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Recuperating Binodini

Nivedita Sen

By Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindra Rachanabali, Viswabharati, 1947, price not stated.

By Rabindranath Tagore . Translated by Krishna Kripalani
Sahitya Akademi, Delhi, 1959, pp. 247, Rs. 90.00

By Rabindranath Tagore . Translated by Sreejata Guha
Penguin Books, New Delhi, India, 2003, pp. 287, Rs. 250.00

By Rabindranath Tagore . Translated by Radha Chakravarty
Srishti, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 413, Rs. 295.00


In the centenary year of Rabindranath Tagore's Chokher Bali, the recently opened floodgates the Viswabharati copyright have unleashed at least two English translations of the novel on the English-reading public and scholar, so they can hardly escape being compared. Earlier this vear, I had read the original as well as Krishna Kripalani's translation that was uncumbrously called Binodini. I had thought Kripalani's text quite adequate except for the occasional jerky expression before I had read Sreejata Guha's adept English rendering and Radha Chakravarty's eminently readable adaptation. However, Kripalani chose to translate the version of the text that was originally truncated by Tagore himself but whose deletions came to be included in the authentic Viswabharati text of 1947. In that sense, it is not an authoritative document. The only one I have not read is Surendranath Tagore's 1914 version, which was called Eyesore. It is understandable that there is a rush this year to recuperate the novel, unfolding a uniquely quadrangular romance among Behari-Binodini-Mahendra-Asha, from a relative obscurity compared to Ghare Baire or even stories like 'Nashta Neer' or 'Strir Patra', ‘ which have been filmed. With Rituparna Ghosh’s cinematic attempt which has the glamorous and lissome Aishwarya Rai as Binodini now in the market, the opportunely timed English renditions of both Penguin and Srishti are likely to do well. In the Srishti translation, Radha Chakravarty has unpretentiously retained the original title. In the Penguin version, however, Sreejata Guha's  title does not capture the irritant quality of sand that lodges in the eye. In her explanatory note, her poetic  excavation of all the evocative connotations of her title, A Grain of Sand, including Binodini as ‘the grain of sand that lodges inside the shell of an oyster and helps in forming a pearl’ of a mature relationship between  Asha and Mahendra, is intrusively interpolative and far fetched. 'Chokher Bali' or ‘Sand in the Eyes’ is a travesty of an endear­ment, an unconventionally reproachful address that Binodini banteringly improvises for the two friends, perhaps to ward off the evil eye on their friendship. The mock-reproof is, really speaking, untranslatable. Yet it is pregnant with meaning because its irritant aspect ironically proves true and plays havoc with their lives by having them caught in a love triangle with the same man. Chokher Bali is one of the first Indian novels that unveils a densely intricate and tortuous psychological drama, and its literary location as ...

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