Renunciation

(This is only a feeble translation of 'Tyaag', a short story by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, into English. The objective is to urge readers to read the original story or better translations. We have included a summary of the story on the last page.)

I

It was the first full-moon night in the month of March. The fresh breeze of the spring blew, carrying with it the sweet scent of mango buds. An old litchi tree stood on the edge of the pond, and a sleepless and indefatigable songbird sat perched in the dense foliage of the tree, singing. The song wafted through the air and penetrated into an unsleeping bedroom of the house belonging to the Mukherjee family.

Hemanta was acting restlessly. Sometimes he ruffled his wife's hair and wrapped the strands around his fingers; sometimes he stroked her bangles and produced a ringing sound, and sometimes he pulled at the flower garland around her hair and brought it to her face. Hemanta's actions were similar to the actions of the breeze, which tries to stir up the stock-still tree in the evening by nudging it from side to side.

But Kusum sat staring into the infinite moonlit void without stirring. Her husband's restlessness only touched her and returned back to him. Finally, Hemanta's agitation got the better of him; he grabbed and shook Kusum's hands and said, "Kusum, where are you? It seems you have gone so far away that even if I use the most powerful telescope, you will only appear as a dot. I want you to come closer. Look, it is such a beautiful night!"

Kusum turned her face away from the void and looked at her husband. "I know of a mantra that can turn this moonlit night and this spring day into a myth in an instant."

"If you know such a mantra, you had better not utter it. But if you know of any mantra that can cause three-four Sundays to occur in a week or a mantra that can prolong the night up to five or half past five in the evening, I would gladly listen to it," Hemanta said while trying to pull Kusum to himself. Kusum resisted the loving tug and said, "I had thought of telling you something on my death bed, but I feel a strong urge to tell it to you today. I think I can bear whatever punishment you give me."

Hemanta was about to chant a hymn on punishment, composed by poet Jayadeva, to amuse his wife when he heard the angry flip flop sound of sandals outside; it was the familiar sound of his father Harihar Mukherjee's footsteps. Hemanta was nonplussed.

Harihar came to the door and roared from outside, "Hemanta, turn your wife out of the house at once."

Hemanta looked at his wife; she showed no surprise. She hid her face in her palms, trying with all her strength and will to fade away. The southern breeze carried the songbird's song into the room, but no one heard it now. The world is infinitely beautiful, but things can turn ugly so easily.

II

"Is it true?" Hemanta asked his wife after returning to the room.

"Yes, it is true," the wife said.

"Why didn't you tell me the truth earlier?"

"I tried to tell you many times, but words failed me. I have sinned."

"Tell me everything today."

Kusum told him everything. She did not falter even though telling the truth was no less torture than walking through fire. But she walked with determined steps and at an even pace, and no one came to know how much she was scorched. Hemanta walked out of the room after hearing her.

Kusum realized that her husband had walked out of her life; he would never return. But she felt no surprise; her mind had become so numb that this incident seemed like any other daily incident. But even to her numb mind, the world and all the declarations of love seemed false and empty. When she recalled all the declarations of love made by Hemanta in the past, a bitter smile crossed her lips; the joyless smile, like a sharp cruel knife, cut a permanent scar on her mind. Perhaps, she was wondering about the brittleness of love — love that is believed to be affectionate and eternal. Lovers believe that the briefest separation is torture, and even a moment's reunion gives infinite joy; they pledge to love each other not only in this life but in all the lives to come. But, this was love for you! Fragile! Just one small blow from the society and your infinite love crumbles to a handful of dust! Only moments ago, Hemanta, in a trembling voice, was whispering into her ears about the beauty of the night. The night had not yet ended; the songbird was still singing; the southern breeze continued to waft into the room and ruffle the mosquito net; the moonlight had crept into the room through the open window and was lying like a weary beauty on one corner of the bed. Everything is a lie! "Love is a greater liar and a greater hypocrite than I!"

NEXT >




Share this:

Facebook Email Whatsapp LinkedIn

Some useful links for
your career:


  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
  • IIT-Kharagpur - www.iitkgp.ac.in
  • Indian Statistical Institute - www.isical.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras - www.iitm.ac.in
  • Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - www.iimahd.ernet.in
  • Indian Institute of Mass Commission - www.iimc.nic.in
  • IIT Bombay - www.iitb.ac.in
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad - www.ismdhanbad.ac.in
  • Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi - www.bitmesra.ac.in
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
  • Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi - www.cmfri.com
  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu