Tagore prayer at Vesak

The wooden core of a statue at Pulinathalaramaya temple, Kalutara, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The wooden core of a Buddha statue at Pulinathalaramaya temple, Kalutara, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The book of selected poems of Rabindranth Tagore, that my first Bangladeshi lady friend Farah Kabir lent me has become my pillow book.  I have taken books to bed since I was a child, when the smell of a newly printed book was as intoxicating as the adventures and mysterious worlds the texts unfolded.  Books have been there next to the pillow, on the sides, overflowing to rest under the bed.  But the pillow books occupy a special place.  I touch them smell them, often let them fall open on their own and read them first thing in the morning.  The images that spring up, the emotions they evoke stays with me the whole day. I chew the cud, ruminate, and draw strength from the words but never spit them out. I might not remember the whole text but the joys of reading are archived in the memory bank.

Morning Sweeper, Lalmatia, Dhaka. September 2010. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Tagore’s poetry and the haunting love songs have stirred my blood, touched me as never before.  Reading it in this country of his birth adds a special dimension. As I rumble to Drik in a bumpy rickshaw over a pot-holed road, I see the children working at building sites, the women labourers in vibrant sarees, the sleeping guard almost falling off his stool,  and I think — this is his country,  this is is his people,  this is what inspired him. His poetry resonates with us 150 years later.  I savour them like luscious ripened mangoes not ashamed to show the dribble from my mouth.

A few lines remembered, from his vast collection is enough to put a spring in my step, forget my travails of living in Dhaka. I give an extra couple of Taka’s to my wiry, weather beaten rickshaw walla ,who has pedaled furiously , turned the wheels in the nick of time in a maze of morning traffic to see me safely to Drik — and watch his face breaks into smiles.

Enjoy today’s poem by Rabindranath Tagore from my pillow book.

Give me the Supreme courage of love, this is my

prayer-the courage to speak, to do, to suffer at

thy will, to leave things, or be left alone.

Strengthen me on errands of danger, honour me

with pain, and help me climb to that difficult

mood which sacrifices daily to thee.


Give me the supreme confidence of love, this is my

            prayer-the confidence that belongs to life in

            death, to victory in defeat, to the power hidden

            in frailest beauty, to that dignity in pain which

            accepts hurt but disdains to return to it.

1 thought on “Tagore prayer at Vesak

  1. Talking of pillow books – have you read “The Pillow book of Sei Shonogon” – by a 13th. century Japanese court lady?

    My favourite is Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet”.

    I presume you have “Gitanjali”

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