Chitrakar: short story by Rabindranath Tagore

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      Chitrakar - The Painter: fatherless Chunilal wants to scribble and paint but his worldly-wise uncle comes down very strictly upon his artistic attempts. Chuni's mother, in spite of being a helpless young widow, rebels against her brother and saves the artist in her child.


Chunilal was four years old. Young as he was, he had lost his father, an established lawyer named Mukunda.
Painter Chunilal

Short Story :-

Chunilal was four years old. Young as he was, he had lost his father, an established lawyer named Mukunda. With his widowed mother Satyavati, he lived under the guardianship of his father's brother, named Gobinda. Brothers Gobinda and Mukunda had come to Kolkata early in their lives. That is where Mukunda had his legal practice and Gobinda pursued his trade - which was money-making.

Right from the time he had come to the city, Gobinda had dedicated his life to accumulating wealth. He referred to it as simply 'paisa-kara'. Through narrow and often crooked ways, Gobinda proceeded towards his goal. He now had a high position in a British firm trading in gunny bags.

Mukunda had also established his repute as a lawyer, and even bought a house in Kolkata. But he died suddenly, leaving not merely the property he had acquired but also Some debts. To survive, his bereaved family had to lead a very frugal life. His wife needed to be most economical. Little Chunilal could hardly have the life the neighbourhood children were enjoying.

According to Mukunda's will, the entire responsibility of his family would be Gobinda's. His wife Satyavati and son Chunilal would be under Gobinda's guardianship.
"Paisa karo - make money", Gobinda chanted into Chunilal's ear. Money-making was over and above everything.

From the very first day of his guardianship, uncle Gobinda made this clear to his wards, Chunilal as well as his mother Satyavati. But Satyavati was against the initiation of her son, as if by a guru, into the worship of wealth. She did not say anything outright but her very behaviour obstructed the path Gobinda wanted Chunilal to follow.

Satyavati, right from her childhood, had a great interest in artwork. It was her hobby to fashion craft items out of clay, flour, paper, or cloth. Pressing the juice out of flowers and leaves, she made paint and dye for herself, and used them to add colour to the odds and ends she made. Her passion was for making objects of art - not objects of utility. The items she crafted out had hardly any practical purpose. Often they were new and strange, and useless. In the everyday world, they had no meaning or worth. Sometimes they brought criticism or ridicule upon Satyavati. For instance, there would be important visits to make to close relatives, but Satyavati would forget and be lost in her craft work in her own room - may be pressing lumps of clay into fancy shapes.

But Mukunda, her husband, regarded all this with affection and amusement. He did not regard his wife's handiwork as worthy of the exalted name of art. But he felt gently amused at the fact that his wife wasted a lot of her time in such unnecessary and useless activities. If anyone else in the household commented on it, Mukunda always spoke out in favour of his wife. Sometimes on his way back from the court, he used to buy some art material for his wife-paint, pencils, and colourful silk pieces. He would quietly arrange his gifts in Satyavati's bedroom, and give her a surprise. He could not tell the difference between the portrait of a man and the sketch of a bird. But he would often praise his "Satu" for her work, and provide her with patient patronage.

Satvavati knew how lucky she was to have such a husband, but she lost that good fortune with his death.
To be an artist one needs certain materials. Earlier Satyavati had got them without asking and never felt them to be favours. But now she felt most embarrassed to ask for them. She began to cut down on her own food expenses, bought her art material in secrecy, and worked behind closed doors. She was not scared of Gobinda's scolding but she did not want his insensitive glances upon her small and strange creations.

Chunilal at first just watched and assisted his mother my reaching out paint or paper to her as and when necessary. But soon, through this process of co-operation, he too developed a tremendous fancy for such art and craft work. It became an addiction and because he was a four-year-old child, it did not remain a secret or hidden. It spilled out of his exercise books and expressed itself on the walls. Even Chuni's clothes and face and hands began to give away that he was going after arts and, crafts rather than money-making. His uncle observed it and began to make him suffer for it.

But just as Gobinda became stricter towards his ward and nephew, Satyavati became more and more encouraging. She began to assist him in what to Mukunda was a criminal Waste of time and energy. Whenever Mukunda went out of Kolkata with his boss, mother and son tasted a great sense of freedom and indulged in their labour of love with abondon. For instance, they would fashion strange animals out of clay half-dog half-cat creations of fantasy. Then they would press them back into lumps of clay again or destroy them - so that there was nothing to give them away when their guardian came back.

Satyavati's family had a natural inclination towards arts and crafts. Artistic tendencies ran in the family blood. An older cousin named Rangalal suddenly came into a lot of fame at this juncture. His paintings were not true to life. Even his imagination was off-beat. Some people ridiculed his bizarre style and defective technique. Others hailed them as modern art. Rangalal was much-criticized as well as much-acclaimed.

Once when Gobinda happened to be out of town, Rangalal came to look Satyavati up. He had to thump on the door loudly before he could gain entry. For Satyavati and Chunilal had shut themselves up and become happily and completely engrossed in their work.

Rangalal found it difficult even to take his steps. The floor was full of sheets and even scraps of paper and cloth. There were drawings and paintings scattered all around. He glanced at them and was most impressed by the natural and free way in which Chunilal had expressed his impressions of the world around him, creating his own creatures of strange shapes and colours. "They are so fresh and original" exclaimed Rangalal. "Show me the all the rest."
But where would they find the other pictures and items of their creation? They had destroyed them all for fear of Gobinda.

From now on, whatever you paint or make, I will come and collect", said Rangalal. "Promise me never to destroy them."
Another day, with Gobinda not yet back, Satyavati an
Chunilal were at it again. From the morning it had been raining and the grey skies did not reveal how late in the day it was getting to be.

Chuni-babu was drawing boats sailing in the river. The wild waves were trying to swallow up boats (that did not look like boats) and the drawing sheets were a welter of paint, water and colour.
So engrossed Chuni was in his world, that he had not noticed that he had left the door open. Gobinda came by. He took one look and roared out, "What's all this?"
Chuni trembled and grew pale.
Mukunda knew at once that this was the reason Chuni could not remember his history dates.
Meanwhile, Chuni tried to hide his picture inside his clothes and appeared even guiltier.

Gobinda snatched the picture away from him and looked at it. What he saw made him all the more astonished. What on earth was this stuff? Wrong history dates seemed to be better than the strange pictures Chuni had drawn.
Mukunda tore up the picture into shreds. Chuni gave a loud sob.

From the puja room Satyavati heard him. She saw the torn pieces of Chuni's picture lying on the floor. She saw Chuni lying on the floor among them.
Till now Satyavati had never protested against anything that her brother-in-law and guardian had said or done. She had silently borne everything since it was upon Gobinda that her husband had reposed his trust. But now she spoke out - in a voice a tremble with anger and wet with tears. Why did you tear up Chuni's painting?"
Doesn't he have to study?" asked Gobinda. "What will happen to him in the future?"

"Even if he becomes a beggar in the future", answered Satyavati, "let him not become like you. God has given him an asset. Let it shine brighter than any money you can make. As a mother, this is how I bless him."
"I cannot let go of my responsibility", replied Gobinda, "Tomorrow itself I will send him off to a boarding school. You will otherwise ruin his future."

Gobinda went off to his office. It began to rain heavily. The streets of Kolkata started to get. water-logged. Satyavati gripped Chuni's hand. "Come, let's go"
"Where to, Ma?" Chuni asked.
"Let's go away from here".

Satyavati found her way to Rangalal's house. Wading through the waters to get to the front door, she entered the house, holding Chunilal's hand. "You be his guardian", she said to Rangalal. "Save Chuni from the pursuit of money-making.

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