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Bindu’s Son: Sarat Chandra’s ‘Bindur Chhele’ (Chapter – 8)

July 3, 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 – 8 of this unusually moving, emotional saga of love, sacrifice and pure human bonding, published every Wednesday as a Special Series 📖💕

Continued from Chapter – 7


The way to school was through the front yard of their house. For the first few days, Amulya hid his face with an umbrella and took this route to go to school, but now, for a couple of days, the red umbrella and its owner couldn’t be seen walking along this track anymore. Waiting to see glimpses of the boy in sheer desperation, Bindu’s eyes brimmed with tears. But still, she waited for hours—she fixed her eyes on the streets with dogged determination, hiding at a corner of the attic. At nine or ten o’clock in the morning, there were so many boys walking with their coloured umbrellas; and after school ended, all those boys returned home through that same path, but Bindu missed the familiar gait, the umbrella and its owner she was looking for. In the evening, she came downstairs, wiping her tears, and called for Naren. Taking him aside, she asked him: “Naren dear, as much as I know, the route to your school is this way, but then, why doesn’t Amulya take this route?”

Naren remained mum. Bindu said again: “Well, you two brothers can walk together through this route and chitchat all the way, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

Naren had learnt to love Amulya in his own characteristic way, he said to his aunt secretly: “He doesn’t take this straight route to school out of shame, Mami…he takes a long, indirect route.”

Bindu laughed, amid all her anguish, and replied: “What makes him ashamed, after all? No, no, please tell him dear, tell him to walk through this route.”

Naren nodded his head and said: “He will never do that, Mami…and do you know why?”

Curiosity was killing Bindu. She asked: “Why?”

“Promise me, you won’t get angry if I say…” Naren said.

“No, I won’t! Tell me.” Bindu replied.

“Also promise me not to tell this to my mother?” Naren asked.

Restless, Bindu said: “Dear, I promise it will be between you and me, I won’t tell anything to anybody…Just tell me what it is.”

Naren said softly, as if in a whisper: “You know, some days back, the Third Master had pulled him by his ears so hard! He was in pain!”

There was a fire that erupted within Bindu suddenly, upon hearing this. “Why did he do that? Didn’t I forbid him to beat him up or inflict any kind of physical torture?”

Naren shook his hands and said: “It’s not entirely his fault, Mami, he is a new entrant in the school, after all! Hebo, that rascal, he is the one to blame…he came to my mother and complained against Amulya—And honestly, my mother is such a wicked woman, Mami, she was the one who instructed the Master to report to the Third Master, and he punished him, based on that reporting! Do you know how he pulled his ears? It was like this…” He started describing the action in detail.

Bindu stopped him and asked: “But what had Hebo complained about?”

Naren replied: “God knows, Mami—Hebo is the one who brings my lunch to school. One day, Amulya came and asked me: ‘What is the menu for your lunch today, Naren da?’ When my mother heard about it, she remarked that Amulya keeps an eye on my food always, he is envious of me!”

A deep anguish was killing Bindu, deep within. She asked: “But doesn’t anybody take the lunch of Amulya in school?”

Naren touched his forehead with his hand and remarked: “How can they afford to give him lunch everyday, Mami? They are poor people, after all; he only carries a few fried chickpeas in his pockets for the entire day. During lunch break, he eats them quietly, hiding away beneath one of the trees in the distance.”

Hearing this, the whole earth seemed topsy turvy to Bindu, the houses around her, her entire cosmos seemed to twirl and swirl around her eyes. She somehow managed to sit on the floor and ordered Naren to go away.

That night, Bindu came to have dinner after being called multiple times. However, in no way could she consume a morsel of food she was given, and then, she left, complaining of illness. The next day too, she starved almost the entire day, yet she couldn’t say anything to anybody in the house, leave alone, coming up with a remedy to this situation. She had this tremendous fear of committing a huge sin in her heart of hearts that things would escalate if she talked to anyone. In the evening, when her husband came to have his meal, she sat near him, habitually, but looked away, unmindful and lost. She couldn’t bear to look at any edible object since yesterday after talking to Naren.

At night, she came to her room, and saw the night lamp wasn’t extinguished still. Madhav was lying on the bed, silently, with his eyes closed. Bindu sat near his feet quietly.

Madhav looked at her and said: “What is it?”

Lowering her head, Bindu started touching a nail in one of his fingers, as if in a gesture of complete surrender.

Madhav had assumed the ravaged mind and soul of his wife and said with a tinge of empathy: “I understand everything, Bindu, but nothing can be changed if you go on crying in front of me. Please go to your Didi instead!”

Bindu pleaded, with her moist eyes: “Can’t you go, please?”

“But how is it possible? If I go to her and talk on your behalf, won’t Dada hear?”

Bindu didn’t reply to her husband’s words. She pleaded once more: “I admit, I am the one to blame…I surrender, can you please go and tell them?”

“I—I can’t do it!” Madhav said, and turned to the other side of the bed.

Bindu sat there for some more time, ardently wishing and hoping for Madhav to say something, to give her a positive sign, but Madhav’s long silence quashed all her hopes, and she silently walked away. Her husband’s cold behaviour seemed to her like a rock-solid curse, that stretched out like a long, never-ending mountain within her entire being.  She also understood deep within, that everybody in the family had disowned her.

Early in the morning, the very next day, Jadav sent a letter, conveying his permission for Chhoto Bou to go to her parents’ home. Bindu’s father was ill, so she was supposed to go there without any further delay. Bindu boarded the horse carriage with teary eyes. Bamun Thakrun, the cook, came near the carriage and said: “I pray you come back soon, once your father has recovered from his illness, Ma!”

Bindu came down to touch the feet of Bamun Thakrun, and she shrunk in hesitation and shame. Whosoever in the household had ever seen Bindu in such a calm and humble avatar? Bindu said, “You are the daughter of a Brahmin, after all; bless me, please, and pray to God, so that this becomes my final journey in life!”

Bamun Thakrun couldn’t say anything in reply; her voice was choked, and she started crying, looking at the frail face of Bindu.

Elakeshi was present there—she remarked in her shrill, high-pitched voice: “What ominous words are you uttering, Chhoto Bou? Didn’t any of our parents suffer from sickness ever?”

Bindu remained mum, and wiped her eyes, looking away from her sister-in-law. After a few moments, she replied: “I offer my pranam to you, Thakurjhi…Let me take my leave now.”

Elakeshi replied: “Go, dear, and stay well. I’m there, always…I’ll take care of everything.”

Bindu didn’t utter a word after this…the coachman started the carriage.

Annapurna listened to everything from Bamun Thakrun and was stunned. This was the first time Bindu had left for her parents’ home without her dearest Amulya; and today, it was over a month that both the mother and son hadn’t seen each other. Annapurna could gauge the anguish and trauma Bindu had carried in her heart due to this estrangement.

At night, Amulya was lying down in bed with his father and listening to a story from him. Annapurna, while sewing a quilt in the dim light of the lamp, heaved a huge sigh and said suddenly: “Good Lord! When she left, she prayed that it may be her final journey! May Goddess Durga protect her from all menace, may she come back to her own house, hale and hearty…”

Jadav suddenly sprang up from the bed and remarked: “I tell you, Boro Bou, you didn’t do the right thing with her, from the beginning! None of you recognized the pure soul of my Ma!”

Annapurna said in reply: “But she herself could have come back to me, calling me ‘Didi’, did she do that? She could have taken her son from us; she didn’t even do that. When I was about to leave from their house on the day of the puja after a day of back-breaking work, she didn’t hesitate to shower her cruel, reprimanding words on me!”

Jadav said: “You know, those were not the words of her soul…Only I know the essence and meaning of my Ma’s words! But Boro Bou, if you are unable to forgive these small errors, why have you been born as the elder of the house? Madhu, my brother too has the same disposition of yours! Both of you seem to have conspired to kill the gentle soul of my Ma!”

Tears flowed from Annapurna’s eyes, listening to her husband’s words. Amulya was wide awake. Listening to it all, he enquired: “Why did Chhoto Ma say she won’t come back ever?

“Amulya, do you want to go to your Chhoto Ma?” Annapurna asked, wiping her tears.

“No!” Amulya nodded his head.

“Why not? Chhoto Ma has gone to your Dadamoshai’s (grandfather) house, why don’t you go and join her tomorrow?”

Amulya remained silent. Jadav asked him this time: “Do you want to go, Amulya? Tell me!”

Amulya buried his face in the pillow and nodded his head just like before, and then shouted: “No!”

Bindur Chhele Chapter 8 b

Jadav would usually get prepared to go to work in the wee hours of the night. Five-six days later, just before dawn, he got ready, but then, took the hookah and stared at a distance, unmindfully.

Annapurna reminded him: “Isn’t it getting late?”

Jadav suddenly kept away the hookah and said: “I’m feeling depressed today, Boro Bou! Yesterday night, in my sleep, I suddenly felt my Ma was standing in a quiet corner near the door! Ma Durga bless her!” He departed, saying those words.

In the morning, Annapurna was toiling in the kitchen, when a servant from Bindu’s house came with bad news. “Babu has left for Farashdanga yesterday night—You know, Ma is severely ill!”

“What illness does she have?” Annapurna enquired. Her heart skipped a few beats, as she remembered her husband’s words at that instant.

The servant replied: “I don’t know much in details—but I heard she is fainting frequently, which means she might be having a difficult ailment!”

In the evening, Jadav came back and started crying, upon hearing the news. “I got such a precious gold idol for us at home, Boro Bou, and you immersed her in the water? How could you? I—I will go to her immediately!” He said, amid his restlessness.

Annapurna’s heart was breaking into a million pieces in anguish and self-deprecation. In fact, she had loved Bindu even more than her own biological son, Amulya. She wiped her tears and washed her husband’s feet, and almost forcefully made him sit and perform the evening puja rituals, while she herself went to the verandah and sat there in the dark. After a while, she could hear her brother-in-law Madhav’s voice outside the house, somewhere close to her. With an unknown fear creeping up in her mind, she sat there, transfixed, shutting both her ears with her fingers.

Madhav, upon noticing the dark, empty kitchen, came to the other room near the verandah, and saw Annapurna sitting in the dark. With a parched voice, he said: “Bouthan, I’m sure you have heard already…”

Annapurna sat there, with her head lowered in shame and guilt. Madhav went on: “I think Amulya needs to go to her now; perhaps, her end is near!”

Upon hearing this, Annapurna lay down, prostrate, and started to cry. Jadav ran from the other room and came to his brother. “This cannot be true, Madhu! I’ve never saddened anybody’s heart, never hurt anybody in my entire life, consciously or unconsciously. God will not punish me so severely at this age, I strongly believe.”

Madhav listened to him in complete silence. Jadav said to him again: “Please open up to me—tell me everything! I will go to my Ma and take her along—please don’t be so restless, Madhu! Is the carriage waiting still?

Madhav replied: “I’m not restless, Dada, but you are! See how you are panicking!”

“No, No, I didn’t do anything…Please come, Boro Bou, Amulya, come with us—”

Madhav tried to interrupt him, and remarked: “Let the night pass, Dada, we’ll see in the morning…”

“No, no, we cannot wait—Don’t be restless, Madhu, I say—call the carriage right now, or else, I’ll walk all the way…”

Madhav called for the coachman and stopped the carriage in front of their old house. As the four of them boarded the carriage, Jadav asked: “Tell me now from the beginning, whatever happened!”

Madhav replied: “I was not present since the beginning, so I don’t know all of it…However, I heard that some four days back, she started having high fever and then, started fainting at frequent intervals—but this entire time, nobody could make her take any medicine, or drink a sip of milk! I cannot say what her ailment is, but perhaps, there’s no hope.”

Jadav opposed his brother’s stoic words with all his might. “Oh yes, there is hope, of course there is hope! My Ma is surely alive, mark my words! Madhu, God wouldn’t be so cruel as to prove my words false at this age! You know it well enough; I haven’t uttered a lie till today…”

At that very instant, Madhav stooped at his elder brother’s feet and touched his feet*. Then, he sat inside the carriage in complete silence.

——————

* A gesture of respect called pranam

 

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

 

More Must Read in LnC Translations

Rabindranath Tagore’s Chitrangada: English Translation

Yashoda: Poetry in Translation

Sakhi Bhaabona Kaahare Bole — English Translation of Tagore’s Song

Two Tagore Songs of ‘Puja’ Parjaay in Translation

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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