Megh O Roudra : Story by Rabindranath Tagore in English

Also Read

      Megh O Roudra - Clouds and Sunshine : Tears and laughter, joy and sorrow... alternate in life. Their shifting pattern is woven into the story of little Giribala and her young tutor-cum-friend Shashishekhar. Underneath the childhood romance there is depiction of gender bias and contemporary political struggle.

It had rained the previous day and the sun and the clouds were chasing each other across the waving fields of paddy.
Megh O Roudra

Short Story :-

1
      It had rained the previous day and the sun and the clouds were chasing each other across the waving fields of paddy. In the nearby village of Tilkuchi, in an old house by the side of the road, a young man was sitting inside a room with a grilled window. Along the path just outside the window, a little girl in a striped sari was walking to and fro. She was carrying some kala jamun berries in the anchal of her sari, and eating them one by one.

The youth inside the room was engrossed in a pile of books, and the girl obviously knew him very well. But she was strutting about so as to give the impression that she was completely taken up with her berries and did not care a jot for the youth.

But the youth was not only absorbed in his book, but also had weak eyesight. He did not even see the girl and remained unaffected by her silent peevishness.

Ultimately, to attract his attention, the girl threw in a few of the seeds of the berries she was eating. As they hit the wooden door, the youth gave a start and looked up. He squinted and looked out with care. Recognizing the girl, he went up to the window and smilingly called out to the girl: "Giribala!"

Giribala walked on as if she had not heard.

The youth realized that he had somehow offended her. He quickly came out of the room and said, "Why, aren't you going to give me any berries today?"

These berries came from a tree in the compound of Giribala's house and she brought them for the youth every day. But today she seemed to forget that entirely! She acted as though she had picked them only for herself. But then, why carry them all the way to someone else's house and eat them in full view of that someone else?

The youth came and caught hold of Giribala's hands. Giribala twisted her little body here and there in an attempt to free herself. Then she suddenly burst into tears and ran away, scattering the berries from her sari on to the ground.

In the afternoon, the sun was playing among fluffy white clouds. The youth was sitting inside his room and Giribala was hovering outside his window. Only, the youth was no longer busy with his books. In fact, he was busy eating kala jamun, and occasionally flinging them outside. But was this fair? Giribala had come there once more, sacrificing her pride. Wasn't it cruel of the young man to ignore that move to make friends again?

Getting red in the face, Giribala began to go away. The young man now came out and caught her hands once more.

Once again - just as in the morning - Giribala tried to free herself from his grasp. But this time she did not cry. Instead, hiding her face in the youth's back, she laughed profusely, and allowed herself to be led into the room, as if only by force.

It was like the play of sunlight and shadows upon the earth.

2

The youth was named Shashishekhar, and he was a highly qualified person holding two degrees, M.A. and B.A. But in spite of his degrees in literature and law, Shashishekhar was not either efficient or interested in administrative work or property matters. He spent his time reading some English classics that he had.

Ten-year-old Giribala belonged to the same village. Her father Harakumar worked as a nayeb (administrative officer) of the local zamindar (landlord)

Giribala wanted to be able to read like her brothers who went to school while she did not. Books fascinated her. She wanted to unravel the mysteries she felt they contained. But her brothers refused to teach her how to read.

Shashishekhar poring over his books also fascinated her. For hours she would stand outside his window and watch him turn the pages of fat tomes.

One day this caught Shashishekhar's attention. "Come, Giribala, see the pictures in my books", he called out to her.

Giribala ran away the first few times, but eventually went in. Slowly, she became Shashishekhar's pupil. In the two years between eight and ten, she learnt to read Bengali as well as English primers. She listened to Shashishekhar re-telling old classics to her. Sometimes he even discussed the merits of books with her, and she participated in her small way in his critical appreciation of literature.

The rest of the village was absorbed in gossip, court cases and petty affairs. Shashishekhar and Giribala, unequal as they were in age and education, lived in their world of books.

3

Giribala's father Harakumar developed a dislike for Shashishekhar, as his degree in law was not of much use to him. He pestered the peace-loving Shashishekhar so much that he decided to leave the village.

Just then the Joint Magistrate, a Britisher, with his whole team of constables, horses, cooks and bearers pitched his tent near the village. Harakumar catered to every demand he made. But when he asked for four seers of ghee for his dog, Harakumar raised a mild objection. The magistrate in his fury made him run around the village with a menial servant holding his ear. This public insult plunged Harakumar into deep depression. But Shashishekar felt his blood boil. "Bring a defamation case against the magistrate", he came up to Harakumar and urged. "I will fight the case as your lawyer."

4

Although he was shy and withdrawn by nature, Shashishekhar now arrived at the court to fight his case. The Magistrate tried to get him agree to a compromise. But Shashishekhar refused. However, the Joint Magistrate applied pressure on the landlord, who in turn applied a pressure upon Harakumar, who buckled under at once. He said that he did not mind the punishment' that had been given to him. It was Shashishekhar who had got him to bring a case against the Joint Magistrate.

"Has Shashi joined the Congress?" asked the Magistrate.

"Yes", lied Harakumar.

5

Meanwhile Shashishekhar had been seriously preparing for his case. Giribala found him delving into a thick, black volume without any pictures in it. He never made any attempt to explain its contents to Giribala who came to regard it as a foe. Hurt, she stopped going to her 'Shahs-dada' for a couple of days. When she went next, she found that her strategy had not worked at all. Shashishekhar had not noticed her absence and, standing in front of the grille of the window, was busy practicing some speech in English.

She tried to attract his attention by calling out to an imaginary friend: "Swarna, I am coming!" But even when she walked away, nobody came after her. Giribala felt so bad that she tore off her notes and scattered the torn pages on the ground. It grew cloudy. Giribala hid behind a tree and wept.

6

As Harakumar had settled his issue with the Joint Magistrate, Shashishekhar's performance as a lawyer was never needed. He had studied his laws and practiced his cross questions. All that was futile! He put his law book away, and suddenly realized that Giribala was absent. He remembered how she had been coming these days, only to be ignored. One day she had come with Bakul flowers wet with rain. But he had not bothered to look up from his book. She had then stopped coming in, but merely passed by the window. But even that was some days ago. What had happened now? Was she angry? Was she ill?

He found it difficult to concentrate on his old books of literature. He kept looking up to see if Giribala had come. Then he learnt that Giribala was no more allowed out of the house. Her wedding had been fixed.

In fact, even after tearing up her books of primers, Giribala had started out for Shashishekhar's house with small gifts of pickled lime and mango. But her father had forbidden her from going to her "Shashi-dada" again.

7

Harakumar had felt that in withdrawing the case, he had lost respect in Shashishekhar's eyes. He created problems for Shashishekhar, forcing him to leave the village. He did not even invite him for Giribala's wedding. In fact, as the shehnai music was playing on the occasion of the wedding, Shashishekhar had taken a boat to Kolkata.

On his way, Shashishekhar saw that a boat piled with merchandise was trying to overtake a steamer. Full sail, it had even succeeded in moving ahead, when the manager of the steamer - a Britisher - shot out at the sails with his gun. The sail burst, the boat capsized, and the steamer vanished round the bend of the river. Shashibhushan was witness to the whole thing.

He went ahead on the boat he was on, and rescued all but one of the boatmen and passengers on the boat that had sunk. But his blood was boiling at the injustice of it all, and he urged the boatmen and passengers to bring a case against the manager of the steamer. They were scared and unwilling (Those were the days of the British Raj.) They said they had seen nothing! Even then, Shashishekhar complained to the court. Nothing came out of it. The manager got away scot-free by saying that he had taken his shot at flying cranes and was completely unaware and innocent of shooting at what he called a 'dirty rag', that is, the sail of the boat.

Shashishekhar left once more for Kolkata. On his way, he saw the boat of a District Superintendent of the Police move straight through the fishing net of some poor fishermen. It caused some minor inconvenience to the Police Superintendent and, fishermen. With anger, he ordered the fishing net to be cut into pieces and the fishermen to be arrested. The fishermen-innocent as they were - had run away. The policemen caught hold of some poor bystanders, and proceeded to take them away.

Shashishekhar could not bear such injustice. In his slippers and unbuttoned kurta, squinting through his glasses, he strode up to the Police Superintendent and shouted: "You have no right to do this!" The Police Superintendent shouted back an insult. Shashishekhar fell upon him and began to pummel him madly. He was caught, beaten unconscious, and locked up.

Shashishekhar was released on bail, but a case of assault was brought against him. Shashishekhar called upon the fishermen as his witnesses, but they were scared to testify against the powerful British police officer. Some people from his own village had beern present on the occasion. They too refused to bear Shashishekhar out. He lost and was serntenced to five years of imprisonment.

Soon after Shashishekhar had gone to prison, he lost his father. He hardly had any relative to care for the property he had in the village. Harakumar cleverly took all that over.

8

Five long years went by. During those years, Shashishekhar suffered more than the usual hardened criminals and when he came out of the prison, he was broken both in health and spirits.

He had no home, no relatives, and no social circle to go back to. As he stood outside the prison walls, he felt completely at a loose end.

Just then a huge coach rolled up to him. A servant got down and asked if he was Shashishekhar Babu. "My employer has sent for you", he announced. Puzzled though he was, Shashishekhar got into the coach.

In the sky, the clouds and the sun were again at play, casting sun and shade over the fields that fell on either side of the coach as it proceeded through the countryside.

"My friend of old times, come back!" sang a beggar. Shashishekhar found himself humming to its tune, and even adding lines of his own.

"Come back, my playful one,
My tearful one, my joyful one,
Come back!"

The coach took him to a walled mansion. Unquestioningly, Shashishekhar followed the servant into a room in which stood tall glass cases full of neatly arrayed volumes of books. They had colorful covers with their titles embossed in gold. At the sight of those book-cases, Shashishekhar felt as though he had been released a second time from prison. There was also a table in the room. On it lay a cracked slate, and a few old exercise books with the name 'Giribala Devi' written on them in thick letters in Shashishekhar's own handwriting!

Covering his face in his hands, Shashishekhar lay his head down on those books for a long time, remembering the old times beside a grilled window and with a little girl strolling outside.

A mild shuffle made him look up.

Giribala stood before him, with a silver platter of fruits and berries in her hand. As he looked up, she bent down on the ground and bowed to him.

She had no ornaments on and wore white.

She was a widow.

As she raised her eyes to the tired, broken-bodied Shashishekhar, tears began to course down her cheeks. Tears rose also to Shashishekhar's throat and choked all speech.

Outside, the beggar sang: "Come back, old friend!"

Previous Post Next Post

Google Search