Set in the onset of the 20th century, Chokher Bali has all the ingredients of a modern tele serial. Emotions, lots of sadness, ill fate, conservative joint family, a quintessential side kick for the main hero, and the extra marital affair. This in a nutshell is chokher bali- meaning a grain of sand that gets into your eye and causes a reflex action.
Choker Bali is the name Binodini and Asha gave to each other as per the convention of naming their closest friends with their own private name for each other.
Unknown to Asha, Binodini has a past. Her mother had approached Rajlakshmi, for giving her daughter’s hand in marriage to her son Mahendra. Mahendra, in his arrogance of youth had refused to marry and so had Bihari- Mahendra’s bosom friend – a permanent fixture in their house.
Ill fated Binodini became a widow soon after her marriage. Her luck brings her to Rajlakshmi’s home and she wholeheartedly and single handedly begins to run the home. She befriends Asha- Mahendra’s young and naïve wife and takes a firm place in Rajlakshmi’s heart- something that Asha is unable to achieve.
As time goes on, Binodini befriends Mahendra who is slowly dazzled by her beauty, her way with words and her efficiency- so very unlike Asha whom he loved all along.
Mahendra and Binodini elope but Binodini knows there is no future with Mahendra- she also begins to see Bihari as a better prospect- more reliable and a safer bet than the much married and fickle Mahendra.
Where will the confusion end? Whom does Binodini choose in the end? Will the breach of trust cause a break in the relationship between Mahendra & Asha?
with all the makings of a modern drama or a movie, the book is relevant to the modern era. Perhaps in todays version, the solution would have been a win win one. Whereas here, Binodini takes the idealistic route- a route of penance rather than self gratification. Perhaps because this was set in a time of minimalism and self denial.
Mahindra is a character who doesn't get my sympathy. Used to getting everything on his plate, being the male of the house and having very little patience if things are not as per his expectation.
Bihari is the voice of reason whereas Asha is a helpless naive girl who transforms herself in the face of problems.
The book could have moved faster though.