"A few days before the wedding, Kusum became obstinate and refused to marry. I had a hard time trying to persuade her.

"'This won't do, Uncle,' she said.

"'My God! Everything is settled; how can I call off the marriage now?' I said.

"'Announce that I have suddenly died, and send me away somewhere secretly,' Kusum said.

"'Do you realize what will happen to the boy? He is now in the seventh heaven because his long-cherished dream will be fulfilled tomorrow, and you want me to give him the news of your death today! If I do that, I will have to send the news of his death to you the next day, and that same evening I will get to hear that you have also died! At this old age, I don't want to be responsible for the death of a woman and a Brahmin,' I said.

"The happy wedding concluded at the auspicious time, and I felt relieved at having done my duty. You know the rest."

Hemanta said, "You did whatever harm you could do to us, but why did you reveal the truth to everyone?"

Pyarishankar said, "I discovered that your family had fixed the marriage of your younger sister. I thought I had ruined the caste of a Brahmin, but that was out of a sense of duty. Now, here was another Brahmin who was about to lose his caste by marrying into your family. It was my duty to prevent it. So, I wrote a letter to the boy's family, informing that I had proof that Hemanta had married a Shudra girl."

Hemanta controlled his anger with tremendous effort and said, "What will happen to the girl whom I renounce? Will you take her under your care?"

Pyarishankar said, "I have done my duty; now, I have no obligation to take care of someone else's abandoned wife." Then, he called out to somebody inside the house and said, "Hey, get a glass of iced green coconut water for Hemantababu, and don't forget to bring betel leaf."

Hemanta did not wait for the "cool hospitality" but went away.


It was the fifth day after the full moon. The night was dark. Not a bird chirped. The litchi tree on the edge of the pond appeared as an unperceivable smudge on a black canvas. Only the southern breeze moved blindly and freely in this darkness as though enticed by the night. The stars in the sky with their unwinking and alert eyes seemed to be trying their best to resolve some mystery.

The bed-chamber was unlit. Hemanta sat on the bed by the side of the window and stared out into the darkness. Kusum lay on the floor with both her hands wrapped around his legs; her face rested on Hemanta's feet. Time stood still like a still sea. It was as if some invisible artist had painted an everlasting picture on the canvas of an eternal night, depicting holocaust all around, a judge sitting in judgment in the middle, and a guilty woman at his feet.

Once again, there was the flip-flop sound of sandals outside. Harihar Mukherjee came near the door and said, "You have delayed enough; I won't allow it any further. Send the girl away from the house."

The moment Kusum heard the voice, she tightened her hold around Hemanta's legs as if she were fulfilling her life-long wish, kissed and took the dust off his feet, and released the legs.

Hemanta got off the bed and went up to his father. "I will not renounce my wife," he said.

Harihar roared, "You want to lose your caste?"

Hemanta said, "I don't believe in caste."

"Then, you, too, go away from here."


Summary of the Story

"Renunciation" is a story about a "nice gentleman" who goes all out of his way to unite in marriage two young persons in love ... for revenge! After the lovers are married, Pyarishankar, the "nice gentleman", lets out a secret that sours the marriage.

Before we go into the details, please note that "Renunciation", published in Youthaffairz, is only a poor translation of "Tyaag", a short story by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The objective is to urge readers to read the original story or better translations of it.

"Tyaag" was first published around 1892. The present-day readers could find a few things in the story somewhat bewildering. So, it needs to be clarified that the story pertains to the period when the caste system was dominant. Orthodox Brahmins could not marry outside their caste; they could also not travel abroad. Anyone who violated these norms faced the prospect of being denounced by the community.

Pyarishankar was so ostracized. His son-in-law had stolen his daughter's jewelry to fund his stay abroad to study law. The son-in-law returned a few years later as a barrister. Now that her husband was back, the woman naturally wished to go to his home. But, Harihar Mukherjee from the neighbourhood instigated the villagers to ostracize Pyarishankar if he did not renounce his daughter for this act. It seems the theft of the ornaments was a lesser crime than the son-in-law's temerity in going abroad for studies. Of course, a father could not renounce his daughter, and the community ostracized Pyarishankar; he had to leave the village and go and settle in Kolkata. Harihar caused a wedding break-up in Pyarishankar's family by revealing the latter's ostracization. Pyarishankar vowed to take revenge.

Harihar's son, Hemanta, was in love with a girl who everyone believed was the daughter of Bipradas Chatterjee, a Brahmin. She was an orphan, a child widow, and from a lower caste; Bipradas had adopted her. Pyarishankar brought about the marriage between the lovers. The girl knew that the marriage was against the norms of society, and she refused to marry. But Pyarishankar convinced her that marriage was the only solution, else her lover could even end his life.

After the marriage, Pyarishankar revealed the girl's secret. The revelation led to the breaking up of the wedding of Hemanta's younger sister because the family's caste had become "polluted". Pyarishankar, thus, took his revenge.

Harihar storms into Hemanta's room even while the latter is declaring his love to his wife. Harihar wants his son to renounce his wife and send her away. After learning from his father the reason, Hemanta's love for his wife shatters to pieces. He goes to Pyarishankar and demands an explanation for his deed. Pyarishankar tells Hemanta the entire story. Pyarishankar also tells Hemanta that now that he has taken his revenge, he was not concerned about Kusum's (Hemanta's wife) future if Hemanta abandoned her. In the end, love wins. Hemanta tells his father that he will not renounce his wife. The story is all about renunciation. When Harihar learns about Hemanta's decision, he forsakes his son.

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  • Union Public Service Commission - www.upsc.gov.in
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  • Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical and Engineering Training - www.cifnet.nic.in
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad (Deemed University) - www.iiita.ac.in
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  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai - www.tiss.edu