Theme: Music

Kinu Goala's Alley

This is the alley
Named after Kinu the milkman.
By its side stands
A two-storey building
Its ground floor room
Is enclosed by iron railings.
It is thoroughly damp
Here and there its walls
Bear ugly damp marks
In places their plasters are also peeling off.
On its door hangs a rag
Torn from a bale of plain cloth
Stamped on it is
An image of lord Ganesh,
The god who gives one success
In all enterprises.
With me
In that room lives another creature
Who of course pays no additional rent
It's a common lizard
Found in dwelling houses
The only difference is this -
It is in no want of food.

For my food
I have to give tuition
To the young son of the Duttas
For I am only a junior clerk
In a business house
And my pay is only twenty-five rupees.
In the evenings
I go to the Sealdah railway station
There I spend my time
For it saves me the cost
Of lighting my room.
There is a lot of noise
Of rail engines and their whistles
And a lot of hustles and bustles
Among passengers and porters
At half past ten
I return to my lonely den
Utterly dark and silent.

In a village
On the banks of the river Dhaleswari
Lives my paternal aunt
It was settled
That a hapless fellow like me
Should marry the daughter
Of her husband's younger brother.
The date fixed for the ceremony
Was found to be very auspicious
But on that very day I fled away
At least it saved the girl from a calamity
And of course me too.
To me she never came
But now she always moves about in my mind -
Clad in a Dhakai sari
And on her forehead with a blob of vermilion.

When the rains come very heavy and thick
I have to spend some extra money
For my journeys to the office by trams.
For late attendance
Often I have to suffer cuts in my salary.
In every nook and corner of the alley
There gather heaps of putrid wastes -
Peelings of fruits and vegetables,
Carcasses of cats and dogs
And various other things.
Like my deducted salary
My umbrella is full of holes
And my office dress is always wet
Like the mind of Gopikanta Gosain
Over-saturated with devotion to his deity.
In my damp room
Like a beast caught up in a trap,
Delirious and unconscious,
The shadow of rain clouds broods.
Day and night it seems
Without any hope of release
Forever I am condemned to a half-dead world.

At the bend of the lane lives Kantababu
With well-groomed hair
And a pair of large eyes
He is a man of refined tastes
His hobby is to play on a cornet.
At times the vicious air of this alley
Becomes alive with music
Sometimes it is in the dead of night
Or at dawn, half in darkness and half in light,
Or again in the afternoon's glimmering twilight
In the evening all on a sudden
When the sindhu-baroan raga is played on
The whole sky resonates
With the timeless cry of a pining love
Separated from her beloved.
At moments like these
I realize
This alley is so absurdly unreal
Like the ravings of an insufferable drunkard
It also seems
There is no difference
Between a mighty emperor and a poor clerk
Along this plaintive note of music
Both the prince and the pauper
Travel together towards the same heaven.

And where this music is true
There in a timeless twilight
The Dhaleswari flows on
Its banks are deeply shaded by tamal trees
And one who keeps waiting in the courtyard
Is clad in a Dhakai sari
And on her forehead with a blob of vermilion.

Translation of the poem Banshi, entitled Kinu goalar goli in Sanchayita, from the collection Punascha (Once More) by Rabindranath Tagore. Among the poems on the theme of music by Tagore this one is the most famous. In Bengali 'goala' means a milkman and 'goli' means an alley. The original poem in Bengali script may be viewed at


More By  :  Kumud Biswas

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