Rabindranath Tagore :,1861-1941) won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 for his book of poems, Gitanjali. Although famed for his poetry, he left an equally brilliant imprint on other forms of literature, including dramatic works. Introduced to the world of theatre at the age of sixteen, he scripted plays ranging from the symbolic and philosophical to music-and-dance dramas and light-hearted comedies. Translated into various languages, his plays are widely performed on stage and adapted for the screen.
Sukhendu Ray was born and educated in Calcutta and trained in the UK to qualify as a chartered accountant. Post retirement, his love for literature led him to translate Bengali literature into English.
The moment was propitious.
The tempestuous sixth decade of the twentieth century was approaching its end. The heady event marked by the magical figure 1968-that carnival of youthful expectation of dramatic reversals in international politics-was yet to be exhausted of its daemonic charge. Each day brought with it the grand news that little men would soon orchestrate the simultaneous downfall of all the bullying Goliaths of the world. No battle episode was trivial then-each recital of every such episode had a nerve-wracking, nail-biting air about it; but the pleasurable pain or the painful pleasure one derived from those daily reports could not be more intense. This surely was a happy happenchance-for, precisely during that joyous season of feverish dreams I entered adolescence; the sprightly anticipation of a comic 'reversal' or peripeteia on the world stage and my growing eagerness to leave behind the (stressful) stage of celibacy were perfectly synchronized.
The moment was certainly propitious-for, in 1969, when I was 14 and half, I received as gift, and that too from my father, a 33-rpm long-playing disc in which was imprinted within the short span of roughly 35 minutes Rabindranath Tagore's (1861-1941) burlesque Chirakumar Sabha or The Bachelors' Club. Given my mood then the satirical satire-drama gripped me instantly. The added inducement being the richly textured performance of the actors, I spent many a lonely afternoon listening to the crackling dialogues and enthralling songs contained in that abridged version of Chirakumar Sabha over and over again.
To make the matter merrier, the publication history of The Bachelors' Club too is teasingly tortuous.'
First cast in the novel form, Chirakumar Sabha was serialized in the journal Bharati in 13 instalments between April-May 1900 and May-June 1901. The same text then appeared in 1904 as part of Works of Rabindranath-but this time it was included as one component of the subsection Rangachitra' or 'Mirthful Sketches' and was classified under the heading 'story. When in 1908 the text was printed as an independent book with few modifications and additions the appellation 'novel' was returned to it-but this time it was renamed Prajapatir Nirbandha or 'The Fiat of the God of Procreation. Eighteen years later, on 12 April 1926, another book came out called Chirakumar Sabha (The Bachelors' Club)-it was the dramatized adaptation of Prajapatir Nirbandha. The play began its run on public stage from July 1926 and met with considerable success.
Which of the genre's protocols does the text abide by-the novel, the story, or the play? Or, does The Bachelors' Club, possessing a peculiar mercurial quality, defy all strict taxonomic codification? The felicity with which the text mobilized genre-switch was noticed very early. In 1901-exactly a month after the last instalment of Chirakumar Sabha was printed in Bharati-the literary journal Sahitya commented wryly:
What began as a story has ended up becoming a play; the story's nature has undergone metamorphosis as does the caterpillar's; and, now we hear, equipped with a pair of scissors and a pen, the author has set upon reforming Chirakumar Sabha; (our counsel is) let the butterfly (prajapati) first break out of Chirakumar Sabha's cocoon; only then shall we be able to relish its salty (saucy) taste.
To track the convoluted path following which came the 1926 The Bachelors' Club, we need to pay attention to Rabindranath's literary output surrounding its previous incarnations as well as to some of his political concerns.
In the 2001 account of Rabindranath's Collected Works prepared by Tagore-scholars we find: the total number of prose stories written by Rabindranath is 94; 90 of these were printed in literary magazines; and, the 1904 Chirakumar Sabha is excluded from the list.' Rabindranath's entry into the domain of prose stories has a feel of suddenness about it. While it is indisputable that he was one of the pioneers in the moulding of the short narrative's modern diction, it is also true that his rise in the sphere of stories was nothing less than meteoric. His career as a creator of nearly plotless yet overwhelmingly eventful chronicles began in real earnest only in 1891. This means, not 94, but (excluding the first three pieces published in 1884-5) 91 should be regarded as the final tally for the sum total of Rabindranath's (genuine) short fictions.
Between 1891 and 1900, in the span of a mere decade, Rabindranath wrote 56 stories. This lavish harvest yielded such fascinating crops as-to mention just a variety-`Postmaster', o Mrito' (The Living and the Dead), `Khokababur Pratyabartan' (The Return of the Little Boy), `Kabuliwala', `Madhyabartinf (The Woman In-between), 'Sasti' (Punishment), `Nisithe' (At Night), `Manbhanjan' (Overcoming Petulance), `Khudito Pasan' (The Hungry Stones), Atithi' (Guest), and `Manihara' (The Woman Bereft of Jewels).
Now, this is intriguing: in 1901, in the same journal Bharati, the last two instalments of the flippant Chirakumar Sabha overlapped with the first two instalments of Rabindranath's long short story (initially classified as novel) `Nastanirh' (The Broken Nest). In his (serious) 57th venture Rabindranath adopted the mock-serious tone; in relating the strait of a lonely wife caught between her respect for her loving husband and her love for her admiring brother-in-law, Rabindranath experimented with a mix of styles. The daring to narrate something that was everyone's 'tragedy' but no one's fault in an apparently lighthearted vein may have drawn its sustenance, at least in parts, from the 'comic' tale which assumed dramatic proportions in the course of its development.
Item Code: NAR418 Author: Rabindranath Tagore Cover: PAPERBACK Edition: 2014 Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi ISBN: 9780198099444 Language: English Size: 7.50 X 5.00 inch Pages: 245 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.22 Kg