Chitra

By Rabindranath Tagore, 1914
Chitra

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Excerpt

SCENE I 

Chitra

ART thou the god with the five darts, the Lord of Love?

Madana

I am he who was the first born in the heart of the Creator. I
bind in bonds of pain and bliss the lives of men and women!

Chitra

I know, I know what that pain is and those bonds.—And who art
thou, my lord?

Vasanta

I am his friend—Vasanta—the King of the Seasons. Death and
decrepitude would wear the world to the bone but that I follow
them and constantly attack them. I am Eternal Youth.

Chitra

I bow to thee, Lord Vasanta.

Madana

But what stern vow is thine, fair stranger? Why dost thou wither
thy fresh youth with penance and mortification? Such a sacrifice
is not fit for the worship of love. Who art thou and what is thy
prayer?

Chitra

I am Chitra, the daughter of the kingly house of Manipur. With
godlike grace Lord Shiva promised to my royal grandsire an
unbroken line of male descent. Nevertheless, the divine word
proved powerless to change the spark of life in my mother's womb
—so invincible was my nature, woman though I be.

Madana

I know, that is why thy father brings thee up as his son. He has
taught thee the use of the bow and all the duties of a king.

Chitra

Yes, that is why I am dressed in man's attire and have left the
seclusion of a woman's chamber. I know no feminine wiles for
winning hearts. My hands are strong to bend the bow, but I have
never learnt Cupid's archery, the play of eyes.

Madana

That requires no schooling, fair one. The eye does its work
untaught, and he knows how well, who is struck in the heart.

Chitra

One day in search of game I roved alone to the forest on the bank
of the Purna river. Tying my horse to a tree trunk I entered a
dense thicket on the track of a deer. I found a narrow sinuous
path meandering through the dusk of the entangled boughs, the
foliage vibrated with the chirping of crickets, when of a sudden
I came upon a man lying on a bed of dried leaves, across my path.
I asked him haughtily to move aside, but he heeded not. Then
with the sharp end of my bow I pricked him in contempt.
Instantly he leapt up with straight, tall limbs, like a sudden
tongue of fire from a heap of ashes. An amused smile flickered
round the corners of his mouth, perhaps at the sight of my boyish
countenance. Then for the first time in my life I felt myself a
woman, and knew that a man was before me.