেউ এমন বোঝেন না, বিরাম বিশ্রাম না দিয়ে ২৪ ঘণ্টার মধ্যে ছাব্বিশ ঘণ্টাই আহার করা ভালো। তেমনি যখন আমরা স্বার্থপরতা কথা ব্যবহার করি, তখন কেউ মনে করে না যে, নিশ্বাস গ্রহণ করা স্বার্থপরতা বা বাতাস খাওয়া স্বার্থপরতা। যা-কিছু পঙ্কজ তাকে যেমন পঙ্কজ বলে না, যা কিছু অচল তাকে যেমন অচল বলে না, তেমনি যা-কিছু স্বার্থপরতা তাকেই স্বার্থপরতা বলে না। খাওয়াদাওয়াকে স্বার্থপরতা বলে না, কিন্তু যে ব্যক্তি কেবলমাত্র খাওয়াদাওয়া করে আর কিছু করে না, কিংবা যার খাওয়াদাওয়াই বেশি, পরের জন্য কোনো কাজ অতি যৎসামান্য, তাকে স্বার্থপর বলা যায়। আবার তার চেয়ে স্বার্থপর হচ্ছে যারা পরের মুখের গ্রাস কেড়ে নিজে খায়। এ ছাড়া আর কোনো অর্থে, কোনো ভাবে স্বার্থপর কথা ব্যবহার করা হয় না। তা যদি হয় তা হলে নিঃস্বার্থ ভালোবাসা বলতে কী বুঝায়? যদি মূল অর্থ ধর তাহলে ভালোবাসC স্বার্থপরতা। যখন এক জনকে দেখতে ভালো লাগে, তার কথা শুনতে ভালো লাগে, তার কাছে থাকতে ভালো লাগে ও সেইসঙ্গে সঙ্গে তাকে না দেখলে, তার কথা না শুনলে ও তার কাছে না থাকলে কষ্ট হয়, তার সুখ হলে আমি সুখী হই, তার দুঃখ হলে আম দুঃখী হই, তখন অতগুলো ভাবের সম্মিলনকেই ভালোবাসা বলে। ভালোবাসার আর-একাট উপাদান হচ্ছে, সে আমাকে ভালো বাসুক, অর্থাৎ তার চোখে আমি সর্বাংশে প্রীতিজনক হই এই বাসনা। ভেবে দেখতে গেলে এর মধ্যে সকলগুলিই স্বার্থপরতা। এতগুলি স্বার্থপরতার সমষ্টি থেকে একটি স্বার্থপরতা বাদ দিলেই কি বাকিটুকু নিঃস্বার্থ হয়ে দাঁড়ায়? কিন্তু যেটিকে বাদ দেওয়া হল সেটি অন্যান্যগুলির চেয়ে কী এমন বেশি অপরাধ করেছে? তা ছাড়া এর মধ্যে কোনোটাকেই বাদ দেওয়া যায় না। এর একটি যখন নেই তখন বোঝা গেল যে, যথার্থ ভালোবাসাই নেই। যাকে তোমার  দেখতে ভালো লাগে না, যার কথা শুনতে ইচ্ছে করে না, যার কাছে থাকতে মন যায় না তাকে যদি ভালোবাসা সম্ভব হয় তা হলেই যার ভালোবাসা পেতে ইচ্ছে করে না তাকে ভালোবাসাও সম্ভব হয়। যাকে দেখতে শুনতে ও যার কাছে থাকতে ভালো লাগে, কোনো কোনো ব্যক্তি দুদিন তাকে দেখতে শুনতে না পেলে ও তার কাছে না থাকলে তাকে ভুলে যায় ও তার ওপর থেকে তার ভালোবাসা চলে যায়, তেমনি আবার যার ভালোবাসা পেতে ইচ্ছে করে তার ভালোবাসা না পেলেই কোনো কোনো ব্যক্তির ভালোবাসা তার কাছ থেকে দূর হয়; তাদের সম্বন্ধে এই বলা যায় যে, তাদের গভীররূপে ভালোবাসার ক্ষমতা নেই।

****

SELFLESS LOVE

My friend, you know I was really quite pained the other day. You returned from overseas after a long time; we went and asked,’Did you often think of us?’ You kept a little smile on your lips and a little frown about your eyes as you answered, ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ The answer filled me with immediate dread; but I still persisted bravely and asked in a small voice, ‘How do you feel. seeing us after all this time?’ You answered in an amazed but irritated tone, all the while with that polite smile in place, ‘Why? Why should I dislike you?’ I did not dare to go any further. I could not ask any more of those questions. I had a felt little disappointed because you never wrote more than two or three letters to me from overseas. I had greatly hoped to be able to raise the topic, tempering it with laughter but genuine sadness, to jest a little but also to make  the pain I felt clear to you. But your manner, your polite, excessively sweet smile and the tone of your voice made that disappointment wither right away. I also changed the questions I was going to ask. I asked questions such as, ‘Is it true that the land you visited is very hot? Apparently the people there wear huge turbans and have restrictions on the use of tobacco? How much does a second class fare cost from here to there?’ I gained much knowledge from you through these questions and came home. When you heard that I was hurt by your behaviour you wrote, ‘Firstly I do not recall having behaved badly with you. Secondly, if I did ignore some of your questions and talk about other things, what is wrong with that? Why did you have to ask those questions?’ I have nothing to say to your first comment. Truly, you did not treat me badly. You answered all the questions I asked in a manner of speaking and you also smiled and chatted. You cannot be blamed. Yet you did not behave well with me; I will not be able to convince you or anyone else of that so I will not mention it. Secondly, why was it that I asked those questions? Well, you have a soul, why do you not think about why I might have done that. Did I ask you, ‘Did you think of us?’ or ‘How do you like us now?’, only because I suspected the strength of your affections or because I had not the tiniest doubt about your love. If I had imagined even in my dreams that you did not think of me or that you did not like me, would I have asked that question? I wanted so much to hear that you remembered me often while you were away. Not just that, so many other things would have been remembered as a result. I had wanted so much that you woul have said, ‘I saw a beautiful valley in a certain place; there was a waterfall there and when I saw the place I immediately thought, if only Bha_ had been here, he would have truly loved the place!’ One little question could have led to the possibility of so many answers. These were the things that were hidden in my mind when I had asked the questions.

I am not writing to you to express my sadness; nor is it my aim to manipulate you with my disappointment. I cannot make a show out of these feelings like some people do; I do not like going to the person against whom I have a grievance and create an uproar over my disappointment.

If I am disappointed that is all internal. My disappointment is such a private matter that no one has ever seen my tears of angst or heard my words of pain;  That is why I am telling you I am not here for recriminations. I have a few points to resolve with you and I am keen to do that.

The tone of your entire letter makes me think that those who love selflessly like you never hope for any love in return. Wherever love is expected in return for love, there is selfishness. Let me say something to you about this. We often use many words without understanding their meanings. The words become so ordinary, so jaded, that we hear them but we do not understand them with our minds, I think selfless love is one of those phrases too. When we hear it we understand nothing, when pressed for the meaning we end up with different meanings from different people. How do we use the word selfishness usually? Are feeding or bathing acts of selfishness and thus worth censure? Should abstaining from feeding or bathing be thus considered praiseworthy? If you think of the true meaning, feeding and bathing are both acts of selfishness. But we do not call them selfish acts in day to day speech. Every human is so uniform in their way of thinking that when they hear it said that ‘Feeding is good’, no one understands it to mean that one must feed all through the twenty four hours of the day. Similarly when we use the word selfishness, no one thinks that breathing is selfishness or going for some fresh air is selfishness.  Just as not everything born in mud is not a lotus and not every un-moving object is a mountain, not every kind of selfishness is not to described as selfish. Eating itself is not selfish, but the person who only eats at the exclusion of other activities or the one who eats in excess and does little for others; such a person is selfish. Even more selfish than this is the individual who snatches another’s food for himself. This is the only manner in which the word selfish is used. If this is true, then what is selfless love? If one thinks of its true meaning love is also a selfish act. When we like to see someone, hear their words, be near them and at the same time feel bad if we cannot see them, hear their words and be near them; when we are happy at their happiness and saddened by their sorrow, when all these feelings come together, it is love. Another ingredient of love is the other person should love me, which means that I should be pleasing in every way to them. And thus, all of these become imbued with selfishness. Does the act become unselfish as soon as one of the components is removed? But how is one of the many things to be blamed more than the others? In any case, nothing can be left out. Removing any one makes this less than true love. If you do not like seeing someone, nor like hearing their words, nor wish to be near them at all times – if it is still possible to love that person then it is also possible to love the person whose love we do not crave.  When one likes to see and be near someone, but forgets them if they do not see or hear them for a short period of absence and stop loving them, or stop loving the object of their affections simply because they do not love one back, it can be safely said that they are incapable of loving deeply.

গীতাঞ্জলি ১০৮: হে মোর দুর্ভাগা দেশ, যাদের করেছ অপমান/ Geetanjali 108: Hey More Durbhaaga Desh/ Geetanjali 108: My unfortunate land, those that you have daily disdained,

হে মোর দুর্ভাগা দেশ, যাদের করেছ অপমান,

অপমানে হতে হবে তাহাদের সবার সমান!

             মানুষের অধিকারে

             বঞ্চিত করেছ যারে,

সম্মুখে দাঁড়ায়ে রেখে তবু কোলে দাও নাই স্থান,

অপমানে হতে হবে তাহাদের সবার সমান।

মানুষের পরশেরে প্রতিদিন ঠেকাইয়া দূরে

ঘৃণা করিয়াছ তুমি মানুষের প্রাণের ঠাকুরে।

              বিধাতার রুদ্ররোষে

              দুর্ভিক্ষের দ্বারে বসে

ভাগ করে খেতে হবে সকলের সাথে অন্নপান।

অপমানে হতে হবে তাহাদের সবার সমান।    

তোমার আসন হতে যেথায় তাদের দিলে ঠেলে

সেথায় শক্তিরে তব নির্বাসন দিলে অবহেলে।

              চরণে দলিত হয়ে

              ধুলায় সে যায় বয়ে

সে নিম্নে নেমে এসো, নহিলে নাহি রে পরিত্রাণ।

অপমানে হতে হবে আজি তোরে সবার সমান।      

যারে তুমি নীচে ফেল সে তোমারে বাঁধিবে যে নীচে

পশ্চাতে রেখেছ যারে সে তোমারে পশ্চাতে টানিছে।

              অজ্ঞানের অন্ধকারে

              আড়ালে ঢাকিছ যারে

তোমার মঙ্গল ঢাকি গড়িছে সে ঘোর ব্যবধান।

অপমানে হতে হবে তাহাদের সবার সমান।    

শতেক শতাব্দী ধরে নামে শিরে অসম্মানভার,

মানুষের নারায়ণে তবুও কর না নমস্কার।

              তবু নত করি আঁখি

              দেখিবারে পাও না কি

নেমেছে ধুলার তলে হীন পতিতের ভগবান,

অপমানে হতে হবে সেথা তোরে সবার সমান।

দেখিতে পাও না তুমি মৃত্যুদূত দাঁড়ায়েছে দ্বারে,

অভিশাপ আঁকি দিল তোমার জাতির অহংকারে।

              সবারে না যদি ডাক’,

              এখনো সরিয়া থাক’,

আপনারে বেঁধে রাখ’ চৌদিকে জড়ায়ে অভিমান–

মৃত্যুমাঝে হবে তবে চিতাভস্মে সবার সমান।

  ২০ আষাঢ়, ১৩১৭

lot-23-tagore-untitled-four-figures

Unfortunate land

 

My unfortunate land, those that you have daily disdained,

One day you must find yourself equal to them.

And those from whom you have withheld

The very right to a human existence,

Making them stand by and watch your uncaring gaze

You will be pulled down till you are on their plane.

Denying yourself the kindness of human touch

Daily you have defiled the spirit within the human soul.

One day the terrible anger of fate

Will make certain that famine

Will force you to fight for your share of what others throw to you.

You will be their equal in every way.

Where you banished them, far from your throne

There sits your strength, lost forever.

Crushed underfoot

It languishes in cruel dust –

You must descend to that depth, if you wish to save yourself.

That day you must become equal to them all.

The one that you have cast down, they will pull you into the abyss

The ones you left behind hold you back with all their might.

In the darkness of ignorance

Remain those that you discarded.

But that blight grows covering the way to redemption,

You will be their equal in shamed existence.

Centuries of shame have forced your head down

But still you will not honour the living gods

Still you do not lower your eyes

Do you never see?

There on the dust sits the god of the meek.

There, where you must become their equal in every way.

Do you not see that messenger of death

That stands at your door marking it with a curse?

If you do not call them all,

But keep them removed and apart,

Harshly distancing them with pride.

In death your ashes shall equally mingle with theirs.

চিরকুমার সভা/ Chirokumar Sabha/Society for The Eternally Unmarried

গান

যারে       মরণদশায় ধরে

সে যে শতবার করে মরে।

পোড়া পতঙ্গ যত পোড়ে তত

আগুনে ঝাঁপিয়ে পড়ে।

প্রথম অঙ্ক

প্রথম দৃশ্য

অক্ষয়ের বৈঠকখানা

অক্ষয় ও পুরবালা

পুরবালা।

তোমার নিজের বোন হলে দেখতুম কেমন চুপ করে বসে থাকতে। এত দিনে এক-একটির তিনটি-চারটি করে পাত্র জুটিয়ে আনতে। ওরা আমার বোন কিনা–

অক্ষয়।

মানবচরিত্রের কিছুই তোমার কাছে লুকোনো নেই। নিজের বোনে এবং স্ত্রীর বোনে যে কত প্রভেদ তা এই কাঁচা বয়সেই বুঝে নিয়েছ। তা ভাই, শ্বশুরের কোনো কন্যাটিকেই পরের হাতে সমর্পণ করতে কিছুতেই মন সরে না– এ বিষয়ে আমার ঔদার্যের অভাব আছে তা স্বীকার করতে হবে।

পুরবালা।

দেখো, তোমার সঙ্গে আমার একটা বন্দোবস্ত করতে হচ্ছে।

অক্ষয়।

একটা চিরস্থায়ী বন্দোবস্ত তো মন্ত্র পড়ে বিবাহের দিনেই হয়ে গেছে, আবার আর একটা!

পুরবালা।

ওগো, এটা তত ভয়ানক নয়। এটা হয়তো তেমন অসহ্য না হতেও পারে।

অক্ষয়।

সখী, তবে খুলে বলো।

গান

কী জানি কী ভেবেছ মনে

খুলে বলো ললনে।

কী কথা হায় ভেসে যায় ওই

ছলছল নয়নে।

পুরবালা।

ওস্তাদজি, থামো। আমার প্রস্তাব এই যে দিনের মধ্যে একটা সময় ঠিক করো যখন তোমার ঠাট্টা বন্ধ থাকবে, যখন তোমার সঙ্গে দুটো-একটা কাজের কথা হতে পারবে।

অক্ষয়।

গরিবের ছেলে, স্ত্রীকে কথা বলতে দিতে ভরসা হয় না, পাছে খপ্‌ করে বাজুবন্ধ চেয়ে বসে।

গান

পাছে    চেয়ে বসে আমার মন

আমি    তাই ভয়ে ভয়ে থাকি।

পাছে    চোখে চোখে পড়ে বাঁধা

আমি   তাই তো তুলি নে আঁখি।

পুরবালা।

তবে যাও।

অক্ষয়।

না না, রাগারাগি না। আচ্ছা, যা বল তাই শুনব। খাতায় নাম লিখিয়ে তোমার ঠাট্টানিবারণী সভার সভ্য হব। তোমার সামনে কোনো রকমের বেয়াদবি করব না। তা, কী কথা হচ্ছিল। শ্যালীদের বিবাহ। উত্তম প্রস্তাব।

পুরবালা।

দেখো, এখন বাবা নেই। মা তোমারই মুখ চেয়ে আছেন। তোমারই কথা শুনে এখনো তিনি বেশি বয়স পর্যন্ত মেয়েদের লেখাপড়া শেখাচ্ছেন। এখন যদি সৎপাত্র না জুটিয়ে দিতে পার তা হলে কী অন্যায় হবে ভেবে দেখো দেখি।

অক্ষয়।

আমি তো তোমাকে বলেইছি তোমরা কোনো ভাবনা কোরো না। আমার শ্যালীপতিরা গোকুলে বাড়ছেন।

পুরবালা।

গোকুলটি কোথায়।

অক্ষয়।

যেখান থেকে এই হতভাগ্যকে তোমার গোষ্ঠে ভর্তি করেছ। আমাদের সেই চিরকুমার-সভা।

পুরবালা।

প্রজাপতির সঙ্গে তাদের যে লড়াই।

অক্ষয়।

দেবতার সঙ্গে লড়াই করে পারবে কেন। তাঁকে কেবল চটিয়ে দেয় মাত্র। সেইজন্যে ভগবান প্রজাপতির বিশেষ ঝোঁক ঐ সভাটার উপরেই। সরা-চাপা হাঁড়ির মধ্যে মাংস যেমন গুমে গুমে সিদ্ধ হতে থাকে প্রতিজ্ঞার মধ্যে চাপা থেকে সভ্যগুলিও একেবারে হাড়ের কাছ পর্যন্ত নরম হয়ে উঠেছেন, দিব্যি বিবাহযোগ্য হয়ে এসেছেন– এখন পাতে দিলেই হয়। আমিও তো এক কালে ঐ সভার সভাপতি ছিলুম।

পুরবালা।

তোমার কী রকম দশাটা হয়েছিল।

অক্ষয়।

সে আর কী বলব। প্রতিজ্ঞা ছিল স্ত্রী শব্দ পর্যন্ত মুখে উচ্চারণ করব না, কিন্তু শেষকালে এমনি হল যে মনে হত শ্রীকৃষ্ণের ষোলো-শো গোপিনী যদি বা সম্প্রতি দুষ্প#f হন অন্তত মহাকালীর চৌষট্টি হাজার যোগিনীর সন্ধান পেলেও একবার পেট ভরে প্রেমালাপটা করে নিই– ঠিক সেই সময়টাতেই তোমার সঙ্গে সাক্ষাৎ হল আর-কি!

পুরবালা।

চৌষট্টি হাজারের শখ মিটল?

অক্ষয়।

সে আর তোমার মুখের সামনে বলব না। জাঁক হবে। তবে ইশারায় বলতে পারি, মা কালী দয়া করেছেন বটে।

পুরবালা।

তবে আমিও বলি, বাবা ভোলানাথের নন্দীভৃঙ্গীর অভাব ছিল না, আমাকে বুঝি তিনি দয়া করেছিলেন।

অক্ষয়।

তা হতে পারে, সেইজন্যেই কার্তিকটি পেয়েছ।

পুরবালা।

আবার ঠাট্টা শুরু হল?

অক্ষয়।

কার্তিকের কথাটা বুঝি ঠাট্টা? গা ছুঁয়ে বলছি, ওটা আমার অন্তরের বিশ্বাস।

শৈলবালার প্রবেশ

শৈলবালা।

মুখুজ্জেমশায়, এইবার তোমার ছোটো দুটি শ্যালীকে রক্ষা করো।

অক্ষয়।

যদি অরক্ষণীয়া হয়ে থাকেন তো আমি আছি। ব্যাপারটা কী।

শৈলবালা।

মার কাছে তাড়া খেয়ে রসিকদাদা কোথা থেকে একজোড়া কুলীনের ছেলে এনে হাজির করেছেন, মা স্থির করেছেন তাদের সঙ্গেই তাঁর দুই মেয়ের বিবাহ দেবেন।

অক্ষয়।

ওরে বাস রে। একেবারে বিয়ের এপিডেমিক। প্লেগের মতো। এক বাড়িতে একসঙ্গে দুই কন্যেকে আক্রমণ। ভয় হয় পাছে আমাকেও ধরে!

গান

বড়ো থাকি কাছাকাছি,

তাই ভয়ে ভয়ে আছি।

নয়ন বচন কোথায় কখন বাজিলে বাঁচি না-বাঁচি।

শৈলবালা।

এই কি তোমার গান গাবার সময় হল।

অক্ষয়।

কী করব ভাই। রোশনচৌকি বাজাতে শিখি নি, তা হলে ধরতুম। বল কী। শুভকর্ম! দুই শ্যালীর উদ্‌বাহবন্ধন! কিন্তু এত তাড়াতাড়ি কেন।

শৈলবালা।

বৈশাখ মাসের পর আসছে বছরে অকাল পড়বে, আর বিয়ের দিন নেই।

পুরবালা।

তোরা আগে থাকতে ভাবিস কেন শৈল, পাত্র আগে দেখা যাক তো।

জগত্তারিণীর প্রবেশ

জগত্তারিণী।

বাবা অক্ষয়।

অক্ষয়।

কী মা।

জগত্তারিণী।

তোমার কথা শুনে আর তো মেয়েদের রাখতে পারি নে।

শৈলবালা।

মেয়েদের রাখতে পার না বলেই কি মেয়েদের ফেলে দেবে মা।

জগত্তারিণী।

ঐ তো। তোদের কথা শুনলে গায়ে জ্বর আসে। বাবা অক্ষয়, শৈল বিধবা মেয়ে, ওকে এত পড়িয়ে, পাস করিয়ে, কী হবে বলো দেখি। ওর এত বিদ্যের দরকার কী।

অক্ষয়।

মা, শাস্ত্রে লিখেছে, মেয়েমানুষের একটা-না-একটা কিছু উৎপাত থাকা চাই– হয় স্বামী, নয় বিদ্যে, নয় হিস্টিরিয়া। দেখো-না, লক্ষ্মীর আছেন বিষ্ণু, তাঁর আর বিদ্যের দরকার হয় নি, তাই স্বামীটিকে এবং পেঁচাটিকে নিয়েই আছেন; আর সরস্বতীর স্বামী নেই, কাজেই তাঁকে বিদ্যে নিয়ে থাকতে হয়।

জগত্তারিণী।

তা, যা বল বাবা, আসছে বৈশাখে মেয়েদের বিয়ে দেবই।

পুরবালা।

হাঁ মা, আমারও সেই মত। মেয়েমানুষের সকাল সকাল বিয়ে হওয়াই ভালো।

অক্ষয়।

(জনান্তিকে) তা তো বটেই। বিশেষত যখন একাধিক স্বামী শাস্ত্রে নিষেধ তখন সকাল সকাল বিয়ে করে সময়ে পুষিয়ে নেওয়া চাই।

পুরবালা।

আঃ কী বকছ। মা শুনতে পাবেন।

জগত্তারিণী।

রসিককাকা আজ পাত্র দেখাতে আসবেন। তা, চল্‌ মা পুরি, তাদের জলখাবার ঠিক করে রাখিগে।

[ জগত্তারিণী ও পুরবালার প্রস্থান

শৈলবালা।

আর তো দেরি করা যায় না মুখুজ্জেমশায়। এইবার তোমার সেই চিরকুমার-সভার বিপিনবাবু শ্রীশবাবুকে বিশেষ একটু তাড়া না দিলে চলছে না। আহা, ছেলে দুটি চমৎকার। আমাদের নেপো আর নীরর সঙ্গে দিব্যি মানায়। তুমি তো চৈত্রমাস যেতে না-যেতে আপিস ঘাড়ে করে সিমলে যাবে, এবারে মাকে ঠেকিয়ে রাখা শক্ত হবে।

অক্ষয়।

কিন্তু, তাই ব’লে সভাটিকে হঠাৎ অসময়ে তাড়া লাগালে যে চমকে যাবে। ডিমের খোলা ভেঙে ফেললেই কিছু পাখি বেরোয় না। যথোচিত তা দিতে হবে, তাতে সময় লাগে।

শৈলবালা।

বেশ তো, তা দেবার ভার আমি নেব মুখুজ্জেমশায়।

অক্ষয়।

আর-একটু খোলসা করে বলতে হচ্ছে।

শৈলবালা।

ঐ তো দশ নম্বরে ওদের সভা? আমাদের ছাদের উপর দিয়ে দেখন-হাসির বাড়ি পেরিয়ে ওখানে ঠিক যাওয়া যাবে। আমি পুরুষবেশে ওদের সভার সভ্য হব, তার পরে সভা কতদিন টেঁকে আমি দেখে নেব।

অক্ষয়।

তা হলে জন্মটা বদলে নিয়ে আর-একবার সভ্য হব। একবার তোমার দিদির হাতে নাকাল হয়েছি, এবার তোমার হাতে। কুমার হবার সুখটাই ঐ– কটাক্ষবাণগুলোকে লক্ষ্যভেদ করবার সুযোগ দেওয়া যায়।

শৈলবালা।

ছি মুখুজ্জেমশায়, তুমি সেকেলে হয়ে যাচ্ছ। ঐ-সব নয়নবাণ-টান-গুলোর এখন কি আর চলন আছে। যুদ্ধবিদ্যার যে এখন অনেক বদল হয়ে গেছে।

নৃপবালা ও নীরবালার প্রবেশ

নৃপ শান্ত স্নিগ্ধ, নীর তাহার বিপরীত– কৌতুকে এবং চাঞ্চল্যে সে সর্বদাই আন্দোলিত

নীরবালা।

(শৈলকে জড়াইয়া ধরিয়া) মেজদিদিভাই, আজ কারা আসবে বল্‌ তো।

নৃপবালা।

মুখুজ্জেমশায়, আজ কি তোমার বন্ধুদের নিমন্ত্রণ আছে। জলখাবারের আয়োজন হচ্ছে কেন।

অক্ষয়।

ঐ তো! বই পড়ে পড়ে চোখ কানা করলে– পৃথিবীর আকর্ষণে উল্কাপাত কী করে ঘটে সে-সমস্ত লাখ-দুলাখ ক্রোশের খবর রাখ, আর আজ ১৮ নম্বর মধুমিস্ত্রির গলিতে কার আকর্ষণে কে এসে পড়ছে সেটা অনুমান করতেও পারলে না?

নীরবালা।

বুঝেছি ভাই সেজদিদি। তোর বর আসছে ভাই, তাই সকালবেলা আমার বাঁ চোখ নাচছিল।

নৃপবালা।

তোর বাঁ চোখ নাচলে আমার বর আসবে কেন।

নীরবালা।

তা ভাই, আমার বাঁ চোখটা নাহয় তোর বরের জন্যে নেচে নিলে, তাতে আমি দুঃখিত নই। কিন্তু মুখুজ্জেমশায়, জলখাবার তো দুটি লোকের জন্যে দেখলুম, সেজদিদি কি স্বয়ম্বরা হবে নাকি।

অক্ষয়।

আমাদের ছোড়দিদিও বঞ্চিত হবেন না।

নীরবালা।

আহা মুখুজ্জেমশায়, কী সুসংবাদ শোনালে। তোমাকে কী বকশিশ দেব। এই নাও আমার গলার হার, আমার দু হাতের বালা।

শৈলবালা।

আঃ ছি, হাত খালি করিস নে।

নীরবালা।

আজ আমাদের বরের অনারে পড়ার ছুটি দিতে হবে মুখুজ্জেমশায়।

নৃপবালা।

আঃ, কী বর বর করছিস। দেখো তো ভাই মেজদিদি।

অক্ষয়।

ওকে ঐজন্যেই তো বর্বরা নাম দিয়েছি। অয়ি বর্বরে, ভগবান তোমাদের কটি সহোদরাকে এই একটি অক্ষয় বর দিয়ে রেখেছেন, তবু তৃপ্তি নেই?

নীরবালা।

সেইজন্যেই তো লোভ বেড়ে গেছে।

***

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Society of The Eternally Unmarried

Song:

Those that death has gathered near,
They die a hundred times without fear.
The burnt wings of a moth in pain
Seek the flame again and again.

Part I

Scene 1

Akshay and Purobala in Akshay’s living room

Purobala: If this concerned your own sisters I wonder if you would have been so relaxed about everything. You would have found three or four husbands for each of them by now. It is only because these are my sisters –

Akshay: I see that there is little of human nature that can be hidden from you. You have already learned that a man makes a distinction between his own sisters and those of his wife. But have you ever thought that perhaps I am not keen to hand away any of my father-in-law’s daughters to others – I may admit to being a miser at least in this.

Purobala: Look here, I have to come to an arrangement with you.

Akshay: Another one? I thought we already had a permanent lease in place from the day we got married!

Purobala: This one will not be that drastic. Perhaps not even that unbearable?

Akshay: Tell me then, dear madam.

Sings:

 What is it that you think about?

Tell me lovely one

What words are those that float by,

Those glistening windows to your soul.

Purobala: Stop maestro! I propose that you tell me when you can be serious for long enough that I can speak of a few important matters with you.

Akshay: I am but a poor man’s son; what if I let you speak and you end up asking for some expensive jewellery!

Sings:

 “What if you should ask for my heart?

That is why I try to stay apart

What if you entangle me with your eyes?

That is why I do not lift mine to the skies.”

Purobala: Then go away!

Akshay: No, no! Do not get angry. Alright, I will listen to whatever you have to say. I will register myself with your humourless group. I will never put a foot wrong again. What is it that we are discussing? The marriages of my sisters-in-law, a great proposal if there ever was one!

Purobala: Look, we have no father. My mother relies on you for everything. She has been educating her daughters instead of marrying them off only because you said so. It will be a great injustice if you cannot find good matches for them now.

Akshay: I have told you previously that you people must not worry about this. Their husbands are being matured nicely each day

Purobala: Where is it that they are doing this?

Akshay: That same place where you found this wretch to add to your menagerie, The Society for the Eternally Unmarried.

Purobala: But they are at odds with the gods of holy matrimony.

Akshay: Who can win in a fight like that? The gods end up angry. That is why the god of matrimony has special designs on the members of the group. Just as meat cooks best when enclosed in a covered pot, the members too are being pickled gently by their own pledges to the point that they are ripe for the picking – all one has to do is show them a prospective bride.  I was once their convener if you remember?

Purobala: What condition were you in?

Akshay: What can I say? I had pledged that wild horses would not bring me to utter the word wife, but in the end I was so keen that I would have settled on satisfying myself with Kali’s sixty four thousand witches if Krishna’s sixteen hundred milkmaids did not deign to turn up. You turned up at the right moment, so to speak.

Purobala: And the desire for the sixty four thousand was slaked?

Akshay: I won’t tell you. You will get conceited. But yes, the divine mother did grant me what I needed.

Purobala: I must say, Lord Shiva does not have a lack of idle bulls following him about for he must have been the one that took pity on me.

Akshay: Of course, perhaps that is why you were blessed with such a paragon like Kartikeya.

Purobala: Jokes, again?

Akshay: What joke? I was completely sincere about the Kartikeya thing.

Shailabala enters:

Shailabala: Mr Mukherjee, please save your sisters-in-law right now!

Akshay: If they wish to remain unwed I am always game. What is the matter?

Shailabala: Thanks to my mother’s prodding, Rashik has lined up a pair of suitable Kulin boys from somewhere and she has decided that she will marry us off to them.

Akshay: What? A real epidemic is upon us it seems, like the plague. Two daughters afflicted in the same house. What if it infects me as well?

Sings:

I am always so close, my dear,

That is why I must live in fear.

What if a message wrapped in a glance

Should affect me perchance?

Shailabala: Is this a time for songs?

Akshay: What can I do? I never learned to play the shehnai that is so valued at weddings; all I can do is sing. So, when is the happy event then? Two sisters-in-law at one go! But why the hurry?

Shailabala: The time after the first month of the year is inauspicious, there are no more good days.

Purobala: Why are you worrying? Let us see the men first.

Jagattarini enters:

Jagattarini: My dear Akshay.

Akshay: What is it mother?

Jagattarini: I cannot wait any longer for my daughters to get married as you once asked.

Shailabala: Just because you cannot wait should not mean that you throw them away either.

Jagattarini: Listen to that! I feel a fever coming on when I hear you people speak. Akshay, Shaila is a widow, what is the point in educating her and getting her to pass all these degrees? Why does she need all this learning?

Akshay: Mother, it is written in the Scriptures that women must have something to occupy them – their husbands or their education or perhaps hysteria. See how Lakshmi has Vishnu and thus she does not need education, being quite happy with the owl and her husband but Saraswati has no husband and thus must stay busy with learning.

Jagattarini: Well whatever you say, I am getting the girls married at the start of the new year

Purobala: I agree with you Mother. Women should have early marriages.

Akshay: (Sotto voce) Of course, especially since polyandry is forbidden by the old laws, one must make up for lost time by marrying early.

Purobala: Shame on you! My mother will hear you!

Jagattarini: Your uncle Rashik is bringing the grooms along today. Let us go and prepare the refreshments, Poori.

[Jagattarini and Purobala leave]

Shailabala: One cannot tarry any longer Mr. Mukherjee. You must go and stir Bipin and Sreesh from your Society for the Eternally Unmarried. Those two boys are perfect. They will go well with Nepo and Neero. You will leave at the end of the year to manage your official affairs from Simla, who will resist our mother then?

Akshay: But one cannot simply go and stir the members of the Society when one feels like it. Just cracking an egg is no guarantee of the appearance of a bird. One must sit on them for the chicks to hatch; it all takes time.

Shailabala: Well, I will take the responsibility for that.

Akshay: Explain yourself.

Shailabala: The Society is at Number Ten, right? I can go from our roof terrace right across Miss Smile-Never-Reaches-Her-Eyes’ house and enter their domain. I will dress up as a man and join the group. I am sure of success in breaking it up within days.

Akshay: I will give up this life and join again if you do that! Once beaten at your sister’s hands, now I look forward to surrendering to you. That is the great thing about being a bachelor – one can allow the coy pointed glances to reach home.

Shailabala: Shame on you! You are becoming a fuddy duddy! Who cares for meaningfully coy looks these days? The ways of war have changed, dear Sir!

Nripobala and Neerobala enter.

(Nripo is gentle and serene while Neero is just the opposite – she is always animated and amused.)

Neerobala: (Hugging Shaila) Do you know who is coming tonight?

Nripobala: Mr. Mukherjee, are your friends coming tonight? Why is mother preparing refreshments?

Akshay: See! This is what happens when you ruin your eyes with too much reading – you know all about the vast distances between the earth and the meteors that are attracted to it, but you cannot hazard a guess at who is being drawn to whom tonight at Number 18 _ Lane.

Neerobala: Understood! Your husband is coming for you my sister; I knew it when my left eye twitched this morning.

Nripobala: Why should my husband come when your eye is doing the twitching?

Neerobala: Well what if it did? I am not sorry about it at all. But Mr Mukherjee, there is enough food for two people, is she to pick from two candidates as the princesses did in the days of yore?

Akshay: We will not leave you unsatisfied.

Neerobala: Bless you Mr. Mukherjee! What a piece of good news! How may I reward you? Here, you may have both my necklace and my bangles!

Shailabala: Please do not leave your wrists bare, it is bad luck!

Neerobala: You must excuse us from studying tonight if our husbands are coming Mr. Mukherjee.

Nripobala: What is all this husbandry talk! Can you hear how she speaks Sister?

Akshay: That is why I call her a savage. Little savage, why are you not happy with the Akshay(One without decay) boon granted to your family?

Neerobala: That is precisely why my greed has grown.