(This is only a poor translation of "Subha", a story written by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore around 1892. The objective is to urge readers to read the original story in Bengali or to read better translations. You may find a summary of the story on the last page.)

When the girl was named Subhashini, meaning well-speaking, no one knew she was born mute. The two elder sisters of the girl were named Sukeshini and Suhasini; so, to rhyme with these names, her father named her Subhashini. Now, everyone calls her by the shortened name of Subha.

The parents married off the two elder daughters after an arduous search for suitable grooms and after spending much money. Now, the youngest daughter sat proudly in their hearts like a silent load.

It does not occur to everybody that although a child cannot speak, she can have feelings. So, everyone openly discussed Subha's bleak future in her presence. The girl came to understand from childhood that she was born into this family because of God's curse. Because of this understanding, the girl tried to keep away from the sight of others. She thought if only people were to forget that she existed, she could live happily. But, can people cease to remember their pain? She was always in the minds of her father and mother.

Her mother, especially, felt ashamed about some shortcomings as a parent. Mothers regard their daughters, as opposed to sons, as a part of their own self; if daughters are born with some disabilities, mothers think they are to blame. Subha's father, Banikantha, however, loved her more than the other two daughters. The mother regarded Subha as a stigma of her womb and resented her.

Subha lacked speech; she could not speak. But she had two long-lashed large black eyes and lips, which quivered at the slightest hint of any emotion. We have to make an effort to convey our emotions through speech; it is like trying to translate our emotions into speech. Often, we don't do it right. Because of a lack of linguistic skills, we often make mistakes. But black eyes don't have to translate anything — the mind spontaneously casts its shadow on the eyes, and emotions spontaneously get reflected on them or simply fade away. Sometimes, the eyes light up brightly and, sometimes, get snuffed out. Sometimes, they stare at you unblinkingly like a setting moon, and sometimes they flash all around like a stroke of restless lightning.

Apart from their facial expressions, the language of the eyes of those who have known no other language since birth is infinitely boundless and bottomlessly deep — much like a clear sky, which is a silent theatre of the worlds of shade and light. The speechless persons have some unfathomable mystery about them, just like the vast Nature. For this reason, normal children felt somewhat scared of Subha and did not play with her. She was wordless and friendless like the lonely and desolate afternoons.


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