Annapurna in Himalayas


A woman on a pilgrimage

-- By Rabindranath Tagore


She is on a pilgrimage, with effort managing
to cover the last half a mile of the journey of her life.
In her hand a bag of beads,
a bundle on her side,
she is sitting patiently in a station since the dawn.
Half-formed thoughts cross her mind:
'perhaps there is some other station somewhere else,
where fruitlessness
receives back in itself
all lost offerings in fresh significance,
where shadows find form, taking shape in embodiment.'
In her bosom are stirred
a thousand voices of a left-behind past,
familiar since childhood.
And at the end of her days
the frustrated hopes of a neglected life
are out to find a home
in some distance land unknown.

The day she started on her journey
the sky smiled at her
in fresh sunlight.
Today, where she finds herself,
the strangers around and their unfamiliar voice
appear as so much meaningless noise.

Once, on the way, she offered her beloved
her youth -
a flavour of honeyed intoxication,
not unmixed with pain,
that gave her both joy and sorrow.
The empty cup of that offering today shows neglect,
like a tired autumn afternoon
unmixed by the bee buzzing around.

Today, those who are journeying on
to seek a companion
leave her on a side.
With her withered, shaking hands
she will no longer be able to light a lamp
for someone,
who is looking for a fellow-traveller
on a difficult path
in a night of stormy weather.

Left behind, alone, she thinks may be she will
find at some far away place something
invaluable, heavenly, beyond all taints of the mundane.
Alas, this something will travel before her
like a ghost, and in fading light she will follow,
hoping everyday to get hold
until in the dark it finally disappears.



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