Chance meeting in a rail compartment,
I hadn’t thought it would be possible.
I had seen her many times
In a red sari
Red as the pomegranate;
Today, she’s wearing a black silk,
She has covered her head
Bordered her face — fair as the white ginger lily.
As if, with the black colour, she has wrapped
A deep distance all around herself,
The distance that is in the last limit of mustard fields
In the blue depths of the saal forest.
My whole heart halted;
I saw a known one in the unknown’s solemnity.
Suddenly, flinging down the newspaper
She greeted me.
The way to social norms was opened,
I started the small talk –
How are you, how’s the family
And so on.
She kept staring out of the window
As if in a gaze that has crossed the touch of intimate days.
She gave a few, very brief replies,
Sometimes none at all.
The impatience of her hands implied –
Why this talk,
So much better than this to stay silent.
I was on the other seat
With her companions.
At one time she asked me with her fingers to come close.
I thought she was rather brave;
I sat down on her same seat.
In the cover of the train’s noise
She said softly,
Where is the time to waste time.
I have to get down at the very next station;
You will go far,
We shall never meet again.
Thus the question whose answer has paused for so long,
I want to hear from you.
Will you tell me the truth?”
I said, “I will.”
She kept her eyes on the sky as she asked,
“Our days that are past
Are they utterly past,
Is nothing left of them.”
I kept quiet for a while;
Then I said,
“All the stars of the night remain
In the depths of the day’s light.”
I wondered, did I make it up?
She said, “Never mind, now go there.”
Everyone got down at the next station;
I went on alone.
Translated from a poem by Rabindranath Tagore.