I met her by sheer chance
In the railway compartment
I never thought it would ever be possible.
Earlier I saw her quite often
Usually dressed in red saris –
As red as a ripe pomegranate
But today I see her in a black silk sari
One end of it she has put on her head
Encasing her lovely face
As lovely as a flower in bloom.
She chose this color
To create an illusion of distance around her
A distance that we see
In the blue tinge of the sal grove
At the far end of a field of mustard.
I was taken aback
I saw one who was familiar
Now unfamiliar and grave.
Putting aside her newspaper
Suddenly she greeted me
The door was opened for communication
I started a conversation –
Like ‘How are you’,
‘How things are going on.’
As if to avoid all touch of familiarity
She kept looking on out of the window.
She gave short answers to my queries
Often she didn’t.
By her restless hands
She gave me to understand –
What is the use of these now
It is better to keep mum.
With her companions
I was sitting on a separate bench
Waving her fingers she beckoned me
To take a seat by her side.
I was surprised by her audacity
And I sat by her side.
Behind the clatter of the train
She told me in a gentle voice,
‘Please don’t mind,
I have no time to waste
I shall get down at the next station;
You will go far
We’ll meet never again.
So the question that has been bothering me so long
I want its answer today.
Will you tell me the truth?’
I told her, ‘Yes, I will.’
Looking at the outside sky she asked,
‘Our days have gone by
But have they gone by once for all?
Does nothing of it remain?’
I kept silent for a while
Then I replied –
‘The stars that shine in the night sky
Remain hidden in the depth of the daylight.’
Then I had my doubts –
What I told her
Was it a fantasy of my mind?
She asked me to go back to my seat
With all her companions
At the next station she got down.
I on my journey went alone.
Translation of the poem Hatath-dekha from the collection Shyamali by Rabindranath Tagore. The original poem in Bengali script may be viewed at