“Big Sister” by Rabindranath Tagore


Big SisterLocal Swimming Hole (Pukur)They dig by the river for bricklaying - labourers from the west country. Their little girl
Keeps scampering to the ghat. Such scrubbing and scouring
Of pots and pans and dishes! Comes running
A hundred times a day, brass bangles jangling
Clang clang against the brass plates she cleans.
So busy all day! Her little brother,
Bald, mud-daubed, not a stitch on his limbs,
Follows her like a pet, patiently sits
On the high bank, as Big Sister commands.
Plates against her left side, a full pitcher on her head,
The girl goes back, the child’s hand in her right hand.
A surrogate of her mother,
Bent under her work-load, such a wee Big Sister!

from Tagore, Rabindranath, I Won’t let you Go: Selected Poems translated by Dyson, Ketaki K., UBS Publishers’ Distributors Ltd.: New Delhi. 1992.