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A Bunch Of Stories


Nita Berry


Translated by Dipavali Sen
Unicorn Books, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 144, Rs. 150.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 8 August 2015

Galpaguchha means a ‘Bunch of Stories’. And that’s the offering we have in hand here—a varied bouquet of short stories selected from Rabindranath Tagore’s distinguished collection, translated by Dipavali. Some of the flowers of this bunch are fragrant with an all-pervasive sweetness, while others border on the wild and even macabre. But all are thought-provoking portraits of life, tinged with the wisdom of human observation. There are 84 stories in all in the 3-volume collection of short stories which young Rabindranath wrote early in life. Many are not even complete stories but simply reflections on the existence of ordinary people. Tagore beheld the lives of the poor and common while managing the family’s vast landholdings in Bengal and village life is portrayed in these stories with heartwarming charm and candour. This collection remains among the most popular fictional works in Bengali literature and has furnished subject matter for numerous successful films and theatrical plays. Indeed, its continuing influence on Bengali art and culture cannot be overstated. Tagore had great empathy with the personal growth of women, and many of the stories are women-centric. Apurva’s fascination for the village tomboy Mrimoyee in ‘Samapti’ or ‘The Completion’ and his subsequent marriage to her, to his mother’s horror has an unexpected outcome. Even as he allows her personal freedom and growth, he leaves for the city to study law. In his absence, Mrimoyee matures into a loving and responsible individual. This charming story was part of the famous Bengali film, Teen Kanya, directed by Satyajit Ray (1961), and also inspired the Hindi film, Abodh, directed by Hiren Nag (1984). In ‘Chitrakar’ or ‘The Painter’, Chuni’s uncle tries to suppress his artistic talents and train him to become a money-making merchant like himself. His mother rebels despite being a helpless young widow, and daringly takes her child away to find his dreams. ‘The Postmaster’ is about a young man from Kolkata who is posted to a village. Here he teaches Ratan, a small orphan girl to read and write in his spare time. She looks after him conscientiously, and feels abandoned when he is transferred. Still she lives on with the hope that he will return. This moving story also forms a part of Ray’s film, Teen Kanya. Tagore always urged the necessity for educating the girl child to improve her lot in life. The deprivation of the girl ...


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