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Bindu’s Son: Sarat Chandra’s ‘Bindur Chhele’ (Chapter – 5)

June 5, 2024 | By

LnC brings you Bindu’s Son, Lopamudra Banerjee’s translation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novella Bindur Chhele — a beautiful story of a mother’s unwavering affection for her son. Enjoy Chapter – 5 of this unusually moving, emotional saga of love, sacrifice and pure human bonding, published every Wednesday as a Special Series 📖💕

(Bindur Chhele) Bindu's Son Chapter 5 English translation

Chapter 5

Appearance can be deceptive, and Bindu and Annapurna’s Thakurjhi (sister-in-law) Elakeshi really had a deceptive look. She wore the façade of a simpleton, but she was no simpleton really. When she saw that the childless Chhoto Bou, Bindu was a wealthy lady, she immediately drifted towards her. Every night in bed, she would admonish her husband Priyanath and say— “I lost everything for your sake! Why at all am I wasting my life with you? If I would have stayed here, I would live like the mother of a king! How can Chhoto Bou leave my precious, golden boy and foster that wretched, black-skinned, ghost-like boy…?” She heaved a big sigh and with it, let the life energy of that black-skinned, ghost-like boy dissolve into thin air. Thereafter, she would close the chapter of her complaint with her final statement: “God remains with the poor and blesses them”, and slept away in silence. As for Priyanath, he would also repent for his infinite foolishness and finally drifted off into the realm of sleep. In this way, the couple was spending their days and nights in the house, and gradually, the love and affection of Thakurjhi (sister-in-law) towards Bindu was surging like a torrential downpour, like a raging flood.

Today in the afternoon, she was telling Bindu: “You have such a dense, cloud-like mane, Chhoto Bou, but I’ve never seen you tie your hair! You know, today the women from the landlord’s house will come to visit us, come, let me tie your hair now.”

Bindu replied: No, Thakurjhi, I’m unable to cover my head with a veil. My son is growing up now and notices almost everything. He will notice this too!”

Elakeshi was astonished to listen to Bindu’s words. “What are you saying? Would a married woman leave her hair untied because her son is growing up? Look at my own Narendranath—after all, he is almost a year older than your son, would I leave my hair untied because of him?”

Bindu replied: “Why would you do that it, Thakurjhi? Naren has been seeing your hair tied up since a long time, hence his case is different! But if Amulya sees me in a bun suddenly today, he will gape at me awkwardly! He might start shouting, or else do something outlandish…Alas, that would indeed be so shameful!”

Annapurna was walking along the same way, and upon noticing Bindu, she stopped and said: “Chhoto Bou, your eyes seem to be brimming over, come to me, let me see your body temperature!”

Embarrassed with such words in front of Elakeshi, Bindu said: “Why check my body temperature every day? Am I a small girl, who wouldn’t be able to gauge her own illness?”

Annapurna replied: “No, you aren’t a small girl, but an old woman! Come here and let me see…The months of Bhadra-Ashwin are rather notorious for catching illnesses.”

Bindu remained stubborn and replied. “No, I won’t go to you! I’m telling you repeatedly, there’s nothing wrong with me, I am fine, still you are insisting!”

“See to it that you aren’t pretending!” Annapurna remarked, and then left the scene, looking at her with dubious eyes.

Elakeshi, noticing Annapurna leave, commented: “It seems Boro Bou has streaks of an obsessive madness, isn’t it?”

Bindu stood silent for a moment, and then replied: “I wish everybody on earth would be blessed with such obsessive madness, Thakurjhi!”

Elakeshi was stunned into silence, hearing this.

Meanwhile, Annapurna was returning through that same path with something in her hand. Bindu summoned her and asked: “Didi, listen, come here! Would you care to tie your hair?”

Annapurna stopped in her tracks. She looked at Bindu silently for some moments, and realized what had happened in between. She said to Elakeshi: “How many times did I tell her, Thakurjhi, but all in vain! Such beautiful, long tresses she has, but she won’t tie them, so many saris, jewelry she is blessed with, but she won’t even look at them… Look at her beauty, but she will never gaze at her own reflection! She really has a strange disposition! And trust me, her son is also following in his mother’s footsteps! Do you know what Amulya told me that day, Chhoto Bou? He told me—Why would one wear fancy, expensive clothes? Chhoto Ma has plenty of them, but does she wear them?

Bindu looked up with a proud smile and said: “Then see for yourself, Didi, if a mother has to raise her son as a distinguished individual, doesn’t she need to have such strange disposition? If you live until that day, you will be able to see how people will point fingers at me, identify me as Amulya’s mother!”

As she spoke, her eyes brimmed with tears.

Annapurna looked at her with deep affection and said: “You know, that is the reason why we never say anything about the way you’re raising your son! May the Almighty God grant your earnest wish…But we never foster any thoughts in our minds about when he will grow old, when he will be a qualified, discerning individual.”

Bindu wiped her eyes with the aanchal (border) of her sari and replied: “But I am living with that one and only hope, Didi!” As she spoke in an indescribable excitement of the future, she started having goosebumps in her entire body. Ashamed and embarrassed, she started laughing at herself, “No, Didi, if this only hope of mine is thwarted, I will be a mad woman!”

Annapurna was stunned to hear this from Bindu. She was well aware of her younger sister-in-law’s innermost thoughts; however, until now, she had never felt in her core such wild, unabashed expression of Bindu’s aspirations centered on the boy. Today, she finally realized why Bindu was as vigilant as a yaksha around Amulya, why she was as obsessively alert as a ghost around him. As she gazed intently at the face of this Godmother, this utmost well-wisher of her own biological son, her motherly heart was filled to the brim with the inexplicable bounty of reverence. She looked away to hide the tears which threatened to spill over.

Elakeshi suddenly talked in a lighter vein. “Let it be, Chhoto Bou. Today I will…”

Bindu stopped her mid-sentence. “Thakurjhi, you better tie the hair of Didi today—You know, I haven’t seen her in that avatar since I entered this household.” Saying thus, she left the scene, flashing a smile.

A few days after this incident, one fine morning, the old barber of the family was coming downstairs after cutting Jadav’s hair in his room upstairs. Amulya came up to him and asked: “Kailash Dada, can you cut my hair in Naren Da’s fashion?”

“How’s that going to be, Dada Babu?” The barber asked back, amazed.

Amulya directed his hands towards various places in his head and instructed: “See…here, I want twelve annas, in this spot, I want six annas, in this spot again, I want two annas, and here, at the nape, very small hairs, neatly cut. Can you do this?”

The barber laughed at such elaborate description and confessed: “No, dada, not me, not even my father would be able to do it!”

Amulya wasn’t the one to relent. He replied quite boldly: “Come on, it’s not even that difficult, Kailash Dada! All you have to do is…twelve annas here, six annas in this spot…”

The barber, in a desperate plea to escape, said: “But what day of the week is it today? I can’t cut your hair unless I receive the permission of your Chhoto Ma.”

Fearlessly, Amulya said: “Okay, just stand here for a few minutes, I’ll quickly know from her and come back.”

He had barely walked a couple of steps, after which he came back and said: “Okay, give me your umbrella for now, or else, you will abscond and never return!” Saying thus, he literally snatched the umbrella from the barber and quickly vanished from the scene. He stormed into Bindu’s room and said to her: “Chhoto Ma, can you come downstairs quickly?”

His Chhoto Ma had just bathed and was about to sit for her puja and meditation. “Don’t touch me now, dear, can’t you see, I’m doing the ahnik (diurnal) rituals?”

“You can do that later, Chhoto Ma, just come out for once and order the barber Kailash da, or else he won’t cut my hair. He is waiting for you!” Amulya said, impatient.

Bindu was astonished to see Amulya’s gestures. Getting a haircut for him had always been a huge struggle; hence, she couldn’t understand why he was so willing to cut off his hair today. As she ventured out to meet the barber, he said: “There’s been a strict instruction, Ma, I have to cut his hair in twelve annas, three annas, two annas, will I be able to do it at all?”

“Yes, you can absolutely do it!” Amulya replied, and added: “Wait, let me call Naren da too!” Saying this, he ran away.

He searched for Naren a bit, but unfortunately, he couldn’t find him in the house. Desperately, he said: “Naren Da is not here, but Chhoto Ma, please stand here and instruct Kailash da. Look carefully—here, I need twelve annas, and two annas in this spot, and here, I need very short hair…”

Bindu laughed, seeing his eager enthusiasm. “It’s time for my ahnik rituals now, dear, don’t you know?”

“Do it later, I said, or else I’ll touch you right now!” Amulya warned her.

Bindu had no other option but to stand and watch. As the barber went on cutting Amulya’s hair, Bindu silently gestured to him with her eyes, and he cut all the hairs in the same length. However, Amulya didn’t notice this act of defying his instructions. He touched his head and felt happy. “This is perfect!” He remarked, and left, jumping in excitement.

The barber took the umbrella in his armpit and said in a tragic tone: “But Ma, I am really dreading, thinking how I’ll survive tomorrow once I enter your house!”

Bamun Thakrun, the Brahmin woman cook was calling them for lunch. As Bindu was working in the kitchen, pouring milk in a bowl, she heard Amulya’s voice. The boy was desperately searching for his uncle’s hairbrush in the entire house. A little later, he pounced upon Bindu’s back, crying in utter frustration. “Look, Chhoto Ma, how badly he cut my hair! Let him come back tomorrow, I’m going to kill him!”

Bindu couldn’t suppress her laughter at the boy’s childishness. Amulya left her and started wailing again, in sheer anger and despair. “Are you blind? Couldn’t you see what he did to me?”

Annapurna came to Bindu’s room, hearing noises of Amulya’s screams. She listened to the whole story and remarked: “When he comes tomorrow, we’ll tell him to get it all fixed.”

This aggravated Amulya’s anger. “No, you can’t!” He shouted. “How can he cut in twelve annas? My hair is all gone from this place!” He pointed fingers at one particular spot in his head and complained.

“If not twelve annas, at least eight annas or ten annas can be done, isn’t it?” Annapurna tried to pacify the angry boy.

“No, it’s all rubbish! Eight annas or ten annas is not in fashion, after all! Ask Naren da, how much I wanted twelve annas!” Amulya went away in frustration. He didn’t finish his lunch that day; he scattered all the food in the kitchen and left.

Amused to see this, Annapurna asked: “When did your son develop this passion for styling his hair in such fashion?”

For a moment, Bindu laughed. But then, she suddenly turned somber, and heaved a sigh. “Didi, it’s true that I’m laughing at this apparently trivial matter, but you know, but deep within, I’m shivering in dread! All awful things start in this way, perhaps!”

Annapurna remained silent.

— xxx —

Meanwhile, it was time for the Durga puja festivities. Nearby, in the Zamindar’s house, there were lots of arrangements for entertainment. Naren immersed himself in it two days before the puja started. In the Mahasaptami night, Amulya came to ask Bindu: “Chhoto Ma, can I go to see the jatra (village theater) that is going on?

“Is it going on now, or will happen later?” Bindu asked.

“Naren da said, it will start from 3 o’clock.” Amulya replied.

“Will you remain outside in the cold for all night? I won’t let you do that! Rather, you can go with your uncle tomorrow, you’ll get good seats then.”

“No, just let me go at night! Kaka (uncle) might not go tomorrow, or even if he goes, it will be late in the noon tomorrow!” Amulya insisted in a teary-voice.

Bindu replied: “Then we’ll do one thing. When the show starts at 3 or 4 o’clock, I send you with our servant. Go and sleep now.”

Angry and frustrated at his Chhoto Ma’s command, Amulya slept at a corner of the bed, turning his face to the wall. Bindu tried to pull him to a favorable spot, but he moved her hand and lay there, with an angry, stiff body. For some time, they both had perhaps fallen asleep, but Amulya woke up, anxious, just as the big clock outside their room had chimed. With keen alertness, he counted the hours—One, two, three, four…He lifted his palpitating body from the bed and shook Bindu vigorously, asking her to get up. “Wake up, wake up quickly, Chhoto Ma, it’s already four o’clock!”

The clock was still chiming outside—Five, six, seven, eight—Amulya started crying, and said: “It’s already seven, when will I go?” The clock struck now—Nine, ten, eleven, twelve…then it stopped. Amulya came to understand his folly by now, and silently lay down on the bed, awkward, embarrassed. Madhav, his uncle was sleeping in another bed in a corner of the room. His sleep was disrupted due to this crying and utter chaos.

Madhav laughed out loud and asked: “What happened to you, Amulya?” Further embarrassed, Amulya didn’t reply.

Bindu said: “You know how he woke me up now? Oh God, no human can wake up anyone in this way, even if the house is on fire!”

Noticing the silence and awkward gesture of Amulya, she felt pity on the boy. “Okay, go now, but don’t quarrel with anybody there, I say!” She called Bhairav, the servant, and sent him off with a lantern to accompany Amulya.

Amulya returned the next day at around ten o’clock in the morning with a happy, satisfied persona. As he crossed paths with his uncle Madhav, he asked: “Why didn’t you go to see the show?”

“How was it?” Bindu asked him.

“It was wonderful! Kaka, you know, there will another show of ‘khyamta nach’ today evening, performed by artists from Kolkata! Naren Da has seen them, he said, he said they are as beautiful as Chhoto Ma! I even told Baba to watch the show!”

“Good! You did the right thing!” Madhav remarked, with a hearty laugh.

Bindu’s face reddened with anger and despair. “Yes, listen to your talented nephew’s words!” She said.

She ordered Amulya: “Beware, I don’t want you to go there ever again—you wicked boy! Who said the dancers look like me? Is it Naren?”

“Yes, he said he happened to see them!” Amulya replied, timidly.

“Where is Naren? Let him come today!”

Madhav suppressed his laughter and said: “Are you crazy? Dada is asleep upstairs, don’t create a fuss now!”

Hence, Bindu had to digest her thoughts and her desperation within herself and her whole being seethed in anger and humiliation.

Just before the evening, Amulya came to Annapurna and tried to convince her. “Didi, I want to go and watch the dancer girls and their show at the Zamindar’s house. I’ll come back quickly; I promise!”

Annapurna was busy with her household chores, she replied, quite casually: “Go and ask your mother.”

Amulya remained stubborn and argued: “No, Didi, I will come back soon, do allow me to go.”

Annapurna, scared of the consequences of Amulya’s actions, said: “No dear, your mother is an angry woman, you better ask her permission and then leave.”

Amulya became more adamant—he kept crying and pulling Annaparna by her clothes. “No, you tell Chhoto Ma!” He kepi insisting. “I’ll go with Naren Da, I’ll come back quickly, I told you!”

Annapurna said, a bit hesitantly: “If you are going with Naren, then—”

Amulya didn’t let her finish the sentence; he ran away in unrestrained excitement.

After an hour, Annapurna noticed that Bindu was looking for Amulya. Initially, she remained silent, but then, the search continued frantically. Then, she came out and said: “He has gone out to see some dance show with Naren. Don’t panic, he will come back soon!”

Bindu came near her and said in a sarcastic voice: “Who allowed him to go? You?”

Annapurna was scared to confess that the boy had not asked for Bindu’s permission before going. She repeated: “Don’t worry, he will come back soon.”

With a glum face, Bindu left. A little later, when Amulya returned and got to know that his Chhoto Ma had summoned him, he went up to his father’s room and lay down in a quiet corner of the bed silently.

Jadav, with his glasses on, was reading the Bhagavad Gita in the dim light of the earthen lamp. He lifted his face and asked: “What happened, Amulya?”

Amulya remained mum. Kadam, the servant came up and said: “Chhoto Ma is calling you, come with me.”

Amulya moved closer to his father and said: “Baba, please take me to her along with you.”

“Why would I?” Jadav said, surprised. “What happened, Kadam?”

Kadam explained the matter. Jadav understood the complexity of the situation and also feared that a scuffle was likely to happen between the two women of the house, centered on this event. Hence, he accompanied Amulya and stood with him outside Bindu’s room. He called Bindu: “Ma, please forgive the boy for one last time! He has promised not to do this again…”

That night, when the two sisters-in-law sat face-to-face for dinner, Bindu said in a stern voice: “I’m not angry with you, Didi, but let me tell you, I cannot stay in this house anymore—my Amulya would will be spoilt then! If I hadn’t prohibited him to go there, I would have still forgiven his deeds, but in spite of my severe resistance, the audacity he exhibited today is really making me think hard. And then, look at his wickedness—After he came back home, he didn’t meet me, but went up to you! Just when he heard I was calling him, he manipulated Borthakur (elder-brother-in-law) and brought him along! No, Didi, all these have started recently, and are indications of more dangerous acts, I’m afraid! I would rather go and stay in Kolkata in a rented house with him, but I have only one son, I cannot let him be spoilt in this way! I cannot let myself be drowned in tears for him, for the rest of my life!”

“If you go away with him, how can I stay in this house alone, tell me?” Annapurna replied, anxious and lost.

Bindu remained silent for a while and said: “You know what you will do, Didi. I only let you know my decision. This Naren is a very bad company for my boy, I tell you.”

“Why, what did he do?” Annapurna asked. “Suppose they both were siblings from the same mother, what would you do in that case?”

Bindu said: “In that case, I would have tied both their hands and feet with the help of our servant, whipped them with nettle drenched in water and then driven them out of the house! Besides, they aren’t really siblings and I cannot suppose things, It isn’t helpful, Didi. You better leave them.”

Annapurna was annoyed, deep within. “They are our relatives, so to keep them or to not keep them in our house isn’t in my hands, don’t you know, Chhoto Bou? You better go and give your proposal to the man who had invited them here. Don’t torture me with your bitter words!”

“How will I speak to Borthakur about this?”

“In the same way that you discuss other things, I suppose!”

Bindu shoved away the plateful of rice and replied: “Don’t be presumptuous, Didi! I am a grown-up woman of twenty-seven-twenty-eight. The issue isn’t with the servants of the household, but with the relatives! If I broach such a topic while you’re alive, wouldn’t he be angry with me?”

“Yes of course…But just think, if I discuss the same with him, he won’t see my face for the rest of his life! Why don’t you understand, we are outsiders, and they are cousins, belonging to the same family? Besides, I’m an old woman now, if I give importance to such a trivial matter, people will call me mad!”

Bindu shoved the plate of rice further away from her and sat silently, with a sullen face. Annapurna gauged that she would keep quiet over this issue just because she regarded her elder brother-in-law with great esteem. She said: “Why aren’t you eating? What sin did the plate of rice commit?”

“I’m done with eating for today.” Bindu said suddenly, heaving a sigh.

Annapurna understood quite well that in this existing mood of Bindu, it would be futile to insist her.

Bindu, while going to sleep, couldn’t find Amulya in the bed and came up to her sister-in-law again. “Where has the boy gone?” She asked.

“Oh, I just saw him sleeping in my bed, for a change. Let me wake him up!” Annapurna said.

“No, no, just let it be!” Bindu said, and then left with a dark, sombre face.

In the wee hours of the night, Bindu’s faint slumber broke with Annapurna’s call, as she knocked at the door.

“What happened, Didi?”

Annapurna’s voice resounded from outside. “Open the door and take your son, I say! Good Lord, even my father couldn’t have withstood the wickedness of this boy!”

Once Bindu opened the door, Annapurna entered with the sleepy, timid Amulya. She blurted out: “Good heavens, never have I seen such a devil in my life! Just look, it is 2 o’clock at night now, and this whole time, he didn’t let me have a wink of sleep! Once he is complaining of mosquito bites, then he is asking for water, again he is demanding me to comfort him with the hand fan! I’m incapable, Chhoto Bou…The whole day, I toil like anything; if I’m not able to sleep at night, I won’t live.”

Bindu laughed and stretched her arms, and Amulya quickly surrendered to her lap. Within a minute, he was fast asleep in her warm bosom. Madhav remarked in jest from the other bed where he was sleeping: “Bouthan, I believe your desire to have him in your own room is over!”

Annapurna replied: “It wasn’t my desire at all, dear, the devil himself entered my room for the fear of getting beaten. But it was a hard lesson for me too! Can you believe what he said to me, Thakurpo? He said—I feel ashamed to sleep in the same room with you.”

The three of them burst out in peals of laughter. “Let me leave now, I need to have some sleep!” Annapurna said, and left.

— xxx —

Some ten days after this incident, Bindu’s parents, who had decided to embark on a pilgrimage, sent a palanquin for her to go and visit them. They earnestly desired to see their only daughter before their journey. Bindu sought her elder sister-in-law’s permission and attempted to go to her parents’ home for a couple of days, without Amulya’s knowledge. Just then, Amulya came to the scene with a few books tucked in his arm. He was just preparing to go to school then. A few moments earlier, he had seen a palanquin standing outside, in the open streets, and now looked intently at Bindu’s reddened feet. He stopped walking and stood silent, motionless. “Why did you put alta* on your feet, Chhoto Ma?” He enquired.

Annapurna, who was present there, laughed at his query.

“I needed to put it today, dear!” Bindu replied, amused.

But Amulya’s query didn’t hear here at all. He kept scrutinizing her from top to toe and asked: “Why did you wear all this jewelry?”

Annapurna left, with the aanchal of her sari tucked in her mouth.

Bindu suppressed her laughter and said: “Well, aren’t we allowed to wear our jewelry even for once, just because some day in the future your wife will come and wear it all? Go to your school now!”

Amulya didn’t want to hear all this. He enquired instead: “Why is Didi laughing? And I won’t go to school today…tell me, where are you going?”

“Ah, even if I’m going somewhere, shall I need your permission?” Bindu said.

“No, I will go with you!” Amulya said, and left with his books.

Annapurna entered Bindu’s room and said: “Don’t think he will go to school so easily today. Have you noticed how cleverly he noticed everything—the alta in your feet, the jewelry you’re wearing? But then, I suggest you take him along with you—or else once he comes back home, he will create a huge fuss if he cannot see you!”

Bindu replied: “Do you think he went to school already, Didi? I don’t believe that. I’m certain he is hiding somewhere; he will emerge right when I’ll be leaving!”

It happened just as Bindu had predicted. Amulya was hiding. Just when she was about to step on the palanquin after offering her pranam to her sister-in-law, Amulya crept up from nowhere and clung to the sari of his Chhoto Ma. The two sisters-in-law laughed out, witnessing the boy’s childish act.

“Don’t beat up the poor boy while leaving, dear. Take him along.” Annapurna said.

Bindu replied: “I’m taking him along for now, but can you feel, there’s no scope for me to step foot anywhere in this world? That itself is quite worrisome!”

Annapurna replied: “Well, that’s how you have raised him all along, and you have to bear the consequences! Amulya, dear, stay on with me, will you? It’s just a matter of two days!”

Amulya shook his head vigorously and said, unabashed: “No, no, I can’t stay with you!” With these words, he stepped inside the palanquin with his Chhoto Ma, his loving aunt.


To be continued….

Bindu’s Son Special Series is published every Wednesday.

Click here to read the chapters

Sarat Chandra Bindur-Chhele (Bindu's Son) english translation


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Lopamudra (Lopa) Banerjee is an author, editor, poet and writing instructor staying in Dallas, Texas with her family, but originally from Kolkata, India. She has a Masters in English with thesis in Creative Nonfiction from University of Nebraska and also Masters in English from University of Calcutta, India. Apart from writing and editing some critically acclaimed books and being awarded with the Reuel International Prize for Poetry (2017) and for Translation (2016), she has dabbled in all genres of writing, from journalism and content writing to academic essays and fiction/poetry. She has been interviewed in various e-zines, literary blogs and also at TV (Kolkata) and at radio stations in Dallas, Texas. Very recently, she has been part of the upcoming short film 'Kolkata Cocktail', a docu-feature based on poetry, but her love for writing feature stories go back to her journalism days when she interviewed people from all walks of life and wrote essays and articles based on them. She loves performing poetry as spoken words art and has performed in various forums in India and USA.
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Today’s Motivation

<div class=at-above-post addthis_tool data-url=></div>Success is an outcome of hardwork and sincere efforts, not the luck.<!-- AddThis Advanced Settings above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Advanced Settings generic via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons above via filter on get_the_excerpt --><!-- AddThis Share Buttons below via filter on get_the_excerpt --><div class=at-below-post addthis_tool data-url=></div><!-- AddThis Share Buttons generic via filter on get_the_excerpt -->
Success is an outcome of hardwork and sincere efforts, not the luck.