the sakuntala and other things sanskrit


Toward the end of the Sakuntala, the most famous of the three surviving plays by Kalidasa–the poet usually considered the finest in ancient India–the hero Dushyanta offers this poignant self-analysis:

Like someone staring at an elephant
who says, “There is no elephant here,”
and who then, as it moves away,
feels a certain doubt
and later, seeing its footprints,
is certain: “An elephant
has been here”–
such are the subtle
workings of my mind.

Or of any mind–the rueful king speaks for all of us. We almost always miss the elephant in front of us. By the time we make our retrospective deduction from the footprints, it’s usually too late.

more from TNR here.