a distant sky. On the further side of hers stretches the sand-bank, insensitive to the living world, defiant in its sublime inutility.
On this side crowd the bamboo, the mango tree, the patriarchal
banian; the obsolete hut in ruins; the aged jack tree of a massive trunk; the mustard field on the slope of the pond; the cane bush round the ditch by the lane; the remnant walls of an indigo plantation clinging to a silenced time, its row of casuarinas murmuring day and night in the forsaken garden.
The colony of Rajbanshis dwell there near the rugged bank
fractured into zigzags, offering a scanty pasture to their goats; in the adjacent upland the corrugated roofs of the market storehouses keep staring hard at the sun.
The whole village stands shuddering in constant fear of the heartless stream.
The proud river has her name in the venerable texts; through her
veins runs the sacred current of the Ganges.
She remains remote. The homesteads she passes by are tolerated by
her, not recognised; her stately manner has a response in it to the majestic silence of the mountain and the large loneliness of the sea.
Once I had my boat secured at the landing slope of one of her
islands in an isolated distance, far from all responsibilities.
I opened my eyes before the gaze of the morning star in the dawn,
and slept on the roof under the constellation of the seven sages.
The heedless water ran by the edge of my desolate days, even as
the traveller walking close to the joys and sorrows of the wayside homes, yet free from their appeal.
Now at the end of my young days I have come away to this plain
here, grey and bare of trees, allowing a small detached spot for the swelling green of the shadow-sheltered Santal village.
I have for my neighbour the tiny river Kopai. She lacks the
distinction of ancient lineage. The primitive name of hers is mixed up with the loud-laughing prattle of the Santal women of countless ages.
There is no gap for discord between the land and water in her
intimacy with the village and she easily carries the whisper of her one bank to the other. The blossoming flax field is in indulgent contact with her as are the young shoots of rice.
Where the road comes BO an abrupt break at the brink of her
water, she graciously makes way for the passers-by across her crystal-clear garrulous stream.
Her speech is the speech of the humble home, not the language of
the learned. Her rhythm has a common kinship both with the land and the water; her vagrant stream is unjealous of the green and golden wealth of the earth.
Slender is her body that glides incurves across shadows and
lights, clapping hands in a tripping measure.
In the rains her limbs become wild like those of the village
girls drunk with the mahua wine, yet she never even in her wantonness breaks or drowns her neighbouring land; only with a jesting whirl of her skirt sweeps the banks while she runs laughing loud.
By the middle of autumn her waters become limpid, her current
slim, revealing the pallid glimpse of the sands underneath. Her destitution does not shame her, for her wealth is not
arrogant, nor her poverty mean.
They carry their own grace in their different moods, even as a
girl when she dances with all her jewels aglimmer, or when she sits silent with languor in her eyes and a touch of a tired smile on her lips.
The Kopai in her pulsation finds its semblance in the rhythm of
my poet's verse, the rhythm that has formed its comradeship with the language rich in music and that which is crowded with the jarring trivialities of the work-a-day hours.
Its cadence fails not the Santal boy lazily tramping along with
his bow and arrows; it times itself to the lumbering market cart loaded with straw; to the panting breath of the potter shouldering earthen-wares in a pair of hanging baskets tied to a pole, his pet pariah dog fondly following his shadow; it moves at the pace of the weary steps of the village schoolmaster, worth three rupees a month, holding an old torn umbrella over his head.