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.
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.