This is my first fictional read of Rabindranath Tagore and I was excited to have purchased it. There are eleven stories and one play in this edition of the book. For readers who have enjoyed 'Gitanjali,' his collection of poems, this book gives an opportunity to experience two more genres of his writing.
The variegated themes of the tales makes for a refreshing read. The stories are a mix of old and new, mythical and real.
The narration is simple, yet different from most Indian authors. The top-notch language of the Nobel laureate is delightful to read. Tagore's vocabulary, similar to his like his poems, is a curious oxymoronic mix of complex simplicity.
Deep symbolism shines through in all the tales. While some are emotional and straightforward, others are sheathed in intrigue. Each of them is thought-provoking and profound.
The stories written in the first person are highly intriguing because they begin with a touch of immense reality, leading us to before that it is an account of true incidents in the writer's life. However, they quickly evolve into something that borders on almost weird, making us question our initial assumptions.
What I enjoyed the most is the richness of visual and aural imagery evoked in the lines. Be it the rural surroundings of hills, or grazing cows or the lush greenery, or even the Mughlai garden of yesteryears, complete with sounds of womens' anklets or water, and so on, each scene appears with utter clarity to the readers' eyes, enhancing the experience of the setting.
The first two tales transport the reader to bygone days of Kings, princesses and ministers. The first story, 'The Hungry Stones' is an intriguing tale within a tale, with mystic fantasy woven into it. The second one, 'The Victory' contains strong reminiscences of Tenali Ramakrishna and Tansen tales, albeit with an unexpected twist.
My favourite story in the collection is 'The Kabuliwala'. It is one of the most touching tales one may every read. The angst of a father and the deep scars of flying time are captured with elan in the story.
'The Devotee' is a tale of motherhood and the impact of spirituality on tortured, guilty minds.
'The food which I get from begging is divine'
After I had thought over what she said, I understood her meaning. When we get our food precariously as alone, we removed God the giver. But when we recorded our food regualrly at home, as a matter of course, we are at to regard it as ours by right.
- The Devotee, Rabindranath Tagore
The way the story begins, gives no hint of how it tends to twist into something entirely different from what we may expect.
'The Babus of Nayanjore' is another tale that evokes sympathy towards the older folk and makes readers empathize with their eccentricities.
'The Postmaster' induces the angst of separation that is wholly non-romantic in matire and yet, heartrending in its platonic intensity.
The play 'The Post Office' contains two acts. It evokes a reminder of jovial childhood with a change, because it is set in the times of Kings but is modern enough to include a post office of modern India. The character of the little child allows adult readers to percieve the little joys of life through the eyes of innocence.
A highly readable book, perfect for evenings of nostalgia and reminisces.
I rate it 4.5 out of 5.
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Stay safe and happy reading!
Book photography: Chethana Ramesh