Sunday, May 08, 2011


Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary is here, and I am here with the English translation of another Tagore poem. This year, when I was selecting a poem to translate, I came across this gem that reminded me of a little girl whom I had met recently. And although she has a name that her parents selected for her, we, the people who know her (including her parents), like to call her by any name that comes to our minds. So here's a tribute to Tagore that is also dedicated to our Little Gherkin.

~Rabindranath Tagore

There’s a girl that I know,
She rules over our village small
She’s the one who is worshipped
And called little goddess by all.
But let me tell you something
Trust me and hear me out---
That her qualities are godlike
Is what I really doubt.
Early morning, when it’s still dark
Where does her sleep flee?
A row ensues on her bed
By her little shouts of glee.
By her loud chortles
Half the street wakes up,
She runs doing mock fights
Away from mother’s lap.
Arms stretched, she looks at me
I have no choice then,
But to take her out on a stroll
On my shoulder again.
Getting the ride of her choice,
In her great joy she insists
On pummeling me repeatedly with
Her plump and soft fists.
When I hurriedly tell her ---
“Wait a little, stop it please!”
She promptly tries to grab and take
The glasses from my eyes.
With me she quarrels so much
In words un-understood.
What an uproar! Could you ever
Call her manners good?
And yet, it hardly befits me
To engage her in a fight.
Without her, the music stops,
The household feels quiet.
Without her, will flowers
Still greet the morning light?
Without her, will the evening star
Still rise every night?
If the mischief-maker isn’t home
For a moment if we part
It seems impossible to fill
The void in my heart.
Her naughtiness is the southern breeze
It wakes a storm joy-laden
It makes all the flowers sway
In my mind’s flower garden.
The only thing that worries me
Her name, if you ask,
To call her by a single one
That is a difficult task.
Who knows about her real name?
I call her as I please –
Miss Mischief, Little Bandit,
Black-face or Ogress.
The name given by her parents
With her parents let it rest.
Let them find the sweetest name
And lock it in a chest.
One person names a baby
In some ceremony,
For everyone to adopt that name
Is nothing but tyranny.
Each calling as they please is how
Naming should be done
The father may call Chandrakumar,
The uncle Ramsharan.
A Sanskrit name is something that
Our girl can hardly carry,
The only thing it adds worth to is
Cost of the dictionary.
I for one, call her by
Whatever I think of
The one I call knows it’s her,
Let the others laugh.
A hundred different games
That little one plays
Is it right to call her by
A single name always?

(Translation by Sugata Banerji)


  1. Tickles my memory of a long forgotten poem. I think even the original author would have enjoyed your translation

  2. Lovely,lovely. Thank you so much. For folks like us with a working knowledge of the language, it is great to have someone do the translation. Gherkin ke pore shonalam..both versions. She smiled and went back to eating her toys...I take it that she likes it too!

  3. khub sundor hoyechhe, seta bolar apekkha rakhena. kintu tao bollam arki.

  4. Protibarer mato etao darun bhalo hoyechhe. Sab cheye bhalo jeta, Narayan Sanyal o NODI ta pore bolechhilen, tomar anto mil rakhar chesta ta. Anto mil na thakle amar kamon jano bhalo lage na. Tomar translation eo seta thik thik thake. Darun darun. Mon bhore galo.

  5. @atreyee & @lokenrc: Thank you.

    @Anyeshadi: I am honoured. And also, that is the best compliment that I could get.

    @Kuntala: Dhonyobaad. Apnar moto likhte parina, anubaad diyei kaj chalai.

    @pisimoni: Antomil chhaRa anubaad amaro bhalo lagena - mone hoy kobitar ardhek moja maati!