[Translated by Argha Bagchi and Dipankar Daasgupta]
We could run into each other in a rail-compartment.
Many a time have I seen her in the past
In red saree-
As red as the flowers of pomegranate,
Today, dressed in black silk,
Her lustrous magnolia face,
She had created a dark, unfathomable distance,
That ran till the end of vast mustard-fields
And forests lost in the blue horizon.
My mind jolted to an abrupt halt
Seeing a known face in the garb of a sullen strangeness.
Suddenly, putting aside the newspaper
She greeted me formally
Clearing up avenues of social propriety.
I started up a conversation-
‘How are you’ and ‘how’s your family’
She stared out of the window,
With a look that had crossed over to the other side of our days of proximity
Offered brief replies to a query or two,
Did not respond to some at all.
With a restless waving of her hand
She conveyed that silence was preferable
To vain conversation.
I was sitting in a separate row with her mates.
She motioned to me with her fingers to sit next to her..
How intrepid! I thought-
But I went and sat on the same row with her.
Her voice concealed under the noise of the train,
She softly said,
`Do excuse me,,
Have no time to waste.
I am about to get off at the next station-
You will be travelling far,
Never shall we meet again.
Hence, I wish to hear directly from you
The long held up answer to my question.
You will speak the truth, won’t you?’
`I will’, said I.
Staring outside at the sky, continued she,
`Have our bygone days,
Gone truly away for good-
Leaving nothing at all behind?’
I fell silent for a while,
And then replied,
‘All the stars that fill up the night
Lie deeply hidden in the glow of the day.’
But then I doubted myself, did I make it all up!
She said, ‘That’s all. Go back to the other side now.’
Everyone got off at the next station.
I continued on my journey. Alone.