Chhuti: short story by Rabindranath Tagore

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      Chhuti - Holidays : is a heart-rending tale. Even if it is for educational opportunities, exile from familiar surroundings and home life can create devastating pressure on the adolescent. High-spirited village lad Phatik is sent off to Kolkata to get better education and ease the pressure on his widowed mother. But homesickness and alien surroundings bring his life to an untimely end.

High-spirited village lad Phatik is sent off to Kolkata to get better education and ease the pressure on his widowed mother. But homesickness and alien surroundings bring his life to an untimely end.
Holidays


Short Story :-

Phatik Chakraborty was the leader of the young boys in the village. They were playing by the side of the river. Phatik suddenly had the bright idea of rolling away a log that had been lying on the river-bank to be made into the mast of the ship. All the boys agreed wholeheartedly, tickled at the vision of the owner shocked to see the log gone when he required it. Just as every body had got ready to push the log, Makhan, Phatik's younger brother, came up and took his seat upon the log. He looked very thoughtful and sedate.
One of the boys tried to make him move. Makhan did not budge.

"Move or I shall beat you up," Phatik threatened his brother. This merely made Makhan settle down even more comfortably on the log. Losing face before his followers, Phatik felt like delivering a tight slap to his kid brother. But then, he had another idea. Why not roll the log with Makhan sitting on it?
The boys under Phatik's command began to push together

Makhan, for a moment felt as if this was an honour of some sort to be pushed along. But none among them had realized the danger of this activity. By the time the log had made one turn, Makhan had rolled off it, and fallen down. This unexpected success of the game instantly cheered the gang up. But Makhan, humiliated and hurt, jumped up from the ground and fell upon his elder brother. He hit Phatik blindly and clawed his face. Then, wailing loudly, he left for home.

The game was over for the other kids as well. Phatik plucked out some wild grass and chewed them, sitting on a half-sunk boat on the river-bank. A little later a boat arrived and anchored there. A middle-aged gentleman, sporting a salt and pepper moustache and grey hair, got down. He asked Phatik the way to the Chakraborty home.
Phatik casually replied, "There", and actually pointed to almost nowhere.

"Where exactly? Which way?" the elderly gentleman asked. "I don't know", Phatik showed no interest (even though the Chakraborty home meant his own!)The visitor had to ask his way from some other people. Shortly his mother sent someone to fetch Phatik home.

"I am not coming home," said Phatik whereupon the man just lifted him up and carried him home. His furious mother charged Phatik with beating up his brother - again.
"I did not beat him up," said Phatik. "Ask Makhan".

But Makhan said that he had indeed been beaten up by Phatik. This enraged Phatik who dealt Makhan a slap. "Lying again!" he accused Makhan.
Their mother took the younger child's side and rained a few blows upon Phatik. Phatik gave her a push.
"How dare you raise your hands upon me?" cried his mother.

Just then the gentleman who had just arrived in the village made his way in. "What is the happening here?" he exclaimed.
"Dada, it is you! I don't believe it!" The mother was full of joy and surprise.

It turned out that the gentleman who had asked for directions was Phatik's mother's brother, that is, Mama or maternal uncle to Phatik and Makhan. His name was Bishwambhar.
He had left home years ago to seek his fortune outside Bengal and had returned after years. During the time he was absent, the sister had got married, become a mother of two and even been widowed.

The next few days were spent in entertaining Bishwambhar. While leaving, Bishwambhar asked his sister about the education and personality development of her sons.
"Phatik is never in any mood to study and is thoroughly undisciplined, while Makhan, the other one, is well mannered, studious and has a pleasant temperament," his widowed sister explained.

On hearing this Bishwambhar offered to take Phatik with him to Kolkata and bring him up, fund his schooling and his grooming. The widow agreed.
"What do you say, Phatik? " Bishwambhar turned to Phatik. "Will you come with this Mama of yours to Kolkata?"
Phatik jumped up and said "Yes!"

His mother felt a bit hurt at his enthusiasm to leave, although she also felt a little relieved. She had always been scared of Phatik beating up Makhan or doing some harm to him.
Phatik was so thrilled at this prospect of going to Kolkata that, on the eve of his departure, he gifted his fishing rod and kite-flying equipments to Makhan, adding that Makhan could, in turn, bequeath them to his sons and grandsons!

Reaching his uncle's home in Kolkata he was introduced to his Mami or aunt. But she was in no way favourably disposed to the idea of Phatik coming and staying with them. She already had three kids to look after and the entry of an unknown, ill-mannered and ill-educated village-lad did not meet with her approval.

Phatik was at the age of transformation from the child to the adolescent. As a youth of thirteen or fourteen years, he did not rouse affection in people. His voice lost the sweetness of childhood and he outgrew his clothes pretty fast. He was quite ill-at-ease at this stage of life and felt awkward and embarrassed before the entire world. Yet this was the time when he developed an extra need for affection from people. An alien household seemed hell to him. He longed to be with his mother and harshness from women in general seemed intolerable.

His Mami was not at all fond of Phatik and this hurt him no end. Whenever his Mami wanted him to run errands, he would do it with such excessive joy that he would over-do it. His Mami would then dampen all his enthusiasm by telling him to cut it short and go away and study. This, Phatik found to be most cruel.
Apart from this lack of affection, there was the restriction that the city walls put upon him.

He yearned for the free and easy days in the village, the fields, the river, the village lads and even the mother who had been unfair to him at times. A dumb, animal-like love for her tormented this lanky, gawky youth - so nervous and embarrassed under his uncle's roof. He took no interest in studies and became unmindful and disinterested. When the school-teacher beat him up, he took the punishment with a dull silence.

One day he gathered up courage to ask his uncle, "Mama, when will I go home to my mother?"
"Let the schools close for Puja holidays," was the reply.
The Puja holidays were in autumn. That was far away!

One day Phatik lost his textbook. As it is, he did not learn his lessons well. Now with the loss of the book, his performance was so bad that his teacher began to beat him up every day. His position in the school became so humiliating that even his cousins joined the other students in making fun of him.

Phatik could not take it any more and, shamefacedly confessed to his aunt that he had lost his book. With lines of irritation on her face, Mami refused to buy him a new book. Phatik came away silently, feeling very low that he was wasting money that belonged to a family that was not his. He felt a grudge against his mother for sending him there.

That night Phatik started getting a headache followed by fever. He knew if he announced himself sick, his aunt would see it as an additional inconvenience. He felt in his bones how she would jibe at his falling ill. He felt ashamed to ask for care from anyone other than his mother.

Next morning, he went missing. Search in the neighbourhood proved futile. A drizzle which had started at night turned into incessant rain and people searching for Phatik got wet and inconvenienced. Finally Bishwambhar informed the police. The downpour continued and at night; when the water on the streets was almost knee-deep, a police vehicle brought Phatik back to Bishwambhar's house. He was muddied and drenched, shivering and red-eyed. Bishwambhar had to carry him to his room.

His wife had also been anxious and irritable all day. Now she spoke out:
"Why take all this trouble for a boy who is not our own, Send him home!" Phatik burst out crying, " was going to my mother. They brought me back!

His fever rose even higher and the whole night he was in delirium. A doctor was summoned. Phatik managed to open his bloodshot eyes and glance stupidly at the ceiling. "Mama", he asked Bishwambhar, "Are the holidays here?"

His uncle wiped his tears and came and sat beside him, holding his thin, hot hands. Phatik again began to mutter in his fever: "Don't beat me, Ma. Believe me, I have done no wrong!"
Next day, he became conscious for a while and looked around the room - as if expecting somebody. Disappointed, he turned on his side again, with his face to the wall. "I have sent for your mother, Phatik", Bishwambhar whispered in his ear. Another day passed. The doctor declared that Phatik's condition was getting critical.

In the dimly-lit room, Bishwambhar waited by his nephews bedside hoping every moment for his sister's arrival. Phatik continued to be in delirium.
Some time later, his mother, who had been brought over to Kolkata, rushed in to see Phatik.
"Phatik, my precious!" she wailed as she fell upon his bed.
"Yes, Ma?" Phatik answered, as though very naturally.
"O Phatik, my child!" the mother called out again.

Phatik turned over, and without addressing anyone in particular, said very softly, "Ma, my holidays are here, and Ma, I am going home."

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