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.
Meenakshi 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.