When famine struck the city of Sravasti
And its people were bitterly crying
Lord Buddha assembled his followers and asked,
'Who will take up the task of feeding the hungry?'
Ratnakar, the trader bowed his head and told,
'Lord, this hungry city is so big
It is beyond my powers to feed.'
Jayasen, the warrior replied
'I would have obeyed your command
If it could be done
Spending a few drops of my blood
For enough food I don't have.'
Dharmapal said sighing deep,
'Such is my bad luck
All my fields are parched by drought
Their crops have failed
For me it is hard even to pay my rents.'
The rest looked at each other,
They had no words.
In great passion
In that assembly hall
Over that stricken city
The Buddha looked on.
Then stood up shyly and slowly
The daughter of Anathpindada.
Saluting Buddha she said,
'My lord, I am only one of your mendicants
Yet I shall do my bit to fulfill your command.
Those who starve are my children
From now on
It will be my job to feed the hungry.'
All were awe-struck
'Daughter of a beggar, you are also a beggar
How audacious of you!
What have you got,
You want to take up this impossible task?'
Saluting them all she said,
'This begging bowl is all that I have,
I am a poor woman and weakest of all
That will make you all kind to me
In my efforts to fulfill the wishes of our Lord.
My granary is overflowing in your homes
With your willing help
I shall feed the whole starving world.'
Translation of the poem Nagarlakshmi from the collection Katha by Rabindranath Tagore. Compare no.31 of Fruit-Gathering.