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Bindu’s Son: Sarat Chandra’s ‘Bindur Chhele’ (Chapter – 6)

June 12, 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 – 6 of this unusually moving, emotional saga of love, sacrifice and pure human bonding, published every Wednesday as a Special Series 📖💕

Bindur Chhele Chapter 6

“Can you please teach him in our new home from tomorrow?”

Chapter 6

Bindu had returned with Amulya from her parental home. A few days later, during noontime, Annapurna came to her room, summoning her.

“Chhoto Bou!” She called. Bindu was sitting, transfixed and motionless amid a pile of dirty, unwashed clothes.

“Did you see the washerman today?” Annapurna enquired. Bindu remained silent. Annapurna noticed her stern, sombre face and it petrified her, as usual. She asked with a tinge of anxiousness in her voice: “What happened, dear?”

Bindu pointed towards small pieces of burnt cigarette with her finger and said: “See, these were discovered from the pocket of Amulya’s shirt!”

Hearing this, Annapurna stood in shock, motionless. Bindu was now in tears. She pleaded: “I beg of you, Didi, banish Naren and his family, or else send me and my son away from here!”

Annapurna couldn’t reply in such a state of turmoil. She remained mum for a few moments and then left the scene.

In the afternoon, Amulya returned from school and finished his meal, after which he went out to play. Bindu didn’t say a word to him. Bhairav, the servant came to her with a complaint—Naren Babu had slapped him hard without any of his fault.

“Go and complain to Didi.” Bindu ordered, annoyed.

When Madhav returned from the court, he started a conversation in jest while changing his clothes, but soon, he got a good scolding and went quiet. There had been an invisible storm that was brewing among them, and only Annapurna gauged how big and devastating it was becoming, bit by bit. Terrible anxiety and panic gripped her for the whole evening, and then, finding Bindu alone for once, she held the hand of her younger sister-in-law and begged her. “He is your son, after all! Please forgive him for today, then call him aside and give him a good scolding!”

Bindu replied: “He’s not my son…We both know that very well, don’t we? What is the need to flare up the situation by unnecessary words, Didi?”

“I am not his mother, but you are! I had surrendered him to you long back, didn’t I?” Annapurna said.

“When he was a small child, I fed him and raised him with care. Now that he is all grown up, take him back and give me some relief!” Bindu replied and left with a vengeance.

At night, Amulya came up to Annapurna to sleep, and she understood he was sobbing a lot since long.

Annoyed at the boy, Annapurna said: “Why have you come here? Go away, I said—go away right now!”

When Amulya went to his father’s room, he saw his father sound asleep. He then went away from the room silently, surreptitiously.

Next day, early in the morning, when Kadam came to pick up the utensils of the previous night, she noticed poor Amulya lying in a corner amid pieces of wood and cow dung cakes. She ran away and called out for Bindu for help. Annapurna had also woken up in the meantime, and came outside to witness the scene.

In a fierce tone, Bindu said: “Did the mistress of the house drive him away from her room at night? Did she fear her sleep would be disrupted in the boy’s presence?”

Annapurna’s eyes were stinging with tears, seeing the deplorable plight of her own offspring. But Bindu’s cruel reprimanding words agitated her, adding salt to her wounds. “Oh yes, you’re always so fond of blaming others for your own wrong deeds!” She replied.

When Bindu picked up the sleepy Amulya, she noticed his hot, searing body—a clear indication of fever. “The whole night, he was lying outside in the cold frost in the month of Karthik, so naturally, he caught fever! Ah, I’ll be so relieved once he recovers from it!” She remarked.

Anxious and impatient, Annapurna bent down to touch Amulya’s body. “He has fever? Let me see!”

But Bindu shoved away her hand forcefully and said in a cold voice: “Let it be—there’s no need for you to check on him.” She lifted the sleepy boy in her arms and looked at Annapurna with a caustic glance before she left for her own room.

— xxx —

Amulya recovered from his fever within a week, but Bindu didn’t pardon the offence committed by her elder sister-in-law, and had almost stopped talking to her.

Annapurna was well aware of what was happening in the household, but she remained mum. She couldn’t forget that Bindu had thrust the blame of all that had took place on her, that too, in the presence of everybody. Out of her severe angst, one day, she blurted out to Elakeshi, “Amulya had fever due to the stubbornness of Chhoto Bou. It is his good fortune that he didn’t die!”

Needless to say, Elakeshi didn’t wait for a single day to pass these words into Bindu’s ears. Bindu listened to it with all attention, but didn’t comment. Also, she didn’t let anybody else than Elakeshi know that she was aware of Annapurna’s words. After this day, she stopped talking to her absolutely.

Since a few days, all household stuff were being shifted to their new home; they were supposed to move there the very next day. Jadav was already staying in the new home with the male members of his family, but Madhav had gone away for an urgent court case, hence, unbeknownst to both the brothers, something terrible happened in the home front.

When Master Moshai, the home tutor, came to teach Amulya in the evening, Bindu summoned him through the servant. When he came to meet her, she asked: “Can you please teach him in our new home from tomorrow?”

“Okay, I will do that.” The tutor replied, and was about to leave. Bindu asked him again: “How is your student faring in his studies these days?”

“Well, he is quite sound in academics…He comes first in school every year!” The tutor remarked.

“I know that. But do you know, he has started to smoke recently?”

Master Moshai was amazed to hear this, but then, he expressed his natural reaction to this revelation. “It’s not strange, after all—boys of his age learn these things by imitating and emulating their peers.”

“Can you tell me who is he emulating in particular?” Bindu asked.

The tutor was silent again. Bindu, visibly annoyed, said: “Please let his father know of his recent deeds!”

The tutor nodded his head at this request and added: “You know, almost a week ago, these unruly boys entered an Oriya gardener’s space, and ravaged it…They picked up the mangoes from there before they were ripe and ready, they broke and plundered the trees, and also beat up the gardener brutally.”

Bindu held her breath for a few moments, listening to the account. “What happened then?” She enquired.

“Well, the gardener reported to the principal of their school, and he extracted ten rupees as a fine from the boys to pacify the man.”

Bindu found it extremely hard to digest, let alone believe the story. “Was my Amulya there? Where on earth would he find the amount of the fine?”

Master Moshai replied: “I don’t know about that, but he was surely there. Even Naren Babu of this house was there, accompanied by a few wicked boys from the school. I’ve heard it all from Head Master Moshai, the principal, so I can testify for its truth!”

Astonished, Bindu enquired: “And the money has also been given?”

“Yes, that’s what I heard.”

“Okay—You may leave now…” Bindu said, and sat there, transfixed, lost. An indistinct, obscure question crept up from her inner core: ‘Whosoever had the courage to give him the money without caring to ask me for once?’ The entire account, coupled with her angst, the lack of communication with Annapurna, her Didi made her berserk, snatching away all her good sense.

She lifted her body and entered the kitchen, using all her might. Annapurna was cutting the vegetables in preparation for dinner—She lifted her face and looked at Bindu, her gloomy, overcast visage petrified her.

“Didi, did you give money to Amulya recently?” Bindu asked in her fierce voice.

Annapurna was dreading this question for all this while; her voice became parched in fear upon being confronted. “Who told you?” She asked, sheepishly.

“That is not important at all!” Bindu replied. “The important point is: how did he dare to ask for the money, and on what grounds did you give him the money?”

Annapurna stood, silent, wordless in shock.

“The truth is, you don’t want me to scold him, or reprimand him for his own good, and that’s the reason why you hid this whole story from me! However much notorious Amulya has been, he won’t lie in front of elders…I believe you have given him the money knowing it all, isn’t it?” Bindu said, enraged.

Annapurna knew she was guilty this time, she mumbled slowly: “That’s true, but forgive him for this one time, my sister, I am begging for your forgiveness!”

Scalding from deep within, Bindu said, in a sarcastic voice: “This one time? Huh, I’m forgiving him forever, from today! I’m never going to speak with him for my entire life… I can’t tolerate his downfall bit by bit, in front of my own eyes…let him be estranged from me once and for all! But then, I can’t help thinking, how dare you?”

The piercing sting of Bindu’s last words severely struck Annapurna’s consciousness, but she somehow managed to sit still, wordless. But the more Bindu reprimanded her, the more her anger escalated. She shouted again: “In every incident that has happened till now, you act coy and plead for forgiveness…Let me tell you, it’s not Amulya’s fault, but you are the one to be blamed! And, I won’t forgive you ever, in this life!”

The servants and maids of the house overheard Bindu’s fierce words, standing at a distance.

Annapurna couldn’t take the blame any longer. She shouted: “What will you do then? Hang me to death?”

This fueled the fire within Bindu’s being. She scalded in terrible rage and replied: “Well, that seems to be a suitable punishment for you!”

“I just gave a small amount of money to my only son; that’s my crime, then?”

In this hot exchange between the two, the context got somewhat lost. Bindu lost touch with the actual debate and suddenly uttered: “Why would you give that amount at all? Where did the money come from, the money that you squandered?”

Annapurna, shocked and bewildered at this accusation, said: “Don’t you squander money too?”

“I use up my own money for my own cause…But tell me, whose money do you think you squander?”

Annapurna was enraged beyond words now. Since she was the daughter of a poor family before her marriage, she believed Bindu pointed fingers at her, labelling her as destitute. She stood up for her honour and said: “I know you are the daughter of very rich parents, but don’t think somebody can’t afford to give a small amount if needed…such pride isn’t valid, after all!”

Bindu, roaring in rage, replied: “No, I don’t take pride in that at all, but then, just think, whenever you try to give a single paisa, whose money is it, really?”

Annapurna couldn’t keep calm at this. She shouted: “Whose money do I give? Don’t you even watch your language when you accuse me? Go away from my sight right now—I say!”

Bindu replied: “I will surely go away after tonight, but…can’t you see whose money do you spend every day? Don’t you know whose earnings are you living on?”

This was an unexpected, unprecedented utterance by Bindu; she stopped suddenly and stood still, transfixed.

Annapurna’s face had turned pale at this terrible accusation—for a few moments, she glanced at Chhoto Bou’s face with her wide, gaping eyes. Then, digesting the initial shock, she replied: “Ah well, we are living on your husband’s earnings, right? I’m your maid, and my husband is your servant, we both are your slaves! Is that what you fostered in your mind all along? Why didn’t you say this before, then?”

Her lips quivered in unexplained pain—she bit her lower lips with her teeth and said, after a moment of deep silence: “Where were you, Chhoto Bou, when my husband barely survived with the bare minimum, just to educate his younger brother? Where were you, when our old house was burnt, and he survived beneath a tree, cooked food there for his brother, till he could save money, bit by bit, to build this ancestral home for us?”

As she spoke, tears overflowed from her eyes, and filled her face. She wiped her face with the aanchal of her sari and said: “If my husband had known what poison you have in your mind for us, he would never have opium in the evenings and close his eyes in trance-like state with the tube of the hookah tucked in his mouth—he isn’t that kind of a man! Your husband knows his qualities, and the Gods in heaven know his worth! But today, you dared to insult such a good-natured man while belittling me!”

With a heaving bosom, dying with the anguish of her husband’s humiliation, Annapurna continued: “It’s good that you let us know of this! Don’t forget, Sati had committed suicide due to her husband’s humiliation—and here, I too swear, I would rather work as a cook in someone else’s house, but I will never have food in your house ever again! You dared to insult not only me, but my husband too!”

Just then, Jadav came to the open courtyard and called out for Annapurna: “Boro Bou!”

Hearing the voice of her husband, her pain, her anguish escalated like the roaring, raging sea in the face of a calamity. She ran to the courtyard to confront him and said: “Shame, shame! A man who cannot even fend for his own wife and son has no right to stay alive! Why can’t he hang himself to death, good Lord?”

Almost out of his wits to witness such a scene, Jadav asked: “What happened, dear?”

“What happened? Nothing! Chhoto Bou has indicated quite clearly today that you are her servant, and I am her maid, we both her slaves!”

Couped up in her room, Bindu bit her tongue with her teeth and closed both her ears with her fingers.

Annapurna was in tears again as she uttered: “I don’t even have the basic right to give a single paisa to anybody for any purpose—and mind it, I had to listen to this while you’re still alive! Listen, I’m taking an oath in your presence—we all would rather die before having food cooked with their money!”

The angst of Annapurna’s words traveled to the space where Bindu hid and shook her to the core. Silently, in her own mind, she spoke to her sister-in-law: ‘What did you do, Didi?’

After a long span of twelve years, she fainted in the room, as the storm of her pent-up emotions spilled over.

 

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.
All Posts of Lopamudra Banerjee

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