People look forward to the onset of the Indian southwest monsoon for different reasons. For millions of children across the country, it is the time to launch their paper boats. Jagjit Singh, the Ghazal singer, sang about monsoon showers, paper boats and childhood memories in his soulful number of 1985, “Woh kagaz ki kashti, woh barish ka pani”. A century ago, Rabindranath Tagore, the poet, wrote about them only as a child would:

“Day by day I float my paper boats one by one down the running stream.

The child wants to make friends with people in other lands, to send them flowers as gifts.

“In big black letters I write my name on them and the name of the village where I live. I hope that someone in some strange land will find them and know who I am. “

I go to my little boats with flowers from our garden, and hope that these blooms of the dawn will be carried safely to land in the night.

The child sees competition from the clouds up above and imagines having a boat race with them.

“I launch my paper boats and look up into the sky and see the little clouds setting their white bulging sails.

“I know not what playmate of mine in the sky sends them down the air to race with my boats!

“When night comes I bury my face in my arms and dream that my paper boats float on and on under the midnight stars. The fairies of sleep are sailing in them, and the lading is their baskets full of dreams.”

Tagore, a few years later wrote another poem about paper boats, this time as a mature person who has weathered the storms of life, would:

“I remember a day in my childhood I floated a paper boat in the ditch.

He relives his childhood memories of a particular storm.

“It was a wet day of July; I was alone and happy over my play. I floated my paper boat in the ditch. Suddenly the storm clouds thickened, winds came in gusts, and rain poured in torrents. Rills of muddy water rushed and swelled the stream and sunk my boat.

He had been annoyed with the storm and had made accusations against it.

“Bitterly I thought in my mind that the storm came on purpose to spoil my happiness; all its malice was against me.

But now as he looks back upon life, he does not “blame it on the rain” anymore.

“The cloudy day of July is long today, and I have been musing over all those games in life wherein I was loser. I was blaming my fate for the many tricks it played on me, when suddenly I remembered the paper boat that sank in the ditch.”

These two Tagore poems are from his collections, The Crescent Moon (1903) andThe Gardener (1913) respectively. 

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