BY RABINDRANATH TAGORE.
[Translated from the Original Bengali by Bhabani Bhattacharya.]
THE man never believed in utility. Having had no useful work to do, he indulged in mad whims. He made little pieces of sculpture—men, women and castles, quaint earthen things dotted over with sea-shells. He painted. Thus he wasted his time on all that was useless and unnecessary. People laughed at him. Sometimes he would vow to shake off his mad whims, but his mad whims would keep clinging to his mind.
Some boys never ply their books and yet pass their examinations. A similar thing happened to this man. He spent all his life in unnecessary work on the planet, Earth; yet, after his death, the gates of the heavens flung open for him.
But the Moving Finger writes even in the heavens. So it came to pass that the aerial messenger who took charge of the man made a mistake and found a place for him in Workers’ Paradise.
In this paradise, you will find everything except leisure.
Here, men say: ” God ! we haven’t a moment to spare.” Women whisper: “Let’s hurry on, dear, time’s a-flying.” All exclaim: “Time is precious.” “We are always having our hands full; we are making use of every single minute,” they sigh complainingly, and yet those very words make them feel happy and exulted.
But this newcomer who had passed all his life in the planet, Earth, without any employment did not fit in with the scheme of things in Workers’ Paradise. He lounged in the streets absent-mindedly and jostled with hurrying men. He lay down in green meadows and was taken to task by busy farmers. He was always in the way of others.
A hustling, active girl went every day to a silent torrent (silent, for in the Workers’ Paradise even a torrent did not waste its energy by singing) to fill her pitcher with water.
The girl’s movement on the road was like the rapid movement of a skilled hand on the strings of a guitar. Her hair was carelessly done; a few inquisitive wisps flew on to her white forehead to peep at the dark wonder of her eye.
The unemployed man was standing by the fountain, motionless. As a princess sees a lonely beggar through her window and is filled with pity, so the busy girl of Heaven saw the unemployed man and was filled with pity.
” A—ha,” she said, “you haven’t any work in hand, have you? “
The man sighed: ” Work! I haven’t a moment to spare for work.”
The girl did not understand his words; so she said: “I may manage to spare some work for you if you like.”
The man replied: ” Girl-of-the-silent-torrent, all this time I have been waiting here only to take some work from your hands.”
She asked: “What sort o work would you like? “- He said: “Girl-of-the-silent-torrent, couldn’t you give me one of your pitchers—one which you could spare? ” She asked: “A pitcher? Perhaps you should like to draw water from the torrent? “
He replied; ” No, I will draw pictures on your pitcher.” The girl became annoyed and said: “I have no time to waste on such as you. I am going 52 And away she went.
But how could a busy person get the better of one who had nothing to do? Every day they met, and every day he said to her: “Girl-of-the-silent-torrent, give me one of your pitchers; I will draw pictures on it.”
At last, she had to give way, and hand him over one of her pitchers.
The man began to paint on it; he drew line after line, he put color after color.
• When he had finished, the girl held up the pitcher and stared at its side with eyes filled with wonder. Then, brows drawn into an arch, she asked: “What do they mean—all these lines and all these colors ? And what is their purpose? “
The man laughed: ” Nothing: A picture never has any meaning and it never serves any purpose.”
The girl went away with her pitcher. At home, away from prying eyes, she held it in the light, turned it round and round and scanned the painting from all angles. At night she left her bed, lighted a lamp and scanned it again in silence and wonder. For the first time in her life she had seen something that had no meaning and no purpose at all I When she set out for the torrent, next day, her hurrying feet was a little less hurrying than before. For in her mind thoughts had arisen—thoughts that had no meaning and no purpose at all!
She saw the unemployed man standing by the torrent, and she asked confusedly: “But what—what do you want to me? “
He said: ” Only some more work from your hands.” “And what sort of work would you like? “
“Let me weave a colored ribbon for your hair if you will.”
” And what for? “
Ribbons were made—gleaming with colors. The busy girl of Workers’ Paradise had now to spend a long time, every day, in trying the colored ribbon around her hair; the minutes slid by, unutilized; much work was left unfinished.
In Workers’ Paradise work had, of late, begun to suffer. Many persons who had been active before were now idle, wasting their precious moments in unnecessary things such as painting and sculpture.
The elders became anxious. A meeting was called. All agreed that such a thing had so far been unknown in the history of Workers’ Paradise.
The aerial messenger hurried in, bowed before the elders, and made a confession.
“I brought a wrong man in this Paradise,” he said_: ” It is all due to him.”
The man was summoned. He came in. The elders saw his fantastic dress, his quaint brushes, his pile of paintings, and they realized at once that he was not the right sort for Workers’ Paradise.
Stiffly the president said: “This is no place for the like of you. Therefore you will have to leave—at once.”
The man sighed in great relief and gathered up his brush and paint. But as he was about to leave, the girl- of-the-silent-torrent came up tripping and said: “Wait a moment; for I, too, will go with you.”
The elders gasped in surprise. For never before had a thing like this happened in Workers’ Paradise—a thing that had no meaning and no purpose at all.