• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Rabindranath Tagore | Story
  • The Wrong Heaven : Rabindranath Tagore
    translated from Bengali to English by Palash Baran Pal

    The man was quite a loafer.

    He did not have any work to do, but had lots of hobbies.

    He used to pour earth into little wooden moulds and decorate them with oyster-shells. From a distance it looked like a hazy picture with a flight of birds in it; or like an uneven field with cattle grazing; or maybe like an undulating hilly landscape with a stream or a hikers' path running across it.

    His folks used to rebuke him. Sometimes he also thought that he would give up all these crazy ideas. But craziness refused to leave him alone.

    --- 2 ---

    There are some boys who neglect their studies throughout the year, but pass the exams nevertheless. Something similar happenned to this man.

    All his life was spent in worthless pursuits. And yet after his death, he heard that he had been allowed admission to heaven.

    But providence accompanies a man even on his way to heaven. The angels made a mistake and put him into the heaven of the workaholics.

    There was everything in that heaven except a little time to relax.

    There every man was saying, ``Hardly have any time to breathe!'' Every woman was saying, ``See you later, I'll have to get back to work.'' Everybody was saying, ``Time is extremely valuable!'' No one was saying, ``Time is invaluable.'' Everyone was complaining, ``There's a hell of a lot of work'', and was feeling quite pleased with that. The theme song for this place was --- ``I am really tired working.''

    This fellow did not fit anywhere, did not know where to go. He walked carelessly on the streets and got in the way of busy people. He spread his towel by the side of the road and sat down. People told him that he was sitting on plant beds where seeds had been sown. So all the time he had to move aside, he had to leave his place.

    --- 3 ---

    A very busy girl came everyday to take water from the fountain of heaven.

    The lilt of her walk was like a fast tune played on a sitar.

    She tied her hair in a quick braid. Even then a few strands of hair freed themselves from that knot and leaned forward on her forehead, as if just to catch a glimpse of her black and beautiful eyes.

    The heavenly loafer was standing nearby, as still as a tree beside the restive fountain.

    The girl took pity on him, much like a princess at the sight of a beggar through her palace window.

    ``Poor thing! Don't you have any work to do?''

    The man heaved a sigh and said, ``I have no time for work.''

    The girl did not have any idea of what he was talking about. She said, ``Do you want some work to do? I can give you some.''

    The man said, ``Yes, I wanted some work right from your hands. That is why I have been waiting here.''

    ``What kind of work do you want?''

    ``I was wondering if you could lend me one of those pitchers that you fill up with water.''

    ``What do you want to do with a pitcher? Want to carry water?''

    ``Not at all. I want to draw pictures on it.''

    The girl was annoyed. She said, ``I'm running out of time. I've got to go.''

    But a person of work can never match the arguments of a person of no work. Every single day they met near the fountain, and everyday the man said the same thing, ``Why don't you lend me a pitcher, I want to draw pictures on it.''

    The girl gave up. She lent him a pitcher.

    The man started painting on it all around --- beautiful colors, beautiful curves.

    When he had finished, the girl picked up the pitcher. She held it in her hand and looked at it from all directions. Then she frowned and said, ``What does it mean?''

    The man said, ``It doesn't mean anything.''

    The girl went home with her pitcher.

    When nobody else was around, she looked at the pitcher. She looked at it from different angles, in different shades of light. When everyone else had fallen asleep, she got out of her bed, lit the lamp, and sat silently in front of the pitcher. This was the first thing she saw in her life which did not have any meaning.

    On the following day, when she arrived at the fountain, she was not walking as swiftly as before. Her feet were getting careless while walking --- as if they were thinking of something --- something which did not have any meaning.

    The man was standing by the side of the fountain that day as well.

    The girl asked him, ``What do you want?''

    He said, ``I want more work from you.''

    ``What kind of work?''

    ``If you want, I can weave colorful strings and make ribbons for you so that you can braid your hair with them.''

    ``What use will that come to?''

    ``No use at all.''

    The ribbons were made in due time --- in various colors, in various designs. From that time on, the girl needed more time near the mirror while braiding her hair. Hours passed by, work remained undone.

    --- 4 ---

    At the heaven of workaholics, among the vast space of work and work and work, very soon there appeared huge voids. Songs and sobs started filling up those voids.

    The authorities got anxious. They called a meeting. They said, ``Nothing of its kind has happened in the history of this place,''

    The angel admitted the mistake. He said, ``I brought the wrong man into the wrong heaven.''

    The wrong man was summonned to the court. At the sight of him entering the courthouse, wearing a colorful turban and a lavishly decorated belt, everyone understood that this man was a big misfit.

    The chairman said, ``You will have to go back to earth.''

    The man picked up his paints, brush and easel. He heaved a big sigh of relief and said, ``Okay, see you then.''

    The girl came and said, ``I want to go as well.''

    The elderly chairman was puzzled. This was the first thing he saw in his life which did not have any meaning at all.

    Published in Parabaas, December 1, 2004.

    The original, titled [bhul swarga*] by Rabindranath Tagore was first published in the Bengali magazine Prabaasi in Kartik, 1328 (October-November, 1921) and later collected in lipikaa (`Brief Writings') in August 1922.

    অলংকরণ (Artwork) : Nilanjana Basu
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