By Rabindranath Tagore
Translated by: Lopa Banerjee
One day, Bhupati came up to Charu and said, “Charu, what a surprise! Had anyone ever thought before that you would turn a writer?”
Charu’s face reddened in astonishment. “Me, a writer? Who told you? Impossible!”
Bhupati: “Well, dear, you are caught red-handed. And this is the living proof.” He showed her the latest edition of the magazine, ‘Sharoruho’ (Lotus).
With shock and disbelief, Charu discovered the writings that she had accumulated as secret treasures to be released only in their handwritten monthly magazine. All those cherished writings had been published in ‘Sharoruho’ along with the names of the writers.
Charu felt as if someone had freed her dear pet birds from their cage, where she had nurtured them lovingly. For some time, her sense of shame and embarrassment of being caught at the hands of Bhupati was overshadowed by a feeling of anger towards Amal, the traitor.
“And look at this now,” Bhupati said, while he presented to her the open pages of ‘Bishwabondhu’ (Friend of the World), a popular newspaper. It carried an essay titled, ‘The Contemporary Bengali Writing Style.’
Charu pushed it away with her hands. “What use is this to me?” She said. Her mind, overpowered with anguish towards Amal, refused to concentrate. “Just read it for once,” Bhupati cajoled her.
Hence, Charu obliged him with a cursory glance at it. The reviewer had written a rather critical essay, slandering the exaggerated, hyperbolic prose style of a group of contemporary Bengali writers. Among them, he had harshly ridiculed the style of Amal and Manmatha Dutta, and, in comparison, widely praised the effortless ease and spontaneity as well as the deft word painting and visual details of the compositions of young, emerging writers like Mrs. Charubala. He also emphasized the fact that the writers of Amal’s ilk must consider imitating the style of her compositions to ensure literary success; otherwise, they would undoubtedly be doomed.
Bhupati laughed out while reading this. “Now that’s what we call ‘learning applied against the teacher’,” he said.
Charu was in two minds after reading this. On the one hand, this generous praise of her debut publication filled her with joy; on the other, her heart was filled with unexplained pain. She tried to push away, with all her might, the delectable elixir of accolades which had been right in front of her mouth.
She discovered Amal’s subtle scheming behind all of this. Amal had decided to surprise her by publishing her writing, and, later, following the publication, when a positive, praiseworthy review of her work had been published, he had decided to show her both of them together to pacify her anger and to encourage her further. “So why didn’t Amal come to show her the review when it was published?” She thought to herself. He might have been tremendously hurt by the negative review of his own writing by the reviewer, and he obviously didn’t want Charu to see any of these; so he had hidden the publications away from her all this while. The little, humble sanctuary of literature, that Charu had built as their own clandestine world, had been shattered by a hailstorm of praises. Charu felt as if an enormous hail had attacked and destroyed that world entirely, and it pained her immensely.
After Bhupati went away, Charu sat, lonely and dejected, in her bedroom, while the pages of both ‘Sharoruho’ and ‘Biswabandhu’ lay open before her.
In an attempt to surprise Charu as before, Amal entered the room behind her back silently with a notebook in his hand. When he reached near her, he noticed her rapt in the review published in ‘Biswabondhu.’
Amal went away from the room as discreetly as he came there. “Charu is overwhelmed with joy at the accolades her writing has received and the brickbats I have received for my own writing,” he thought to himself. Suddenly, his soul was embittered to think of Charu’s response. This stupid review might have surely made Charu think of herself as far more superior than her mentor, he assumed, enraged. She should have torn the newspaper to pieces, burning them away till the last dying embers.
He stood at the doorway of Mandakini’s room, brimming with anger, and summoned her with a loud voice: “Manda Bouthan (sister-in-law)!”
Manda: “Come dear, come inside. How lucky am I today! I didn’t ask for you, and you came unexpectedly.”
Amal: “Would you care to listen to a couple of my new compositions?”
Manda: “Well, you had promised to read them out to me for a long time, but did not do so. Let it be, you would rather be in danger if someone takes offense at this.”
Amal retorted, somewhat strongly. “Who would be offended by this and why? Ah well, that can be taken care of, you listen to it now.”
In a conscious effort to exhibit her keenness, Manda sat attentively. Amal started reading out his writing to her in a grandiloquent way.
Amal’s writing, as always, sounded rather alien to Manda; she never found any meaning or destination in it. To hide her dumb expression, she lit her face with a fake, pleasurable smile, pretending to listen to him with extreme eagerness. This ignited Amal even further, while his voice soared higher every moment.
He was reading: “Just like Abhimanyu, during his mother’s gestation, had only learnt to enter inside the military array, and had not learnt to exit from it, in the same way, the river current nestled in the stony womb of the mountain cavern, has only learnt to direct itself forward, not to look behind and change its course. Alas, river current, alas, youth, alas time, alas the vain world, all you can do is to move forward, you never ever return to the glorious pathways of your past, those strewn with the golden pebbles of your verdant memories. It is only the human mind that wants to look backwards; it doesn’t care to look for the eternal and transcendental truth beyond the ephemeral universe.”
Around this time, Manda noticed a shadow in her doorway. She pretended to overlook the shadow and continued to look into Amal’s face with steadfast, transfixed eyes and unwavering attention, as he read out to her.
The shadow dispersed in a moment.
Charu had eagerly waited for Amal; she had planned to assault the ‘Biswabandhu’ publication in front of him, and also to rebuke him for breaking his promise and sending their private writings to monthly journals.
The time of Amal’s arrival had passed, but he did not come to her yet. She had even selected a writing of hers to read out to him, which lay in front of her.
Suddenly, she heard Amal’s voice from somewhere near her. It seemed to her like Manda’s room. She stepped out of her room, like someone struck by an arrow, and approached the doorway of Manda’s room discreetly. Amal was reading out a fresh new writing to Manda, one which she hadn’t heard yet. Amal was reading: “It is only the human mind that wants to look backwards; it doesn’t care to look for the eternal, the transcendental truth beyond the ephemeral universe.”
Charu failed to maintain the silence of her footsteps while returning from Manda’s doorway. She became extremely impatient and anguished with the memory of the shocking incidents of the day. She was sure of the fact that Manda was not following a word of Amal’s writing, and, yet Amal, with all his stupidity, was feeling content, satisfied to read out his writing to her. She yearned to shout and tell this to both of them; however, her footsteps conveyed her wrath to them. She returned to her bedroom and bolted the door with a thud.
Amal stopped his reading momentarily, while Manda smiled to him, hinting towards Charu’s anger. “What is this nuisance of Bouthan?” Amal thought to himself. “Does she think of me as her slave? Why wouldn’t I have the right to read out my writings to anybody else? Such a torture!” He raised his voice further as he thought of this, and continued reading out to Manda.
After the reading session, while passing by Charu’s room, he looked at the room once and found the door bolted.
Charu had heard Amal’s footsteps and realized that he passed by her room, and that he never bothered to stop by and ask for her. Overcome with anger and dismay, she opened the pages of her new notebook and started to tear each and every page of it until the torn pieces piled up in front of her. “Alas, what was that ill-fated moment when the idea of writing had struck her,” she thought.
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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