By Rabindranath Tagore
Translated by: Lopa Banerjee
Umapada was trying to convince Bhupati about the various lucrative incentives for the readers of their publication. Bhupati, however, failed to understand how that would be a profitable act, and how that would help overcome the loss they had incurred.
Charu once entered the room, and went away as soon as she saw Umapada. As she reentered the room, she witnessed them arguing over the accounts of the newspaper.
Umapada had sensed Charu’s impatience and went away from the room. Bhupati, left alone, began to wrack his brain again with the accounts.
Upon entering the room, Charu fumed: “Still not finished with your work? I wonder how you spend all your life with this newspaper of yours!”
Bhupati smiled a bit, while moving away the paperwork. He thought to himself: “True, it must be a grave sin that I can’t ever attend to the needs of Charu. Poor girl, she doesn’t have anything to occupy herself with.”
He replied, with a tinge of affection in his voice: “You don’t have your studies today, do you? Has the tutor eloped? I don’t understand the queer ways of your school—the pupil all ready with her books, while the teacher ran away! Strange! I don’t think Amal is very regular with tutoring these days.”
Charu said: “Do you think Amal should while away his time in tutoring me? Is he the humble private tutor always ready at our service?”
Bhupati touched her waist, pulling her close towards him: “Is it only a humble, insignificant private tutoring? If only I had the chance to teach a charming sister-in-law like you –”
Charu: “For God’s sake, don’t you say that. As if being a husband is not enough! I don’t want any more.”
Bhupati was hurt. He said: “I promise you, I will tutor you from tomorrow. Bring me your books;, let me see what you are studying these days.”
Charu: “Now don’t start that again. Can you keep aside the accounts of your newspaper for now? Just see if you can put your attention to some other direction.”
Bhupati said: “Sure I can, any direction that you want it to be for now.”
Charu: “Ok, then read this essay of Amal and find out how wonderfully he has written it! You know, the editor has told him, Nabagopal Babu has read this piece and renamed him the Ruskin of Bengal.”
Bhupati opened the page of the publication that carried Amal’s writing, albeit a little reluctantly. The piece was named, “The Moon of Autumn”. For the past two weeks, his mind was occupied with assessing the critical budget analysis of the Indian Government, and those calculations kept rambling inside the deep recesses of his brain. Amid such times, his mind was not equipped to absorb the Bengali essay and its nuances. Moreover, the essay was of no meager length, for that matter.
This was how the piece began: “Why is the autumnal moon hiding within the folds of the night’s dense clouds today? As if he has stealthily brought some treasures from the kingdom of heaven, as if he is trying hard to hide his disgrace! In the month of Falgun, when there was no trace of cloud in any corner of the sky, he had expressed his uninhibited being in the open horizon. And today, his mirthful smile, like a child’s reverie, like the wistful memory of a lady-love, like the pearl necklace dangling in the tresses of the Goddess of music…”
Bhupati was itching his head in discomfort. “Very well written,” he managed to say, “but why me, of all people? Do I really understand such poetic expressions?”
With sudden hesitation, Charu snatched the paper from her husband. “Then what do you understand?” she said.
Bhupati answered: “I am a man of this mundane world, I understand humans.”
“But doesn’t literature convey the words of us humans?” Charu said.
“It does,” Bhupati replied, “but wrongly. Besides, when a human is present in his tangible, flesh and blood form, why should one strive to search him in hyperbolic expressions?”
He gripped Charu’s chin: “For instance, I understand ‘you’ the way you are, is there any need to read epics and ballads like Meghnad Badh Kavya or Kavikankan Chandi to reach you?”
Bhupati had taken pride in his indifference towards poetry. However, he revered Amal’s poetic talents, in spite of not reading his work closely. He thought: “It is incredibly difficult to seamlessly weave words when there is really nothing to say. Did anybody know Amal was capable of such word wizardry?”
Bhupati, for that matter, would consciously deny his lack of taste for the literary, but he was quite liberal in patronizing literature. He had even sponsored book printing for poor writers, though he would always make sure that the writer did not dedicate the book to him. Also, he would unmistakably buy each and every weekly and monthly magazine published in Bengali, and all kinds of books, popular ones, not-so-popular ones, readable and unreadable ones. He would say: “The fact that I do not read these is enough sin. Moreover, if I do not buy them, it will be a greater sin without any atonement”.
In fact, since he did not read them, he didn’t have any apathy towards poorly written books and his Bengali library was always stuffed with new and old books and publications.
Amal usually helped his brother with the English proofreading of his publication. He entered the room with a bundle of papers to show him a copy with illegible handwriting.
Bhupati grinned. “Amal, you may write page after page about the autumn moon or the ripened palm of late summer, I have no objection to it whatsoever. You see, I never intrude on anybody’s freedom of expression. But can you say why my freedom to stay away from these is being curbed these days? Your Bouthan (sister-in-law) never stops reading them out to me! How outrageous!”
Amal pretended to laugh. “True, Bouthan. I never knew you would start torturing Dada with my writings. I would never have written in the first place, if I had any idea of it.”
An inexplicable anger began to brew within Amal. He held Charu responsible for demeaning his cherished writings by presenting them to a man as apathetic to literature as his brother, Bhupati. It dawned on Charu instantly and the realization pained her. In an effort to divert his attention elsewhere, Charu said to her husband: “Why don’t you marry him off? Then you would not have to bear with any more torture of writing.”
Bupati said: “This present generation of boys is way cleverer than we were. However much poetic they may be in their writing, they are worldly-wise in their actions. You could not convince your dear brother-in-law to marry, could you?”
After Charu left, Bhupati said to Amal: “Amal, you see how occupied I am with my newspaper, Charu feels really lonely. She has nothing much to do, sometimes I see her peeping through my study. What do I do with her? It would be really good if you could engage her in studies. I was thinking if you could translate English poems and explain them to her as it would benefit her, and she would enjoy it too. I feel she has quite a taste for literature.”
Amal said: “That is true. What I myself feel is she can write quite eloquently if she studies some more.”
Bhupati laughed. “I do not hope that much, but it is true she understands Bengali literature far better than I do.”
Amal: “Yes, she has the gift of imagination, a rarity among women.”
Bhupati: “Well, a rarity among men too, and I am a living example. If you can groom your Bouthan properly, I will gift you generously.”
Amal: “And what would be my gift?”
Bhupati: “I will find a copy of her for you.”
Amal: “Oh no, then I will have to mentor that woman too! Will I have to spend all my life grooming others?”
The brothers were quite frank in their discussions, never hesitated to speak their minds.
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.
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
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