Happy Birthday Rabindranath Tagore||A review of his novel “The Home and The World” by Meenakshi Kashyap

Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Book Reviews, General Reading | 12 comments

Rabindranath Tagore

On this day in the year 1861, God’s own gift to world literature, the prodigious writer Rabindranath Tagore was born. The beloved “Gurudeb” made India proud with his timeless tales. To celebrate this day, Literature Studio had called for entries for reviews of Gurudeb’s literary works. However, we hadn’t anticipated the tremendous response the call would evoke. So instead of publishing just one review, we will be publishing the best three starting today.

Here is the first review in the series:


The Home and the World (Ghaire Bair) is an autobiographical novel, which was originally written in Bengali and published in 1916 by the legendary writer of 20th century, Rabindranath Tagore. He is a great intellectual, philosopher, eminent poet, and writer. He is the first non-European Nobel Prize winner for his famous collection of poems, Gitanjali. The Home and the World is a psychological novel and reflects upon the deeper meaning of life through a portrayal of the struggles of three distinct individuals. The backdrop of this novel is Swadeshi Movement, which played an important role in the independence of India. Tagore illustrates how the freedom movement was perceived differently by different people.

The story revolves around Nikhil, Bimla (his wife), and Sandip who was invited into their house. Nikhil comes from kulin house and his family expected him to marry a beautiful girl. But he chooses Bimla, poor as compared to Nikhil’s family, and unattractive. Bimla considers that it is her luck that she is married into such a rich family. She is completely devoted to her husband and follows Indian traditions and customs. She is confined to her inner world of domesticity. Nikhil is a liberal husband who doesn’t object to his wife wearing western clothes. He invites her to attend social political meetings in order to provide her some exposure into the outside world so that she can find her individuality. He encourages her to go out of Zenana, a private domain inhabited by traditional Indian woman.

Sandip is a patriot, skilled orator, is aggressive and has strong determined persona. He wants to achieve his targets at any cost. He gives references from Bhagavad Gita to support his arguments. Bimla is impressed when she, for the first time, hears Sandip’s speech. She feels a natural attraction towards Sandip, driven by an unknown force she comes closer to him. She starts spending time with Sandip and her sister in law, Bara Rani, criticizes her for this. Bara Rani is calculative and demanding and constantly keeps an eye on Bimla’s actions.

Amulya is a follower of Sandip and a surrogate son of Bimla. Sandip needs money for running the movement. He persuades Bimla to steal from her own house. She is so entangled and lost in the waves of emotions that she is not able to gauge what she is doing. Eventually she realizes that she is not only stealing her husband’s money, she is also robbing her ‘own nation’. Throughout the novel she is in a dilemma about what perspective of life she should choose. Subconsciously, she is constantly drawing comparisons between her husband and her lover. Nikhil, Bimla, and Sandip narrate their own stories and the reader gets a chance to see their worlds through their own eyes and perceptions.

Tagore shows conflicts between the Western culture and Indian tradition, duty and emotions, passive and active, and internal and external. Although, Nikhil encourages Bimla to see the outside world but she ends up looking through the eyes of Sandip. She does not realize when she starts developing an interest in Sandip. There is a complete change in Bimla; she has developed a sense of independence and gathered courage and confidence. There is a drastic change in her character. She actually grows as an individual who has learnt to recognize the subjectivity and objectivity of life.

The Home and the World , internal and external, represent Nikhil and Sandip respectively. The novel is intricate with beautiful verses and traditional quotes. Tagore has an ability to draw a beautiful picture of conscious and unconscious moments and of suppressed emotions of human beings in different situation. The silent conversations between Bimla and Nikhil have commendable effects on the surface of the story. Sometimes silence says much more about a person then his words. Tagore does so with the power of his language. This novel is political as well as personal.

*****

1-Meenakshi-002Meenakshi Kashyap is a 3rd year student pursuing B.A. English (hons.) from Hindu College, Delhi University. She has worked at Lal Bahadur Training Institute as an English faculty. She is associated with Udayan Shalini Fellowship Program, which is a part of Udayan Care that works for children. She loves to write because she believes that it is the best way to convey one’s feelings and thoughts.

12 Comments

  1. It seems that this review is written based on the movie and not the novel. The novel has many layers which have not been addressed here. And in what sense is this novel autobiographical?

  2. Hi Atanu Dey sir, thanks for taking out your precious time to read it. I appreciate your comment.
    Well, the genre of the novel is autobiographical in which characters are allowed to narrate their own stories. Even I have mentioned it in the review that they(Nikhil, Bimla and Sandip) are doing the same. And in the novel many of Tagore’s dilemma is depicted through those three characters. For instance, the conflict between Indian tradition and Western ideology is shown deliberately by him.
    I hope this answer satisfies your question.

    • Well – plenty of novels are written in first person – but they are not described as “Autobiographical. By that definition, “Rebecca”, “Wuthering Heights” et al will all fall under “autobiographical” category. Autobiographical novels are those where the author has used an incident or part of his life into a novel – which, incidentally Tagore had done in a novella called “Noshto Nir” which was made into a film called “Charulata”.
      Ghare Baire is not about the dilemma between Indian and Western culture at all. It is actually a conflict between the two forms of swadeshi movement – and certain fundamental questions like “does end justify the means”. This has been juxta-positioned with Bimala’s coming out of the house and being misled (?) by the external world. You also need to understand the history of Bengal, partition of Bengal and those times to understand what this book is all about.
      I am sorry to say that your review has made this multi-layered marvelous book into simple story. Have you actually read the novel in original or even a decent translation of it? Or is this review simply based on the novel?

  3. Can you send me an e-mail ? May be we can discuss this over e-mail rather than criticizing in public.

  4. Thanks for the review Meenakshi, and for making me want to read the novel.

    Thanks Atanu for your comments. Would just like to add that in this review Meenakshi has shared her personal take-aways from the novel and, as in case of any art, these differ from person to person. However, I am sure just like me, Meenakshi and our readers will also be able to look at the novel in a new light after reading your comments. Literature Studio will soon be posting more reviews of Gurudeb’s works and would love to hear your thoughts on them too.

  5. Sir if you want we can discuss it over mail too. 🙂
    My email id is – ” mkmeenakshi81@gmail.com

  6. Meenakshi, I enjoyed reading your review. Well written. Congratulations. Atanu, you points are well taken. Sometimes we Bengalis are rather possesive of Rabindranath Tagore… and his music and paintings. So Meenakshi, take all criticism in your stride. Incidentally, administrator ( and I presume vibha is it), the NGO is Udayan with an A and not udyan. The latter means garden and the former – Udayan – Eternal Sunshine. Both pretty!!!

    • Thank you Sir! I have changed the spelling in Meenakshi’s Bio. I don’t know how I missed it earlier. Thanks for pointing this out and thanks for visiting Literature Studio.

  7. Vikram – well said. Meenakshi – may be I had been too harsh in my comments – sorry about that.

    I would be interested to have your views on a review written by me on the same book
    http://deyatanu.blogspot.in/2014/05/ghare-baire-home-and-world-tagore-re.html

  8. Thank you Vikram sir for your precious words. I know that all this is a part of learning to achieve perfection.

  9. Atanu Dey sir, I will read your review for sure. I learnt in my first year of college that criticism are good for improvement and you gave me a chance to improve. Thank you so much for that. 🙂

  10. A NEW BOOK ON RABINDRANATH TAGORE, NOBEL PRIZE, AND THE BRITISH RAJ:
    SOME UNTOLD STORIES

    A new book entitled: RABINDRANATH TAGORE, THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE IN 1913, AND THE BRITISH RAJ: SOME UNTOLD STORIES is now in the Press waiting for publication. It is profusely quoted with evidences that perhaps the 1913 Nobel Prize was given to Rabindranath Tagore mainly for political reasons.

    On the part of Rabindranath Tagore, he started gaining huge popularity only after getting the Nobel Prize. Without the Nobel Prize he could never become so much popular in spite of his literary genius and high value literature.

    The book RABINDRANATH TAGORE, THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE IN 1913, AND THE BRITISH RAJ: SOME UNTOLD STORIES will be of about 250 pages. The content chapters of the book are as follows:

    QUOTE:

    Preface
    1. Some Introductory Notes
    2. British occupation of India and patronage to non- Muslims
    3. Rabindranath Tagore followed the foot-steps of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and such others
    4. The influence of Prince Dwarakanath Tagore
    5. The influence of Kalidas, Lalon Fakir and D. L. Roy etc.
    6. Terrorist movement in Bengal
    7. British colonial rulers continued patronage of the elite non-Muslims
    8. Shifting of capital from Calcutta to New Delhi
    9. Brahmo Samaj & Tagore
    10. Rabindranath Tagore’s Western and Jewish contacts
    11. The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913
    12 Rabindranath Tagore was awarded Nobel Prize as an “Anglo-Indian poet”
    13. Why Rabindranath Tagore was not present for receiving the Nobel Prize
    14. Rabindranath Tagore in the 21st century

    A select bibliography on Rabindranath Tagore

    Index

    UNQUOTE

    The publishers, book-sellers, book-distributors and agents are cordially welcome to contact using the following address for any query as to terms, etc.:

    Mobile telephone: +880-1911482175
    Email: dhakacalling@yahoo.com

    Your co-operation and assistance is earnestly requested.

    Thank you for your consideration.

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