Abhisar, translated as ‘The Tryst’, was written by Rabindranath in 1899. It is a story poem based on Upagupta, a Buddhist monk who lived in the 300 BCE and was revered by Emperor Ashoka and is still said to have a following in Myanmar.
THE Tryst Sanyasi Upagupta Was asleep under the shade of The city ramparts of Mathura — A breeze had blown off the lamps and flares. The palace doors were shut. The stars of the night Had disappeared behind clouds. Whose foot adorned with anklets Suddenly rang on his chest? Startled, the sanyasi woke up. His dreams fled. A dim light shone on his forgiving eyes. The court dancer was going for a tryst with her lover, Intoxicated with her own vernal bloom. Dressed in a deep blue saree, Her ornaments tinkled — As her foot fell on the monk, Basabdatta halted. With her lantern, she examined his young radiant form — A calm enduring tender face, A glance gleaming with compassion, A white moon-like forehead aglow with gracious peace. The woman spoke in a gentle voice, Her eyes drooping with embarrassment, “Pardon me, O youthful one, I will be grateful if you come to my home. The ground here is hard and rough. This is not the right place to sleep.” The sanyasi responded with kind words, “It is not yet time for me To visit O graceful one, Please go your way in prosperity. When the time is right, I will myself Come to your bower.” Eventually, a fiery spark thundered, Opened a monstrous mouth. The young woman shivered with alarm. As a terrifying destructive wind howled, A lightning ripped a cruel smile Across the sky. * The year was not out. It was an evening in Chaitra. The breeze fluttered with restlessness The trees along the path were laden with buds. The King’s garden was flush with blooms of bakul, Parul and rajanigandha. From afar, wafting with the draft Was the mesmerising timbre of a flute. The city was empty as everyone had left for The festival of flowers in the honeyed woods. The full moon smiled at the town Emptied of people and protectors. On the lonely moonlit path, The sanyasi walked alone Under leafy branches, from where Cuckoos cooed repeatedly — After so many days, was it time for him To fulfil his tryst with the beloved? Crossing the town, the wise one Went beyond the city walls. He stood beside the moat — In the shade of the mango grove, Who was that young woman Lying near his foot? Her body was blistered with sores From a deadly disease — As she darkened with the blight, The citizens threw her out Beyond the city moat, fearing the Poison within her. The sanyasi sat down by her. And put her stiff head on his lap — He poured water into her chapped lips, He chanted a mantra on her head, Covered her body with a soothing Cool sandal paste. Bakul blooms were falling, the cuckoos were calling, The night was filled with moonlight. “Who are you, o compassionate soul?” The woman asked. The sanyasi replied, “Tonight is that time. O Basabdatta, I have come for our tryst.” Sanyasi-- a monk or mendicant, in this case a Buddhist Bhikshu Chaitra -- spring when the old year ends and new starts in the Bengali Calendar.
Tagore had translated this poem in English for a collection called Fruit-Gathering, brought out in 1916 by Macmillan. The eighty-six translated poems by Tagore in this edition were from a few selected collections in Bengali: Gitimala, Gitali, Utsarga, Kheya, Naivedya, Gitanjali, Katha and Balaka.
(This poem has been translated for Borderless Journal by Mitali Chakravarty and edited by Sohana Manzoor and Anasuya Bhar.)
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