Today's Beautiful Gem: `The Promise' by Rabindranath Tagore.

"Upagupta, the disciple of Buddha, lay asleep on the dust by the city wall of Mathura. Lamps were all out, doors were all shut, and stars were all hidden by the murky sky of August. Whose feet were those tinkling with anklets, touching his breast of a sudden? He woke up startled, and the light from a woman's lamp struck his forgiving eyes. It was the dancing girl, starred with jewels, clouded with a pale-blue mantle, drunk with the wine of her youth.

"She lowered her lamp and saw the young face, austerely beautiful. `Forgive me, young ascetic,' said the woman; `graciously come to my house. The dusty earth is not a fit bed for you.' The ascetic answered, `Woman, go on your way; when the time is ripe I will come to you.' Suddenly the black night showed its teeth in a flash of lightning. The storm growled from the corner of the sky, and the woman trembled in fear.

"The branches of the wayside trees were aching with blossom. Gay notes of the flute came floating in the warm spring air from afar. The citizens had gone to the woods, to the festival of flowers. From the mid-sky gazed the full moon on the shadows of the silent town. The young ascetic was walking in the lonely street, while overhead the lovesick koels urged from the mango branches their sleepless plaint. Upagupta passed through the city gates, and stood at the base of the rampart. What woman lay in the shadow of the wall at his feet, struck with the black pestilence, her body spotted with the sores, hurriedly driven away from the town?

"The ascetic sat by her side, taking her head on his knees, and moistened her lips with water and smeared her body with balm. `Who are you, merciful one?' asked the woman. `The time, at last, has come to visit you, and I am here,' replied the young ascetic."

Om s'aantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao