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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 20, May 7, 2011

Daybreak in Russia

Saturday 14 May 2011

by Rabindranath Tagore

(This letter by Rabindranath Tagore to his grand-daughter, Nandini, was written in 1930 when the Poet was spending a few days in a country-house outside Moscow during his trip to the Soviet Union. Addressed to a girl of nine, it describes in his intimately picturesque style the daybreak on the Russian horizon. Pupumoni was the affectionate name by which the Poet used to call his grand-daughter, and Dadamoshai is the Bengali equivalent of grandfather. The English translation of the original Bengali letter, hitherto unpublished, was by Kshitis Roy, by whose courtesy it come out in Mainstream (Republic Day Special 1965). Pupumoni,’)

You can hardly guess where I am at the moment. It is a large house, set amidst a fine garden with a park of tall trees stretching out as far as the eyes can see. The sky is cloudy and it is rather cold here. The tree tops shake their shaggy heads against the sharp wind.

Amiya1 is still in Moscow, Ariam2 has gone somewhere else, there is only Harry Timbres3 to keep me company. I do not have a watch on me, but it should be round about eight in the morning. On waking, I looked out of the window and found it was still dark. A little while after I saw that the sky was studded with stars. I did not leave the bed but kept on lying quietly—looking at the star-spangled sky. When there was a little more light, I left the bed, washed my face and started on my letter-writing. My first letter was a long long, one to your father.4 And now here I am—writing to you.

But I am hungry. Probably the maid here will appear soon with a breakfast tray of tea and fried eggs. You must be up by this time and probably have had your morning drink of milk and choco-late. I wonder if you are out for a walk. If it is still raining your side, then I am afraid there is no out of doors for you.

This evening we drive back to Moscow. There, in the city, we have a big hotel to live in. That can hardly compare with this beautifully appointed country-house. Nor are the meals there half as good as they are here.

I feel like going back to Santiniketan. Once back home I shall refuse to budge. I shall give all my time to the making of pictures.5 Early in the morning Banamali,6 would bring me my cup of hot coffee and buttered toast. Breakfast over, I shall have my promenade along the red gravel path in the garden—my big staff in hand. Therefore...... Well let that wait.

Breakfast has come. Here, let me give you the menu: Coffee, Bread and Butter, Caviare, two types of Cheese, Cream, Yogurt and two boiled Eggs. There is a basket of fruits besides—Grapes, Pears and Apples.

I have now had my breakfast and followed it up with a hot bath. Let me do some more letter-writing.

Clouds have scattered and the sun is revealed over the tree-tops rustling in the wind. The green leaves glisten. I do not even know the names of the birds whose song I hear. I must not waste more time so, goodbye, dear.

Yours,

20 September, 1930 Dadamoshai

REFERENCES

1. Dr Amiya Chakravarti who accompanied the Poet during his Moscow trip. Therefore he was Professor of Comparative Religion at Boston University.

2. E.W. Aryanayakam, at that time the Poet’s Private Secretary. Later he became a prominent member of the Sarva Seva Sangh.

3. American Malariologist who served at the Rural Reconstruction Institute at Sriniketan for many years before he went to Moscow on a research project. He died in Russia.

4. Poet’s son, Rathindranath Tagore.

5. An exhibition of the paintings of Rabindranath Tagore was held in Moscow in September 1930.

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