Ginni (The Mistress of The House)
This is a “guest post” by Rabindranath Tagore. He was a famous writer, lyricist, painter, thought leader, educationist, humanist. In 1913, he was awarded Nobel Prize in literature for his book of verses “Geetanjali”. Rabindranath has also composed the national anthems of India and Bangladesh (and inspired the national anthem of Sri Lanka). Vishwa Bharati University, founded by Rabindranath at Shantiniketan is a revered seat of learning.
DEDICATED TO THE MAN WHO DEFINES MY EXISTENCE
Shibnath babu was the teacher-in-charge for the primary section of school. Bald head, clean shaven, and a tiki which he wore as a crown, Shibnath was Yama personified for his students.
They say, bees which buzz never sting. One meeting with Shibram babu could prove them wrong. Words that would pierce your soul like the arrows of Arjuna, and free slaps and punches that rained like hailstorm in Ashad, Shibram never shied away from “disciplining” his students.
Shibram specialised in an innovative artillery to massacre students in class. Although he seriously lamented that teachers did not get the deserved respect from students anymore, unlike the Gurukul ages, he never shied away from extracting his pound of flesh. Despite being an incarnation of Yama, his physical assaults did not scare students as much his “Brahmastra”.
Shibram took pleasure in rechristening students who found a place out of his good books. Much to their embarrassment, the new names would kill the spirit in the victim. Shakespeare had once famously said, “What’s in a name?”. I say, “Everything”. The human nature loves its identity. An attack on his identity is therefore an attack on his very existence.
Shibram had grasped this inherent truth of human psychology wuite early in life and used it to suit his purpose. His first victim, Shashishekhar was crestfallen when he was rechristened “Bhekti”. The cause of heartache was not that he was named after a fish, but that his physical attributes played significant part in the renaming process.
Ashu was the quintessential introvert of the class. He would spend the entire day sitting in one corner, others oblivious of his existence. The youngest and the most pampered child of his family, he refused to give up his innocence.
Belonging to a rich “Bonedi” family, Ashu was always accompanied by chauffeur to school, and much to his embarrassment , lunch was always sent from home via a butler, in a silver platter covered by satin. Ashu never felt comfortable of his identity as a rich kid. Recess was a nightmarish for him.
He was a diligent student. Teachers could hardly find any shortcoming in his maneuvers, but Shibram belonged to a different league. Ashu would often arrive for class late by few minutes. That earned him the wrath of Yama. Made to kneel down outside class, Ashu would pray for the Earth to bifurcate, so that he could disappear inside her.
On one such occasion, Shibram named him “Ginni” (the housewife). And as Shibram went on to explain his choice of epithet for Ashu, amid rolls of laughter, the kid urged wizards of Hogwarts to help him apparate back to his home.
Here is what happened…..
Ashu had an younger sister – the only sibling of his age. They were compatriots in crime. From sunrise till sunset, barring school hours, the duo spent their waking hours in gaiety.
The day before Ashu’s rechristening happened was an auspicious day on Hindu calendar. Classes were suspended on that day. The day made even more special because Ashu’s sister was marrying off her favourite doll on that very day. Whole morning had been spent in busy preparations, although rains played spoiler.
Thanks to the torrential downpour, the purohit (priest) failed to turn up at the designated time. Exasperated, Ashu ran out of the building. He could see an old man pass by. Without a second thought, he rushed to him and asked, “Good man, will you please preside over the wedding of our doll?”
Th man turned, with an expression of shock. And to his horror Ashu saw Shibram babu standing in front of him. The world crashed. Ashu ran life and took refuge under his bed for rest of the day, much to the displeasure of his sister.
Bullied by his classmates for “playing rannabati” with his sister, Ashu sat through the day in class, finally returning to his shelter, shattered beyond repair.
[Ginni is a short story by Rabindranath Tagore. This is the first short story by the bard that i read in my life. I dared to translate the work of a legend. I pray i matched up even 1% of the original.]