Iccha Puran : short story by Rabindranath Tagore

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      In Iccha Puran - Wish-fulfillment : Tagore touches light upon the issue of youth and old age. The child envies the power the adult seemingly has over him. The old man envies the agile and carefree child. But if they exchange places, the result is not enviable either. Iccha Puran is a fun story with a serious lesson.


The old man envies the agile and carefree child. But if they exchange places, the result is not enviable either. Iccha Puran is a fun story with a serious lesson.
Iccha Puran


Short Story :-

Subal Chandra's son was named Sushil Chandra. But a person is not always like his name. So Su-bal (strength) was somewhat weak and Su-shil (polite) was not a very quiet chap.

The son, that is Sushil, pestered everyone in the neighbourhood. His father, that is, Subal, often chased after him in order to reprimand. But he had arthritis while his son could run like the deer. So the blows did not always fall in the right places. But the days when Sushil got caught, he received no mercy.

On this Saturday, school was coming to an end at 2 in the afternoon. But Sushil did not in the least feel like going to school today. He had a geography test today; besides the Bose family in the neighbourhood was having a show of fireworks in the late evening. Sushil wanted to spend his day there watching the preparations.

After a lot of thinking, he went and lay down on the bed when the time came for going to school. His father came up and asked, "What's wrong, aren't you going to school today?"

"I have a stomach-ache", answered Sushil. "I will not be able to go to school today."

Subal saw through his excuse. He decided to teach him a lesson." Stomach-ache? Well then, no need to go out anywhere. There will be fireworks at the Boses', but I will not send you there. I had got some lozenges for you. But no need for you to have them today! Quietly lie down on your bed. I will get you some panclian (herbal concoction with a bitter taste)."

He latched up the door from outside. Sushil was appalled. He loved lozenges as much as he hated panchan. And he had been dying to see the fireworks at the Boses'!

As Subal-babu entered with a huge bowl of bitter herbal juice, Sushil got out of the bed with alacrity.

"My stomach-ache is absolutely gone. I'll be going to school today."

"No need of that. You just take this and have some rest". With this, Sushil forced down the bitter juice down Sushil's throat and went away, locking the door from outside.

Sushil lay on the bed all day, weeping. "If only I could be as old as Baba (father), I could do as I like, and no one would be able to stop me.

Subal-babu himself sat outside thinking: 'my parents were too lenient with me. That is why I did not get much schooling in my childhood. If only I could get my childhood back, I would not waste my time but only devote myself to my incomplete education.

lccha-thakur (the presiding deity of wish-fulfillment) was passing by. She divined their thoughts. "Well, let us see what comes of my fulfilling their wishes for a while."

She went up to the father and said, "Your wish will come true. From tomorrow you will be your son's age."

To the son she said, "From tomorrow you will be as old as your father".

Both father and son were thrilled at this.

Old Subal had a problem with his sleep. Only in the early hours of dawn could he catch some sound sleep. But the next morning, he got up very early and jumped out of the bed. He saw that he had indeed become very young. The teeth that he had lost to age had sprung up again. His beard and whiskers had vanished. The kurta that he had gone to sleep in had become loose that the sleeves were reaching down to the ground and the neck had fallen to the chest. The pleats of the dhoti had become so long that it was difficult to take steps.

Our Sushil - who used to get up early and create mischief all around - found it difficult to get up from his sleep today. When finally his father Subal's shouts and yells woke him up, he discovered that his clothing had become so tight that they were about to burst into pieces. His entire body had grown in size. Beard and whiskers covered half the face, and instead of his thick crop of hair, there was shining baldness at front.

He hardly felt like getting out of his bed this morning. He yawned and turned over several times before he left the bed out of sheer irritation at the noise his father Sushil Chandra was making.

Both of them had their wishes fulfilled, but there arose a huge problem.

Sushil used to think that if he were old and independent like his father, he would do as he liked - climbing trees, diving, eating green mangoes, taking baby birds down from the nests and roaming everywhere. He would come and go as he liked without anyone to check him. But the strange thing was that on this morning he had absolutely no desire to climb up a tree. Looking at the pond overgrown with moss and fronds, he felt he would be shivering with fever if he took a dip in it. He sat on a mat, quietly turning various ideas in his mind. Once he felt that it was not a good idea to give up sports and outdoor activities altogether. He tried to climb up a fruit tree nearby. But the very tree he had climbed yesterday like a squirrel proved insurmountable to his aged body. As soon as he had caught on to a lower branch, it broke under his weight and Sushil fell down on the ground. Passers by laughed their head off to see an old man trying to act like a kid and failing. Shamefacedly Sushil returned to his mat, and asked the servant to get him some lozenges from the market.

Sushil had a weakness for lozenges. Whatever small coins he could get, he spent on the multi-colored lozenges sold in the shop next to his school. He dreamt of days when he would have money like his father did, he would buy pockets full of lozenges. Today when the servant brought a whole rupee's worth of lozenges, he put one into his mouth, but it did not taste good at all, in the toothless mouth of an old man. He thought of giving them away to son Subal but refrained, fearing that they might upset his stomach.

Kids who had till yesterday played 'ha-do-do' ( Bengali variety of the boisterous game 'hu-tu-tu') with Sushil, came to his house looking for him. They ran away on seeing the aged Sushil and Sushil too felt that they would create a racket and disturb the quiet reverie he was enjoying.

Earlier, sitting on his mat and brooding over the past Subal Chandra had often thought that he would devote his energies to studies if ever he got a second chance. But now he hardly felt like going to school. Sushil used to come up and ask, Baba, aren't you going to school today? Subal used to scratch his head and mumble, "My stomach is aching. ". "I know all about such stomach-aches; I have had many of them when I had to go to school", Sushil used to say angrily.

Actually Sushil had been so good at avoiding going to school that it was difficult for Subal to trick him. Sushil began to force his tiny father to go to school. On coming back from school, Subal wanted to run around playing. But Sushil made him sit down to work out long and difficult sums. To have his game of chess in peace with his cronies, Sushil arranged a private tutor to keep Subal quiet in the evenings -- going on till ten in the night.

Sushil was extremely strict about food to be served to his father, whom he remembered to have problems of acidity whenever he over-ate. But on suddenly becoming a kid, Subal had got an excellent digestive system. With the meager amounts that he got now, he went hungry all day. As he became skin and bones, Sushil began to pour more and more medicine down his throat.

Sushil himself too had problems. He could no longer carry off what he attempted according to his old habits. Earlier, he made it a point to go and watch every jatra (open air village play performance) in every sort of weather. Now he caught a cold doing so, and was laid up in bed for three weeks with fever and body-ache. Bathing in the pond in the old, accustomed way brought on rheumatoid arthritis treatment of which took six months. Since then he bathed only at the interval of two days and in hot water. In fact, he did not let Subal use the pond. Unmindful of the present, he sometimes jumped down from the bed and his very bones protested. He stuffed paan into his mouth only to realize that he had no teeth to chew the betel-leaf with. He applied the brush and comb to his head only to remember that it was almost entirely bald. Earlier he used to tease an old lady in the village by throwing stones at her water-pot. Sometimes he did so now by the force of sheer habit. On seeing a senior person indulge in childish pranks, people use to chase him away and he used to hide his face in shame.

Subal Chandra too sometimes forgot that he was now a child. He used to join the group of village elders, nod his head and comment on issues just like them. They used to box his hears and say: "Get lost and don't act precocious!" He used to walk up to his teacher at school, and ask for a puff at the hukkah (old-fashioned equipment for smoking). The teacher used to make him stand up on the bench on one leg. One day he walked up to the barber and asked, "You fellow, why haven't you Come since long for shaving me?" Taking it for a joke, the barber answered back: "It'll be coming after a decade or so." Sometimes, out of old habit, he used to go and smack Sushil. Sushil used to scream out: "Is this what you are learning at school - raising your hands against senior people?" People used to rush up from all sides and rain blows upon Subal.

Then Subal began to pray: "lf only I could become old like my son Sushil - old and independent!"

Sushil too prayed everyday with folded palms: "O God! Make me young like my father so that I can happily play about. Baba has become so mischievous that I cannot keep him in check. I am getting frantic with worry."

Iccha-thakurni, the deity of wish-fulfillment, now came up to them and asked, "So, have you had enough of your fancies?"

'Yes', both of them bowed deeply to the deity. "We have had enough. Now kindly let us go back to what we were. "Alright", said the deity of wishes, "that is what will happen when you get up tomorrow."

The next day Subal woke up an aged man as he used to be and Sushil woke up - a kid. Both of them felt as if they had just come out of a dream. Subal asked in a thick voice "Sushil, aren't you going to memorize your grammar lesson?"

"Scratching his head, Sushil said, "Baba, I have lost my grammar book."

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