The Path to Salvation

(This is a feeble translation of "Muktir Upay", a story by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The objective of this translation is to urge readers to read the original story or better translations.)

Fakirchand was sober-minded; he had been like that since childhood. In the company of the elderly, he looked like one of them. He found three things intolerable: cold water, winter, and pleasantries. Fakirchand's serious countenance and inclination to wrap a black woolen scarf around his face in almost all the seasons gave him a distinguished look. Moreover, his face had become covered with a bushy crop of hair from an early age, which left no open space for his lips to form even a smile.

His wife, Haimaboti, was much younger. Her mind was engrossed in worldly matters; she liked to read Bankimbabu's novels and found no satisfaction in worshipping her husband like a god. She enjoyed a little merriment. Just as a blossoming flower craves the breeze and the light of the dawn, she too, in her youthfulness, craved her husband's love and affection. But her husband, whenever time permitted, made her read sacred texts and gave her a discourse on the Bhagwad Gita in the evening. He did not hesitate to even inflict physical punishment upon her occasionally for her spiritual development.

The day when Fakirchand discovered the novel, Krishnakant's Will, hidden under Haimaboti's pillow, he did not rest until he had made the diminutive young woman weep the whole night in repentance for her misdeed. What nerve! Cheating her husband by reading novels on the sly!

However, Fakirchand — through persistent ethical and moral instructions, orders, advice, and punishment — eventually succeeded in banishing the smile from Haimaboti's face, the happiness from her mind, and the liveliness of her youth.

Dispassionate people face a lot of obstacles in this world. Fakir became a father to a son and then to a daughter, which compelled him to pay attention to familial duties. His father pestered him to get a job, and serious-minded Fakir had to go from office to office in search of employment. But his efforts failed.

Then, Fakir decided to renounce the world like Lord Buddha. One day, in the dead of the night, he stepped out of the house and went away.


It becomes necessary to relate another piece of history at this stage.

Nabagram-resident Soshticharan had a son named Makhanlal. Makhanlal's wife remained childless even many years after marriage. At his father's insistence and the temptation of novelty, Makhanlal brought home a second wife. After the second marriage, both the wives, between themselves, gave birth to seven daughters and a son.

Makhan was a man who enjoyed life and did not like to be tied down by responsibilities. As it is, he was burdened by the care of seven children. But when his wives began to steer the family boat in opposite directions, Makhan could not bear it, and he also escaped in the dead of the night one day.

For many years, nothing was heard of him. It was rumored he had gone to Kashi and secretly married again to try out if he could find happiness in living with a single wife. It was said, the unfortunate man had, indeed, found peace of mind; however, he sometimes longed to return to his homeland but could not pick up the courage to do so.


After wandering around for a few days, a dispassionate Fakirchand arrived at Nabagram. He sat under a banyan tree by the side of his path and let out a deep sigh. "Aha! Freedom from worldly desires! Wife, son, wealth — nothing belongs to you. Who is your wife? Who is your child?" he said and broke into a song:

Listen, O listen, foolish heart
Listen to the sage's advice for salvation
Embrace that counsel
Break open the oyster of earthly ties to find the pearl of freedom
O you naïve heart, naïve heart.

The song stopped abruptly. "Who is that? It is my father. He has found me. Good grief! He will push me back into the dark hole of family life. I must escape."


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