Published : 15 Nov 2007, 05:10 PM
Updated : 15 Nov 2007, 05:10 PM

(Mrinalini Devi writes to R N Tagore as imagined by the author of this piece)

It is midnight. Madhurilata sleeps verily like a child beside me; I happen to be lying supine, all alone, awake. Closing my tired, aching eyes, I see you swaying gently on the Padma waves, an elbow propped on piles of satin cushions, half-lying under the awning of the Chapala, your celebrated boat moored at Shilaidaha. Your oracular, Nobel-wrenching pen takes another dip into the gilded inkpot-cum-pen stand, in the midst of spraying potent, endearing, soulful words addressed to Indira, your fondly pampered devotee.

The moonlit night cavorts flashily on the deck and around, beating relentlessly on the gently breaking waves, tracing ethereal, almost surreal patterns glittering; captivated, enchanted, eager, aroused—the poet luxuriates in the blissful, nocturnal ambience, gazing upon the fragile Padma waves breaking eagerly, anxiously—impatient to be immortalized by the beholder's pen in a moment. Oblivious of me, of Madhu, of Sudder Street, Jodashanko—you write on and on—in an environment arcadian, sylvan, or circean!

This night invokes the lover in you, the poet-cum-belletrist is poised for action…you're visited by welcome phantoms—of your self-destroying notun bouthhan, of unknown femmes fatales—you go into ecstasies when Bibi writes to you in joy. You solemnly pledge your newly written songs to her!

And here am I—the commonplace, formally wedded wife of the Nobel Laureate pining for you, wearing a shrivelled face—'cause I have loved you heart and soul, darling. The rare moments of our being together create orphic strains serene, begetting star-studded memories of unforgettable happiness and peace for me!

Even those precious moments of togetherness become tainted as your conjugal infidelity prompts you to conjure up visions of other Petrarchan mistresses. And brazenly possessed by the desperate urge of optimising the benefits of my brief idylls, I wilfully suspend my disbelief and feign coital thrill!

I know it's all in vain; my words are too inadequate to capture the moods, cadences, nuances of your deeds or misdeeds, your associations or manifestations of expressions whatsoever—and everybody is aware of my lacklustre incapacities. I could never pertly point at the 'raga' or the 'ragini' base of a popular tune in a jiffy, for example—and I'd rather not mention your gently articulated classy scoffs at that!

I am merely an inept rustic woman, a simpleton in effect—utterly incapable of appreciating your subtle works of art. Have I been of any use to you? Excepting, maybe in the cook-house or the bedchamber, occasionally? The metrical mistakes in your early poetry were found first and righted by notun bouthhan, don't we all know that? Now that the connoisseur is no more, you have transferred your attention in favour of Bibi.

Despite everything, your return from the Padma sojourns makes my innards jingle incorrigibly; my coiffure assumes a bibiesque bun unawares, to divert you. But alas! You fall back irresistibly, inscrutably to writing to Bibi again. Alone, unseen, I shed tears like always. Seeing your Kandarpa visage clouding over, I have my eye-lids darkened with kohl and wear my hair arrayed after your bouthhan, only to pleasure you!

But the pall of gloom doesn't clear, your sullen eyes look blinded—poor copycat me! I cannot match the talents or the tastes of those faraway deities, the embodiments of delectable grace, charm and elegance. The expression of my sorrows, my failures, my indignation…do not pass the indelible yardsticks of delectable grace, charm or splendour natural to the haut monde. Therefore, they do not seduce or flatter the myriad-minded genius's creative faculties as a subject-matter.

My words are about to be exhausted,
Such words should better be depleted,
You reign in Shilaidaha, a loner as usual,
As the first rays of dawn there shimmer.