‘Chokher Bali’ or ‘ A Grain of Sand – by Rabindranath Tagore

About the author –

Rabindranath tagore is possibly the most famous poet to come from India. For his beautiful, profound aand sensitive verses, which expressed his poetic thought, he was awarded the nobel prize in literature.

‘ Choker bali’ was written by Rabindranath Tagore as a serial in periodical Bangadarshan from 1902 to 1903. In 1903, it was published as a book. In its preface, Tagore wrote


Readings these words today a hundred and ten years after they were first written, i wonder if i am qualified to review a book by an author such as Tagore, and above all such a path breaking novel like this. However , having taken up this uneviable task ,all i can do is put my forth my thoughts on the book, and leave you to judge me, as well as the book of yourselves.

“CHOKHER BALI” literally means ‘ a grain of sand in the eye’  used as a metaphor for a constant irritating presence, the titile beautifully sums uo the story. The cover if the book is too well designed depicting just a hint of sensuousness, a thread which runs through the story as well.

Coming to the story itself, it is only after i read it, that i understood just why this is considered to be the herald of the ‘Modern Indian Novel’. There are no plots and happenings to speak of- just th characters and their lives entwining and separating. The narrator is a third person , but the characters speak for themsleves. There are a few detailed discriptions of the characters, but they come alive through their words and actions.

The characters are from a long time gone. A century is a long time indeed. And this century saw too much of change- political and idealogical and above all the technological. Yet as i read the book , i couldnot help compare the characters with people i knew, to the people in my life. We all know people like Mahendra and Bihari, Asha and Binodini , even Mahendra’s aunt and mother. The story could well b happening today in some parts of India, or even the world, so timeless does it feel. With few such characters , it was inevitable that i was immersed in them almost as soon i began the book. I wondered as i read, whom i would like the most, by the time i completed it. I had never thought i would identify myself with one of them- after all among the female characters, the mother and aunt were too old, Asha was simple and  uneducated and Binodini was a widow living in seclusion. It came as big surprise to me, that i identidied myself with both.

Binodini is obviously one of the strongest characters. She is well read, adept at household tasks, is beautiful,as well as model of perfection. Yet, her being a widow keeps her secluded and away from every tempatation. It is almost inevitable that a lonely woman reading as much, and as varird atuff as Binodini does, should be tempted to put her viles to work, to test her powe over people, to feel the passion she so craves to experiance.

Asha, is the complete opposite, – The meek, simple, illiterate and also unable to run a house like Mahendra’s. She has no control over events in her own life- whether it is her life with her relatives, or her marriage to Mahendra or her inability to handle the situationat Mahendra’s house- be it his passion or his mother’s antogonism.

There is a sparkling fire in Binodini’s heart . With that fire she tried to destroy a happy household. When she realised she is also destroying her feminine virtues and ethics in that fire, she could not stand anymore. Togore’s fondness in creating his female characters is renowed . “The feminine Individual” , Binodini is a image of miserable widow life tormented by the heinous customs of society. Nevertheless she bags society’s disgrace initially, she overcomes her flaws by turning down bihari’s wedding proposal and keeping her dignity alive in society’s terms.

Between the two women, it is Binodini we feel more for. After all, a women who takes he life in her own hands is to be appreciated and encouraged. Yet is is  asha who by the end of the book, comes acrosss as the stronger one. She is the one who handles he situation with a courage, which seems to come from nowhere. Yet ,when you think of the live of indian women, it is no inexplicible. Even the meekest of women gets courage, when she is left nothing more to lose.

The star of the book is Binodini. She is a strong female protagonist with shades of grey and very human flaws. She has needs and wants and desires and every intention of living a good life. I lived Binodini’s character she seemed so real. He way she acted and thought seemed so very much like how a real person could act and react. I can’t imagine a different reaction of anything but envy after seeing the happinesss and love of a newly married couple when she herself doomed to widowhood. She is truly a character a head of her times.

The novel thoroughly critices the merciless traditions and customs of the society against widows. The novel widely discussed about the human relations, human behaviour in different aspects of life. The movie version of the book was directed by Rituparno Ghosh with Aishwarya Roy and Prasanjit chatterji in lead roles.

” Tagore pillories the customs of perpetual mourning on the part of widows ,who were not allowed to remarry, who were consigned to seclusion and loneliness.

Togore wrote of it: “ i have always regretted the ending”.

Submitted by – Shivani

Roll no. – 1445



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