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Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘The Broken Home’ (Nastanirh): Chapter 2

Charulata (Satyajit Ray, India 1964)

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By Rabindranath Tagore

Translated by: Lopa Banerjee

[Read Ch. 1]

Amal and Charu didn’t notice how and when the dream and vision of their idyllic garden, like other unattainable dreams they had been part of, faded and waned in the boundless space of their imagination.

The world of Amal’s writing gradually usurped those dreams and became the center of their discussion. Once Amal came up to Charu and said: “Bouthan, a wonderful idea has come to me.”

Charu replied, with a sudden burst of energy, “Let us go to our southern verandah. Manda will follow us soon with betel leaves.”

Charu seated herself on a brittle cane chair in the Kashmiri verandah and Amal relaxed his legs over the balustrade.

Amal’s writings were often haphazard and disorganized. A plethora of thoughts crowded his pages, incoherent and unintelligible. Amal himself was aware of this, and often said, “Bouthan, I cannot explain to you well enough what I want to write…”

Charu would encourage him, “No, I did understand much of it; try to complete writing it, don’t delay.”

The writing was a complex web tangled in Charu’s mind, partly understood, partly elusive, partly imagined, and partly charged with the emotion of Amal’s urgency of expression. It created ripples of unexplained joy in her innermost core, made her eager to explore it further.

That evening, Charu asked him: “How much did you write?”

Amal said, “How could I write within such short time?”

Charu’s voice seemed a little quarrelsome the next morning. “Did you still not write it?” She asked.

Amal said, “Wait, let me think some more.”

Charu was enraged. “Then go. I don’t want to talk to you.”

In the evening, when Charu became infuriated to the point of complete silence, Amal discreetly dropped from his pocket a hand-written note.

Charu’s voluntary silence broke within seconds. “There, you have written this! Why did you dupe me? Show it to me now.”

Amal interrupted her. “It is not finished yet, let me write some more and then I will share with you.”

Charu was adamant. “No, I want to hear it right now!” She demanded.

Amal was really eager to read it out to Charu, but he wanted her to struggle with him some more, snatch the paper from him until he relented. Then, Amal would ritualistically read out to her, arranging the pages, revising in a few places with his pencil. All this while, Charu, with her ardent, joyous, curious soul, a cloud which had just burst into a downpour, leaned over those pieces of paper to absorb its contents.

It was Charu’s order to read out his freshly written paragraphs to her; the rest of the unwritten expressions were seeped in their spoken words and imagination that enlivened them, liberated them.

For all these days, both of them had been engaged in building their airy castle of sweet nothings, now they fully immersed themselves in their gradually blossoming poetic realm, losing themselves in it.

One afternoon as Amal returned from his college, his pocket seemed excessively heavy to Charu, who had been keeping an eye over him from the air-hole of her room.

On other days, Amal would quickly come to her quarters and meet her upon returning from college. But that day he surreptitiously entered the outhouse with his heavy pocket and didn’t visit Charu that soon.

Charu, befuddled, came up to the end of the inner apartments of the house and clapped a number of times to draw his attention, but nobody seemed to listen. Angered, frustrated, she tried to concentrate on a book written by Manmatha Dutta in her verandah.

Manmatha Dutta was a new author, whose style of writing was somewhat akin to Amal’s, therefore Amal consciously refrained from praising him, reading out instead some excerpts of his books to his sister-in-law with enough mockery in his voice. Charu, irritated, would snatch that book from him and throw it away in disdain.

Hearing his footsteps resound in the verandah, she suddenly became very conscious and held up to her face a book by the author titled ‘Kalakantha’ (Melodious Voice), focusing all her attention on it.

Amal entered the verandah, and Charu pretended to read on, unnoticing, indifferent. Amal asked, “What are you reading so raptly?”

Watching her silence for some time, Amal lifted his head to her back, trying to read the name. “Manmatha Dutta’s ‘Galaganda’ (Goiter)!” he mocked.

Charu was enraged. “Ah, don’t you irritate me like that, let me read.” Standing over her head, Amal read out from the book in his usual mocking tone: “I am little, inconsequential like grass, o my brother Ashok, before you, dressed up in the scarlet robe of the king, I am but petty, insignificant grass. I am not endowed with blossoming flowers or soothing shadows; I cannot lift my head up in the firmament; the sweet cuckoo of spring does not shelter me and sing in mesmerizing tunes. But still, my brother Ashok, I beseech you, do not deprive me of my own flowered branches. I remain, humbled, at your feet, but I pray, do not belittle me.”

Amal then started adding his own lines to it, spoofing and ridiculing the author: “I am a bunch of bananas, a bunch of plantains, o my brother pumpkin, the ripe pumpkin vine over the roof, I am only a bunch of plantains.”

Charu couldn’t stop laughing at this easy banter of her brother-in-law; she threw away the book and said, “How jealous you are, you think every writer other than you writes trash.”

Amal replied, “And how generous you are, you want to gulp down that useless grass.”

“Ok, now, enough of fun! What is there in your pocket? Show it to me.”

 “No, first you have to guess what is there.”

He kept irritating her for quite some time, and then showed her a copy of a renowned monthly journal named ‘Saroruha’ (Lotus), where his essay ‘My Notebook’ had been published.

Charu kept her silence. Amal had thought she would be delighted to see this, but seeing her reticence, he commented, “They do not publish mediocre writings.”

Amal had undoubtedly exaggerated this. He knew this was not true entirely, the editor is mostly keen to publish whosoever submitted readable pieces, but Amal explained to Charu that the editor of the journal was a tough man, who carefully sieved the best writing from the slush piles of submissions.

Charu pretended to look joyous with this news, but was not really so. She attempted to analyze the reason why she felt hurt, but there was really no concrete reason for her discontent.

After a while, she understood. Amal’s writing was the secret territory where both she and Amal ventured, the writer and the reader, rapt in each other’s silent, secret world. The possibility of the writings being published and read, and admired by the world pained her heart immensely, and she didn’t understand why.

But Amal’s craving for more readership increased by the day. He started publishing more and winning accolades shortly after.

Sometimes, he showed his sister-in-law the mails that he received from his admirers. Charu would be struck by the binary feelings of happiness and sorrow to see Amal reaching out to the world with his pen. She no longer felt the necessity of her excitement and inspiration that had urged him to write. Sometimes, Amal would receive unnamed, clandestinely written mails from women and Charu would pull his leg with those letters, but she really did not derive any great pleasure from all of this. She felt as if the whole of the readership from Bengal had suddenly broken into the secret door of the ‘committee’ they both had formed, thus intruding on their cherished privacy.

One day Bhupati, while resting, said to her, “Charu, I wasn’t really aware that our Amal writes so eloquently!”

Charu was happy to hear this. Bhupati was the benefactor of Amal, but Charu seemed to feel a sense of pride in her husband’s realization of Amal’s superiority among his other kith and kin, whom he had sheltered and provided for. As if he meant to say, “Now you understood why I am so affectionate towards Amal! I had a sense of his talents a long time back, I understood that he could not be ignored for long.”

“Have you read his writings?” Charu asked him.

Bhupati fumbled. “Yes…no, well, I did not read it myself, couldn’t make the time for it, but my colleague Nishikanta was all praise for his writings, and he is quite a critic of Bengali literature, you know.”

Charu had secretly, silently craved to see this feeling of reverence for Amal in her husband’s eyes.

[Read Ch. 1]


Lopa Banerjee is an author, poet and freelance writer based in Nebraska, US. She has a Masters’ in English with a thesis in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her unpublished memoir ‘Thwarted Escape’ has been First Place Category Winner at the Journey Awards 2014 hosted by Chanticleer Reviews. Her poetry, stories and essays have appeared at ‘Words, Pauses, Noises’, the creative writers’ blog of Kingston University, UK, ‘Café Dissensus’, ‘eFiction India’, ‘Earthen Lamp Journal’, ‘Camel Saloon’ (special anthology published on International Women’s Day), ‘About Place Journal’, ‘Spark Magazine’, ‘Northeast Review’, ‘Indian Review’, ‘River Poets’ Journal’. She has also been a recipient of the critic award and ‘Poem of the Month’ award at Destiny Poets International Community of Poets, UK. 

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6 Responses to “Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘The Broken Home’ (Nastanirh): Chapter 2”

  1. santosh

    This is indeed a riveting translation. ..had me glued from the first word. The translator writes with an effortless ease which has to be applauded. Great work.

    • lopu123

      Thanks a lot for your valued readership and comments, Sunil Kaushal jee!
      Hope you continue to find time for reading the following chapters of the story.


  2. Parikshit Narendra Vats Chauhan

    Excellent translation, thank you!


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