I remember when I was a child
As soon as I got a book
I poured over it
And read all its pages
Through and through.
Some of it I understood
Some of it I couldn't
What I gleaned was not much
It's no use
Counting my profit or counting my loss
What did matter most
Was not the meaning but the speed.
A fountain made its own way
And ran over my mind in a rushing stream
Water and pebbles - all were mixed.
Taking them all in its own momentum
By and by a river rose.
The author who has written this world
Like a book both difficult and simple
Never explained it simply to us
Much as I understood more I sought
Yet much more I found beyond my wit -
Some things seemed real
While some seemed to have no meaning at all.
The Ramayan of Krittibas*, printed and priced cheap,
Kept under my grandma's pillow,
Its binding had given way
Its covers were like her wrinkled face
I read it in dim light
Sitting in a corner in my mummy's room
Much of it I couldn't follow well
But this much I understood
The fight between the good and the evil
Is eternal indeed
Its love and its hatred are on a grand scale too
And the opposites wrestle
This lesson left me quite dumbfound.
It also seemed
There must be a track that runs straight
And is well defined
But sometimes it runs against a barrier
Or into a blind alley
The correct address
One can hardly guess.
This is no country where everything is known
So we are given to imagine
Some young prince
Who rides across a vast plain
In search of someone unknown
Or some merchant's son
Who sails across the seven seas
To an unknown land
In search of some secret treasure
That is as much as the possessions of seven kings
Or again a young warrior
Who goes after a hidden thief
Whose capture will solve
The mystery of all crimes.
*Krittibas is the first poet who rendered the great epic The Ramayana into Bengali verse probably in the later medieval period. Almost every Bengali household used to have a copy of this book.
Translation of the poem Jatrapath from the collection Akashpradip. by Rabindranath Tagore.
The original poem in Bengali will be found here.