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  • The Jester: A Short Story by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Palash Baran Pal [Parabaas Translation] : Rabindranath Tagore
    translated from Bengali to English by Palash Baran Pal




    The Jester

    Rabindranath Tagore

    Translated from the Bengali by Palash Baran Pal




    The King of Kanchi invaded Karnat. He won the war. His elephants were laden with sandalwood, ivory, gold and gems.

    On his way home, he offered his prayers at the temple of Baleshwari, flooding it with the blood of sacrficial animals.

    He was coming back from the temple after performing the rites, wearing crimson clothes, garlands of red hibiscus, and red sandal marks on his forehead. Only his minister and the court jester accompanied him.

    At one place he saw some boys playing in a mango orchard.

    The king said to his companions, "Let's see what game they are playing."

    • 2 •

    The boys had arranged some dolls in two rows and were playing a war game.

    The king asked, "Who is fighting whom?"

    They said, "Karnat versus Kanchi."

    The king asked, "Who wins and who loses?"

    The boys said proudly, "Karnat wins, Kanchi loses."

    The minister frowned, the king's eyes reddened, the jester burst into laughter.

    • 3 •

    The boys were still playing when the king came back with his battalion.

    The king ordered, "Tie each of these boys to a tree and whip them thoroughly."

    Their parents came running from the village. They said, "They are young and innocent, they were just playing. Please forgive them."

    The king called his general and said, "Teach this village a lesson so that they can never forget the King of Kanchi."

    And then he retired to his tent.

    • 4 •

    The general came to meet the king in the evening. He bowed and said, "Sire, the only sound that you will hear now in this village would be the cries of the scavenger animals."

    The minister said, "The king's prestige is restored."

    The priest said, "Gods and Goddesses are with the king."

    The jester said, "Sire, allow me to take my leave now."

    The king asked, "Why?"

    The jester said, "I can't stab, I can't kill. By the grace of the God, I can only laugh. I will forget how to laugh if I stay in your court."


    The translator thanks Shoili Pal and Chhanda Chattopadhyay Bewtra for careful reading of an earlier draft.




    Published in Parabaas, May 7, 2021.



    The original, titled [Bidushak, বিদূষক] by Rabindranath Tagore was first published in the Bengali magazine Bharati (ভারতী) in Boishakh, 1329 (April-May, 1922) and later collected in lipikaa (লিপিকা) (`Brief Writings') in August 1922.


    Illustrated by Ananya Das. Ananya Das has authored several books. She is based in Pennsylvania.

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