One of Rabindranath Tagore’s Classics

Among Rabindranath Tagore’s poems, Fruit Gathering XXXVII shines as an example of compassion and clearly explains the ways of the world. Set in the old Indian city of Mathura, the poem shows how the world embraces the youth and discards the old and the ugly. The stormy month of August finds a dancing woman accidentally stumbling on a young ascetic who is sleeping on the city gates. She is pretty and seems intoxicated by her youthfulness. The ascetic rejects the invitation to her house and knowingly tells her that he would visit her when the time is right. The poet then makes a reference to the stormy lightning and the woman’s fear, subtly indicating the things to come.

It is spring now and the ascetic could feel the change in the air. He walks along the silent city gates and finds a woman lying there all alone. Who was this woman and why had she not joined the other people to enjoy the festival of flowers? She is the same dancing woman who invited him to her house, now suffering from skin problems and thrown out of the city. The city that had once celebrated her had now cast her away. He gives her water and treats her illness. She is grateful, but unable to recognize him. The poem ends with the ascetic telling her that the time is now right and he had come back to her.

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