- Paperback: 132 pages
- Publisher: Tranquebar Press; First edition (16 September 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 8189975633
- ISBN-13: 978-8189975630
- Package Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.2 x 1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,49,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Broken Nest and Other Stories: 1 Paperback – 16 Sep 2009
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Description for Broken Nest and Other Stories: 1
About the Author
Rabindranath Tagore - poet, playwright, novelist, painter and composer - reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Of Tagore's prose, his short stories are perhaps most highly regarded : he is credited with originating the Bengali-language version of the genre. He was awarded the Nobel Prixe in Literature in 1913. Sharmistha Mohanty is the author of two novels - Book One and New Life. She is the founder editor of Almost Island, a literature journal on the web.
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Bhupati is a member of the cultured class and does not really have to work for a living although he takes on the editorship of a very anglo-friendly English language newspaper which becomes a very absorbing, time-consuming hobby. His much younger wife Charulata is left even more alone by his long hours with nothing to do. We learn the state of their marriage in three succinct sentences:
‘In the first glow of love, husband and wife see each other in a splendor that is unnatural because it is perpetually being renewed. No one could have said when that golden dawn of matrimony imperceptibly became a thing of the past for Bhupati and Charulata. Without having tasted the new they had become familiar and habitual to each other.’
Perceiving his wife’s isolation, Bhupati encourages his brother, Umapati and his wife Mandakini to move from their rural district to live in his house as well as Bhupati’s young nephew Amal. He approves of Amal’s youthful exhuberance and encourages Amal’s reading instruction of Charulata.
Charluta and Amal are closer to the same age and their close proximity and the fact that she spends more time with him than her husband strengthens their bond. They quickly fall into familiar, teasing patterns. Charulata spoils Amal and doesn’t begrudge his frequent demands for money, food and the mending of his clothes.
Amal begins to share his writing with Charu. She encourages his writing, much of which he shows only to her with no intent to publish. He encourages her to write as well, which she does after much persuasion. Their writing becomes a secret language only they share or know about. When Amal spends time with Manda and shows her some of his writing, Charu is as enraged as though he were being sexually unfaithful, oblivious to her own spiritual infidelity to Bhupati.
Charu’s and Amal’s relationship resembles the similarly non-sexual yet intensely passionate pseudo sibling bond between Cathy and Heathcliff in ‘Wuthering Heights’. Neither relationship involves sexual activity. Charu’s and Amal’s writing is their surrogate for intercourse. After Amal’s literary ‘betrayal’ with Manda, Charu demands that he pledge to write only for the two of them alone. Their union is consummated by the creation of a private journal of two copies for only two readers with the title that Charu suggests: Amala, the feminine version of Amal’s name.
Amal’s duplicitous submission of Charu’s writing that she intended no one else but him to see is a further betrayal. The irony is that one of Amal’s pieces is included in the same issue of a magazine as Charu’s and her piece is more favorably reviewed (in her simplicity she has written it in the common Bengali language rather than Amal’s more literary use of Sanskrit) at the expense of Amal’s piece.
Through this publication of his wife’s piece, Bhupati learns of Charu’s literary efforts and is amused by the fact that her writing is more critically regarded than Amal’s. The breach permanently damages the bond between Charu and Amal. Amal enthusiastically agrees to a marriage and a move to England. Charu is left desolate and filled with despair and grief and her well-meaning husband is oblivious to the true cause of her suffering until somewhat later.
Bhupati is not only unaware of his wife’s true feelings but also of the fact that his brother Umapati has been embezzling from him and contributing to the financial collapse of his newspaper. Tagore deftly describes Bhupati’s misunderstanding:
‘When the outside of Bhupati’s house began to crack, it did not even occur to him to examine cracks in any of the arches of the inner rooms.’
Correctly perceiving the intensity of Charu’s grief, Bhupati misses the actual cause:
‘He did not realize that one who tries to kill grief by choking it in the dark does not want a witness.’
This is a tale with no actual villains. Bhupati is not as uncaring as the cads or husbands in other nineteenth century classics such as ‘Madame Bovary’ or ‘Anna Karenina’ or the novels of bad marriages by George Eliot or Henry James. He is simply oblivious to the extent that it damages his marriage. Charu and Amal are not willfully adulterous or duplicitous; they simply respond to and fulfill mutual emotional and intellectual needs.
My initial reaction to ‘The Broken Nest’ was that it is so slight. It is not the full course meal of ‘Anna Karenina’, ‘Middlemarch’ or ‘The Portrait of a Lady’. It is a very nutritious appetizer whose virtue lies in its brevity, closer to the stories of Chekhov in its smaller scale. As I said before, it is distinctly Indian; its characters act and respond within the structure of their society. Yet it possesses a universality that is just as potent as any of those other classics I mentioned. It is my first encounter with Tagore’s fiction; on the basis of this story alone I can understand why he is regarded as a major world writer.