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Poems . 
The Discovery of Shoes
by Kumud Biswas

Said Hobu, "Do you hear, you Gobu Roy,
I have thought throughout last night
Why should my feet become dirty with dust
As soon as I put my feet on the earth?
You only draw your salaries
Without caring about your duties to the king.
I am the owner of the earth
Yet it will make me dirty
What nonsense is this!
I want you soon to find its remedy
Otherwise I shall spare you none."

At this Gobu was at his wit's end
In fear he began to profusely sweat
The pundits' faces became pale
The courtiers lost their sleep
They closed their kitchens
And stopped to take their food
All of them began to cry
With his aged beards all awash with tears
Gobu at last submitted to his king,
"How shall we get the dust of your feet
If they don't become dirty at all?"

This made the king to think deeply
But he said at last, "Yes, it is true -
But first you remove the dust
Then you theorize about the dust of my feet.
If this poses a problem and you cannot solve
Then you get your salary for nothing
Why did I employ so many scientist servants
Holding so many degrees?
You finish your first task first
And think about other things later."

Gobu got utterly confused
And he carefully began to recruit
The learned and the technologists from far and near
They sat down with their spectacles on
And they used up nineteen drums of snuff
They thought and thought
And came up with the solution:
"If the soil is removed
Where will we grow our crops?"
"If you cannot do that", said the king,
"Then why so many pundits are there?"

Jointly they deliberated and bought
Seventeen and half lakhs of brooms
They swept so hard
The dusts of the streets
Covered the entire body of the king
Because of too much of dusts
None could open his eyes
Behind the clouds of dusts
The sun itself got lost
The city became invisible
And men began to cough
"To remove the dust", said the king,
"They have covered the whole world with dusts."

Then came water-carriers twenty-one lakhs
They came in a hurry
With their water carrying bags
In ponds and lakes there remained only clay
Those who live in water began to die
And those living on land began to swim
The shops were closed because of clay
Many caught cold and died of fever
"A bunch of asses!" said the king,
"All the dusts they have turned into clay."

Again they sat in conference
All those meritorious men -
Their heads began to turn
They were at their wit's end
To find an end of the dusts
Someone said, "Cover the earth with mattresses
We shall cover the dusts with carpets."
Others told, "Keep the king in a room
And see that it has no holes
If he doesn't put his feet on the earth
How will they get soiled?"

"Correct you are", said the king,
"But this phobia of dusts
Will reduce my kingdom to dust
If all the time
I remain closeted in a room."
All of them said, "Let us call a cobbler
Let him cover the earth with leather
It will be a great achievement of the king
If in a bag
Could be kept the world full of dust."
It was agreed,
"Yes, this could well be done
If a suitable cobbler could be found."

Here and there the messengers hurried
Suspending all their works
But nowhere could they find
A suitable cobbler
Or suitable leather.
Then came the leader of the cobblers
The old man told slowly smiling,
"I can devise something to serve your purpose
If I am allowed to speak -
If you cover your feet
You can do without covering the earth."

"Would that be so easy", said the king
And all began to brood over the matter
The minister said,
"Put this fellow in a stake
And keep him enclosed in the prison."
The old man sat at the feet of the king
And covered them with leather.
The minister said,
"I had thought as much
How could that rascal know?"
From that day wearing shoes became the fashion
Gobu was thus saved
And saved was the world.

Transcreation of the poem - Juta-abiskar - from the collection Kalpana by Rabindranath Tagore.  

Image under license with Gettyimages.com

24-Sep-2006
 
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