The Margosa Tree

Some are skinning off its bark and boiling it.

Some are tearing away leaves for grinding.

Yet others are frying them in oil.

To apply on ringworm afflicted skin.

A panacea for a variety of skin ailments.

Many eat the tender leaves.

Raw, uncooked.

Or, sautéed with eggplant.

Helps the liver.

Endlessly many chew the young twigs … to keep their teeth healthy.

Practitioners of traditional medicine praise it to the skies.

The wise are pleased to see it grow next to one’s dwelling.

“Breeze filtered through Margosa leaves is good for health. Don’t chop it down,” they say.

No one chops it, but they don’t care for it either.

Garbage collects on every side.

Some build a paved platform around its stem. That’s yet another piece of junk.

Suddenly one day a maverick arrives.

He stares at the Margosa tree with rapt attention. He doesn’t tear any part of the bark, nor the leaves. He does not snap a single twig.  He simply keeps gazing.


And then he says, “Oh, how exquisite the leaves … magnificent! How pretty the flower bunches … as though a flock of stars has descended from the blue sky on to the green lake below … Lovely …”

He stands staring for a while and then goes about his way.

He was not one for diseases to cure, but a poet pure.

The Margosa wished it could leave with the man. But it failed. Its roots had penetrated deep inside the earth. It remained standing in the middle of the garbage heap behind the house.

The condition of the docile young girl married off in the crammed household next door, brimming though she is with housewifely virtues, is no different.

[Translation of a classic Bengali story by Banaphool. It was published in a collection called Adrishyalok, 1946.]

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  • kerman  On August 11, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Kaku… what a lovely poem.. thanks for translating it…
    “The condition of the docile young girl married off in the crammed household next door, brimming though she is with housewifely virtues, is no different.”

    this comparison between the Margosa tree and a young newly married girl at the end is priceless… I’ve no other words to describe it ..

    • dipankardasgupta  On August 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      Thank you Kerman.

      Yes, this is a classic in Bengali literature. However, although it looks a bit like a poem, it was intended to be a short story. It is known as one of the best written short stories in Bengali.

      All the best.


  • knot2share  On August 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Dear OJ da..The last couple of lines told the whole story! Beautiful comparison.

    • dipankardasgupta  On August 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm

      Thank you k2s. You are right. The last lines say it all. This is considered to be a classic story in Bengali literature. Banaphul enriched Bengali short stories in many ways. Novels too. oj-da

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