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Kabuliwallah by Rabindranath Tagore
Translated  by Gouri Datta

My five year old young daughter, Minnie, cannot exist a second without talking.

Since being born, she spent only a year in acquiring the language, and after that she has not wasted a minute of her waking life by remaining silent.

Her Mother often chides her to keep quiet, but I cannot do that.

Seeing Minnie silent even for a short period of time –seems so odd and unusual, that I cannot bear it for too long.

Thus my conversations with Minnie are always lively and enthusiastic.

Punascha by Syed Majtuba Ali
Translated by Ranjan Mukherjee


Déjà vu

This incident occurred in Paris, but it also could just as easily have taken place in Berlin, Vienna, London or Prague.

It was one of the last, dog days of summer. All my acquaintances had already left for the cool suburbs or beaches. I was alone and feeling very lonely.

One cannot spend every day at the National Library or the Louvre. I was aware of the fun and frolic of Paris, there was nothing new to be had there. I was deep in thought on such weighty matters and moving along with the flow of pedestrians on the Place de la Madelaine. Suddenly I heard, ‘Bonsoir Monsieur le Doctor!' I looked around and saw one of the many thousands of beautiful young French women. She seemed familiar, but as much as I tried, I could not recollect her name. In a hurt voice she said, ‘Oh! You do not recognize me now, but we were acquainted before you came to Paris.' Just as one suddenly remembers the answer to a question before the stern reprimand from the school headmaster, I instantly remembered that I had met Claire Chatineau during my trip from India, on the train from Marseilles to Paris. I had already taken off my hat, and now bowed politely and said, ‘A thousand apologies and regrets, Mademoiselle Chatineau.' When it came to etiquette, there were many similarities between Paris and Lucknow. If you are ever unsure about protocol in Paris, do what you would do in Lucknow without hesitation. Chances are you will not regret it. In small, mundane matters, ‘virtue of brevity' rules, but in matters of etiquette, it is best to follow ‘the more the merrier.'

Dekha Hobe by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay
Translated by Gouri Datta


We will Meet Again

There was a world as chequered as a colorful quilt in our childhood.

There still remains the earth beneath my feet, the trees around, the sky above. I inhale deeply.

But no, I cannot now smell the mysterious scent of wilderness from a garden wet with the winter's mist.

Our Santal gardener used to burn leaves to make a fire. That smell had frequently wafted me to the memory of another birth. It reminds me of the fragrance of my mother's body.

The smell would alert me even in the middle of a deep sleep –when my mother came to bed very late.

I would make sure to turn towards my mother and sleep.

Those were the days when we would get new books every year for new classes.

What fragrance was imbued in each page of those new books!

I remember picking kadam flowers and using them as balls to play with. The kadam flowers' pollen stuck to our hands and feet.

What else did we have then? How much does a person's childhood have?

As soon as the afternoon light died, the world was captured by ghosts.

It was hard to go from one room to another. We would stay close to each other in that large house.

But as soon as dawn light broke, we would awaken to jump out of bed and out the door.

The world outside was wondrous. The sun arose, the sky was blue, the trees were green. All were just like the day before. But I would still look at it with amazement. I would think- I don't think I saw it just like this yesterday.
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