The Zamindar and his Tenants

Before we resume our story of zamindar Rabindranath here are two letters from his Chhninnapatrabali in my translation.
Letter no. 95
10 May, 1893
In the meantime I find that from all around big swollen clouds are gathering – like large thick blotting papers suck colour from a canvas they have sucked away all the burning golden sunlight from my view. If again it starts raining then fie on god Indra! The clouds don’t look lean and poor – like the babus, they look quite plum and healthy. It seems it will start raining soon – the air feels already moist like eyes filled with tears. From the heavenly height of your hill station it is difficult to realize how important down here is this coming and going of sun and rain – how many people are anxiously looking at the sky. As often as I see my poor tenants I am filled with pity – they are like God’s children – so helpless – if God doesn’t kindly feed them with His own hands they have no other means to survive. When mother earth becomes dry they can only cry; they forget everything if somehow they get something to eat. I don’t know if it is possible for the socialists to divide the world’s wealth equally – if it is not then I must say God is very cruel and men are really very unfortunate! Poverty may not be entirely eradicated, yet there must be some scope for the better off people to tirelessly try to help the poor, there must be some hope. It is a very cruel truth indeed to say that even the distribution of the bare necessities most essential for survival is only a mere dream – most people will always live in extreme poverty - there is no other way out. These social problems are so very difficult. What God has granted us is like a short piece of rotten cloth, to cover one side of the world the other side becomes bare – if you want to remove poverty wealth disappears – with the disappearance of wealth also disappear so many beautiful things that wealth has made possible!
But once more there is sunshine, though there are still some clouds in the western sky. And they say, when there are clouds in the west there must be rains.
Letter no. 96
11 May, 1893
Yesterday in the afternoon some clouds gathered and there was some rain, but after some time the sky became clear. Today some stray clouds, like some innocent gentlemen, white in the sunshine, are wandering in the sky. From their look it seems they have no intention to shower – the gods should have also been added to those whom Chanakya in his famous sloka has listed as not to be trusted. But today the morning has begun very beautifully – there is the clear blue sky, not a ripple is in the water of the river and on the slopes of its banks the wet grasses are sparkling in the sun. All these have given the natural surroundings today a look of a glorious goddess basking in the sun in her all-white dress. The morning is so quiet today – I don’t know why, there are no boats in the river, none has come to take water or to bathe at the landing near my boat; the naib has left after finishing his business early – if you pay heed you can hear a hushed sound and gradually the sky and the sunshine enter into your head and fill it up colouring all your thoughts and feelings in blue and gold. At one end of the boat I have brought an easy chair; how I wish to spend the morning reclining my body on that chair! It seems –
I have no past or present,
Like some orphan wild flower
As if I have blossomed in a day.’
As if I am one with the sky, the river and the green earth. Thus I spend my time on the boat. At my leisure I see nature endlessly changing its moods. Here I experience another pleasure. At times some very simple tenant who is very devoted comes to visit me. Their devotion is so genuine, they love us so much that tears well up in my eyes. Just now to visit me a poor aged tenant has come with his son from Kaligram. As if with his soft loving heart he washed my feet. In the Bhagabat Lord Krishna has said that his devotee is greater than him – now I seem to understand its real meaning. In fact this man in his charming simplicity and sincere devotion is far greater than me. It is I who am unworthy of his devotion, but his devotion cannot be something ordinary. Their rustic language, the way they address me endearingly – these are so sweet! My love for these aged children is akin to my love for small children – but there is some difference. The small children will grow up but these people will never do so – in their worn aged body there is a pure simple mind. In the minds of the real children there is simplicity but no such steadfast devotion. Am I worthy to rule over these people? If a spiritual relationship actually exists between men then my well wishes for this man may be of some use to him – moreover, as a zamindar I shall certainly do whatever I can. But all the tenants are not alike, nor can it be expected. Whatever is best is also the rarest – in God’s creation it should not have been so!  
[The second letter ends with a promise that as a zamindar the poet will certainly do whatever he can for his poor tenants. Was it an empty promise given to himself in a moment of emotional outburst of his over-sensitive young mind? Did he remain steadfast in his promise and ultimately kept it?
Incidentally, the roots of his famous poem Sukh, already published in boloji in my translation as Happiness, may be traced here.]

More By  :  Kumud Biswas

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