The sky which gives light is blue, and my mother's face was dark, but she had the radiance of holiness, and her beauty would put to shame all the vanity of the beautiful.
Thus, over Life's outward aspect passes the series of events, and within is being painted a set of pictures. The two correspond but are not one.
We do not get the leisure to view thoroughly this studio within us. Portions of it now and then catch our eye, but the greater part remains out of sight in the darkness. Why the ever-busy painter is painting; when he will have done; for what gallery his pictures are destined—who can tell?
Some years ago, on being questioned as to the events of my past life, I had occasion to pry into this picture-chamber. I had thought to be content with selecting some few materials for my Life's story. I then discovered, as I opened the door, that Life's memories are not Life's history, but the original work of an unseen Artist. The variegated colours scattered about are not reflections of outside lights, but belong to the painter himself, and come passion-tinged from his heart; thereby unfitting the record on the canvas for use as evidence in a court of law.
But though the attempt to gather precise history from memory's storehouse may be fruitless, there is a fascination in looking over the pictures, a fascination which cast its spell on me.
The road over which we journey, the wayside shelter in which we pause, are not pictures while yet we travel—they are too necessary, too obvious. When, however, before turning into the evening resthouse, we look back upon the cities, fields, rivers and hills which we have been through in Life's morning, then, in the light of the passing day, are they pictures indeed. Thus, when my opportunity came, did I look back, and was engrossed.
SERVANT. Have mercy upon your servant, my queen!
QUEEN. The assembly is over and my servants are all gone. Why do you come at this late hour?
SERVANT. When you have finished with others, that is my time. I come to ask what remains for your last servant to do.
QUEEN. What can you expect when it is too late?
SERVANT. Make me the gardener of your flower garden.
QUEEN. What folly is this?
SERVANT. I will give up my other work.
I will throw my swords and lances down in the dust. Do not send me to distant courts; do not bid me undertake new conquests.
But make me the gardener of your flower garden.
QUEEN. What will your duties be?
SERVANT. The service of your idle days.
I will keep fresh the grassy path where you walk in the morning, where your feet will be greeted with praise at every step by the flowers eager for death.
I will swing you in a swing among the branches of the saptaparna, where the early evening moon will struggle to kiss your skirt through the leaves.
I will replenish with scented oil the lamp that burns by your bedside, and decorate your footstool with sandal and saffron paste in wondrous designs.
QUEEN. What will you have for your reward?
SERVANT. To be allowed to hold your little fists like tender lotus-buds and slip flower chains over your wrists; to tinge the soles of your feet with the red juice of ashoka petals and kiss away the speck of dust that may chance to linger there.
QUEEN. Your prayers are granted, my servant, you will be the gardener of my flower garden.
Rabindranath Tagore was such a poet whose passion was to depict human emotions and sentiment as such. He was a poet who knew the pulse of humankind. He made us ever aware of life's unending saga.
Since childhood he used to be immersed in the world of poetry and dreamt of the natural beauty outside the four walls of his house. He never acquired any training in the art of Painting.
[A street. A few wayfarers, and a CITY GUARD]
First Man. Ho, Sir!
City Guard. What do you want?
Second Man. Which way should we go? We are strangers here. Please tell us which street we should take.
City Guard. Where do you want to go?
Third Man. To where those big festivities are going to be held, you know. Which way do we go?
City Guard. One street is quite as good as another here. Any street will lead you there. Go straight ahead, and you cannot miss the place. [Exit.]
First Man. Just hear what the fool says: "Any street will lead you there!" Where, then, would be the sense of having so many streets?
Second Man. You needn't be so awfully put out at that, my man. A country is free to arrange its affairs in its own way. As for roads in our country—well, they are as good as non-existent; narrow and crooked lanes, a labyrinth of ruts and tracks. Our King does not believe in open thoroughfares; he thinks that streets are just so many openings for his subjects to fly away from his kingdom. It is quite the contrary here; nobody stands in your way, nobody objects to your going elsewhere if you like to; and yet the people are far from deserting this kingdom. With such streets our country would certainly have been depopulated in no time.
First Man. My dear Janardan, I have always noticed that this is a great fault in your character.
Janardan. What is?
First Man. That you are always having a fling at your country. How can you think that open highways may be good for a country? Look here, Kaundilya; here is a man who actually believes that open highways are the salvation of a country.
Kaundilya. There is no need, Bhavadatta, of my pointing out afresh that Janardan is blessed with an intelligence which is remarkably crooked, which is sure to land him in danger some day. If the King comes to hear of our worthy friend, he will make it a pretty hard job for him to find any one to do him his funeral rites when he is dead.
Bhavadatta. One can't help feeling that life becomes a burden in this country; one misses the joys of privacy in these streets—this jostling and brushing shoulders with strange people day and night makes one long for a bath. And nobody can tell exactly what kind of people you are meeting with in these public roads—ugh!
Kaundilya. And it is Janardan who persuaded us to come to this precious country! We never had any second person like him in our family. You knew my father, of course; he was a great man, a pious man if ever there was one. He spent his whole life within a circle of a radius of 49 cubits drawn with a rigid adherence to the injunctions of the scriptures, and never for a single day did he cross this circle. After his death a serious difficulty arose—how cremate him within the limits of the 49 cubits and yet outside the house? At length the priests decided that though we could not go beyond the scriptural number, the only way out of the difficulty was to reverse the figure and make it 94 cubits; only thus could we cremate him outside the house without violating the sacred books. My word, that was strict observance! Ours is indeed no common country.