Along a gravelly road shaded by shimul trees
The Santal maid comes and goes.
In a coarse sari
Her black slim body is tightly dressed
With ingredients from clouds and lightning
The divine craftsman
Wanted to create a black bird
In an absent mind
He must have created this maid instead.
Her two wings must be concealed within
In her movements in soft light steps
Walking and flying are mixed.
There are red and white shellac bangles
On her young healthy wrists
Carrying a basket full of soil on her head
Up and down she passes along the road
In the air
The swings of her sari’s end
Create an illusion of palash flower
Painting the sky.
The days of poush have come to an end.
In the cold north wind
There is an occasional touch of southern breeze.
The young leaves on the branches of himjhuri trees
Sparkle in the winter sun.
In the pale blue sky
The kites fly far away.
Children scramble under the amlaki tree
Thick with fallen fruits.
The winding paths in the woods
Are woven with light and shade.
Suddenly in moody winds
Swirl fallen leaves.
In the grass behind the bush
The chameleon alertly waits.
Among all these
With her basket on her head
Up and down passes the Santal maid.
My earthen house is under construction
Many labourers have been engaged.
With their back against the sun
Slowly they are laying its foundation.
Now and then the whistles of the train are heard
Coming from far
Time passes; the day nears its end
In its announcement
A gong seems to go in the horizon.
As I look on
I think with a sense of guilt
This maid has blossomed like a flower
With a natural power in her body and mind
Of selfless love and care for a home
In the corner of a village
I have engaged her as a wage-earner
And dishonoured her power
Buying it with money like a burglar
Who breaks into a house with his rod.
With her earthen load on her head
Yonder comes the Santal maid.
Translation of the poem Saontal Meye from the collection Bithika by Rabindranath Tagore.