Rabindranath Tagore

(7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941 / Calcutta (Kolkata), Bengal Presidency / British India)

The Land of the Exile


Mother, the light has grown grey in the sky; I do not know what
the time is.
There is no fun in my play, so I have come to you. It is
Saturday, our holiday.
Leave off your work, mother; sit here by the window and tell
me where the desert of Tepantar in the fairy tale is.
The shadow of the rains has covered the day from end to end.
The fierce lightning is scratching the sky with its nails.
When the clouds rumble and it thunders, I love to be afraid
in my heart and cling to you.
When the heavy rain patters for hours on the bamboo leaves,
and our windows shake and rattle at the gusts of wind, I like to
sit alone in the room, mother, with you, and hear you talk about
the desert of Tepantar in the fairy tale.
Where is it, mother, on the shore of what sea, at the foot of
what hills, in the kingdom of what king?
There are no hedges there to mark the fields, no footpath
across it by which the villagers reach their village in the
evening, or the woman who gathers dry sticks in the forest can
bring her load to the market. With patches of yellow grass in the
sand and only one tree where the pair of wise old birds have their
nest, lies the desert of Tepantar.
I can imagine how, on just such a cloudy day, the young son
of the king is riding alone on a grey horse through the desert, in
search of the princess who lies imprisoned in the giant's palace
across that unknown water.
When the haze of the rain comes down in the distant sky, and
lightning starts up like a sudden fit of pain, does he remember his
unhappy mother, abandoned by the king, sweeping the cow-stall and
wiping her eyes, while he rides through the desert of Tepantar in
the fairy tale?
See, mother, it is almost dark before the day is over, and
thee are no travellers yonder on the village road.
The shepherd boy has gone home early from the pasture, and men
have left their fields to sit on mats under the eaves of their
huts, watching the scowling clouds.
Mother, I have left all my books on the shelf-do not ask me
to do my lessons now.
When I grow up and am bid like my father, I shall learn all
that must be learnt.
But just for today, tell me, mother, where the desert of
Tepantar in the fairy tale is.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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