“For God’s sake, hold your tongue and let me love……”
Godhuli closed her book, carefully marking the page at which she left. It was six in the evening; she had been reading since noon. In those hours, she travelled with Amit Ray to Shillong, met Labonno, saw them falling in love and with them, she fell in love with love. She was reading Tagore’s ‘Shesher Kobita’ for the seventh time, or the tenth; no, the eighth time, certainly; or not. She could not remember.
Hearing the soft hissing sound of boiling water, she rushed to the kitchen, turned off the gas flame and added a spoonful of tea leaves to the water. Darjeeling tea leaves. As she prepared to strain out the tea, something struck her. Putting back the pan on the stove, she let the leaves soak for some more time, added milk and sugar, and strained it into her cup.
The sky was covered with dense black clouds. She rested her hands on the railing and stood sipping her tea. The wind blew against her face, through her hair.
A drop and another; a third one….
Her palm could not stand the force of the fall. She saw before her an odd, yet beautiful shade of black on greyish white; like dark pencil shading on top of a dirty white page.
Godhuli loved thunderstorms. Something about the black clouds and the heavy rain was strangely appealing to her. When people curled up in their beds, shut their ears and closed their eyes tightly, she found music – as if the rain drops danced to the thunder beats.
She cupped her palms and splashed rain water on her face. Godhuli smiled to herself, almost let out a laugh. It was on a rainy evening like this, that she fell in love, about three years back; three years later, she was falling in love with love.
“Amit called his Labonno, Bonna! What would you call me?” she asked him with playful profoundness.
“Why, you suggest one? Should I call you, Dhuli? Or, how about, Oli?” he laughed.
“Will I ever be able to understand, the pleasure you derive from teasing me? This seems silly to you, doesn’t it? After all, Amit Ray is someone, you could never be.”
“That I want to be, says who? I’m content with my ordinary self. Amit Ray’s extraordinaire, I’ve never aspired for; never would.”
“So, teasing is only your birthright. Prabhat, I was just…..”
“Do you really want me to love you like Amit loved Labonno?”
“I see no harm in that;
‘He mor Bonna, tumi ananya….’
(You are unique, oh! My beloved Bonna…)
Would you not write for me?”
“Biday bondhu, biday! (Farewell, my friend!) – would I not have to write so too?”
“Look at the sky, Prabhat. It’s covered with dense black clouds!” she remarked, in a somewhat distracted tone. A smile spread across her face that only rain brought along.
Oli spread a mat on the floor and brought out her tanpura. As she plucked the strings, her eyes closed, in the way one’s eyes close in prayer;
“Aaji jhorer rate, tomar abhisar;
Poran shokha, bondhu he amar….”
(Your tryst on this stormy night; Oh! My beloved…)
She allowed a tear drop at the corner of her eye, to travel down her cheek. She looked at him, eyes welling up –
“I want to keep us forever, Prabhat. Never say good bye to me. Never.”
He smiled reassuringly.
It had stopped raining, but the sky had not cleared. It seemed as if the clouds were there to stay. Godhuli went inside and rested herself on the cane chair next to her bookshelf.
Picking up her book from the table, she turned to the page that she had marked. Lifting the yellowed envelope which was used as a bookmark, she carefully took out the letter from it –
“Amar priyo Oli,
(My dear, Oli)
It has been raining here continuously since last night. Sitting in this dark dungeon like place, I could only hear the sound of thunder and the raindrops falling heavily on the roof. I discovered what you would tell me often – I heard music. When I closed my eyes, I could picture you sitting on the mat and singing as your fingers romanced the strings of the tanpura;
“Aaji jhoro jhoro mukhoro badolo dine;
Jani ne, Jani ne, kichhu te keno je mono lage na….”
(On this rainy day, I know not why, restlessness sets upon my heart; in nothing does it find peace…)
Ironically, this song best describes the melancholy state of my soul. Do you remember that day, when you asked me why I could not love you like Amit loved Bonna? – I was scared, Oli! I was scared to say good bye; maybe because I knew, that one day I might have to; that one day you would have to suffer a fate very different, yet strangely similar to Labonno’s.
It is very dark in here. Only a dim light bulb aids my eyesight. They give me the newspaper every morning. I’ve been granted permission to keep a radio and a few books with me. ‘Shesher Kobita’ has been read about five times over the last three years; every time I read it, I find a bit of us in it – with every page, I have lived that stormy, beautiful evening, I have breathed the air that had your smell, I have……
That we would be here, I knew. Somewhere deep down in my heart, yes! I pretended to be unaware, the bliss of deliberate oblivion consoled me, nursed my heart which I held together with much difficulty. I nursed it, because it was tied to yours – if I fell apart, you would too; if I let myself break, I would shatter you too. I was trying to fool myself, Oli, and in the process, I wronged you.
No, this is not an apology. I have never apologized. Never known how to. I knew not how to love either, knew not what it felt to be loved. But, I have loved you, Oli, in a way I never thought I could; and I have been loved, in a way I never thought I would.
Prabhat and Godhuli – dawn and dusk – morning and evening; one leads to the other; one completes the other.
The sky is roaring. The bulb might go out any moment now. I have to end it here. I do not know if I would ever get to see you again. But, I do not miss you, for my soul is bound to yours; and I know you would not miss me;
“Ami tomaro shonge bendhechhi amaro pran, surer-o bandhone;
Tumi jano na, ami tomare peyechhi ojana shadhone….”
(I have bound my heart to yours with the string of music; you know not, I have found you in an inexplicable, unknown devotion)
Looking down at the book resting peacefully on her lap, Godhuli allowed a tear drop at the corner of her eye to travel down her cheek – for the seventh time, or the tenth; no, the eighth, certainly, or not. She could not remember.
(The line “For God’s sake, hold your tongue and let me love…” is originally from John Donne’s ‘The Canonization’ and was reproduced or used by Tagore in his novel ‘Shesher Kobita’. The lines that have been used here from Tagore’s songs and translated to the English language, are not exactly literal translations. They are simply a means of conveying the meaning of the lines to those, for whom the Bengali language is unknown.)