Rabindranath Tagore.

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GITANJALI (Song Offerings). Translated by the Author.
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MASHI ...... 3

THE SKELETON . . . . .31



RAJA AND RANI . . . . -77


THE RIDDLE SOLVED . . . . .107

THE ELDER SISTER . . . . .123

SUBHA ...... 145

THE POSTMASTER . . . . .159

THE RIVER STAIRS . . . . .173

THE CASTAWAY . . . . .185

SAVED ...... 207




'MASHl!' 1

* Try to sleep, Jotin, it is getting late.'

' Never mind if it is. I have not many days
left. I was thinking that Mani should go to her
father's house. I forget where he is now.'

' Sitarampur.'

* Oh yes ! Sitarampur. Send her there. She
should not remain any longer near a sick man.
She herself is not strong.'

' Just listen to him ! How can she bear to
leave you in this state ? '

4 Does she know what the doctors ? '

' But she can see for herself ! The other day
she cried her eyes out at the merest hint of having
to go to her father's house.'

We must explain that in this statement there

1 The maternal aunt is addressed as Mashi.


was a slight distortion of truth, to say the least of
it. The actual talk with Mani was as follows :

' 1 suppose, my child, you have got some news
from your father ? I thought I saw your cousin
Anath here.'

* Yes ! Next Friday will be my little sister's
annaprashan 1 ceremony. So I'm thinking '

* All right, my dear. Send her a gold necklace.
It will please your mother.'

' I'm thinking of going myself. I've never
seen my little sister, and I want to ever so

1 Whatever do you mean ? You surely don't
think of leaving Jotin alone ? Haven't you heard
what the doctor says about him ? '

'But he said that just now there's no special
cause for '

* Even if he did, you can see his state.'

' This is the first girl after three brothers, and
she's a great favourite. I have heard that it's going
to be a grand affair. If I don't go, mother will
be very '

' Yes, yes ! I don't understand your mother.

1 The annaprashan ceremony takes place when a child is first given rice.
Usually it receives its name on that day.


But I know very well that your father will be
angry enough if you leave Jotin just now.'

' You'll have to write a line to him saying that
there is no special cause for anxiety, and that even
if I go, there will be no '

4 You're right there ; it will certainly be no
great loss if you do go. But remember, if I write
to your father, I'll tell him plainly what is in my

' Then you needn't write. I shall ask my
husband, and he will surely '

' Look here, child, I've borne a good deal from
you, but if you do that, I won't stand it for a
moment. Your father knows you too well for
you to deceive him.'

When Mashi had left her, Mani lay down on
her bed in a bad temper.

Her neighbour and friend came and asked
what was the matter.

' Look here ! What a shame it is ! Here's
my only sister's annaprashan coming, and they
don't want to let me go to it ! '

' Why ! Surely you're never thinking of going,
are you, with your husband so ill ? '

' I don't do anything for him, and I couldn't if


I tried. It's so deadly dull in this house, that I
tell you frankly I can't bear it.'

4 You are a strange woman ! '

' But I can't pretend, as you people do, and
look glum lest any one should think ill of me.'

* Well, tell me your plan.'

' I must go. Nobody can prevent me.'

* Isss ! What an imperious young woman you
are !'


Hearing that Mani had wept at the mere
thought of going to her father's house, Jotin was
so excited that he sat up in bed. Pulling his
pillow towards him, he leaned back, and said :
' Mashi, open this window a little, and take that
lamp away.'

The still night stood silently at the window like
a pilgrim of eternity ; and the stars gazed in,
witnesses through untold ages of countless death-

Jotin saw his Mani's face traced on the back-
ground of the dark night, and saw those two big
dark eyes brimming over with tears, as it were for
all eternity.


Mashi felt relieved when she saw him so quiet,
thinking he was asleep.

Suddenly he started up, and said : * Mashi,
you all thought that Mani was too frivolous
ever to be happy in our house. But you see
now '

' Yes, I see now, my Baba, 1 I was mistaken
but trial tests a person.'

< Mashi ! '

' Do try to sleep, dear ! '

' Let me think a little, let me talk. Don't be
vexed, Mashi ! '

' Very well.'

' Once, when I used to think I could not win
Mani's heart, I bore it silently. But you '

' No, dear, I won't allow you to say that ; I
also bore it.'

' Our minds, you know, are not clods of earth
which you can possess by merely picking up. I
felt that Mani did not know her own mind, and
that one day at some great shock '

' Yes, Jotin, you are right.'

* Therefore I never took much notice of her

1 Baba literally means Father, but is often used by elders as a term of
endearment. In the same way ' Ma ' is used.


Mashi remained silent, suppressing a sigh. Not
once, but often she had seen Jotin spending the
night on the verandah wet with the splashing rain,
yet not caring to go into his bedroom. Many a
day he lay with a throbbing head, longing, she
knew, that Mani would come and soothe his brow,
while Mani was getting ready to go to the theatre.
Yet when Mashi went to fan him, he sent her away
petulantly. She alone knew what pain lay hidden
in that distress. Again and again she had wanted
to say to Jotin : * Don't pay so much attention to
that silly child, my dear ; let her learn to want,
to cry for things.' But these things cannot
be said, and are apt to be misunderstood. Jotin
had in his heart a shrine set up to the goddess
Woman, and there Mani had her throne. It was
hard for him to imagine that his, own fate was to
be denied his share of the wine of love poured out
by that divinity. Therefore the worship went on,
the sacrifice was offered, and the hope of a boon
never ceased.

Mashi imagined once more that Jotin was
sleeping, when he cried out suddenly :

* I know you thought that I was not happy
with Mani, and therefore you were angry with her.


But, Mashi, happiness is like those stars. They
don't cover all the darkness ; there are gaps between.
We make mistakes in life and we misunderstand,
and yet there remain gaps through which truth
shines. I do not know whence comes this gladness
that fills my heart to-night.'

Mashi began gently to soothe Jotin's brow, her
tears unseen in the dark.

' I was thinking, Mashi, she's so young ! What
will she do when I am ? '

' Young, Jotin ? She's old enough. I too was
young when I lost the idol of my life, only to find
him in my heart for ever. Was that any loss,
do you think ? Besides, is happiness absolutely
necessary ? '

' Mashi, it seems as if just when Mani's heart
shows signs of awakening I have to '

' Don't you worry about that, Jotin. Isn't it
enough if her heart awakes ? '

Suddenly Jotin recollected the words of a village
minstrel's song which he had heard long before :

O my heart I you woke not when the man of my
heart came to my door.

At the sound of his departing steps you woke up.
Oh, you woke up in the dark !


' Mashi, what is the time now ? '

* About nine.'

* So early as that ! Why, I thought it must be
at least two or three o'clock. My midnight, you
know, begins at sundown. But why did you want
me to sleep, then ? '

' Why, you know how late last night you kept
awake talking ; so to-day you must get to sleep

' Is Mani asleep ? '

' Oh no, she's busy making some soup for

' You don't mean to say so, Mashi ? Does
she ?'

' Certainly ! Why, she prepares all your food,
the busy little woman.'

' I thought perhaps Mani could not '

* It doesn't take long for a woman to learn
such things. With the need it comes of itself.'

* The fish soup, that I had in the morning,
had such a delicate flavour, I thought you had
made it.'

* Dear me, no ! Surely you don't think Mani
would let me do anything for you ? Why, she
does all your washing herself. She knows you
can't bear anything dirty about you. If only you


could see your sitting-room, how spick and span
she keeps it ! If I were to let her haunt your
sick-room, she would wear herself out. But that's
what she really wants to do.'

' Is Mani's health, then ? '

' The doctors think she should not be allowed
to visit the sick-room too often. She's too tender-

' But, Mashi, how do you prevent her from
coming ? '

'Because she obeys me implicitly. But still I
have constantly to be giving her news of you.'

The stars glistened in the sky like tear-drops.
Jotin bowed his head in gratitude to his life that
was about to depart, and when Death stretched out
his right hand towards him through the darkness,
he took it in perfect trust.

Jotin sighed, and, with a slight gesture of im-
patience, said :

* Mashi, if Mani is still awake, then, could I
if only for a ? '

' Very well ! I'll go and call her.'

* I won't keep her long, only for five minutes.
I have something particular to tell her.'


Mashi, sighing, went out to call Mani. Mean-
while Jotin's pulse began to beat fast. He knew
too well that he had never been able to have an
intimate talk with Mani. The two instruments
were tuned differently and it was not easy to
play them in unison. Again and again, Jotin had
felt pangs of jealousy on hearing Mani chattering
and laughing merrily with her girl companions.
Jotin blamed only himself, why couldn't he talk
irrelevant trifles as they did ? Not that he could
not, for with his men friends he often chatted
on all sorts of trivialities. But the small talk that
suits men is not suitable for women. You can
hold a philosophical discourse in monologue,
ignoring your inattentive audience altogether, but
small talk requires the co-operation of at least
two. The bagpipes can be played singly, but
there must be a pair of cymbals. How often in
the evenings had Jotin, when sitting on the open
verandah with Mani, made some strained attempts
at conversation, only to feel the thread snap. And
the very silence of the evening felt ashamed. Jotin
was certain that Mani longed to get away. He
had even wished earnestly that a third person
would come. For talking is easy with three,
when it is hard for two.


He began to think what he should say when
Mani came. But such manufactured talk would
not satisfy him. Jotin felt afraid that this five
minutes of to-night would be wasted. Yet, for
him, there were but few moments left for intimate


* What's this, child, you're not going anywhere,
are you ? '

* Of course, I'm going to Sitarampur.'

' What do you mean ? Who is going to take
you ? '

4 Anath.'

' Not to-day, my child, some other day.'

' But the compartment has already been re-

* What does that matter ? That loss can easily
be borne. Go to-morrow, early in the morning.'

' Mashi, I don't hold by your inauspicious
days. What harm if I do go to-day ? '
' Jotin wants to have a talk with you.'

* All right ! there's still some time. I'll just
go and see him.'

' But you mustn't say that you are going.'

' Very well, I won't tell him, but I shan't be


able to stay long. To-morrow is my sister's
annaprashan, and I must go to-day.'

' Oh, my child ! I beg you to listen to
me this once. Quiet your mind for a while
and sit by him. Don't let him see your

' What can I do ? The train won't wait for
me. Anath will be back in ten minutes. I can
sit by him till then.'

' No, that won't do. I shall never let you go
to him in that frame of mind. . . . Oh, you
wretch ! the man you are torturing is soon to leave
this world ; but I warn you, you will remember
this day till the end of your days ! That there is
a God ! that there is a God ! you will some day
understand ! '

* Mashi, you mustn't curse me like that.'

' Oh, my darling boy ! my darling ! why do
you go on living longer ? There is no end to
this sin, yet I cannot check it ! '

Mashi after delaying a little returned to the
sick-room, hoping by that time Jotin would be
asleep. But Jotin moved in his bed when she
entered. Mashi exclaimed :

* Just look what she has done ! '


' What's happened ? Hasn't Mani come ?
Why have you been so long, Mashi ? '

* I found her weeping bitterly because she had
allowed the milk for your soup to get burnt ! I
tried to console her, saying, " Why, there's more
milk to be had ! " But that she could be so careless
about the preparation of your soup made her wild.
With great trouble I managed to pacify her and
put her to bed. So I haven't brought her to-day.
Let her sleep it off.'

Though Jotin was pained when Mani didn't
come, yet he felt a certain amount of relief. He
had half feared that Mani's bodily presence would
do violence to his heart's image of her. Such
things had happened before in his life. And the
gladness of the idea that Mani was miserable at
burning his milk filled his heart to overflowing.

' Mashi ! '

' What is it, Baba ? '

1 1 feel quite certain that my days are drawing
to a close. But I have no regrets. Don't grieve
for me.'

* No, dear, I won't grieve. I don't believe that
only life is good and not death.'

' Mashi, I tell you truly that death seems

1 6 MASH1

Jotin, gazing at the dark sky, felt that it was
Mani herself who was coming to him in Death's
guise. She had immortal youth and the stars were
flowers of blessing, showered upon her dark tresses
by the hand of the World-Mother. It seemed as
if once more he had his first sight of his bride
under the veil of darkness. 1 The immense night
became filled with the loving gaze of Mani's dark
eyes. Mani, the bride of this house, the little
girl, became transformed into a world-image, her
throne on the altar of the stars at the confluence of
life and death. Jotin said to himself with clasped
hands : ' At last the veil is raised, the covering is
rent in this deep darkness. Ah, beautiful one !
how often have you wrung my heart, but no
longer shall you forsake me ! '


' I'm suffering, Mashi, but nothing like you
imagine. It seems to me as if my pain were
gradually separating itself from my life. Like a
laden boat, it was so long being towed behind, but
the rope has snapped, and now it floats away with
all my burdens. Still I can see it, but it is no

1 The bride and the bridegroom see each other's face for the first time at
the marriage ceremony under a veil thrown over their heads.


longer mine. . . . But, Mashi, I've not seen Mani
even once for the last two days ! '

' Jotin, let me give you another pillow.'

' It almost seems to me, Mashi, that Mani also
has left me like that laden boat of sorrow which
drifts away.'

'Just sip some pomegranate juice, dear ! Your
throat must be getting dry.'

' I wrote my will yesterday ; did I show it to
you ? I can't recollect.'

' There's no need to show it to me, Jotin.'

'When mother died, I had nothing of my own.
You fed me and brought me up. Therefore I
was saying '

{ Nonsense, child ! I had only this house and
a little property. You earned the rest.'

' But this house ? '

' That's nothing. Why, you've added to it so
much that it's difficult to find out where my house
was ! '

' I'm sure Mani's love for you is really '

' Yes, yes ! I know that, Jotin. Now you try
to sleep.'

' Though I have bequeathed all my property
to Mani, it is practically yours, Mashi. She will
never disobey you.'


* Why are you worrying so much about that,

* All I have I owe to you. When you see my
will don't think for a moment that '

' What do you mean, Jotin ? Do you think
I shall mind for a moment because you give to
Mani what belongs to you ? Surely I'm not so
mean as that ? '

* But you also will have '

' Look here, Jotin, I shall get angry with you.
You want to console me with money ! '

* Oh, Mashi, how I wish I could give you
something better than money ! '

' That you have done, Jotin ! more than
enough. Haven't I had you to fill my lonely
house ? I must have won that great good-fortune
in many previous births ! You have given me so
much that now, if my destiny's due is exhausted,
I shall not complain. Yes, yes ! Give away every-
thing in Mani's name, your house, your money,
your carriage, and your land such burdens are
too heavy for me ! '

f Of course I know you have lost your taste for
the enjoyments of life, but Mani is so young
that- -'

* No ! you mustn't say that. If you want to


leave her your property, it is all right, but as for
enjoyment '

* What harm if she does enjoy herself, Mashi ? '
' No, no, it will be impossible. Her throat

will become parched, and it will be dust and ashes
to her.'

Jotin remained silent. He could not decide
whether it was true or not, and whether it was a
matter of regret or otherwise, that the world
would become distasteful to Mani for want of him.
The stars seemed to whisper in his heart :

' Indeed it is true. We have been watch-
ing for thousands of years, and know that all
these great preparations for enjoyment are but

Jotin sighed and said : ' We cannot leave be-
hind us what is really worth giving.'

1 It's no trifle you are giving, dearest. I only
pray she may have the power to know the value
of what is given her.'

* Give me a little more of that pomegranate juice,
Mashi, I'm thirsty. Did Mani come to me yester-
day, I wonder ? '

' Yes, she came, but you were asleep. She sat


by your head, fanning you for a long time, and
then went away to get your clothes washed.'

' How wonderful ! I believe I was dreaming
that very moment that Mani was trying to enter
my room. The door was slightly open, and she
was pushing against it, but it wouldn't open.
But, Mashi, you're going too far, you ought to
let her see that I am dying ; otherwise my death
will be a terrible shock to her.'

' Baba, let me put this shawl over your feet ;
they are getting cold.'

1 No, Mashi, I can't bear anything over me
like that.'

' Do you know, Jotin, Mani made this shawl
for you ? When she ought to have been asleep,
she was busy at it. It was finished only yesterday.'

Jotin took the shawl, and touched it tenderly
with his hands. It seemed to him that the soft-
ness of the wool was Mani's own. Her loving
thoughts had been woven night after night with
its threads. It was not made merely of wool, but
also of her touch. Therefore, when Mashi drew
that shawl over his feet, it seemed as if, night after
night, Mani had been caressing his tired limbs.

' But, Mashi, I thought Mani didn't know
how to knit, at any rate she never liked it.'


' It doesn't take long to learn a thing. Of
course I had to teach her. Then there are a good
many mistakes in it.'

' Let there be mistakes ; we're not going to
send it to the Paris Exhibition. It will keep my
feet warm in spite of its mistakes.'

Jotin's mind began to picture Mani at her task,
blundering and struggling, and yet patiently going
on night after night. How sweetly pathetic it
was ! And again he went over the shawl with his
caressing fingers.

' Mashi, is the doctor downstairs ? '

' Yes, he will stay here to-night.'

* But tell him it is useless for him to give me a
sleeping draught. It doesn't bring me real rest and
only adds to my pain. Let me remain properly
awake. Do you know, Mashi, that my wedding
took place on the night of the full moon in the
month of Baisakh ? To-morrow will be that day,
and the stars of that very night will be shining in
the sky. Mani perhaps has forgotten. I want to
remind her of it to-day ; just call her to me for a
minute or two. . . . Why do you keep silent ?
I suppose the doctor has told you I am so weak

that any excitement will but I tell you truly,

Mashi, to-night, if I can have only a few minutes'


talk with her, there will be no need for any
sleeping draughts. Mashi, don't cry like that!
I am quite well. To-day my heart is full as it has
never been in my life before. That's why I want
to see Mani. No, no, Mashi, I can't bear to
see you crying ! You have been so quiet all these
last days. Why are you so troubled to-night ? '

' Oh, Jotin, I thought that I had exhausted all
my tears, but I find there are plenty left. I can't
bear it any longer.'

' Call Mani. I'll remind her of our wedding
night, so that to-morrow she may

* I'm going, dear. Shombhu will wait at the
door. If you want anything, call him.'

Mashi went to Mani's bedroom and sat down
on the floor crying, ' Oh come, come once, you
heartless wretch ! Keep his last request who has
given you his all ! Don't kill him who is already
dying ! '

Jotin hearing the sound of footsteps started up,
saying, ' Mani ! '

' I am Shombhu. Did you call me ? '
1 Ask your mistress to come ? '
' Ask whom ? '
' Your mistress.'


'She has not yet returned.'

' Returned ? From where ? '

' From Sitarampur.'

' When did she go ? '

' Three days ago.'

For a moment Jotin felt numb all over, and his
head began to swim. He slipped down from the
pillows, on which he was reclining, and kicked off
the woollen shawl that was over his feet.

When Mashi came back after a long time,
Jotin did not mention Mani's name, and Mashi
thought he had forgotten all about her.

Suddenly Jotin cried out : ' Mashi, did I tell
you about the dream I had the other night ? '

* Which dream ? '

'That in which Mani was pushing the door,
and the door wouldn't open more than an inch.
She stood outside unable to enter. Now I know
that Mani has to stand outside my door till the last.'

Mashi kept silent. She realised that the heaven
she had been building for Jotin out of falsehood
had toppled down at last. If sorrow comes, it
is best to acknowledge it. When God strikes, we
cannot avoid the blow.


1 Mashi, the love I have got from you will last
through all my births. I have filled this life with
it to carry it with me. In the next birth, I am
sure you will be born as my daughter, and I shall
tend you with all my love.'

' What are you saying, Jotin ? Do you mean
to say I shall be born again as a woman ? Why
can't you pray that I should come to your arms
as a son ? '

* No, no, not a son ! You will come to my
house in that wonderful beauty which you had
when you were young. I can even imagine how
I shall dress you.'

' Don't talk so much, Jotin, but try to sleep.'
' I shall name you " Lakshmi."

* But that is an old-fashioned name, Jotin ! '

' Yes, but you are my old-fashioned Mashi.
Come to my house again with those beautiful old-

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Online LibraryRabindranath TagoreMashi, and other stories → online text (page 1 of 9)