By Rabindranath Tagore
Translated by: Lopa Banerjee
Amal has earned considerable repute among his circle of readers recently. His stance, of late, has transformed from that of a humble school student to that of a respectable and elite gentleman. He reads essays in literary associations and meetings, and is often sought by editors or their spokespersons who invite him, request him to join their associations as a member or even as their president. At Bhupati’s home, his social position has been much elevated among his relatives and servants.
Umapada’s wife Mandakini had never given much importance to Amal till now. While she went on with her daily domestic chores, dressing betel leaves, she looked down upon Amal and Charu’s easy banter as a childish act. She considered herself far more superior and necessary for the household than the two of them.
Amal needed betel leaves in abundance throughout the day. Mandakini, who was in charge of dressing the betel leaves, was often irritated by Amal misusing them unnecessarily. It was quite fun for Amal and Charu to conspire and loot Manda’s treasury of betel leaves, but she was not in the least amused by these betel thieves’ lavish acts. .
As one taking refuge in Bhupati’s household, Mandakini could not bring herself to like Amal, the other dependent. She felt somewhat insulted to perform additional household chores for Amal. Since Charu always favored Amal, she couldn’t voice her displeasure directly, but deep inside, she always tried to disregard him. At the slightest opportunity, she would even instigate the servants of the house against Amal. Given a chance, they would also join her.
But Manda was startled to see Amal’s progress. He shed off his past hesitations and the politeness of his demeanor gradually, as if it were his right to disregard others. A man, whom the society has embraced fully, who can assert himself unhesitatingly, whose rights are secured and unquestioned is an able man who can attract women easily. When Manda discovered Amal earning respect of people from all quarters, she was compelled to look up at Amal, his head held high, his youthful face lit up with the radiance of his newfound glory. She discovered Amal in a new light and this discovery fascinated her.
Therefore, there was no need of stealing betel leaves again. This was yet another loss for Charu following Amal’s fame and popularity. The ties of humor that bound them together with their little conspiracies had been severed. The betel leaves now came to Amal on their own in abundance.
Besides, the pleasure they would derive by keeping Mandakini away from their secret association was also waning away. It was gradually becoming difficult to keep Manda at bay. She was displeased by Amal’s regard for Charu as his only friend and confidante. She was now fully determined to make up for her earlier acts of neglecting Amal. She contrived plans to intrude, to overshadow, eclipse the two of them on the slightest pretext, whenever she saw them face each other. Moreover, she never gave Charu the opportunity to comment and sneer at this sudden change of her attitude in her absence.
Needless to say, this unsolicited intrusion of Manda never irritated Amal the way it did Charu. Deep within, he seemed to cherish the newfound interest of this woman towards him.
However, he wouldn’t express this feeling to Charu. Often while seeing Manda approaching them from afar, Charu would utter, “There, she is coming,” and he would join her, “Yes, I see, quite bothersome.” It had been a common practice for them to express intolerance towards all other human associations they came across. But Amal could not resist the temptation all so suddenly. When faced with her, he would somewhat politely but forcefully ask: “Manda-Bouthan, did you see any sign of robbing your betel leaves today?”
Manda: “But why do you have to steal dear, you get it anyway whenever you want.”
Amal: “Well, it is more enjoyable to steal than want it and wait to get it.”
Manda: “Why did you stop reading, you two? Please continue! I would rather enjoy listening to it.”
Nobody had ever seen Manda put any effort whatsoever to gain reputation as an avid reader before, but times had really changed.
Charu disliked the idea of Amal reading out literature to the blunt Mandakini; it was Amal’s wish, however, that Manda too becomes an audience of his literary work.
Charu: “Amal has brought his critical review of ‘Kamalakanta-r Daptar’, will you…”
Manda: “I may not be as wise as you, but won’t I understand it a wee bit if I listen?”
Amal remembered the incident of yet another day. Charu and Manda were playing cards together, while he entered the scene with one of his writings. He was anxious to read it out to Charu, and was quite annoyed that the game was still on. At last, he expressed his anguish: “You two continue with your game, Bouthan, I would rather go to Akhil Babu to read it out to him.”
Charu tried to resist him, pulling his shawl, “Ah, where are you off to? Sit down some more.” She quickly finished the game, losing voluntarily.
Manda said: “Would the two of you start your reading session now? Then I am leaving.”
Out of sheer politeness, Charu tried to stop her. “Why, you can listen to it too, dear,” She said.
“No dear, I really do not understand those nonsensical readings of yours; I feel very sleepy to hear them”, Manda replied, extremely annoyed at both Charu and Amal for the sudden and untimely disruption of their game, and went away.
Today, the same Manda had expressed her keenness to hear the review of ‘Kamalakanta’. Amal said: “Well, Manda Bouthan, it is my privilege that you want to listen to my review.” He attempted to turn the pages in order to read out the piece from the very beginning. In the introduction to the review, he had employed quite a lot of humor, and he really did not intend to leave it out while reading.
Charu quickly said: “Thakurpo (brother-in-law), didn’t you say you would bring me some old monthly magazines from the Janhavi Library?”
Amal: “But that is not today.”
Charu: “No, it is today. You must have forgotten.”
Amal: “Why would I forget? Didn’t you say…”
Charu: “Very well, don’t bring it then. You two carry on, let me go and fetch Paresh for the library.” She went away.
Amal sensed danger in the way she spoke. Manda understood Charu’s anger and it instantly poisoned her heart against Charu. After Charu left, Amal was hesitating to decide if he would leave the room too. Manda smiled at him sardonically, and added: “Charu is quite angry with you; go back to her and pacify her, dear. You will be in trouble if you read out your writing to me.”
Under such circumstances, it became even more difficult for Amal to leave the room. He replied, nurturing some anguished words at Charu. “Why, what trouble?” he said, while holding up the pages of his writing in an attempt to read it out.
Manda covered the pages with both her hands and said: “Please, don’t read it, it’s no use.” She went away, hiding her tears.
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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