Amita Ray (Translator)
Extract from Rabindranath Tagore’s short story “POSTMASTER”
The postmaster with a sigh picked up his belongings, a carpet bag and an umbrella. Then hauling suitcase painted beautifully in blue and white on the head of a porter he slowly advanced towards the river bank where his boat was waiting.
He boarded the boat and set sail. The river was in spate like tears welling up from the earth to the brink. Looking at the rippling expanse of the water he felt a deep pain in his heart; the pitiful face of a village girl conveyed a universal grief poignantly, hitherto unpronounced. At a vulnerable moment he thought of returning to the village and take that forsaken orphan along with him to his own house. But the boat had set sail and it was now drifting in the swift current of the monsoon river. They had left the village behind and the burning ghat by the river side was now in sight. To a traveler on the river in listless state of mind an epiphany struck—that life was full of such separation, bereavement; there is no point in returning. In this wide world no one belongs another.
But in the grief stricken innocent mind of Ratan there were no such revelation. Crying bitterly she loitered round the post office probably in faint hope of Dadababu’s return to take her along. To her it was such a precious bond which she could ill afford to sever. Alas how foolish the human heart is! It can’t free itself from delusion as the dictate of logic is not quick to act. The heart foolishly embraces false hopes and finally when hope flees leaving one in lurch by gnawing at the very existence, it becomes conscious of its folly only to again willfully long for another such deception.
Extract from Saratchandra Chattapadhyay’s short story “MAHESH”
In reply Mahesh only put forward its neck and in comfort closed his eyes. Gafur wiped away his teardrops from the back of the bull and continued whispering, “The landlord has snatched away your share of food, and he also sold the grazing ground near the burning ghat for money. Days are hard dear, how will you survive? If I leave you alone you will tear and eat from other people’s haystacks, snap banana trees of the villagers. What should I do with you! You have become feeble, no one wants you over here; people advise me to sell you off in the cattle market” Uttering these words tears rolled down his eyes again. Wiping them with his hands Gafur stealthily went to the back of his dilapidated cottage and brought some old pale looking straw. Holding them near Mahesh’s mouth he said, “Here, have this quickly dear so that no one sees you.”
Just then his daughter called out, “Baba?”
“Yes dear, what’s the matter?”
“Come have your lunch.” With these words Anima came out of the house and stood at the doorway. Staring for a moment she said, “Baba, have you again torn straw from the thatch and given it to Mahesh?”
This was precisely what Gafur had feared. Ashamed at being caught in this act he said, “The straw is old and rotten dear, it was shedding off on its own.”
“But I heard you pulling it out from inside baba.”
“No, not really, I was not pulling it out.”
“But the wall will fall off baba if you carry on like this—
Gafur remained silent. They had lost everything except that single room, and if this process continued it wouldn’t last till the next monsoon; who else knows it better than him?
Extract from Jibanananda Das’s story “SOMNATH and SREEMATI”
Suddenly Suranath smashed the slowly oozing pleasure from Sreemati’s amazing frame, worn by hardship and said something with a strange smile. But his utterances could not be understood. Some heavy military trucks passed, its sound rending the air, the vehicles racing like a world of warfare and saint like apostles of despondency blended in one. Both of them in the iridescence of the light in dining room were silently waiting…Suranath to utter those drowned words again with that smile and Sreemati to hear it clearly.
But Suranath did not feel the urge to utter those words again. After the military trucks had departed, in the silence Suranath realized what a mistake he had made by uttering those words in a light way. If Sreemati had heard him would he have ever dared to look at this woman eye to eye?
The emergence of the trucks loaded with war equipment at that juncture had protected him. It had protected Sreemati too. Thinking of such turn of events in life amused him and dwelling upon it he felt the urge to create another such dangerously ridiculous situation. But restraining himself Suranath said with a bit of calculated compassion, “How many months’ leave do you have?”
“About three months.
Extract from Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay’s story “UPASARPA”
It was the month of Sravana. There had been a torrential rain in the afternoon. I was returning home by a bullock cart from a village which was three miles away. The water of the canal at Kedeti had swelled up dangerously. The driver of the cart asked me, “Babu, shall I cross the canal? The river is in spate—“
I answered, “Nothing will happen, go ahead. Seems the water hasn’t risen much—“
While going to Kedeti by this path, the bullock cart had crossed the canal water and so I was not at all afraid. But once we were in the middle of the canal, the driver shouted, “The water is flowing in full force—open the rope of the overhead cover of the cart quickly, oh doctor, open it quickly!” Before I could realize what was happening properly the cart together with the overhead cover tilted precariously under the water. Of course I knew to swim but in the overturned cover of the cart, my legs and feet got stuck, my head touched it, water entered unhindered. Thinking that I was about to be drowned to death, I just let myself go. Exactly at that moment, trust me Sir, I thought of none—in my vision appeared the idol of Sree Krishna far away at Puri; it emerged very distinct, those eyes, that touchy pout, that very same visage. I know not what happened after that. On gaining consciousness I found myself lying under a tree. Surrounding me were two or three people, they were massaging mustard oil on my chest.
At once an image appeared like lightning in my mind’s eye. I know you won’t believe me. Nevertheless I will say. Speak I must.
Do you know what I had seen before losing my consciousness?
I visualized the figure of Lord Krishna extending both his hands as a gesture of help…it didn’t strike me then, now I remember and it seems so. It was just a moment that I visualized the idol gesticulating assurance of protection.
- Extracts taken from my book titled TREATS IN TRANSLATION published by Authorspress in December, 2019.