(This is a very feeble translation of "Kshudito pashan", a story by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. This is at best an amateurish attempt at translation. The objective is merely to acquaint readers about Tagore's stories. Far better translations are available.)
A relative and I were returning back to Kolkata after spending our puja vacations in touring the country, when we met the man in the train. He was dressed in the style of a Mohammedan from the West. After striking a conversation with him I was left more bewildered. He spoke of everything in the world as though the Almighty performed all tasks only after consulting him. Until then we had been very complacent, being unaware of the tragic happenings across the world, the advancement of the Russians, the secret motives of the British, and the complex situation of our own native kings. Our new acquaintance said with a wry smile: There happen more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are reported in your newspapers. We had been out on a tour for the first time in our lives and, so, were impressed by the man's ways. At the drop of a hat he spoke authoritatively on science, sometimes delved into an analysis of the Vedas, and as suddenly quoted from the Persian language. We were no authority in science, Vedas or Persian; his conversation and demeanor, therefore, had us admiring him more and more. My theosophist relative was convinced that our fellow-passenger had some supernatural connections - some sort of magnetism, some supernatural prowess. He listened devotedly to even the man's most trivial talk and secretly made notes of them. I felt that the extraordinary man had realized this and was quite happy about it.
The train halted at a junction and we made ourselves comfortable in the waiting room while awaiting the connecting rain. It was 10pm and we learned that our train would be delayed owing to some problems en route. I had decided to take a quick nap after spreading my sleeping bag on the table, when the extraordinary person began narrating a tale. I could not sleep that night.
Displeased with certain issues pertaining to the administration in Junagadh, I left my employment there and took up services in the Nizam's government in Hyderabad. Since I was young and strong, I was appointed to collect cotton tax in Barich.
Barich is a very scenic place. The Shusta River, like an expert dancer, courses along rapidly in twists and turns, beneath the remote mountains and through thick woods. Right on the banks of the river, above the 150-step river stairway of stones, stands alone a palace in white marble. There is no habitation nearby; the cotton market and village are situated far away.
Shah-Mahmood II had constructed the palace at this remote site around 250 years ago for his own enjoyment and comforts. The fountains in the bath-houses spouted rose-scented water and dainty damsels, with their hair let loose, sat by the fountains playing on the sitar and singing ghazals. The fountains do not spout water and you cannot hear the ghazals anymore. Gentle feet do not step on the marble stones any longer - it is now a solitary residence for tax collectors like us who have no female companions. Karim Khan, the longest-serving clerk in the office, had cautioned me and tried to dissuade me from taking up residence here. "You may go there during the day time if you wish to, but never spend the night at that place," he told me. I laughed away his concerns. The domestic helps said they were willing to work till evening but would under no circumstances stay there in the night. I agreed to their condition. The palace had gained such a notoriety that even thieves did not dare come anywhere near it.