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Fail

(This is a poor translation of "Fail", a story by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The objective is to exhort readers to read the original story in Bengali or better translations. The story deals with the negative emotion of jealousy, but tackles the subject using humour.

There was a rift in the Haldar family long ago, and subsequent generations have followed in the same vein; the rift has remained unhealed. Nalin and Nondo are the present generation representatives of the breakaway groups. As a child, Nalin was raised by his father very strictly; the boy was made to study all day and his childish desires were crushed. Nondo's parents, on the other hand, were lenient. Despite studying all day, Nalin regularly failed his exams. Nondo excelled in studies and won prizes. Perhaps, one takeaway from the story is that strict parenting may not be a good thing.

A boy, who is made to study the whole day and whose desires are crushed, is likely to feel jealous of a boy whose parents are lenient and who excels in studies. This was the case with Nalin also. He was jealous of Nondo. That was the reason why even after the boys grew into young men, Nalin wished to outdo Nondo in other aspects of life. This meant he should have the best of everything. His wife should be more beautiful than Nondo's! But this tendency to always have the best also makes one feel that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. That can be disastrous!)

This situation is no different from the one that would arise if the tail of the fish were to quarrel with the head, or, for that matter, if Rahu and Ketu - the north and the south lunar nodes - decided to cross paths. A discord has caused the venerable Haldar family to break away into two groups. A wall separates the dwellings of the two groups; so severe is the schism that members of one group refuse to even look at the faces of the members of the other group.

Nobogopal's son Nalin and Nanigopal's son Nondo are kindreds, are of the same age, and attend the same school. The two are in complete accord with the age-old feud between their families.

Nalin's father Nobogopal was a strict disciplinarian. He didn't allow his son a moment's respite; the son was required to stay immersed in his books all the time. Nobogopal had firmly pushed down his son's desires for play, good food, and dapper clothes underneath the pile of his books.

Nondo's father Nanigopal believed in a laissez faire policy. His mother sent him to school neatly dressed, and even pressed a few coins into his palms for refreshments; Nondo had become quite popular owing to his generous nature in sharing the goodies - snacks, spinning tops and marbles - with others.

Feeling defeated, Nalin would take recourse to the pleasant contemplation of what would have happened if he had been Nanigopal's son and Nondo born in his place. "I would have shown Nondo a thing or two then," he would say to himself.

But, meanwhile, before anything so strange could happen, Nondo continued to win prizes year after year while Nalin returned home empty-handed accusing the school authorities of being unfair. His father enrolled Nalin in another school, appointed a new tutor at home, and reduced his sleep by an hour which was duly added to the period of study. But these measures did not yield favourable results. Nondo persisted with his passing streak and graduated with a BA degree, and Nalin continued to fail year after year and remained stuck in his entrance class like a mouse in a mousetrap.

Under such circumstances, Nalin's father finally took pity on his son. He died. After three years of remaining stuck in the entrance-class, Nalin finally attained freedom. Basking in his new-found freedom, Nalin decked himself up in rings, buttons and watches with the explicit objective of slighting Nondo by their sparkle. The double-horse carriage of the entrance-failed easily outpaced the single-horse carriage of the BA passed; a university degree could not gallop at the same pace as a Waler horse.

Both families are looking for brides for their sons. Nalin has vowed to marry only the best girl - a girl second to none; Nondo will have to hang his head down in defeat before his carriage and his wife.

It is always the case that those who wish to obtain the best forsake the good in this quest. There were many good girls in the neighbourhood, but Nalin could not pick up enough courage to marry any of them lest there be a best girl lurking somewhere who married someone else by pulling the wool over his eyes.

Finally, news arrived that a Bengali living in Rawalpindi had a very beautiful daughter. Beautiful girls living afar appear more attractive than beautiful girls in the neighbourhood. Nalin set his heart on this girl; the girl was invited and brought to Kolkata after paying for the expenses. The girl was indeed very beautiful. Nalin said, "Whatever anyone may say but no one has the means to go all the way to Rawalpindi. They cannot, thus, claim they had seen the girl before but had not entered into a matrimonial alliance as she did not meet their expectations."

The marriage was almost settled and preliminary preparations were underway when one day a strange sight was observed - a troop of maids was seen emerging out of Nanigopal's house and walking away in a procession carrying odd-looking plates with varied objects on them.

Nalin instructed his people to find out the purpose of the procession.

He was informed that gifts were being dispatched to Nondo's soon-to-be bride.

The news jolted Nalin out of his complacency; he sat up straight and stopped smoking his hookah. "I must look into this," he said.

A carriage was hired and Nalin's spy hastened to gather more information. Bipin Hazra returned and said, "The girl is from Kolkata, but she is very beautiful."

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