বুধবার, ১০ সেপ্টেম্বর, ২০১৪

Short story of Jibanananda Das : Kinnorloke

Translated by Kajal Bandyopadhyay

These were one house of earthen plinth and another of cemented floor. A big number of people frequented this family. They mostly stayed in the house of the cemented floor. In the recent past, there had not been many in this family. In the cold of Ashwin-Kartic, the plinth didn't appear to be very convenient. Subodh sent his wife and child daughter to the house of the cemented floor of the southern plinth. The wife also went very easily. She was very much afraid of the damp of the earthen plinth of Ashwin and Kartic. She, however, had never developed fever and related sickness; her health was quite good. Yet, with great satisfaction, she put her things, bed, etc. in good order in the nice, airy room, with an opening to the south, of the house with cemented floor. Subodh's paternal aunt lived in the adjoining room. In the other rooms, his uncle and aunt and their sons and daughters lived.


Subodh remained alone in the damp room of the eastern plinth. He was not frightened much of malaria either. His body also was quite healthy. He was thinking of covering the damp earthen floor with some sand spread over. He would then place some hoglas over that. However, he did nothing of that sort. Subodh totally forgot the point of the damp floor within one or two days. But, that Saraju had then left this room for the one towards the south, she has not been making any movement whatsoever since. All the urges and seeking of the wife had been wiped off from this direction. Saraju's conversation with the sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws and aunts did not seem to come to any stop. Sometimes it appeared to Subodh that it is all the better--Saraju's health will recover very soon if she was amidst so much of laughter and glee. But, really, there was no expectation about her health recovering--she already had quite a good physique.

The Puja vacation was for one and a half month. Subodh had no work at either night or day. He waited for his wife every moment. Perhaps with the daughter in the lap or perhaps all alone she would appear and say, 'Hay, how are you?'

Subodh would say, 'Hey, I do not find you at all: You went and'--

The wife would say, 'Don't be angry, my dear; so much so work is there for me.'

With a little resentment or pretension of anger, Subodh would, ask: 'What kind of work?'

Saraju would then present a long list of jobs.

Subodh would still say, 'But, couldn't you, in the midst of all these, come for one or half a minute?'

Saraju would then, while combing Subodh's hair with her hand, say, 'Didn't I come at my will'--and, would place so many reasons for her not coming that Subodh would find Saraju's words just. The wife would massage Subodh's head. She would fan him. She might even press up her legs softly. Or, they would bemuse themselves with their eleven-month old daughter Harani. It might also be that when the wife was unmindful, Subodh would have kissed her softly. Saraju would be then suddenly saying, ‘Do you hear, Pisima is calling me. Let me go now—I shall have to cook the vegetable and ghee items.’



*I’ve translated this story for its exposure of female power—withdrawal, denial, deprivation by the female.

Saraju would throw down Harani for her father to take care of. Subodh’s time would then be spent in taking care of the daughter.



All these are flecks of his imaginations. It's not that these could not happen. Saraju is not a non-lover. It has been four years they married. The wife is healthy, good-looking, intelligent, and educated--Subodh knew her to have been loving her husband. Did she love? She, however, did not go much to express that love through detailed performances. Yet, there was love in the heart of this woman. Saraju had gone to the house of the southern plinth three days back; these as if appeared to be three years to Subodh. How would he pass without Harani and Saraju from morning to noon to evening to deep night?

How many times can one read newspapers? Yet, Subodh handled and skipped over them again and again. At even a small sound, he turned his neck to check if Saraju had appeared. But, none was there, and a rat was running away. The kitten was turning around the stray papers, and cockroaches were flying with a bragging sound.

On his way back from the in-laws’ house, in Calcutta, Subodh had purchased a number of books. One could not finish reading them all even if one read all day and night. Moreover, Subodh was not a quick reader. He read every page in a very much brooding manner.

He took up a book.

His life went on quite well up to the noon time. He had forgotten Saraju, and Harani too. Subodh was not aware how, in comparison with the bigger, ideal life, his daughter also, turning into a wife, had disappeared. His whole heart was in an overwhelmed condition.

Everyday at noon all gathered in the southern house. As on all days, Saraju filled up Subodh’s box of betel leaves. There were one or two more leaves than on other days. Saraju went for handing it over to Subodh with her lips painted with the juice of betel leaves. And, Subodh also, with the hand of a machine, took the leaves, their box. Like a machine, he poured a few leaves into his mouth. He did not look back at all at Saraju. He did not today have the time to fondle Harani either. At a stretch, he went for entering into the eastern house directly. But, then he forgot every thing. Each forgot the other.

If asked, both of them would, of course, claim that they both loved each other. They felt like that. It, of course, is true that they were not in love with any one other male or female. But, how much was there between them? Was there? Subodh passed the time very well from noon till afternoon, lying on the fresh and stretched bed with the book.

At times he was looking at the green Bakul tree through the window. He eyed the green sky. At a distance, bell-metal was being played, as if Puja had appeared somewhere. Has the jamtree of his childhood grown in height? Ha, so high, so many birds were chirping there, hiding themselves among thousands of leaves. Those were the chirpings of birds all around; Subodh tried to place each of the chirpings with particular birds.

In this way, health of life took a grip over him. He could now stay so much so alone, now he loved to remain alone. He didn’t any more require the beloved wife or anything else. He might have done without marrying; that would have been quite well with him. That would have been quite good, well.

He cast a look at the heaped-up pleasant books. He would go on finishing reading the books one by one. He would listen to the music of bell-metal and sehnai, have his eyes cast on the sky; these green trees would keep his heart pleased, he would go for walking down the village paths beside the paddy fields on some days, having his eyes engaged in looking at the green fields.



Subodh closed his eyes in the very deep spell of an illusion. Slowly he fell asleep.

He woke up when the day time of Kartic had almost receded to a finish. His whole body had got sweated. Slowly he sat up on the bed. A robin was chirping. The air was sweet. There was no body else in the room than the two kittens. How beautifully white kittens! Subodh’s whole mind got filled up with deep affection and kindness for these two kittens. These two all day and night stay, play and make sound in this room to dispel Subodh’s loneliness. They conveyed the news that enthusiasm for life, emotion and cheerfulness continued to exist not only in the outer world, but in this dark, damp and silent room also, and that they represented those.

On seeing Subodh wake up, the two kittens were looking at him in great wonder. No, he would not go to catch them with hands and handle and irritate them; they would not appreciate if they were fondled in that way—let them grow up a little more. But, would he by that time go away to Calcutta?

Subodh, after getting rid of a little of idleness, lay down again.

Evening was closing upon.

There was a lot of sound of laughter and gossip coming from the southern house. Saraju’s voice was incessantly audible at times. Ha, Subodh didn’t know that Saraju could talk so much. Could this woman spread out word after word and laughter after laughter at a stretch? Why, did anything go to this length with Subodh, during the four years of their married life?

With whom was Saraju talking? Subodh concentrated on placing her listener. Pisima was there; Sejo Khudima was; Sulota, Minu, Naren—so many had gathered that day. But, in the evening everyday they gathered there. Their gossip gathered good momentum in the southern house. Words, words, words, words, words only, what were those words? Subodh could not make out. But, those words must be very heart-absorbing, every voice was very much interested, laughter also was strong.

Sulota came with tea.—‘Have you waken up?’

--‘Have quite waken.’

--‘I thought you were sleeping; ha, how much can you sleep!’

Subodh moved to the table from the bed on the floor.

Sulota said, “Do you do this day and night? Such sleep, ha god, can a human being sleep so much!’

Subodh did not reply.

Sulota said, ‘Why, sleep does not come to our eyes?’ The cousin, looking at the heap of books on Subodh’s table, said, ‘And, these books? Aren’t those? Is it willfully that boudi doesn’t come to you?’

Subodh laughed a little, ----.

Sulota said, ‘Have got a long vacation; you will pass it by reading books and sleeping.’ And, said, ‘Will you not go anywhere else? Sejda, this will make you gain more weight; your wife will like you less if you are a gouty person. You need to move a little, do you understand? You can move up to the southern house once in a day; you may not like to talk to us—but, have you boycotted your wife?’ Sulota disappeared after pouring forth all the humours that were there in her store or all humours of the prevalent kind, smiling as she went. As if, even she did not need to stay for long in this house; it would suffice if she appeared during the whole day for once or twice.

Subodh poured down a little water into a glass from a pitcher, and washed his hand and face. The tea had by that time gone cold. It was so light that the cream was floating on the surface, and there was the scent of smoke and burnt up milk. Will he drink? He drank.

There were some luchis, two patolbhajas on the plate, so cold that they had lost all crispiness. Could nobody make hot fries for him? Wasn’t there anyone else than Sulota to fetch tea for him? Didn’t Saraju know that Subodh liked to drink strong tea prepared with fresh milk? He didn’t like to even touch any other kind of tea. Be it luchi, nimki, singara, alubhaja, patolbhaja--that Subodh didn’t want to have it except in a hot condition is well known to Saraju.

But, let alone preparing food, the wife didn’t come to make any enquiry at all. Yet, he was taking the luchis, and he didn’t know when a thin and small cur had come and was going on watching. Four or five crows on the lowered-down branch of the nut tree were watching Subodh’s eating luchis. Subodh was having a very private fun. He tore half the portion of a luchi and threw it in the direction of the dog. The remaining half he threw for the crow. Thus he distributed away all the luchis one by one. Not out of resentment against any particular person. But, because he had got little recess and fun in life of feeding such a sore dog and crow. The dog left. It was wanting a little more, but in the whole room there was not even one piece of chapatti more. After wiping their beaks for some times on the branches of the nut tree, the crows flew across the northern paddy fields and the rivers in an unknown direction.

Subodh stood up. It’s not that he could not do without luchi, curry and fry. He had passed so many days by taking fried rice before he got the job. If Saraju had brought for him today one bowl of fried rice, that would have been much better than this hot but heartless luchis and excellent tea. But, Saraju was nowhere around this house.

A wish fpr moving in the direction in which the crows flew over the paddy fields, the river, the place where the sun shone aglow, and the branches of the river, flowers, and ----- were only swaying, —one such strong desire--took a grip over Subodh. One or half a moment he kept staring in a surprised and disintegrated manner. But, quickly then he came back to the real world of human accounting. Like birds, man won’t be able to get lost in the other bank of the river, clouds, colourlessness or dreams. Those all are for poets only--those who do not at all care for the real world, have much leisure, can squander goods of big desire of family life day and night without any scruple. He is not a poet; poet is not Subodh. His desire is for family-life. Nobody has come to even sweep the room for two days. Like a homeless person, he kept staring at the rubbish scattered at different parts of the room. One damp and vapid odour was emitting from the room. He, for once, felt like calling Sulota or Saraju, and.asking one of them to go for sweeping the room and burn some incense. But, they should have marked and taken care of all such circumstances, or got the works done at least by servants, instead of their own doing the jobs. But, if they did not, of themselves, take care, why would Subodh go to tell them? He shouldn’t.

On putting on the tasar punjabi, and with the stick in hand, he kept standing in the room for some time. Will not anyone come to give him betel leaves?

Subodh went out of doors.

It was almost dark. There was no moonlight in the sky. Enough number of stars, one by one, rose there in the sky. There were paddy-field after paddy-field; the ears of paddy were burning bright even in the darkness. That these were green, densely green, that this was a world of indescribably deep and soft green could be felt even in this darkness. As he walked, Subodh went farther than the red road of the municipal area. Then it was village path. It was like a piece of white line; on the two sides, jungle of mango, jackfruit, cane creepers, phanimanosa, bamboo, boichi, jewly, akand, bondhundhul came forward to swallow the humans. Yet, among the silent jungle, sort of a deep and juicy life as if remained hidden. Crickets were making creaking sound, glow worms were flying. It was that for a long time he had not taken the time to stand in a calm manner and mark these; this world of jungle without a break and rural scenes only wanted to endear Subodh.like a village bride. Wouldn’t he, for some hours, forget and leave every thing else, and stand and stare in an addicted manner?

Standing he remained.

Can’t he be one glow-worm among so many of them? In the secret at the edge of the village, inside the lap of these thousands of soft leaves, would he have got the life of a cricket near the breast of a she-cricket!

Subodh felt that he had arrived at a place near the lone mystery of the earth, hidden-for- ever juice and the flow of the vital sap. It was only because he had assumed the shape of a human body that he was unable to immerse himself in that immense juice of beauty. He is a human—baser than a glow-worm and than a green beetle—and, so, he had to go back. Subodh turned his face.

Dews were dropping.

At a distance, the river was covered in the mist. It’s this river, of the Kartic night, shrouded by mist and fog, which made a different world. It required a whole human life to discover it fully. Subodh looked again at the river—as if, even after efforts by generations of people, Bengal’s mist-smeared rivers of Kartic cannot be correctly placed. A sense of fruitless pain took grip of Subodh, as he kept looking in the direction of the river. As if so many things got lost for him, so many things did not come to any avail—faint hullabaloo of all these, floating along with the river, the mist, and raising young hands … again got lost after being burnt in the veils of the jungle; he wouldn’t get them back after search across lives.

Subodh turned his eyes in the direction of the river.

He got back to the municipality road, looking at the glow-worms among the shrubs of manosakanta of the paddy-field, bushes of telakucho and jungle trees. He was back to that world of a half-town, the old palace, new bazaar and hat, a concrete bridge over the canal, a crowd of boats that had thronged the hat under the bridge and above the canal, fast-moving long boats, shalti and one or two pleasure boats. And, immediately after that, there was the huge prison-house of the town; he looked at it for once—would he, for once, go there? So far he could check with his life, that door was closed to him.

He entered into the area of the police-line. He came back home, moving much between the shops on the two sides, and streams of lamps of kerosene and rarely of gas and electricity.

On entering into the room, Subodh forgot all. Nothing of the love of jungle and forest, mystery of the river, boats, canal, roads and streets of the town had stuck to him.

There was a lantern on the verandah. Subodh felt that whoever had brought that there sought for a release right after that. That person had not felt any urge for entering into the room. Subodh got curious as to who had brought the lantern there. Maybe, one of the servants had. Or, may be Sulota, or Saraju had done that. Whoever had brought that had not wanted to enter into the room. Subodh picked up the lantern and placed it on the table. Eyeing the things at the table and around the room, Sobodh felt that all those were as they had been; nobody that came had felt the urge to handle those. Even the two pillows were lying in a fussy condition. The bed-cover was in the wrinkled and disorderly condition of the evening.

Subodh changed dress.





He threw open the door and the windows, sat down on the chair, and slowly wiped off the sweat on all his face and shoulder. Then he poured down a glass of water form the pitcher and drank it.

The cook came to tell him, ‘You have come back so late at night, Babu.’

With a sense of surprise, Subodh replied, ‘Have I really?’

‘What is the time by your watch?’

Subodh took his watch from the attaché case on the table and said, ‘It’s half past nine.’ Subodh said, ‘How much late night is half past nine, Thakur?’

The cook smiled and said, ‘They all have gone to bed; that’s why I said so.’

Subodh thought a little and said, ‘Have they really?’

‘Yes.’

Every evening, by placing dishes on the cemented floor on the verandah of the southern house, males first take their meal; on their finishing, the females have their turn.

Subodh said, ‘Has Sulota had her meal?’

‘Yes, all did have their night-meal.’

Subodh, on waiting for a while, said, ‘Did Harani’s mother have it?’

‘Yes.’

Of course, it’s not that they do not have meals in this way; Sulota and Saraju also do have their meals, leaving out Subodh and other babus. Why won’t they? Subodh does not want that women would in all matters be under the pressure of the males.

Subodh said, ‘Ok then, let’s move.’ He got up and said, ‘Have they all gone to bed?

‘Yes.’

‘After having shut the door?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then, it’s ok. For, what’s then the use of creating trouble by going to the varendah of that house; can’t we use the kitchen …’

‘It’s very dirty here in the kitchen, Dadababu; sweeping will take time. Ramcharan also has gone to enjoy kathokata.’

As if, the servants also neglect him. After placing himself on the chair, Subodh said, ‘What will happen then?’

The thakur (cook) belongs to the caste of Brahmins, and wouldn’t be able to cleanse the leftovers of the kitchen. It’s uncertain as to when Ramcharan would come after listening to kathokata. It may be as late as two or three in the early hours of morning. It’s impractical keeping awake so long. If Subodh wants to take umbrage, now is the time to take a lot of it. It wouldn’t be unjust on his part to be angry and resent now. He can take that position against many. He can do so against pisima, kakima’s, Saraju and Ramcharan. Only the thakur (cook) can get an excuse.

Subodh tells the thakur, ‘I’m placing a piece of paper on this table; you please bring my food here.’

On saying, ‘Let it be like that,’ the cook went away. He also would go to listen to kathokata. He had been waiting so long only because it looked odd if he left without serving the babu wih food. On sitting on the chair, Subodh was checking with his finger-nails and thinking, ‘No, he cannot resent or be angry against pisima or kakima’s, not even against Sulota; he cannot do so against himself. Why these people would take his charge when his wife was there? If Saraju could have the food and go to bed so soon, what liability did lie with pisima or kakima’s? Why will Ramcharan, in his simple-minded going to listen to kathokata, be deterred by any consideration? He should not have felt deterred; that he had gone is rather well-done. Subodh would not tell it to anyone tomorrow that Ramcharan had gone away to listen to kathokata without serving food before Subodh.

Food has come. But, it was very cold. The hearth has now fallen totally extinguished. If it had still had fire, Subodh would have asked the thakur to heat it up a little. While mixing the pulse-soup with ice-cold rice, it occurred to Subodh that there still might be a little of fire in the hearth. But, how could he ask the thakur so much so intent on going to listen to kathokata to heat up the pulse- and fish-soup?

The thakur had run away breathlessly right on placing the rice-plate on the table for Subodh. He was perhaps gulping his own share of rice in the kitchen, poor chap as he was. In the whole house, it was only he who had taken upon himself the arrangement of food for him; may be he was compelled to do so. But, still, he had done it. Subodh placed a morsel of rice into his mouth. It occurred to Subodh that like Ramcharan, the cook also could run away for listening to kathokata; he could do that justly and religiously. But, he did not go to do that. He had gone to enter into Subodh’s room that night and feel a little yet the strange loneliness and helplessness of Subodh by nodding and shaking his shoulder. He was the only one person in the whole of this house to do so.

Subodh was taking morsel after morsel. Why wouldn’t he take food out of his resentment against his wife? Once he would so often resent against his mother and lie down clinch-teethed declaring that he wouldn’t take food. So often at night, and even at broad daylight, he would take to bed by taking resentment against his mother. He wouldn’t in any way take food. But on each such occasion his mother would break that Achillean resolve by pursuing Subodh up to his bed, roads, lanes, corners of the house, shades of trees, unreachable places, blindest places. How? Certainly, not by being rigid. Oh, my god, tears gushed at the memory of how that would be done. Mother didn’t keep Subodh unfed for a single day.

Mother was ….

And, this wife? She is withdrawing, withdrawing, withdrawing, and withdrawing. On looking through the window, Subodh saw the thakur with a rug on him and a lantern in his hand, going away.

Subodh called him to say, ‘Have you had your meal, thakur?’

‘Yes.’

‘Was it complete within so short a time?’

Thakur came forward a little and said, ‘I had had it earlier.’

‘Before my coming back?’

‘Yes.’

‘Ramcharan?’

‘He didn’t take it. He will take on coming back; I have kept it properly covered.’

The thakur was keeping standing.

Subodh said, ‘Are you going to listen to kathokata?’

‘Yes.’

‘Where is it taking place?’

‘At the place of the Ganguly’s, Sudarshan Ganguly.’

‘Ok; go please.’

‘They also have all gone.’

Subodh was taken aback, and said, ‘Who have gone?’

‘Pisima has gone.’

Yes, Pisima?

‘Who took her there?

‘Naren dadababu has gone.’

‘Has Naren also gone?’

‘Mantubabu.’

‘Yes, Mantu even?’

Thakur said, ‘Kakimas also have gone.’

Looking for fish-bones, Subodh said, ‘Oh, then all have gone.’

He felt kind of a consolation in his mind. It was for this that the room hadn’t been swept and cleansed. It was for this that the lantern was found on the verandah. Ramcharan surely had kept it there. If it were Saraju, she surely would have kept it on the table. Finding Subodh absent from the room, Saraju also perhaps thought that her husband also had gone to the place of the kathokata. If all others had gone, how could Saraju alone stay at the house? Maybe it was also for that that Saraju had to go under compulsion. Pisima might have forced her to go. It was all the more good that Saraju had gone. One should listen to kathokata, sangkirtan, etc. for once or twice sitting in front of the performer artist. The way they remained pressed under grindstone, staying day and night at home and ceaselessly drowsing in a monotonous manner! The deepest core of Subodh’s heart turned cool. Most affectionately, he said to the thakur, ‘You please go quickly; what will you find otherwise remaining for you to listen to?’

Thakur said, ‘I’m going then.’ On proceeding two steps further, he said, ‘Didimoni hasn’t gone.’

‘Are you talking about Didimoni, Sulota? Hasn’t she gone?’

‘No.’

‘Why?’

‘Bauthakrun didn’t go; that’s why.’

Subodh’s bowl of the fish-curry capsized in his hand; he stared with an open mouth and said, ‘Who?’

‘They two are there at home.’

‘None of them has gone?’

‘No.’

‘Hasn’t my wife, Harani’s mother, gone?’

Laughing, and with his mouth full of the juice of betel-leaf and tobacco, and shaking his head, the thakur said, ‘It’s of that bauthakrun that I’m talking of.’

‘Hasn’t she gone?’

‘No.’

The thakur said, ‘You’ll please look after them a little; there’s no other male person in the house.’ He then rushed after the cluster of the residential houses of the Ganguly’s in a breathless manner.

Subodh kept silently sitting for a long time. Now all his resentment and anger went to devolve on Saraju only. So much of shame and irritation got piled up in his mind on thinking that if his aunts had been present there, the situation would never have been like the present one, any one of them herself would have been serving him food, and then hot rice, pulse-soup, etc. would have been served. Why was it that if his aunts had been there, they would have been keeping waiting for Subodh, and after their waiting and on his coming, any one of them herself would have been serving hot food, and only then would find themselves relieved, and his wife would not be found doing that? How was this? His aunts were at one past time young wives; his young Kakima was still a young wife, of a very young age. Why what would have been possible on the part of all of them was it not possible on Saraju’s part was not possible on Saraju’s part? Subodh rather was not at all a near one of the others. Who was he to his aunts in comparison to what he was to Saraju? What was he? But, the claim was that this wife loved him, that always giving the husband’s dues to Subodh, she had been going on loving Subodh like a well-wisher laxmi-wife. Subodh had been telling his mind this for the last four years.

Subodh was thinking if she loved him.

The sound of Saraju’s snorting was coming. Was she the welfare-giving wife?

Sitting down with resentment, frustration and pain would take him to a bottomless place very much deep; his wife created enough scope for that today. But, what was the use of getting pained? Subodh wouldn’t go to get pain. He had got much pain from women in his life. Men also had given him much multi-faceted pain. He would not take notice of pain any more; Subodh started wiping off all frustration of his mind slowly. He would not take any resentment against his wife. May be love was not there in her, it wasn’t there for Subodh. He would not go to beg for it from her. He would have to then lose all honour. He would accept what little Saraju gave. If she didn’t want anything, he would not care for that. He was more than all these. He would wait for a greater and more invaluable life. Subodh remained seated fixedly for a long time. If she didn’t give anything, Subodh, keeping his hands withdrawn, thought. He thought how much it was that Saraju gave. Subodh started thinking if she would ever be giving, he would be moving about in the secret world of his private feelings and imagination, in the unimpeded music of the huge blood-flow like one person indulgent-in-music. There pain also was tune; frustration also was music. There all pale depression and defeat got transformed into rhythm. … became tune, became songs, became beauty. He was very ordinary here. His mind again turned realistic. He was not ceaselessly poetic. His world of sweet-toned musicians of the heaven that was there moments earlier broke down. No, one could not live with kinnorloke--a world of sweet-toned musicians of the heaven. It was on worldly wise justice that he would put up the structure of his life. Subodh placed his hand again into the plate of rice. This time the rice had totally gone damp. He mixed them up with the curry. Then he would take the sour item and then the milk. Nothing he would touch with the hand. Saraju had taken away the stove to that house in the name of heating up milk for Harani; if it had been here, he could have heated up pulse-soup, curry, fish-soup, milk, etc. and have had them in the manner of a gentleman. His wife didn’t love him; let her not; would he, for that, go to lose all the aspects of life? He would, very much like a gentleman, eat comfortably and move about like a gentleman; he would not keep away from enjoying all aspects of life. He had got a lot of non-love and negligence; he had passed a lot of lonely time—such pain was nothing new for him. When he got married, he thought this pain of his would go. Since his marriage and taking of the wife to Kolkata, and passing time in pressure of work, Subodh thought that love would be worth relish when he would move to village during holidays. On coming to village, and within a few days, he had realized that love never takes an enjoyable shape anywhere.

Subodh mixed up rice with milk. He looked at the fathomless darkness through the window. Those were the same field, char, desolate paddy-field, assembly of bats in the sky and stars; so many times he had been looking, throughout his life since childhood, at such nights through this window, and he had seen the same things. Again and again. But, this dark silence and field of Aman paddy had frustrated his mind at stages of life. Sometimes these had filled his mind with dreams, had dealt pains, and sometimes again had told him to wait and sometimes had made his life pleased with interest and enthusiasm. But, whatever spell might have been aroused in the mind, he would always have waited for the princess of the golden and silver bands. He would wonder about the kind of life he would get through marriage. Through the union of the bride and the bridegroom, he would ceaselessly drink into the wine of the romance of the unspeakable thrill of life. He would feel the joy. He would get a mysteriously deep love through the wife—such love as he had never gone to feel. He had not looked at the face of that love, hadn’t heard of its name; the taste of that wife he had never got in the desperation of the mother’s most inadequate love. That love was more deep, without a peer. It would be the love of the other-worldly world.



That princess she then got. It became this bride even if she lay on the diamond-bed in the sleeping palace, it became Saraju very much. She was pretty-looking. Subodh had truly got the princess; but, now no sweetness of dream mixed up with prettiness, beauty, love and measureless illusion would come to his mind. For, that princess Subodh had already got.





*Kinnorloke means a world of sweet-toned musicians of the heaven.













































































Kinnorloke

Jibanananda Das

Translated by Kajal Bandyopadhyay



These were one house of earthen plinth and another of cemented floor. A big number of people frequented this family. They mostly stayed in the house of the cemented floor. In the recent past, there had not been many in this family. In the cold of Ashwin-Kartic, the plinth didn't appear to be very convenient. Subodh sent his wife and child daughter to the house of the cemented floor of the southern plinth. The wife also went very easily. She was very much afraid of the damp of the earthen plinth of Ashwin and Kartic. She however had never developed fever and related sickness; her health was quite good. Yet, with great satisfaction, she put her things, bed, etc. in good order in the nice, airy room, with an opening to the south, of the house with cemented floor. Subodh's paternal aunt lived in the adjoining room. In the other rooms, his uncle and aunt and their sons and daughters lived.

Subodh remained alone in the damp room of the eastern plinth. He was not frightened much of malaria either. His body also was quite healthy. He was thinking of covering the damp earthen floor with some sand spread over. He would then place some hoglas over that. However, he did nothing of that sort. Subodh totally forgot the point of the damp floor within one or two days. But, that Saraju had then left this room for the one towards the south, she has not been making any movement whatsoever since. All the urges and seeking of the wife had been wiped off from this direction. Saraju's conversation with the sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws and aunts did not seem to come to any stop. Sometimes it appears to Subodh that it is all the better--Saraju's health will recover very soon if she is amidst so much of laughter and glee. But, really, there was no expectation about her health recovering--she already had quite a good physique.

The Puja vacation was for one and a half month. Subodh had no work at either night or day. He waits for his wife every moment. Perhaps with the daughter in the lap or perhaps all alone she will appear and say, 'Hay, how are you?'

Subodh would say, 'Hey, I do not find you at all: You went and'--

The wife would say, 'Don't be angry, my dear; so much so work is there for me.'

With a little resentment or pretension of anger, Subodh would, ask: 'What kind of work?'

Saraju would then present along list of works.

Subodh would still say, 'But, couldn't you, in the midst of all these, come for one or half a minute?'

Saraju would then, while combing Subodh's hair with her hand, say, 'Didn't I come at my will'--and, would place so many reasons for her not coming that Subodh would find Saraju's words just. The wife would message Subodh's head. She would fan her. She might even press up her legs softly. Or, they would bemuse themselves with their eleven-month old daughter Harani. It may also be that when the wife was unmindful, Subodh would have kissed her softly. Saraju would be there unmindful and then

All these are his imaginations. It's not that these could not happen. Saraju is not a non-lover. It has been four years they married. The wife is healthy good-looking intelligent educated--Subodh knew her to have been loving her husband. Did she love? She, however, did not go much to express that love through detailed performances. Yet, there was love in the heart of this woman. Saraju had gone to the house of the southern plinth three days back; these as if appeared to be three years to Subodh. How would he pass without Harani and Saraju from morning to noon to evening to deep night?

How many times can one read newspapers? Yet, Subodh handled and skipped over them again and again. At even a small sound, he turned his neck to check if Saraju had appeared. But, none was there, and a rat was running away. The kitten was turning around the stray papers, and cockroaches were flying with a bragging sound.

On his way back from the in-laws’ house, in Calcutta, Subodh had purchased a number of books. One could not finish reading them all even if one read all day and night. Moreover, Subodh was not a quick reader. He read every page in a very much brooding manner.

He took up a book.

His life went on quite well up to the noon time. He had forgotten Saraju, and Harani too. Subodh was not aware how, in comparison with the bigger, ideal life, his daughter also, turning into a wife, had disappeared. His whole heart was in an overwhelmed condition.

Everyday at noon all gathered in the southern house. As on all days, Saraju filled up Subodh’s box of betel leaves. There were one or two more leaves than on other days. Saraju went for handing it over to Subodh with her lips painted with the juice of betel leaves. And, Subodh also, with the hand of a machine, took the leaves, their box. Like a machine, he poured a few leaves into his mouth. He did not look back at all at Saraju. He did not today have the time to fondle Harani either. At a stretch, he went for entering into the eastern house directly. But, then he forgot every thing. Both forgot the other.

If asked, both of them would, of course, claim that they both loved each other. They felt like that. It, of course, is true that they were not in love with any one other male or female. But, how much was there within them? Was there? Subodh passed the time very well from noon till afternoon, lying on the fresh and stretched bed with the book.

At times he was looking at the green Bakul tree through the window. He eyed the green sky. At a distance, bell-metal was being played, as if Puja had appeared somewhere. Has the jamtree of his childhood grown in height? Ha, so high, so many birds were chirping, hiding themselves among thousands of leaves. Those were the chirpings of birds all around; Subodh tried to place each of the chirpings with particular birds.

In this way, health of life took a grip over him. He can now stay such alone, now he loves to remain alone. He doesn’t any more require the beloved wife or anything else. He might have done without marrying; that would have been quite well with him. That would have been quite good, well.

He cast a look at the heaped-up pleasant books. He would go on finishing reading the books one by one. He would listen to the music of bell-metal and sehnai, have his eyes cast on the sky, these green trees would keep his heart pleased, he would go for walking down the village paths beside the paddy fields on some days, having his eyes engaged in looking at the green fields.

Subodh closed his eyes in the very deep spell of an illusion. Slowly he fell asleep.

He woke up when the day time of Kartic had almost receded to a finish. His whole body had got sweated. Slowly he sat up on the bed. A robin was chirping. The air was sweet. There was no body else in the room than the two kittens. How beautifully white kittens! Subodh’s whole mind got filled up with deep affection and kindness for these two kittens. These two all day and night stay, play and make sound in this room to dispel Subodh’s loneliness. They convey the news that enthusiasm for life, emotion and cheerfulness continue to exist not only in the outer world, but in this dark, damp and silent room also, and that they represent those.

On seeing Subodh wake up, the two kittens were looking at him in great wonder. No, he would not go to catch them with hands and handle and irritate them; they would not appreciate if they are fondled in that way—let them grow up a little more. But, would he by that time go away to Calcutta?

Subodh, after getting rid of a little of idleness, lay down again.

Evening was closing upon.

There was a lot of sound of laughter and gossip coming from the southern house. Saraju’s voice was incessantly audible at times. Ha, Subodh didn’t know that Saraju could talk so much. Could this woman spread out word after word and laughter after laughter at a stretch? Why, did anything go to this length with Subodh, during the four years of their married life?

With whom is Saraju talking? Subodh concentrated to locate her listener. Pisima was there, Sejo Khudima was, Sulota, Minu, Naren—so many have gathered today. But, in the evening everyday they gather there. Their gossip gathers good momentum in the southern house. Words, words, words, words, words only, what are those words? Subodh cannot make out. But, those words must be very heart-absorbing, every voice is very much interested, laughter also is strong.

Sulota came with tea.—‘Have you waken up?’

--‘Have quite woken.’

--‘I thought you were sleeping; ha, how much you can sleep!’

Subodh moved to the table from the bed on the floor.

Sulota said, “Do you do this day and night? Such sleep, ha god, can a human being sleep so much!’

Subodh did not reply.

Sulota said, ‘Why, sleep does not come to our eyes.’ The cousin, looking at the heap of books on Subodh’s table, said, ‘And, these books? Aren’t those? Is it willfully that boudi doesn’t come to you?’

Subodh laughed a little, ----.

Sulota said, ‘Have got a long vacation; you will pass it by reading books and sleeping.’ And, said, ‘Will you not go anywhere else? Sejda, this will make you gain more weight; your wife will like you less if you are a gouty person. You need to move a little, do you understand? You can move up to the southern house once in a day; you may not like to talk to us—but, have you boycotted your wife?’ Sulota disappeared after pouring forth all the humours that were there in her store or all humours of the prevalent kind, smiling as she went. As if, even she did not need to stay for long in this house; it would suffice if she appeared during the whole day for once or twice.

Subodh poured down a little water into a glass from a pitcher, and washed his hand and face. The tea had by that time gone cold. It was so light that the cream was floating on the surface, and there was the scent of smoke and burnt up milk. Will he drink? He drank.

There were some luchis, two patolbhajas on the plate, so cold that they had gone ----. Can nobody make hot fries for him? Isn’t there anyone else than Sulota to fetch tea for him? Doesn’t Saraju know that Subodh likes to drink strong tea prepared with fresh milk? He doesn’t like to even touch any other kind of tea. Be it luchi, nimki, singara, alubhaja, patolbhaja--that Subodh doesn’t want to have it except in ahot condition is well known by Saraju.

But, let alone preparing food, the wife didn’t come to make any enquiry at all. Yet, he was taking the luchis, and he didn’t know when a thin and small cur had come and was going on watching. Four or five crows on the lowered-down branch of the nut tree were watching Subodh’s eating luchis. Subodh was having a very private fun. He tore half the portion of a luchi and threw it in the direction of the dog. The remaining half he threw for the crow. Thus he distributed away all the luchis one by one. Not out of resentment against any particular person. But, because he had got little recess and fun in life of feeding such – and crow. The dog left. It was wanting a little more, but in the whole room there was not even one piece of chapatti more. After wiping their beaks for some times on the branches of the nut tree, the crows flew across the northern paddy fields and the rivers in an unknown direction.

Subodh stood up. It’s not that he could not do without luchi, curry and fry. He had passed so many days by taking fried rice before he got the job. If Saraju had brought for him today one bowl of fried rice, that would have been much better than this hot but heartless luchis and excellent tea. But, Saraju was nowhere around this house.

The direction in which the crows flew over the paddy fields, the river, the place where the sun shone aglow, and the branches of the river, flowers, and ----- were only swaying, a wish for moving in that direction—one such strong desire--took a grip over Subodh. One or half a moment he kept staring in a surprised and disintegrated manner. But, quickly then he came back to the real world of human accounting. Like birds, man won’t be able to get lost in the other bank of the river, clouds, colourlessness or dreams. Those all are for poets only--those who do not at all care for the real world, have much leisure, can squander goods of big desire of family life day and night without any scruple. He is not a poet; poet is not Subodh. His desire is for family-life. Nobody has come to even sweep the room for two days. Like a homeless person, he kept staring at the rubbish scattered at different parts of the room. One damp and vapid odour was emitting from the room. He, for once, felt like calling Sulota or Saraju, and.asking one of them to go for sweeping the room and burn some incense. But, they should have marked and taken care of all such circumstances, or got the works done at least by servants, instead of their own doing the jobs. But, if they did not, of themselves, take care, why would Subodh go to tell them? He shouldn’t.

On putting on the tasar punjabi, and with the stick in hand, he kept standing in the room for some time. Will not anyone come to give him betel leaves?

Subodh went out of doors.

It was almost dark. There was no moonlight in the sky. Enough number of stars, one by one, rose there in the sky. There were paddy-field after paddy-field; the ears of paddy were burning bright even in the darkness. That these were green, densely green, that this was a world of indescribably deep and soft green could be felt even in this darkness. As he walked, Subodh went farther than the red road of the municipal area. Then it was village path. It was like a piece of white line; on the two sides, jungle of mango, jackfruit, cane creepers, phanimanosa, bamboo, boichi, jewly, akand, bondhundhul came forward to swallow the humans. Yet, among the silent jungle, sort of a deep and juicy life as if remained hidden. Crickets were ------, glow worms were flying. It was that for a long time he had not taken the time to stand in a calm manner and marked these; this world of jungle without a break and rural scenes only wanted to endear Subodh. Wouldn’t he, for some hours, forget and leave every thing else, and look in an addicted manner?

Standing he remained.

Can’t he be a glow-worm among so many of them? In the secret at the edge of the village, inside the lap of these thousands of soft leaves, would he have got the life a cricket near the breast of a she-cricket!

Subodh felt that he had arrived at a place near the lone mystery of the earth, hidden-for ever juice and the flow of the vital sap. It was only because he had assumed the shape of a human body that he was unable to immerse himself in that immense juice of beauty. He is a human—baser than a glow-worm and than a green beetle—he has to go back. Subodh turned his face.

Dews were dropping.

At a distance, the river was covered in mist. It’s this river, of the Kartic night, shrouded by mist and fog, that made a different world. It required a whole human life to discover it fully. Subodh looked again at the river—as if, even after efforts by generations of people, Bengal’s mist-smeared river of Kartic cannot be correctly placed. A sense of fruitless pain took grip of Subodh as he kept looking in the direction of the river. As if so many things got lost for him, so many things did not come to any avail—faint hullabaloo of all these, floating along with the river, the mist, and raising young hands … again got lost after being burnt in the veils of the jungle; he wouldn’t get them back after search across lives.

Subodh turned his eyes in the direction of the river.

He got back to the municipality road, looking at the glow-worms among the shrubs of manosakanta of the paddy-field, bushes of talakucho and jungle trees. He was back to that world of a half-town, the old palace, new bazaar and hat, concrete bridge over the canal, a crowd of boats that had thronged the hat under the bridge and above the canal, fast-moving long boats, shalti and one or two pleasure boats. And, immediately after that there wsa the huge prison-house of the town; he looked at it for once—would he, for once, go there? So far he could check with his life, that door was closed to him.

He entered into the area of the police-line. He came back home, moving much between the shops on the two sides, and streams of lights of kerosene and rarely of gas and electricity.

On entering into the room, Subodh forgot all. Nothing of the love of jungle and forest, mystery of the river, boats, canal, roads and streets of the town stuck to him.

There was a lantern on the varenda. Subodh felt that whoever had brought that there sought for a release right after that. He had not felt any urge for entering into the room. Subodh got curious as to who had brought the lantern there. Maybe, one of the servants had. Or, may be Sulota, or Saraju had done that. Whoever had brought that had not wanted to enter into the room. Subodh picked up the lantern and placed it on the table. Eyeing the things at the table and around the room, Sobodh felt that all those were as they had been; nobody that came had felt the urge to handle those. Even the two pillows were lying in a fussy condition. The bed-cover was in the wrinkled and disorderly condition of the evening.

Subodh changed dress.

He threw open the door and the windows, sat down on the chair, and slowly wiped off the sweat on all his face and shoulder. Then he poured down a glass of water form the pitcher and drank it.

The cook came to tell him, ‘You have come back so late at night, Babu.’

With a sense of surprise, Subodh replied, ‘Have I really?’

‘What is the time by your watch?’

Subodh took his watch from the attaché case on the table and said, ‘It’s half past nine.’ Subodh said, ‘How much late night is half past nine, Thakur?’

The cook smiled and said, ‘They all have gone to bed; that’s why I said so.’

Subodh thought a little and said, ‘Have they really?’

‘Yes.’

Every evening, by placing dishes on the cemented floor on the verandah of the southern house, males first take their meal; on their finishing, the females have their turn.

Subodh said, ‘Has Sulota had her mael?’

‘Yes, all did have their night-meal.’

Subodh, on waiting for a while, said, ‘Did Harani’s mother have it?’

‘Yes.’

Of course, it’s not that they do not have meals in this way; Sulota and Saraju also do have their meals, leaving out Subodh and other babus. Why won’t they? Subodh does not want that women would in all matters be under the pressure of the males.

Subodh said, ‘Ok then, let’s move.’ He got up and said, ‘Have they all gone to bed?

‘Yes.’

‘After having shut the door?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then, it’s ok. For, what’s then the use of creating trouble by going to the varendah of that house; can’t we use the kitchen …’

‘It’s very dirty here in the kitchen, Dadababu; sweeping will take time. Ramcharan also has gone to enjoy kathokata.’

As if the servants also neglect him. After placing himself on the chair, Subodh said, ‘What will happen then?’

The thakur (cook) belongs to the caste of Brahmin, and wouldn’t be able to cleanse the leftovers of the kitchen. It’s uncertain as to when Ramcharan would come after listening to kathokata. It may be as late as two or three in the early hours of morning. It’s impractical keeping awake so long. If Subodh wants to take umbrage, now is the time to take a lot of it. It wouldn’t be unjust on his part to be angry and resent now. He can take that position against many. He can do so against pisima, kakima’s, Saraju and Ramcharan. Only the thakur (cook) can get an excuse.

Subodh tells the thakur (cook), ‘I’m placing a piece of paper on this table; you please bring my food here.’

On saying, ‘Let it be like that,’ the cook went away. He also would go to listen to kathokata. He has been waiting so long only because it looks odd if he leaves without serving the babu wih food. On sitting on the chair, Subodh was checking with his finger-nails and thinking, ‘No, he cannot resent or be angry against pisima or kakima’s, not even against Sulota; he cannot do so against himself. Why these people will take his charge when his wife is there? If Saraju can can have he food and go to bed so soon, what liability does the lie with pisima or kakima’s? Why will Ramcharan, in his simple-minded going to listen to kathokata, be deterred by any consideration? He should not feel deterred; that he has gone is rather well-done. Subodh would not tell it to anyone tomorrow that Ramcharan had gone away to listen to kathokata without serving food before Subodh.

Food has come. But, it’s very cold. The hearth has now fallen totally extinguished. If it had still had fire, Subodh would have asked the thakur (cook) to heat it up a little. While mixing the pulse soup with ice-cold rice, it occurred to Subodh that there still might be a little of fire in the hearth. But, how could he ask the thakur (cook) so much so intent on going to listen to kathokata to heat up pulse and fish soup?

The thakur (cook) had run away breathlessly right on placing the rice-plate on the table for Subodh. He is perhaps gulping his own share of rice in the kitchen, poor chap. In the whole house, it’s only he who has taken upon himself the arrangement of food for him; may be he was compelled to do so. But, still, he has done it. Subodh placed a morsel of rice into his mouth. It occurred to Subodh that like Ramcharan, the cook also could run away for listening to kathokata; he could do that justly and religiously. But, he did not go to do that. He has gone to enter into Subodh’s room tonight and feel a little yet the strange loneliness and helplessness of Subodh by nodding and shaking his shoulder. Only one person in the whole of this house.

Subodh is taking morsel after morsel. Why won’t he take food for his resentment against his wife? Once he would so often resent against his mother and lie down clinch-teethed declaring that he wouldn’t take food. So often at night, and even at broad daylight, he would take to bed by taking resentment against his mother. He wouldn’t in any way take food. But on each such occasion his mother would break that Achillean resolve by pursuing Subodh to his bed, road, lane, corner of house, shade of trees, unreachable place, blindest place. How? Certainly, not by being rigid. Oh, my god, tears gush at the memory of how that would be done. Mother didn’t keep Subodh unfed for a single day.

Mother was ….

And, this wife? She is withdrawing, withdrawing, withdrawing, and withdrawing. On looking through the window, Subodh saw the thakur (cook) with a rug on him and a lantern in his hand, going away.

Subodh called him to say, ‘Have you had your meal, thakur?’

‘Yes.’

‘Was it complete within so short a time?’

Thakur came forward a little and said, ‘I had had it earlier.’

‘Before my coming back?’

‘Yes.’

‘Ramcharan?’

He didn’t take it. He will take on coming back; I have kept it properly covered.’

The thakur was keeping standing.

Subodh said, ‘Are you going to listen to kathokata?’

‘Yes.’

‘Where is it taking place?’

‘At the place of the Gangulys, Sudarshan Ganguly.’

‘Ok; go please.’

‘They also have all gone.’

Subodh was taken aback and said, ‘Who have gone?’

‘Pisima has gone.’

Yes, Pisima?

‘Who took her there?

‘Naren dadababu has gone.’

‘Has Naren also gone?’

‘Mantubabu.’

‘Yes, Mantu even?’

Thakur said, ‘Kakimas also have gone.’

Looking for fish-bones, Subodh said, ‘Oh, then all have gone.’

He felt kind of a consolation in his mind. It’s for this that the room hasn’t been swept and cleansed. It’s for this that the lantern was found on the verandah. Ramcharan surely has kept it there. If it were Saraju, she surely would have kept it on the table. Finding Subodh absent from the room, Saraju also perhaps thought that her husband also had gone to the place of the kathokata. If all others go, how can Saraju alone stay at the house? Maybe it’s also for that Saraju had to go under compulsion. Pisima might have forced her to go. It’s all the more good that Saraju went. One should listen to kathokata, sangkirtan, etc. for once or twice sitting in front of the performer artist. The way they remain pressed under grindstone, staying day and night at home and ceaselessly drowsing in a monotonous manner! The deepest core of Subodh’s heart turned cool. Most affectionately, he said to the thakur, ‘You please go quickly; what will you find otherwise remaining for you to listen to?’

Thakur said, ‘I’m going then.’ On proceeding two steps further, he said, ‘Didimoni hasn’t gone.’

‘Are you talking about Didimoni, Sulota? Hasn’t she gone?’

‘No.’

‘Why?’

‘Bauthakrun didn’t go; that’s why.’

Subodh’s bowl of the fish-curry capsized in his hand; he stared with an open mouth and said, ‘Who?’

‘They two are there at home.’

‘None of them has gone?’

‘No.’

‘Hasn’t my wife, Harani’s mother, gone?’

Laughing, and with his mouth full of the juice of betel-leaf and tobacco, and shaking his head, the thakur said, ‘It’s of that bauthakrun that I’m talking of.’

‘Hasn’t she gone?’

‘No.’

Thakur said, ‘You’ll please look after them a little; there’s no other male person in the house.’ Thakur rushed after the cluster of the residential houses of the Ganguly’s in a breathless manner.





  1. Jibanananda Das
  2. Jibanananda Das was a Bengali poet, writer, novelist and essayist. Dimly recognised during his lifetime, today Das is acknowledged as “the premier poet of the post-Tagore era in India" and Bangladesh. Wikipedia
  3. BornFebruary 17, 1899, Barisal, Bangladesh
  4. DiedOctober 22, 1954, Kolkata, India




Translator
Kajal Bandyopadhyay
Professor
Dhaka University

Poet.






*

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