In the month of chaitra
In the mellow morning sun
Below the tree on the ground
I saw three green mangoes were lying.
I didn’t feel eager to collect them.
When I was sipping my tea it struck me
How there have been changes in the wind
That powers my sails.
The eastern point of the river crossing
Where I had boarded the ferry boat
Is gradually becoming indistinct.
There was a time
When such mangoes found by chance
Served me as a golden key
To the secret chamber of my whole day’s pleasure;
I don’t need a key now
The lock is no longer there.
Let me begin at the beginning.
At the time of my life
When from a different house
She came to this house as a new bride
My mind was like a boat at anchor
Her arrival rocked that boat like a spring tide.
No longer serving me in a fixed miserly measure
My destiny became bounteous.
My surroundings lost their shabby mundane appearance.
For a few days the festive orchestra
Played without interruption
It changed the very language we daily use;
In lamps and chandeliers
There was a riot of light in every room.
The familiar became mysterious.
And one who came that day bedecked in bridal dress
Let me understand she was not one who is common
She was exclusive, unique and incomparable.
As a boy for the first time I realized
There are things in this world
Which can be seen but not known.
The music stopped but its message remained -
The bride also remained
Covered in an unseen mysterious aura.
Whether she was friendly or cross
All her play was only with my young sisters.
Shyly I wanted to be close to her,
But her sari confounded my mind
And her frowns convinced me
I was not a girl but a boy
I was of a different kind.
We were more or less of the same age
But not made of the same material.
Presenting her something
I very much wanted to build a bridge between us.
One day poor me! I got a book of pictures
I thought that with that book I shall surprise her.
Laughing she said, ‘What shall I do with it?’
Such tragedies are ignored in history
None feels any sympathy!
The boy spends all his days bent in humiliation.
Is there no judge who will say
These books are really of some use?
Yet in the meantime it became evident
Though she remained beyond my reach
At times she would step down from her high domain –
Marinating with herbs and chilli
She loves to eat green mangoes.
To a simpleton and a boy like me
To get some favour from her
There was only one door open.
But to scale a tree there was strict prohibition.
So as soon as the wind blew
I ran to the garden
If by chance I got a fruit!
From beyond my reach I would see
How green, shapely and beautiful it was,
It was one of nature’s most wonderful gifts.
Those who are greedy cut it and eat it
They cannot see its heavenly beauty.
One day in the midst of a hail storm
I had collected some mangoes.
‘Who asked you to bring them?’ she had told me
And I had said ‘None.’
All the mangoes of the basket I threw on the ground.
Another day I was stung by bees;
She told me, ‘You don’t have to take so much trouble for fruits.’
I kept quiet.
Gradually we grew up.
She had once presented me a gold ring;
Something lovely was engraved on it.
One day while bathing in the Ganges I lost it –
I searched but never got it back.
For years green mangoes are falling down under the tree.
She can no longer be found.
Translation of Kancha Am, the last poem of the collection Akashpradip by Rabindranath Tagore. The theme is the poet’s memories of his notun bouthan or sister-in-law Kadambaridevi, the wife of his elder brother Jyotirindranath. She committed suicide in 1884 at the age of 25 when the poet was 23. The present poem was written at Santiniketan on the 8th of April, 1939 when the poet was 78. Another poem on the same theme, Shyama, also from the collection Akashpradip, already published in my translation in boloji, may be read along with this poem.