An Unexpected Meeting: Rabindranath Tagore

We met suddenly on a train
I hadn’t thought it possible.

I’d seen her over and over
In a red sari –
Crimson like a dahlia;
Today she was in black silk,
It covered her head in a cowl
Cupped her face, lustrous and fair like a lily.
She seemed to have enveloped herself
In a deep dark distance,
The distance to the edge of the mustard-fields
To the blue-grey of the sal wood.
My senses came to a sudden stop,
I knew her once, now she wore a stranger’s solemnity

Throwing aside her newspaper
She greeted me suddenly
Social mores could now be followed;
We began to converse –
‘How are you?’, ‘How is everyone?’
Etcetera.
She continued to gaze out of the window
As though she had overcome the contagion of intimacy
She answered in monosyllables,
Some, she didn’t even respond to.
Conveyed with an impatient wave –
Why talk of all this,
Silence is so much better.

I was on another bench with her companions.
After a while she beckoned with her finger.
Such boldness, I thought –
I sat down on the same bench.
Under the sound of the train
She said softly,
‘Please don’t mind,
Where’s the time to waste time!
I have to get off at the next station;
You’re going further,
We’ll never meet again.
So, I want your answer to the question
That hasn’t been answered all this time,
You’ll tell the truth, won’t you?’
‘I will,’ I said.
Still gazing at the sky outside she asked,
‘Are those days of ours that are gone
Gone forever –
Is nothing left?’

I was silent for a while;
Then I said,
‘All the stars of the night
Remain under the glare of the day.’

I felt doubtful, had I made it all up.
‘Never mind, go sit over there now.’
Everyone got off at the next station.
I journeyed alone.

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