Rabindranath Tagore

Translated from the original Bengali by:

Dr. Dhruba Kumar Dutt

(The translator was a great admirer of Tagore, particularly the children’s stories. In the last days of his life Dr. Dutt had great pleasure in translating Tagore’s short stories and of course the children’s stories. This is one of the stories.)

It was late winter, but still quite cold because of rains the week before. Biswamber, the doctor from Guptipara, was on his way to Saptagram in his palanquin. He was wrapped in a blanket. His medicine box was tied to the roof of the palanquin with a rope.

Shambhu, the loyal servant of the doctor, was following the palanquin with a long stick in hand. Shambhu was very strong. Once in the jungle of Kumbhira a bear had attacked him. He had no gun and fought the bear only with his stick and broke its spine. The bear fell and did not rise to its feet again.

Another day, Shambhu was accompanying Biswamber to Swarnaganj. It was a hot summer day. He was preparing to cook their lunch on the bank of the river Padma. With the help of a chopper Shambhu collected a bunch of fire-wood from the nearby bushes. The scorching sun made him thirsty and he went to the river to drink some water. Suddenly he saw a crocodile dragging a calf into the water. At once Shambhu jumped onto the back of the crocodile and started hacking at its neck with his chopper. The river turned red with blood of the crocodile. The crocodile, in utter pain had to let the calf go. Shambhu swam back to the shore.

Biswamber, the doctor, was on a long journey to see his patient. The son of Madhu Biswas, the station master of the ferry station was suffering from acute gastric pain.

By the time the palanquin reached the big open field, West of Bishnupur, it was already dark. Cowherds were returning to their village with their herd. The doctor asked them, “Hey, do you know how far Saptagram is from here?”

A boy said, “It is about fourteen miles. Please do not venture tonight. On your way you have to cross the field of Vishmahat and a burning ghat nearby. The place is notorious for robbers.”

The doctor replied, “My dear, the patient is suffering and I must go now.”

It was nearly 10 p.m. when they reached Tipuni Canal. At this point, the doctor’s medicine box fell to the ground from the roof of the palanquin and the bottle of castor oil smashed. The box was however, put back and tied to the roof once again. But after crossing the canal they had barely advanced another four miles when another accident held them up again. The bearing bar of the palanquin gave way. The palanquin was made of soft wood, but the doctor was a fat man.

They were forced to spend the night there.

The doctor spread the blanket on the grass, put the lantern nearby and started chatting with Shambhu. After a while, Buddhu, the head bearer said, “Look, who approaches. They are dacoits, I am sure.”

Biswamber babu replied, “Why are you scared? All of us are here together.”

Buddhu said, “Balgu has fled. Pallu is also missing and Bakshi is hiding in that bush. Bishnu has gone numb in fear.”

The doctor’s voice trembled as he called out "Shambhu!”

“Yes master!” he replied.

“What to do now?”

“Do not panic, I am here,” Shambhu said.

The doctor said, “They are five.”

Shambhu said, “But I am Shambhu.”

He jumped to his feet and shouted, “Stop there!” the dacoits roared with laughter and kept on advancing. Shambhu picked up the bearing bar and threw it at the gang. The bar hit the dacoits hard and three of them fell to the ground. Shambhu rushed towards them wielding his stick and the remaining two fled for their lives.

Doctor called, “Shambhu!”

Shambhu said, “Yes, master!”

The Doctor said, “Now open the medicine box.”

“Why?” asked Shambhu.

The Doctor said, “Those three dacoits need treatment. We have to put some bandages.”

Night was about to dawn. Biswamber babu and Shambhu treated the injured dacoits. The sun started shining through the broken clouds.

All the bearers returned. Balgu came, Pallu came. Then Bishnu came holding Bakshi’s hand, still trembling.

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