Category Archives: Chokher Bali

Going back to Chokher Bali

Sometimes when we wait for something for a long time and then we get it, we are often underwhelmed by the actual thing.  Has it ever happened to you? Is it the great expectations built up over time to mythical proportions that did me in or something else? I don’t quite understand. It seems the older I get there are more questions and there are no definite answers. And to think as a child I had thought it would be the opposite. As an adult I would have the solutions to all the problems in the world and have a rollicking good time with no one telling me what to eat and to come home before it gets dark.

I finally had a chance to see Chokher Bali and it was a let down. I had loved the book and after searching for a version with Hindi subtitles (in vain) this dubbed version fell into my lap years later when I wasn’t even looking for it. I wanted to see the adaptation by Rituparno Ghosh having loved many of his movies, especially Raincoat which left an indelible mark on me. But I may be biased because I absolutely adore O Henry’s The Gift of Magi which it is adapted from.

Eons back I wrote a blubbering post about being stunned by Chokher Bali where I said nothing of any real value. I was amazed by the level of manipulation  in the book when I had read it 6-7 years ago. A lifetime ago really.  Aishwarya Rai was good in Rituparno Ghosh’s Raincoat (so was Ajay Devgn). So I was even more astonished by her dismal performance here. She doesn’t do justice to the part of Binodini. But the rest of the cast were good in their roles. I am now on the look out for Anurag Basu’s version which has Radhika Apte as Binodini. I have a feeling I am going to like it.

In between I have found a copy of the book. The cover is intriguingly underplayed and is in shades of grey. This one is Radha Chakraborty’s translation, different from the one I had read before. I am familiar with her having read her translation of Shesher Kobita, published as Farewell Song.

Here’s to rereading and rediscovering Chokher Bali anew.

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Reflections on reading The Wife’s Letter

Coming home to Tagore is always a revelation. I have probably owned this fine collection of short stories for over a decade now. My aunt had funded it when she saw me lurking in the aisle of the book corridor in Big Bazaar back when it still sold books, along with stationery. How little I must have understood of women’s plight and their predicaments, when I was a teenager if not a child, is dawning on me now. A great story is that which reveals itself anew whenever you pick it up to read. In short something which has repeat value. Tagore is a genius; every sentence has its place and importance in the narrative.

I never pick up Tagore lightly because I can never shrug off his words casually and carry on with my life pretending to be unaltered when the soul has registered change. Reading Tagore needs complete involvement of the brain and the heart, and I need to be on stable ground otherwise it would be tough to balance the emotions when I’m on uneven terrain. The emotions generated on reading the text will overwhelm me and teetering on the edge of a precipice isn’t good for my health.

Reading The Wife’s Letter I had to stop at a few sentences to completely understand them (I am not sure if it is brain fog or ageing in action) and compare it to the real world experience I have had in the last decade. My first hand experience might be very limited but observed or heard second hand experience is so much more. Women talk. Women share. Stories of friends, acquaintances, neighbours, stories from the media. A woman has empathy for all the women of the world (barring duplicitous mother-in-laws and conniving frenemies).

There is no doubt about that Tagore understood the female psyche and portrayed it in his writings better than any man could. I am really looking forward to reading another translation of Chokher Bali soon. Continue reading Reflections on reading The Wife’s Letter

Chokher Bali is much more than a grain of sand !

A Grain Of Sand by Rabindranath Tagore
 What can I say about the book? I’m speechless, spell bound and God knows what else. Also my mouth was wide open in surprise many times during the book, which is pretty much equivalent to my jaw dropping to the floor. How do I feel? Oh that is difficult to answer because what I feel can’t be expressed in words (cliched yes but the truth nonetheless). I was mesmerized by the prose, reeling from the doings of the characters in it and overall just stuck in the gap between old and new worlds. Did I just write that? I suppose I did. This is why I don’t write book, movie or music reviews because I don’t really review it in the true sense of the word rather put up my jumbled thoughts on the matter (which is never even clear to me then how can it be clear to anyone else). Also, I end up gushing or hating (depends) and not saying anything important about it. Anyways there are people far more qualified than me to review so let’s leave it to them.

The book has given me loads of food for thought. I think I will be ruminating on it for ages. It made me  think- are we really modern ? After seeing the treatment and the dissection of  the psyche of women by Tagore during that time I’m not too certain of anything now. I already knew that he had a fine understanding about how a woman thinks and feels, I had gathered that from reading his lovely short stories. As everyone knows he was far far ahead of his time (my goodness, I really can’t get over it). He can give every modern author a run for his money.

This novel has lies, deception and so called illicit relationships that borders on scandalous but somehow it all feels natural. It was a page turner and totally unpredictable. Riveting. The emotional turmoil and the ministrations of all characters was so deftly expressed.It was nothing like I have read before. I had read many short stories and a poem( Upagupta)which I loved but this was the first novel I read by Tagore and I want more. I wonder how will it  feel to read it in Bengali, lovely I suppose more lyrical and more meaningful and the context more understandable. Sheer genius! I am looking forward to the movie version. I hope they don’t ruin it.

Two words-read it.