• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Rabindranath Tagore | Poem
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  • The Cornet - translated from original Bengali poem "Bnashi" : Rabindranath Tagore
    translated from Bengali to English by Nandini Gupta


    Kinu Goala’s i lane.
    Bottom floor of a two-storied house—
    Windows with iron bars open onto the street.
    Rotting walls with peeling plaster,
    Are bespattered with damp-marks.
    Pasted on the door is
    a picture of Ganesh, God of success,
    cut out from longcloth rolls.
    Apart from me, there’s another resident
    Sharing the room and the rent—
    A house lizard.
    His situation a little different –
    He does not want for food.

    The juniormost clerk in a merchant office,
    My salary is twenty five rupees.
    The Duttas give me my meals,
    I tutor their children.
    I spend the evenings at the Sealdah station
    Saving on electricity.
    The chugging of engines,
    The whistling of trains
    The jostling of crowds
    The shouting of coolies.
    Till it turns half past ten
    And I return to my room ---lonely silent dark.

    On the banks of the Dhaleshwari
    is my aunt’s village—
    Her brother-in-law’s daughter
    Was to have married this humble self
    On a truly auspicious moment:
    For at that moment I fled.
    The girl, leastways, was spared, So was I.
    Home she did not come, but ever so often
    Into my mind she comes and goes
    Wearing a dhakai ii sari, and sindoor iii in her hair.

    The rains set in.
    I spend more on tramfare
    Sometimes I lose pay.
    Mango skins and seed,
    Jackfruit pulp
    Fish bones, skin
    Dead kittens
    This, that,
    Accumulate and fester
    In the crannies of the lane.
    My umbrella riddled with holes,
    Begins to resemble my fines-infested salary,
    My work clothes are always misty
    Much like Gopikanto Goshai’s iv mind.
    The shadows of dark clouds creep into the dank room
    And hover paralysed and insensate
    Like an animal in a trap.
    Day and night I feel shackled
    To some half-dead world.

    At the head of the lane lives Kantobabu,
    His long hair carefully brushed
    His eyes large, his ways fine and dandy
    Playing the cornet is his hobby.
    At times, music stirs up the
    Gruesome air in this lane,
    Sometimes at midnight,
    Or in the dawn’s half light
    In the glistening light and shade
    Of a late afternoon.

    Suddenly the notes of sindhu-barwa
    soar into the dusk
    The sky rings
    with the eternal pain and longing of parting.
    And I know at once;
    This lane is but a lie
    Intolerable, as the raving of a lunatic.
    It comes to me then,
    Nothing lies between Badsha Akbar
    and Haripada the clerk.
    The ragged umbrella and the royal parasol
    Both ascend towards the same deliverance
    Perched on the plaintive notes of the cornet.

    Where this music is real: there
    Ever in the twilight, the Dhaleshwari flows on
    Tamal trees cast deep shadows on its banks—
    And there, in the courtyard,
    She waits
    Wearing a dhakai sari, and sindoor in her hair.


    i : Kinu the milkman: The lane probably gets its local name from the milkman plying his business there.
    ii : Traditional sarees from Dhaka, worn commonly by Bengali married women.
    iii : Vermillion worn by Bengali married women on the parting of the hair to indicate her marital status.
    iv : Goshai typically refers to a Vaishnavite, typically immersed in the appreciation of the divine love of Radha and Krishna.

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