To mark the 150th anniversary of Rabindrananth Tagore (1861-1941), Penguin India has presented a special selection of works by and on the Nobel laureate, poet, writer and philosopher. From novels, poetry, essays and short stories to biographies The Penguin Tagore Bookshelf covers the entire range of works of and on Tagore.
The Postmaster is a collection of 29 shorts stories and some letters written by Tagore- translated beautifully by William Radice.
The stories capture the life of West Bengal, its beautiful landscapes, culture, and socio-economic structure, even negatives like abject poverty, sorrow or misfortune.
The stories are slice of life tales, they end partially resolved or in a matter of fact manner- like any normal incident happens in our life. Some remain unresolved like the mysteries of our life, in some people move on and go on about the business of their life- depicting clearly that life finds a way despite disappointments and discomforts.
In the Gift of Sight a woman is rendered sightless because her husband who is a medical student insists on treating her and doesn’t take her to the doctor.
In a poignant tale The Editor, a father neglects his child because he is too busy with his writing.
Elder Sister is a sad story of a sister who gives up all for her baby brother.
A daughter in law is measured on the scales of Profit & Loss- inspite of her husband being against dowry, the story depicts how the rest of the household lead to the death of the doctor- not a case of murder but simple case of negligence towards the one who did not bring the full dowry.
In the Middle of The Night- a patient comes to tell his tale of woe to his doctor.
The Postmaster teaches his caretaker the alphabets – he moves on when he leaves town but the caretaker is unable to let go.
Division of property creates The Divide between friends.
A story like The Exercise book reflect on the practice of discouragement rather than lack of encouragement of education among women in those times.
False Hope depicts the curse on a woman who is unable to bear a child. The end would have been predictable in our time but in this story even Tagore could not pin the blame of barrenness on the man.
The Punishment is a tale with a slight psychological bent. A husband kills his wife in anger. His brother persuades his wife to take the blame upon herself and assures that everything will be alright in the end. In those times, the rampant philosophy was that one can get another wife but not another father or mother or brother.
Towards the end, even though she was given the chance to defend herself, his wife refused to do that. It seemed she wanted to punish her husband for his disloyalty by accepting a death sentence.
Holiday depicts the change in personality of a boy when he leaves his home to live with his uncle for education.
Fool’s Gold is the quest for hidden treasure that solves all problems, whereas Wealth Surrendered is the tale of a miser who finds the heir but wills away his wealth to him in a chilling and brutal fashion.
Of course the compilation cannot be complete without Kabuliwallah the story of the vendor’s love towards a child- who reminds him of his daughter.
These, and a lot more stories comprise this jewel from Tagore collection.