By Rabindranath Tagore
Translated by: Lopa Banerjee
The jasmine flowers in the garden by the verandah emanated their fragrance in the evening. The stars were twinkling amid the broken clouds in the gentle, soothing evening sky. Charu had neither tied her hair today, nor did she change her clothes. As she sat by the window in the haunting darkness, the gentle breeze slowly caressed her untied tresses. She didn’t understand why tears flowed from her eyes incessantly.
Bhupati entered the room during such a moment, his face pale, gloomy and his heart heaving. It was not yet time for him to come to Charu’s room. He would often visit her quite late these days, followed by a rigorous schedule of checking the proofs of his newspaper. Today, he came to Charu right after the evening, as if in his search for some unknown solace.
No lamp was burning in the room. Bhupati looked at Charu’s dim figure in the faint light that streaked through the window near the verandah, and then slowly stood at her back. Charu didn’t turn to see him, even after hearing his footsteps. She sat by the window, still, statuesque.
Bhupati was quite surprised to discover her in such a state. He called her: “Charu!”
At his summoning, Charu suddenly regained her consciousness and stood up. She didn’t really expect Bhupati’s arrival now. He came close to her, and as he softly stroked her hair with his fingers, he asked her, with all his affection: “Why are you sitting alone in the dark, Charu? Where did Manda go?”
Charu felt that the entire day, with its strange turn of events, had conspired against her wishes. She was quite sure in her mind that Amal would come to her asking for an apology, and her eager mind, anxiously waiting for him, could not take Bhupati’s unexpected call. Unable to restrain herself further, she burst into tears.
Bhupati was in utter shock at Charu’s sudden outburst. “Charu, what’s happened to you, Charu?” He enquired.
Charu found it very difficult to explain what really happened to her. It was nothing special. Could she complain to Bhupati that the reason for her grievance was that Amal had betrayed her? Could she tell him that Amal had read out his fresh, new writing to Manda instead of reading it out to her? Bhupati would surely laugh it off, rather casually. It was impossible for Charu to present this rather trivial incident as a cause of her anguish. She was quite unable to fathom why she was in such deep dismay, and this pained her even more.
Bhupati implored her: “Tell me, Charu, what’s happened to you. Did I do anything wrong to you? You know quite well how occupied I am with the publication of the newspaper; if I did hurt you in any way, please know that I didn’t do it willfully.”
Charu did not have the answer to any such question from her husband. She became impatient and anxious with Bhupati’s questions; she would feel rather relieved if he went away right now.
With no answer from Charu, Bhupati repeated in his loving, imploring voice, “I am really guilty of staying far away from you, Charu, but I promise I will make things better. From now on, I won’t remain busy with the newspaper always. You will get as much of my company as you want.”
Charu replied, impatiently: “It is not about you.”
“Then what is it about?” Bhupati asked. He sat beside her on the bed.
Charu couldn’t suppress her indignation. “Let it be, I will tell you at night,” She said.
After a momentary pause, Bhupati uttered: “Ok, let it be.” Slowly, silently, he left the room and went away. It seemed he wanted to say something to Charu, but the circumstances did not allow him to tell her.
Charu could feel that her husband went away from the room in an untold anguish. She thought of calling him back once, but didn’t know how to explain things to him. Her heart heaved with repentance, but she didn’t know any remedy for it.
When the night came, she meticulously arranged for her husband’s dinner and sat in the room with a hand fan.
Suddenly, she heard Manda summoning their servant Braja in a shrill voice. When Braja appeared before her, she asked: “Has Amal babu finished his dinner?” “Yes,” Braja answered.
Manda said: “His dinner is finished, and yet you did not take the betel leaves to him?” She started scolding Braja for no reason.
Just then, Bhupati arrived in the room and started eating; Charu waved at him with her hand fan.
Charu had promised to herself that she would talk to Bhupati gleefully, gently. She had even prepared what she wanted to say to him. But the authoritative, rebuking tone of Manda’s voice disrupted all her careful arrangements, and she was unable to speak a word to him while he sat for dinner. In fact, Bhupati also seemed rather unmindful and depressed, and also disinterested in the food. Charu asked him once: “Why aren’t you eating anything today?”
Bhupati tried to protest. “Why? I didn’t eat any less today,” he answered.
When they both came together in the bedroom at night, Bhupati asked her: “What were you about to tell me tonight?”
Charu said: “Listen, for some days, Manda is behaving in a weird way, and I don’t like it at all. I don’t feel like having her with us anymore.”
“Why? What did she do?” Bhupati asked.
Charu replied: “I feel ashamed to see how she behaves with Amal these days.”
Bhupati laughed at this. “Have you gone mad? Amal is such a young, immature boy–,” he said.
Charu: “See, you don’t know about so many things happening in the household; you are only interested in picking up stories from outside. Anyway, I feel pity for poor Dada (elder brother). Manda never bothers to enquire when her husband has his daily meals, but when it comes to Amal, she creates such uproar, rebuking the servants at the slightest pretext.”
Bhupati: “Ah, you women are so suspicious about little things!”
Charu was angered by his comment. “Oh, that’s okay then, we women are suspicious. But let me make it clear to you, I will not tolerate such shamelessness in my own house further.”
Bhupati was amused and also satisfied to know of such a baseless apprehension of Charu. As a chaste, virtuous wife, she was being extra cautious, eyeing with suspicion on the purity of the household, lest even an imaginary disgrace touches their lives. There was an inexplicable sweetness and nobility in this act of her, he thought.
He kissed Charu’s forehead in respect and affection, and said to her: “You need not create a furor about this, dear. As Umapada is going to practice law in Mymensingh soon, he will take Manda along.”
Finally, to get rid of his own turmoil and these unwelcome discussions, Bhupati picked up a notebook from the table and said: “Do read out your writing to me, Charu, will you?”
Charu snatched away the notebook immediately. “You won’t like it; you would rather love to make fun of it,” she said.
Bhupati was quite hurt with Charu’s words, but he smiled, hiding his pain. “Ok, I promise I won’t laugh at it; I will listen to you with such stillness that you will be under the illusion that I am asleep,” he said.
But Charu did not pay heed to Bhupati’s pleas. Soon, the notebooks were lost in a pile of various drapes and covers.
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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