Thursday, December 8, 2011

House and body: Sir Rabindranath Tagore’s dream of Calcutta

Calcutta. Image from
Calcutta street. Image from

I had a most extraordinary dream last night. The whole of Calcutta seemed enveloped in some awful mystery, the houses being only dimly visible through a dense, dark mist, within the veil of which there were strange doings.
I was going along Park Street in a hackney carriage, and as I passed St. Xavier's College I found it had started growing rapidly and was fast getting impossibly high within its enveloping haze. Then it was borne in on me that a band of magicians had come to Calcutta who, if they were paid for it, could bring about many such wonders.
When I arrived at our Jorasanko house, I found these magicians had turned up there too. They were ugly-looking, of a Mongolian type, with scanty moustaches and a few long hairs sticking out of their chins. They could make men grow. Some of the girls wanted to be made taller, and the magician sprinkled some powder over their heads and they promptly shot up.
To every one I met I kept repeating: "This is most extraordinary,--just like a dream!"
Then some one proposed that our house should be made to grow. The magicians agreed, and as a preliminary began to take down some portions.
The dismantling over, they demanded money, or else they would not go on. The cashier strongly objected. How could payment be made before the work was completed? At this the magicians got wild and twisted up the building most fearsomely, so that men and brickwork got mixed together, bodies inside walls and only head and shoulders showing.
It had altogether the look of a thoroughly devilish business, as I told my eldest brother. "You see," said I, "the kind of thing it is. We had better call upon God to help us!" But try as I might to anathematise them in the name of God, my heart felt like breaking and no words would come. Then I awoke.
A curious dream, was it not? Calcutta in the hands of Satan and growing diabolically, within the darkness of an unholy mist!

Glimpses of Bengal. By Sir Rabindranath Tagore. S.R.Ellison, Eric Eldred, and the Distributed Proofreading Team. 1885-1895. The letter selected belongs to the Shazadpur series and it’s dated 1891

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