Sharing my translation of a famous poem (Sadharan Meye) written by Rabindranath Tagore, who won Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. It's one of his story-like poems, written in Bengali, which is one of the regional languages in India, and the National Language of Bangladesh. I grew up in India, and I grew up with this language and with the works of this poet, who was not only a poet, but a Song-writer, Novelist, Short Story-writer, Dramatist, Essayist, covering every part of the literature. He was the first non-European to get a Nobel Prize.
I started translating poems in English a few years before, and by now I have a collection of translations of his work, and the work of a few other renowned poets. I thought, perhaps it would be something valuable to share with my poet-friends at this site.
An Ordinary Girl (A Translation From R. Tagore - Nobel-Laureate in 1913)
I am a girl from the inner court,
You wouldn't recognize me.
I have read your novel, the last one to be published,
“The Garland of Withered Flowers”!
Your heroine “ Elokeshi” fell in love at the age of thirty-five,
She was competing with a twenty-five year old,
I have to say – you were so generous,
You let her win!
Let me tell you my story.
I am young.
I touched someone’s heart,
Probably with my youth.
I used to feel thrilled having known that,
It slipped my mind that I am a very ordinary girl,
There are hundreds and hundreds of girls like me,
They all possess the charm of their youth.
I beseech you,
Please write a story about an ordinary girl.
Her life is gloomy!
If she has something really valuable in her
How she is going to prove that —
How many people realize that?
They get captivated by the youthful beauty,
They don’t unearth the inner soul,
We get discarded like a Mirage!
Let me tell you why this came up.
Imagine, his name is Naresh.
He said, he never caught a glimpse of anybody else like me.
Did I dare to believe that?
Did I dare not to believe?
One day he went to England.
I receive letters occasionally.
Keep thinking – Wow! There are so many girls in that country!
They are all competing with each other,
And, all of them are fascinating –
So smart, so bright!
And, they all have discovered the one Naresh Sen
Who was a nobody in his own country!
In his letter by the last mail, Naresh wrote –
He went to the sea for swimming with Lizzy,
(He has quoted two lines from the Bengali poet –
where Urvashi is appearing from the sea),
Then they were relaxing on the sand beside each other,
Gazing at the dancing blue waves in front of them,
Sky lit with bright sun.
Lizzy murmured in a very soft voice,
“ You are here only for a few days. You will leave soon.
Two parts of a shell, a droplet of tears covering the middle.”
What a charming way of expression!
Naresh also added
“ Perhaps those words are made-up, but aren’t they stunning?
A golden ring with a diamond is not real,
But is it not?”
You can guess, he is pointing at me with a comparison,
It breaks my heart,
Letting me know – I am nothing but an ordinary girl.
I don’t have the wealth to pay the price of something precious.
Alright, I accept it.
I will remain a borrower for the rest of my life.
I beg you, Saratbabu, write a story
A story about a very ordinary girl –
The unfortunate girl who has to compete from far with at least five to seven sensational women –
Fighting with seven chariot-women.
I know, I have lost.
I am defeated.
But make sure, your heroine wins –
The girl you are writing about.
Make sure she makes us proud
( God bless your pen)!
Name her “ Malati”,
That’s my name.
You are not going to get caught,
There are many many Malatis in Bengal.
They are all ordinary girls,
They don’t speak French or German,
They only know how to cry.
How will you make her win?
Your thoughts are high, your pen is powerful.
May be you will take her along the path of sacrifice,
Of greatest sorrow, like Sakuntala.
Please have compassion on me,
Bring yourself down to my level.
In the darkness of night, in my bed,
The impossible blessings which I ask for, from God,
I will not get it,
But your heroine will.
Make Naresh stay in London for seven years,
Make him fail in his exam.,
Again and again,
Stay pampered by his followers.
In the meantime,
Let Malati pass M.A.
From University of Calcutta,
Come first in Math by the magic of your pen.
But don’t stop there, you don’t want a blemish on your title of The King of Literature!
I might be unfortunate,
But don’t curb your imagination –
You are not a miser like The Almighty!
Send the girl to Europe,
The wise, the scholar, the brave, the poet, the artist, the rich – all will gather around her.
let them discover her like astronomers do –
Not only because she is a scholar, because she is a woman;
The captivating magic she has
let them find her mystery, not in the country of foolishness –
In the countries of thoughtfulness, of kindness,
Among British, German, French.
Let there be a conference showing respect to Malati,
With all the famous and the powerful,
Imagine all the praises being showered at her,
She glides by with little care
Like a sailboat in the middle of waves.
They are whispering about her eyes –
The rain-clouds and sunlight of Indian sky blending in those eyes,
(Here I have to admit, not being immodest, God has really blessed me with beautiful eyes. Although, I haven’t met any European admirer yet!)
Naresh will come there and stand in a corner,
And his group of breathtaking women!
That’s it. I have nothing else to say.
My dream is over,
Oh, the silly girl!
Oh, the waste of power of the Creator!
Translated by Malabika Ray Choudhury from the original work "Sadharan Meye" by Rabindranath Tagore.
Posted on June 12, 2020
Translator's Notes: Saratbabu or Saratchandra Chattopadhya is another writer at the time of Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote novels mainly about women and the sufferings they went through.
Copyright © Malabika Ray Choudhury | Year Posted 2020