By Rabindranath Tagore
Translated by: Lopa Banerjee
Amal was doing well, but still he didn’t write to his brother or to Charu. How could he be so estranged from his dear ones? How Charu wished she could confront him, face-to-face, and get the answer to this question. But there was a sea of silence between them which she could not cross. She sank deeper and deeper into the crevices of their cruel, helpless separation, one that was beyond respite or remedy.
This made her even more vulnerable. She abandoned her daily chores, made mistakes in everything, while the servants stole away the household goods. People in her family noticed this unusual indifference of hers and started gossiping, but she remained unfazed.
She would get startled and her face would lose its color if Amal’s name were mentioned. She had to find a secret nook for crying in the midst of her daily conversations.
Eventually, Bhupati saw her condition and it led him to some harsh realizations about life – life appeared dry, barren, old and meaningless to him. He also realized the futility of his mad, useless exuberance of the days that he had passed in between, and the memories of those days embarrassed him immensely. Is it fair to dupe a dull, inexperienced monkey, one who does not recognize jewels, with fake stones? He thought.
He remembered how his heart had melted at Charu’s pampering and affectionate advances. He started whipping himself silently, and cursed himself for being such an imbecile fool.
Finally, after much inner turmoil, he remembered how he had created his compositions with utmost love and care. Upon remembering, he frantically rushed to Charu and asked her:
“Where are those writings of mine, Charu?”
Charu replied: “They are with me.”
Bhupati demanded: “Give them to me now.”
Charu was making snacks for him. “Do you need them right now?” She asked.
“Yes, right now,” he replied.
Charu put away the frying utensil from the oven, opened the chest and came out with the notebook and the papers on which Bhupati wrote.
Bhupati, impatient, fuming inside, snatched them from her and threw them into the hot cauldron.
Shocked by the entire act, Charu tried to retrieve them from the cauldron and asked him: “What did you do?”
Bhupati tried to resist her by holding her hands with all his might. “Let it be!” He roared.
Charu stood by his side, dismayed, stupefied. All his writings burnt to ashes in front of her. Looking into their last dying embers, her heart heaved with deep sighs. She left slowly, keeping aside her routine kitchen chores.
As for Bhupati, he did not intend to destroy his writings in front of his wife. But the moment he saw the fire burning in the kitchen, he was overtaken with a mad fury and anguish. Since he could not exercise enough self-control, he flung his compositions into the fire right in front of Charu.
As the precious words turned to ashes, Bhupati started to calm down. Charu went away from the room, silent, dejected, as she carried the burden of her sins within her. Dismayed, lost, Bhupati saw her fading away from his eyes. When he looked in the room, he found out that she had made a special platter for him, the one she knew he loved.
Bhupati stood by the Verandah, leaning over the railing, and thought about Charu’s tireless endeavor to please him. All her pursuits appeared to him as acts of deception, and the realization of it filled him with uncontrollable pathos. He was not only tormented with Charu’s deceiving simplicity and exhibition of love, but also realized how in her pursuit to camouflage her real feelings, her heart was oozing with blood every single moment. Bhupati said to himself: “Alas, you poor soul! I did not need all this love at all. All these days, while love eluded me, I did not even get to realize that. I did not even realize my loveless existence while looking after endless pages of my publication and while proofreading. I did not need this display of affection at all.”
With this epiphany, Bhupati distanced his own life from Charu’s. Just the way a physician looks after his ailing patient, he looked at his wife with detachment and objectivity. He thought of this petite, delicate woman and of the astounding way she is connected to the microcosm of her household. Neither did she have anybody in whom she could confide nor the emotions which she could easily convey to others nor did she have a place where she could lay open her heart and cry out. However, in spite of all such obstacles, in spite of all her inexpressible, insurmountable pain that was being accumulated within her every single day, she maintained her composure as a simple, unperturbed person, as his normal, casual neighbor, performing her endless domestic chores tirelessly.
At night, Bhupati entered their bedroom and saw Charu standing by the window, gazing outside with tearless, transfixed eyes. He slowly came close to her and stood by her side. Silently, he placed his hand over her head, as she looked at him, wordless, calm.
Bhupati’s friends were inquisitive. “What is the matter with you? Why so busy?” They asked.
Bhupati replied: “Well, with the newspaper.”
“Newspaper? Yet again?” They asked. “Why do you want to put yourself into trouble again?”
Bhupati answered: “No, I am not publishing it myself this time.”
“Then?” They asked, amazed.
“Oh, there is one upcoming newspaper based in Mysore; they have summoned me to be their editor,” Bhupati informed.
“So you are migrating to Mysore, leaving everything behind? Are you taking Charu along?” They asked.
Bhupati: “No, some relatives are coming over to give Charu company.”
“So this editorial bug will never leave you!” They joked.
Bhupati replied: “Well, you need some bug to keep yourself alive!”
The day he was leaving, Charu came up to him and asked: “When are you coming back?”
Bhupati said: “Write to me whenever you feel lonely, I will be there.”
After bidding farewell, when Bhupati came close to the door, Charu ran to him frantically and clutched his hands. “Please take me along with you. Don’t leave me alone here,” She pleaded.
Bhupati stared at Charu, stunned by her sudden gesture. His grip over her hands loosened, and he moved away from her and stood by the verandah.
He realized why Charu was so intent in accompanying him now. The house, wrapped with the memories of Amal, his association with Charu and his estrangement, was burning her from inside like wildfire. She wanted to abandon the house and its memories forever…“But couldn’t she have thought about me once? Where would I run to? Wouldn’t I get the opportunity to get away from the woman who meditates about another man every single moment? Couldn’t I get any respite from giving her company in a friendless, foreign place?” Bhupati imagined how miserable those evenings, those nights would be, when he would come back home, fatigued, to a silent, grief-stricken wife. How long would he be able to hold her close to him, to provide her the solace, the support she would need to unburden her agony? How many more years would he have to live with this excruciating reality? How long would he have to live with the broken pieces of his own little world, his own shelter, crushed in front of his own eyes?
He came up to Charu and said: “No, I won’t be able to take you with me.”
Instantly, he noticed her face, pale, bloodless, like white paper, as she clutched the edges of the bed.
Bhupati changed his mind at that instant. “Charu, get ready. Come along with me,” he said.
“No, let it be.” Charu replied, sternly.
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. She tweets at:@rooafza
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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