(I was trying t find a cover picture of the story but didn’t get any, so this is the poster for the movie “Charulata” based on “Nastanirh)
The story takes place in the late 19th century India and tells the tale of a lonely housewife Charu (short for Charulata). Charu and her rather detached, older husband Bhupati live a quiet, well-to-do life. She is a very beautiful woman, with tons of money and all the time in the world to enjoy her passions – the arts, literature and poetry. Yet her workaholic husband seems to be more concerned with his job than his marriage. And alas, she is all alone, ailing from that distasteful disorder of ennui that seemingly plagues so many kept women.
However, the sun shines a bit brighter for our heroine when Bhupati’s young, handsome cousin Amal arrives for a visit. Bhupati, who is far from a heartless man and feels sympathy for his wife’s cheerless plight, encourages his cousin to befriend his wife as they both have so much in common (he loves poetry and the arts as well). Finally we see Charulata happy, singing, playful, and tending to Amol, mending his clothes and inspiring him to continue writing. Her innocent flirtations catch her offguard as she becomes deeply attached to Amol. Amol also realizes that his emotions are leading him astray. After Bhupati is ruined when his brother in law, whom he trusted and loved, makes off with the newspaper’s money, Amol decides to leave, not wanting to take away from Bhupati his “other” wife. Charulata is crushed by Amol’s departure and inadvertently betrays her emotions to Bhupati. Bhupati is completely disillusioned by these reversals of trust and love. Their marriage is severed.
I really donot have the heart or the audacity to review the wrting skills of Rabindranath Tagore…so I will just write what I felt like after reading this particular story…
This story instantly takes you back to 1879 Calcutta to explore the seeds of India’s early movement for independence from England and to examine the restrictions placed on educated Indian women. It’s like Victorian England but instead it’s Victorian India in which a neglected wife, on the point of breaking through to self-awareness, begins to perceive male dominion as a hollow façade of beards, braces and boredom.
The unadulterated love and longing of an intelligent woman , Charulata, for her younger brother-in-law ,while the husband is pursuing his intellectual hobby of running a radical English newspaper in Calcutta ,Charaluta is left to confide her creative passions with her artistic and poetic brothrer-in-law ,it is diificult to define where this crosses the line from admiration to love….. but the emotion evolves naturally to blossom into something more than matronly affiliation ,whether there is an element of lust is left for us readers to decide with small trivial domestic details,but the relationship is a satire on the security of the indian marriage where any such thought, much less act can become a blasphemy.
It’s a story to be read and interpret in your own way…