Translation: Debotar Gras

Debotar Gras (The Divine Seize)

by Rabindranath Tagore

Across the lands, the news spread like rage

To the confluence shall the priest go on his voyage.

To undertake the sacred bath.

Companions joined him from lands far and wide

The young, the old, men and women – all gathered at his side.

Two boats lay at the wharf, prepared and moored.

Mokshada, greedy for a good deed, came and asked, “O Lord,

Take me along. I would like to come aboard.”

“But how shall I afford you any space?”, Maitra says,

“The boat’s full.”

But the young widow’s pleas refuse to cede

Her two sad eyes just keep on praying, logic they do not heed.

“I shall find a corner, just let me in”,

Her voice cries out above the din.

The Brahmin’s heart finally melts. “But what about him?”,

He asks, “Your lad’s too young”, his voice sounds grim.

“Rakhal?”, says she, “He shall stay with his aunt.

After his birth, he was ill a long time, playing truant

With death. It’s Annada who cared for him,

Raising him like her very own. That’s where he spends his days

Since then, it’s with his aunt that Rakhal stays.

He listens to none, goes simply by his own whim,

If he is scolded, it’s his aunt who cradles him.

So it’s with Annada that he shall stay, safer than with his mother own.

Bipra finally agreed. Swiftly then Mokshada her preparations made

To her elders and friends, with tears she her farewell said.

 

Arriving at the dock, she found Rakhal on the boat – sitting quietly, at peace.

His mother asked Rakhal, “And why, boy, are you here?”

“I shall go to the seas”, says he. “‘To the seas’! Oh dear!”

His mother thunders, “Come down, I say, you naughty brat. How dare you!”

But the boy just repeats, his eyes as firm – “To the seas shall I go.”

And he stayed put, despite Mokshada’s pulls, her rants and rile

At the boat with all his might. At last, the Brahmin said with a smile,

“Let the kid come along.” In anger, the boy’s mother lets it rip

“Let me throw you, boy, into the waters deep!”

But as soon as she heard, her own damned curse

Pangs of guilt her bosom did pierce.

Rubbing her eyes dry, she took god’s name

Picking up her son, held him in her affection’s flame.

Maitra, softly hailing Mokshada, covertly told her,

“Never should you, such inauspicious curses utter.”

 

And hence it was decided, that Rakhal shall come along

Annada, hearing the news, came running before long.

“Kid, where shall you go!” “To the seas”, Rakhal replies,

with a smile, “I shall be back, of course!”

Crazed with horror, Annada pleaded to the Brahmin,

“O Father, my Rakhal is too naughty. Who can handle him!

Since he was born, never has he left, his aunt for long.

Where shall you take him! Please have mercy, don’t him along.”

Rakhal, hearing this, yet again plied, “Mashi, to the seas I shall go,

And return back to you.” At this, with an affectionate tone, Bipro

Assured Annada, “There is no cause for woe,

Till I’m there with him. It’s winter now anyway, quiet flow the rivers.

And there will be so many people aboard.

There won’t be any dangers on the path. Don’t you worry,

It’s a matter of two months. I shall bring thy Rakhal back to thee.”

At the auspicious hour, hailing the gods, the boat sailed off.

The village women-folk stood at the ghat with teary eyes.

In the morning dew of autumn, the village glistened

on the banks of the river Churni.

———————————————————————–

The fair concluded and the voyagers homeward commenced their ride.

The boat was anchored at the shores in the afternoon – expecting the tide.

His curiosity satiated, Rakhal wept, sick to begin the journey home-bound,

For the cradle of his aunt. His heart weary of the endless water all around.

Smooth, silken, dark, cruel – its tongue greedy like the serpent’s;

Filled with treachery, it raised its thousand hoods. It snorted, it growled

It demanded children of the soil with its greedy mouth.

O the Affectionate, O the Silent one

O the Steady, O the Everlasting, the Ancient,

The all-bearing home of bliss, O the Tender, fertile one,

You pull with your two invisible hands towards thee

Ever and always, all who are, wherever they might be,

What great force of thy pull spans the horizon, towards your quiet soul!

The restless boy kept pestering the Brahmin,

Asking of him, “Thakur, what time shall the tide come?

Suddenly the still waters were aroused,

The two shores were brought alive with news of hope.

The boat turned, with a slight groan of protest,

The anchor felt a pull. With the roar of music, the chariot of sea

Touched the river with its message of victory –

The tide had arrived. With a word to the gods,

The boatman fast turned the boat’s face

Towards the north, he let it race

Rakhal asks of the Brahmin, “How much longer before we get home?”

 

As the sun set, when the boat was a couple of miles gone,

The north wind continued to blow, still stronger on

At the mouth of the river Rupnarayan,

Where the river went narrows, there the swords were drawn –

By the mad waves and the north wind. The fight got uglier still.

The voyagers pleaded with the boatmen, again and again with boatmen,

To reach for the shores. But land could nowhere be seen, in the storm and rain

All around, the water danced crazy, clapping with a thousand hands,

To its own horrendous act. Cursing the sky, its foam in frenzy rising high..

To one end, blue lines of the forest could be seen in the distance,

And to the other, ravenous, violent rain streams rose excited,

Towards the calm of the sunset, revolting away.

The boat refused to be tamed, swirling away in drunken abandon foolish.

The travellers trembled, as much from the terrible cold winds,

As from the cold of terror raw.

Some were struck into s stupor, some cried out for their own.

Maitra took shelter in his prayers, his face ashen.

Rakhal cried in silence, his face hidden in his mother’s bosom.

Then, the boatman calling to the voyagers announced ,

“Listen up all, it’s one of you who has cheated the Father, denied him from

What was promised, hence these waves, hence this untimely storm!

Hear this plea now, keep your word

Do not play with the angry god.”

Hearing this, the travellers swiftly threw into the waters,

Whatever they had – coins and clothes, without a second thought.

But still, in that very instant, the water climbed on to the boat, in a great swirl.

So, the boatman pleaded yet again, “The wealth of the gods –

the one who taketh away, hear me now, and comply.”

It’s then that the Priest, rising up sharply, said pointing at Mokshada

“She’s the one, who having promised her son to the gods, now does flout,

Stealing him away.” In unison, the voyagers cried, “Throw him out!”

“O Lord”, cries out Mokshada, “Save me, save me please.”

She holds her son close to her.

The priest roars in admonishment, “Am I the one to save thee?”

Did you not, blind with fury, commit your son to the gods?

And now, you expect me to protect him! Pay your debt, you must

Else you shall be responsible for all these lives, if you go back on your word unjust!”

“I am but a woman too foolish. In the heat of anger, what words did my mouth part

O the omniscient one, does those count? Don’t you know the truth in my heart?

Don’t you know the words that I spoke are but lies? Will only those words take toll?

Shall that be thy truth? What about the truth that nests in my soul?”

Even as these words were said, all the boatmen

Teared away the boy from his mother by force.

 

Maitra, wiping his eyes, turned his face away,

Gritting his teeth, covering his ears in dismay.

Who was it then, all of a sudden, whipped his soul?

Stung his heart like a scorpion?

“Mashi, mashi, mashi”, his covered ears were stung

Like burning spears, by the helpless orphan’s cry for help.

Bipro shouted back, “Wait, wait, wait!”

Turning his glance sharply, he found Mokshada

Fainted, at his feet. For a moment, amidst the rising waves,

Could the boy be seen, his cry for help heard,

Before he disappeared for ever, into the depths of the sea.

Only his fist, futile and weak, for once raised itself above the waters wild

Asking for a shelter in the skies before drowning in despair.

“I shall bring you back!”, shouted the Brahmin

Before he flung himself into the waters. And didn’t return.

The sun set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(To  be continued..)