Choker Bali(A grain of sand in the eye),aptly named, by Rabindranath Tagore and translated in Bengali into English by Sukhendu Ray makes for an interesting read. The era of the novel is around the early 1900s’.
The story is about a beautiful, well bred and educated girl Binodini ,who is waiting in the wings and is confident that she will receive life’s best but fate has something else in store for her. Life takes an unknown turn when in in spite of her caliber her marriage proposal is spurned by the rich and somewhat pampered ‘Mahendra’, son of her mother’s friend. This is done unknowingly without even having a look at her. Binodini’s mother then ges her married off hastily to a older man who dies soon after her marriageA young and beautiful Binodini is left to fend for herself and lead a difficult widow’s life,
Mahendra later on is cajoled into marrying ‘Asha’ a young, illiterate and naïve girl and yet they lead a joyful existence.Avisit by Mahendra ‘s mother to her ancestral home leads to her meeting with Binodini and her chance landing in Mahendra’s house.
Then begins the real saga when Binodini notices the love shared betweenthe couple which she herself has not received.The wealth and grandeur of the house dazzles her. She feels that all this would have been rightfully hers had it not been for Mahendra’s rejection of her marriage proposal. Thus a flame of jealousy and revenge gets ignited and burns slowly.
She befriends ‘Asha’ Mahendra’s illiterate wife whom she calls ‘Choker Bali’and thus begins a journey of revenge to slowly destroy the happy nest. Mahendra’s loyal friend ‘Bihari’ sees through her plan and tries to stop her but to no avail.
The author has beautifully portrayed the feelings of a vulnerable young woman who yearns for love and yet is so self-respecting that she does not yield to Mahendra. Her feelings of revenge are replaced by repent when she encounters ‘Bihari’ and unknowingly falls in love with him.She then realizes her folly and starts detesting Mahendra. Finally she is caught in the web she herself has created. What does Binodini do?How does she free herself from the predicament she has got into, keeps the reader bound to the book.
The translation in English by Sukhendu Ray is very limiting in the sense that there is a lack of free flow of emotions that I think might not be the case in the original language. The book is indeed a classic and has been made into a Hindi feature Film with Aishwarya Rai playing Binodini’s part. Write your abstract here.