Seedling

36. Poem: Samanya Kshati (Trifle Loss) written in 1899.

[Translator’s note: The institution of democracy is a borrowed concept in India from the West where it developed over a couple of centuries as a natural corollary of spread of education & industrialization and headway of science. This background was missing in India while this Western model was imposed here. Thus, it has never been an important factor to improve the plight of the people here. In earlier days, monarchy was the rule, but not necessarily for the worse. Because, it was seriously considered that welfare of his subjects was the onus of the king which was his sacramental duty. Thus, countless benevolent kings promoted public welfare in ancient India, with exceptions of course. Even the atrocities of the members of the royal families towards the subjects didn’t go unpunished and the story behind this poem is only a reflection of the benevolent rule, which was widely found in olden times of India.]

Blows the cold wind of winter
Along the river crystal clear
In the rural solitude a bit far
From the royal palace asunder.
To the river’s marble steps by the green
For a bath are bound the maids with their queen.

That path, that riverside,
There no more civilians reside,
The few cots at the bank
They deserted cowed by the royal prank
The place thus solemnly silent
But for the birds’ song errant.

Restive is the river in northern gale,
Washing the littoral of the dale
The water struck by the golden rays
In frolic dances in waves“
As a crooner in rhyme passing by
A myriad emeralds sparkling in her sari’s incline.

To-day the women’s euphony, however,
Puts to shame that of the river
Lotus blooming on it luxuriant,
The sportive river turbulent“
Along with the mirth and laughter
The sky too seems in a humor.

After the bath, when all were ashore
The maids all in cold, so the queen more.
“O girls!”, calls she
“In cold I am shivery
Light up the fire therefore
As I can’t suffer it any more.”
The maids so scurry
For twigs of the tree.
They romp for sport crazy
Pull the branches of the tree
But the queen before they are done,
Calls, them, her face with beaming fun“
“You maids, come on! Look there,
The cots not very far,
Put those on fire
And I can warm up my cold dire.”
Her freak for the sport queer
Put her in a fit of laughter.

Malati in pathos dares utter“
“What mockery is this Queen Mother?
Those look sheltering the sage
Or the poor or migrant
O Mother, it will be too flagrant.”

Says the queen all in hate
“Chase off this compassionate”“
In their fun violent
The cruel youth jubilant
In their mad craze,
Set the cots ablaze.

The black smoke dense
Spiraled up hence,
The bonfire in no time
Sweeps the entire clime
Shooting the fiery missiles around
Hundreds of its tongues sky bound.
Erupting as if from hell
All the snakes the earth to quell“
With dancing hoods up stretching
Their uproar did ring
In the ears of the women frenzied
Deepak Raga“ the music of fire indeed.
The morning birds’ music of cheer
Turned to scream of fear.
The crows’ babel all confused
The northern gale gained boost“
From one cottage to the other
Hopped the dreadful fire,
The greedy tongue of disaster
Licked the hamlet entire“
Along its deserted path
Return the queen and party after their bath
Weary of their frolic but all in grace
Back were they to their palace.

On his throne then seated
To mete justice the king was deliberate
Thereto the homeless subjects
Marched in batches
Submitted their affliction
Quavering in hesitation.

The king left the court blushing in shame
Entered the queen’s chamber untimely
Charged her for setting the poors’ homes aflame
Violating royal ethics so vulgarly.

Furious the queen reparteed“
“Ah! Those were homes indeed!
A few shanties on the ruin
Were all there to be seen“
How much loss could have been
To any soul you imagine“
While treasures go down all over the earth
For a brief royal mirth?”

Within a burning heart, all his anger
The king does capture
Says he, “So long you are the queen,
You’ll realize not what loss has been
To the poor to lose his humble hut“
Through penance you will know it but.”

By king’s order her royal garment
The maids un-deed to her torment
Put on the queen beggar’s rags
That befit only the hags.
To the street the king leads her,
“Ask for alms as a beggar“
From door to door till you can
Re-build the huts, not beyond a year’s span
Come back thereafter,
Before this court to surrender
The account of loss on your glee”“
Remorsefully said he.

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