Musolmanir Golpo : by Rabindranath Tagore Story in English

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      It was a time when agents of anarchy were vexing the state machinery, and days and nights were swayed by strokes of unforeseen tyranny. Everyday life was enmeshed in a web of nightmares; householders prayed to gods all the time, and people were terrorised by imaginary fear of evil deities. It was hard to trust anyone, man or god. One had to often cry for help or mercy. The boundary between the consequences of good and evil deeds was virtually nonexistent. People stumbled into adversity at every step.

      In such a situation, having a beautiful daughter at home was like a scourge of providence. If such a girl was born, family members would say, The sooner we're rid of the wretched girl the better. A similar misfortune showed up in the house of a rich landlord, Bangshi Badan.

      It was the beautiful Kamala, whose parents had passed away. Her other relatives would have been relieved if she too had died, but she did not. And her uncle, Bangshi had ever since brought her up with utmost love and care.

      But her aunt would often tell the neighbours, Think of the injustice of it! Her parents are gone, leaving behind the danger on our shoulders, After all, we have our own children, and she is like a burning torch of destruction in their midst. She attracts the attention of all kinds of wicked people. Someday, we'll be ruined just because of her. This anxiety keeps me awake whole night.

      Still, somehow, time was passing. Then came a marriage proposal and, in the midst of such pageantry, it was no longer possible to keep the girl hidden from the public eye. Her uncle would say, "That's why I am looking for a groom in a family capable of protecting the girl. The boy he found was the second son of Param Ananda Seth of Mochakhali. He was sitting on a mountain of wealth which would likely disappear soon after his father's demise. He was given to excessive luxury and showed off his wealth proudly by engaging in wasteful activities - falconry, gambling, bird fights. The boy was vain about his fortune, and he was blessed with quite a bit of it. He had stout wrestlers from Bhojpur, Bihar, for bodyguards, all skilful fighters with clubs. He would openly brag that there was no one in the area who could lay hands on him. The boy had some fancy for women; married once, he was looking for a young girl to make his second wife. He came to know about Kamala's beauty. The Seths were extremely rich and powerful, and they resolved to bring the girl home as their bride.

      Kamala begged tearfully, "Uncle, must you send me to hellfire in this way? You know, my child, if I had the power to protect you l would have held you in my heart all my life,' the uncle replied.

      After the marriage negotiations were complete, the groom came to the wedding in a majestic style, with plenty of musicians and fanfare accompanying him. The uncle said pleadingly, my son, such pomp and pageantry may not be appropriate. These are bad times.

      At this, the groom uttered a profanity and added, We'll see who has the guts to come near me. The uncle said, "The girl was ours until the completion of the wedding ceremony, now she is yours. You take the responsibility of escorting her home safely. We can't do it, we are weak. The groom declared proudly, 'No worries. His bodyguards from Bhojpur gathered behind him holding their clubs and twirling their moustaches.

      The groom set out on his journey with the bride through the infamous Takrati fields. Modhu Mollah was the leader of a gang of armed robbers. At about midnight, he and his men attacked the caravan, hollering and flourishing torches. Most of the Bhojpuris vanished immediately. Modhu Mollah was a notorious brigand; no one could escape from his hands. Kamala was about to step out of her palanquin in fear and hide in a nearby bush, when old Habir Khan came and stood behind her. Everyone used to revere him almost like a prophet. Habir stood there firmly and said, Leave the place, my sons. I am Habir Khan.

      The robbers said, Khan Sahib, there is no way we could defy you, but why are you ruining our business?" However, they had to flee. Habir came to Kamala and said, You are like a daughter to me. You have no reason to be worried. Let's escape this dangerous place and go to my house.

      Kamala shrank at this. Habir said, I understand. You are a Hindu Brahmin's daughter reluctant to go to a Muslim's home. But remember this, true Muslims are also respectful of pious Brahmins. You carn live in my home like the daughter of a Hindu family. I am Habir Khan. I live nearby. Come, i'll keep you safe.' Kamala was a Brahmin's daughter. She found it difficult to Overcome her hesitation. Habir noticed this and said, 'No one in the neighbourhood will dare to insult your religion as long as I am alive. Come with me; don't be afraid.'

      Habir Khan brought Kamala to his residence. Surprisingly, in one of the eight self-contained portions of this Muslim's mansion there was a Shiva temple and all the facilities for Hindu worship. An elderly Hindu priest appeared and advised Kamala, You consider this place like a Hindu home, my daughter; you won't lose your caste here.

      Kamala broke into tears and said, Please send word for my uncle. He'll take me home.' Habir replied, You are mistaken, my child. Your people will not accept you anymore. They will desert you on the street. Well, you could test it for yourself if you wish.' Habir Khan took Kamala up to the backdoor of her uncle's house and said, I'll be waiting here.'

      Kamala went into the house, hugged her uncle, and pleaded, Uncle, please don't abandon me. Her uncle's eyes streamed with tears. Her aunt came, saw her and yelled out, "Drive her out, drive out this evil creature. You ruinous girl, you have come back after entering a pariah's home. Have you no shame".

      Her uncle said, 'I am helpless, my child. This is a Hindu home; no one will accept you back here. If we do, we'll also lose our caste.

      Kamala stood there for a while hanging her head down in shame and then slowly walked out of her uncle's home and left with Habir Khan. The doors of her uncle's house shut behind her forever.

      Habir Khan made all arrangements for Kamala to practice her Hindu religion, and said to her, "My sons will never step into your portion of the house. You can continue to practice your customs and rituals with the help of this old Brahmin". This house had some history. People used to call the Hindu portion of the house "The Rajputani's Quarter". A Nawab had once brought home a Rajput's daughter but to save her caste and religion allowed her to live separately. She used to worship Shiva and sometimes even went on pilgrimage. Aristocratic Muslims in those days had respect for virtuous Hindus. This Rajput woman lived there and provided shelter to all the Hindu women married to Muslims to protect their customs and traditions. It is believed that Habir Khan is the son of the Rajput woman. Although he did not take up his mother's religion, he worshipped his mother at heart. Now his mother was no more, but he had taken a vow to especially shelter and protect the oppressed and ostracised Hindu women to keep her memory alive.

      Kamala found a better life in her new shelter than she had in her own home. Her aunt always treated her with contempt; often she would hear that she was ill-fated, accursed, a source of ruin, and the family would find relief only if she died. Occasionally, her uncle would buy her some clothes and accessories in secret, but she had to hide them in fear of her aunt. In the home of the Rajput woman, she found herself like a queen. There was no end to love and honour for her here. She was surrounded by maids and servants, all from Hindu families.

      At last, her body was touched by the impulse of youth. One of Habir Khan's sons started frequenting Kamala in her room secretly, and she got emotionally entangled with him.

      Then, one day, she told Habir Khan, Father, I have no religion. My religion is the man I love. The religion that has deprived me of all love, scorned me like a piece of trash, I could never find the benevolence of God in that religion. That God has humiliated me at every step and I can't still forget that. The first time I tasted love, Father, was in your home. I realised that even a wretched girl's life has value. The God who has given me shelter, in the midst of love and honour for him, he is the one I worship, and he is my God - he is neither Hindu nor Muslim. I love your second son Karim, I have taken him in my heart - my religion is now bound with him. You can convert me into Islam, I have no objection in that; maybe I'll keep both the faiths.'

      They continued to live their lives in that way, cutting off all their ties with the other family. Habir Khan also helped Kamala to erase their memories from her heart and remove all thoughts that she was part of them, so he renamed her Meherjan.

      Meanwhile, the time came for Sarala's wedding, her uncle's second daughter. Arrangements were made as before, and the same misfortune occurred. The same band of robbers attacked them on the way with a thunderous cry. Deprived of their prey once, they were determined to avenge it this time.

      But another bellowing cry came from behind them, 'Beware!' "Gosh, Habir Khan's followers are back to ruin everything!" When the bride's men were about to flee, leaving the bride in the palanquin, a spear with Habir Khan's flag drawn with a half-crescent in it appeared in their midst. It was a woman standing fearlessly with the spear in hand. She said to Sarala, Don't worry, sister. I have the protection for you of one who protects everyone. He doesn't differentiate on the basis of caste or religion.'

      "Kamala took Sarala back to her uncle's house and said, Obeisance to you, Uncle. Don't worry! I won't actually touch your feet. Now take Sarala back. She has not been defiled by any touch. Tell Aunt that I was brought up by her food and clothes given reluctantly, and I never thought I could return that favour in this way. I have brought this red silk sari for he, take it, and this brocade cushion. If my sister is ever in distress, remember, she has a Muslim elder sister to protect her."

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