The Home and the World, Rabindranath Tagore
The Home and the World
Rabindranath Tagore
8:01 h Novels Lvl 8.65
The Home and the World (in the original Bengali, ঘরে বাইরে Ghôre Baire or Ghare Baire, lit. "At home and outside") is a 1916 novel by Rabindranath Tagore. The book illustrates the battle Tagore had with himself, between the ideas of Western culture and revolution against the Western culture. These two ideas are portrayed in two of the main characters, Nikhilesh, who is rational and opposes violence, and Sandip, who will let nothing stand in his way from reaching his goals. These two opposing ideals are very important in understanding the history of the Bengal region and its contemporary problems.

The Home and the World

by
Rabindranath Tagore

[1861-1941]

Translated [from Bengali to English]by
Surendranath Tagore


Chapter One

Bimala’s Story

I

Mother, to-day there comes back to mind the vermilion mark atthe parting of your hair, the sari which you used towear, with its wide red border, and those wonderful eyes ofyours, full of depth and peace. They came at the start of mylife’s journey, like the first streak of dawn, giving me goldenprovision to carry me on my way.

The sky which gives light is blue, and my mother’s face was dark,but she had the radiance of holiness, and her beauty would put toshame all the vanity of the beautiful.

Everyone says that I resemble my mother. In my childhood I usedto resent this. It made me angry with my mirror. I thought thatit was God’s unfairness which was wrapped round my limbs, — that mydark features were not my due, but had come to me by somemisunderstanding. All that remained for me to ask of my God inreparation was, that I might grow up to be a model of what womanshould be, as one reads it in some epic poem.

When the proposal came for my marriage, an astrologer was sent,who consulted my palm and said, “This girl has good signs. Shewill become an ideal wife.”

And all the women who heard it said: “No wonder, for sheresembles her mother.”

I was married into a Rajah’s house. When I was a child, I wasquite familiar with the description of the Prince of the fairystory. But my husband’s face was not of a kind that one’simagination would place in fairyland. It was dark, even as minewas. The feeling of shrinking, which I had about my own lack ofphysical beauty, was lifted a little; at the same time a touch ofregret was left lingering in my heart.

But when the physical appearance evades the scrutiny of oursenses and enters the sanctuary of our hearts, then it can forgetitself. I know, from my childhood’s experience, how devotion isbeauty itself, in its inner aspect. When my mother arranged thedifferent fruits, carefully peeled by her own loving hands, onthe white stone plate, and gently waved her fan to drive away theflies while my father sat down to his meals, her service wouldlose itself in a beauty which passed beyond outward forms. Evenin my infancy I could feel its power. It transcended alldebates, or doubts, or calculations: it was pure music.

I distinctly remember after my marriage, when, early in themorning, I would cautiously and silently get up and take the dust of my husband’s feet without waking him, how at such momentsI could feel the vermilion mark upon my forehead shining out likethe morning star.

One day, he happened to awake, and smiled as he asked me: ‘Whatis that, Bimala? What are you doing?’

I can never forget the shame of being detected by him. He mightpossibly have thought that I was trying to earn merit secretly.But no, no! That had nothing to do with merit. It was mywoman’s heart, which must worship in order to love.

My father-in-law’s house was old in dignity from the days of theBadshahs. Some of its manners were of the Moguls andPathans, some of its customs of Manu and Parashar. But myhusband was absolutely modern. He was the first of the house togo through a college course and take his M.A. degree. His elderbrother had died young, of drink, and had left no children. Myhusband did not drink and was not given to dissipation. Soforeign to the family was this abstinence, that to many it hardlyseemed decent! Purity, they imagined, was only becoming in thoseon whom fortune had not smiled. It is the moon which has roomfor stains, not the stars.

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