Published:  12:00 AM, 22 January 2017

Montage of love, history and social norms

Montage of love, history and social norms Ghare Baire by Rabindranath Tagore, First published in 1916 by Macmillan & Company in London, England

Rabindranath Tagore is a towering icon in the arena of Bengali literature. He enhanced and illuminated all the branches of Bengali literature with his versatile creative power. His timeless, invaluable contributions in Bengali language and literature are unfathomable in all terms. Readers love him most for his adorable poems.

 On top of his outstanding poetry, he is at the same time an acclaimed novelist, a superb playwright, an essayist and a celebrated short story writer. He also composed thousands of songs.

 He is one of the forerunners who popularized the standard form of Bengali language in literature by liberating it from traditional models based on archaic Sanskrit. He modernized Bengali literature by restructuring the classical form of Bengali language.

His poems are remarkable for their rhythmic, optimistic and lyrical nature. The themes of love, joy, sorrow, nature and spirituality are prominent in his poetry. His novels, stories, songs, dramas and essays speak of topics including political and personal visions and perspectives.

Tagore was awarded Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 for his wonderful masterpiece Gitanjali which was translated by himself into English with the title Song Offerings. He introduced Bengali nation to the whole world with his monumental literary creations.

Rabindranath Tagore's novel Ghare Baire is an exquisite work upholding his nationalistic ideals, his sublime approach to love and his observations about some social norms. Surendranath Tagore translated this novel into English language with the title Home and the World.

 The storyline of the novel Home and the World develops surrounding the three main characters Nikhil, Bimala, Sandip and their interrelationships. The conjugal life between Nikhil and Bimala is depicted from a traditional point of view where Bimala adores her husband as a deity.

 She considers Nikhil to be her whole world. Nikhil also loves her a lot. The whole circumstance is changed with the arrival of Sandip. Sandip is the antagonist who appears in the disguise of a patriot in this novel. He is a very clever, selfish and dishonest person who in the name of serving the country takes care of his own selfish motives.

 Bimala, being a naïve woman, is emotionally trapped by the fake charms of Sandip's personality who is Nikhil's friend. A romance gradually arises between Bimala and Sandip despite Bimala's holy marital ties with Nikhil.

 Bimala, a traditional housewife, suddenly crosses all the social and ethical barriers getting involved in an extramarital affair with Sandip quite unwittingly. Nikhil is depicted as an idealist who understands everything but keeps quiet.

 He is very honest, kind and sensible who never misbehaves with Bimala. Rather he leaves the whole issue to Bimala to decide whether she should love her husband or Sandip. Later on, Bimala realizes the evil intention of Sandip.

 She repents for her faults and wants to get Nikhil back in her life. The climax of the story is triggered by Nikhil's death which shatters Bimala and at the same time took off the false curtain of romance that isolated Bimala from Nikhil. 

 The novel is written with frequent references to Bengali Swadeshi Movement. The Swadeshi or Nationalistic Movement in Bengal was started as a response to the British rulers' communally divisive policy of partitioning the then unified and large province of Bengal in 1905.

This was a clear implementation of the 'Divide and Rule' theory of the colonial British authorities. The people too realized the unscrupulous plans of the British colonists and thus the year 1905 witnessed the beginning of the fierce movement all across Bengal. In this novel Tagore delineates the real picture of the events that took place during the Nationalistic Movement.

The readers catch a glimpse of the political turmoil, public anguish, violence and destructive activities of the movement through the superb style of Tagore.  So, the characters' indoor lives as well as a broader vision of the political infirmity of Bengal during the initial years of 20th century have been neatly blended in this novel.

 Interpersonal tussles have been very aptly synthesized in this book with the political turbulence that rocked the authoritarian grips of the British Empire over the Indian Subcontinent. From this angle, we can envision the title of the book Home and the World as a befitting one.

 This novel illustrates a clash between moral principles and immoral desires of its leading characters, the combat between colonial governance and independence and the universal duel between good and evil.
 
History, politics, love and interpersonal sentiments merged strikingly in this novel. The dichotomy that transfixed Bimala is a universal form of dualism that exists in the realms of love. In the same way, this unique novel presents the way deceptive people like Sandip put on fraudulent camouflage to hide their original vicious motives taking advantage of political infirmity.

Nikhil, on the other hand, is characterized as an idealistic man with a broad heart. His love for Bimala is profound and vast and at the same time we find him respecting the values and visions of Bimala.
 
Bimala is the most significant character of this novel. Through her actions in the novel, Tagore questioned the conventional belief in our society that only husbands deserve supremacy in a family, though Nikhil has been characterized as a benevolent man and at the end of the story Bimala also figured out the point that the soft corner she had developed for Sandip was a wrong approach to love as she was married to another man. Through Bimala's realization of her mistakes, the novel promotes the sanctity of wedlock.

The reviewer is a literary critic for
The Asian Age

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