The Return of Khokababu The Best of Tagore, Translations by Sipra Bhattacharya, Pages 384 (PB), Harperperennial, Rs 350
RABINDRANATH Tagore wrote several plays, novels, short stories, and poems, and his contribution to Bengali literature is unquestionable. But, to translate these priceless works of art and make the accessible to readers who do not understand Bengali, is indeed commendable.
The selection of short stories by Sipra Bhattacharya, in the book titled The Return of Khokababu, is interesting. The translation is done well and is able to convey the expressions and deep feelings of the author and the characters, well.
The stories revolve around the love theme, one of the most complicated, complex and misunderstood but most deeply felt human emotion. Soul-stirring stories like the Kabuliwala, even today have the power to bring tears to the eyes. Love has the power to give immense pain, and that pain comes through palpably, in these translations.
While Kabuliwala is the pain of a father who is separated from his little daughter for months on end when he has to go to another country on work, The Return of Khokababu is the heart-rending story of a father who blames himself for the drowning of his master’s son and thus decides to give his own son to him as compensation.
The complicated feelings between a busy husband and a lonely wife, who at times finds alternatives to occupy her mind, or becomes self-centred, come through very powerfully in The Broken Nest and The Living and The Dead.
The book deals with the love theme in its many, many forms. Unrequited love, misunderstood love, silent love, unexplained love, not -understood love, …
The settings are all of 19th century Bengal, when “patriarchy and strict social norms still ruled, and women struggled to find a place for themselves. But, as these stories show, it was also a world in transition, from the rural to the urban, from stagnant traditions to the joys of individual freedom.”
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