This book caught the attention of the public after the government banned it on its publication for obscenity. The authorities, not only destroyed the printed books, but also managed to remove the manuscript. It was much later, that the high court removed the ban on the book. Now, I did not know all these details upon buying the book. On my attempt to read many post Tagore Bengali writers, his name also figured and this was the first book that I could get my hands on. It is surprising that the book is banned for obscenity, as it does not dwell into any descriptive scenes or writing of pornographic nature that calls for ban for obscenity. I am reading the translation and have no idea of the original in Bengali, to comment on the ban. However, I can understand the furor it could have created in the 'externally' conservative and prejudiced Indian society. It explores the subject of extra-marital affair, infidelity and questions the fundamental believes of the institution called marriage. 50 years back, an explicit take on these subject, and in a way not condemning but sympathising with those suffocating within the constraints of family life.
It’s over—it happened—there’s nothing more to say. I, Maloti Mukherji, someone’s wife, and someone’s mother—I did it. Did it with Jayanto. Jayanto wanted me, and I him … How did it happen? Easy. In fact I don’t know why it didn’t happen before—I’m surprised at my self-restraint, at Jayanto’s patience.'.. starts the novel. Maloti and Nayonangshu (Anghshu) are married for over 14 years and are living in a Kolkata apartment with their daughter. Both are now into their thirties and the drift in their married life has culminated at the above sentence. Anghshu, a man of words, translator, writer and academic ( which he resigned for a better paying job at the advertising world), married Maloti, who was his student once upon a time. Highly polished man, in thoughts and manners, with friends in the high and intellectual circuit, who frequent his house. Maloti, whose admiration for his intellect , his social status and his attractive physical features ( good looking young man, whom her classmates competed to win over) , found herself disappointed with him as the time progresses. Her needs as a women and wife, the need of mind and the body to be cajoled and caressed, to have her desired addressed and met, found no reciprocation from her husband. As it can be expected, a friend of her husband, who one among the many who frequented their house, was the one who seems to have understood her and her needs. His moderate look, shabby dressing, a social status of not so great value , did not deter her from pursuing the relationship.
Angshu returns home late that night amidst pouring rain, only to find his wife in the bed post her misadventure with her lover. Her dress in disarray , 'saree' inadequately covering her body, her jacket and inner garments thrown around over 'his' bed. Man of wisdom ( or of cowardice) , he strategically move into the bathroom, giving her ample time to recover her modesty and regroup. The sleepless night that followed, with both husband and wife staring into the void, with rain lashing on the outside, each trying to find solace in their own reminiscence trying to justify their position. Alternating the narrative voice between the husband and wife, Buddhadev Bose travel through through their minds and their life with such sensitivity and empathy. Each persons point of view is so convincing, as the readers swing from one position to the other sympathising with both husband and wife.
Buddhadev Bose has done a tremendous job in treating this subject with utmost care and capacity. It is easy to get carried away, making it a tear-jerker or a silly writing on sexual infidelity. Instead, he portrayed the sensitive area of husband -wife relationship, the question of marital love and intimacy, the onslaught of desire and passion, the need of body and mind in any married life. These are the subject a conservative society of India refused to discuss for a long time ( Well, not in the early ages, but mostly towards the second half of last millennium ). While the situation is much improved of late, as a society, we are much reserved even today on matters related to such. Millions and millions of silent sufferers continue to live even in the modern days.
It is not the then controversial theme, that is the real attraction in this book. It is the might of his pen, the smooth silky writing of restrained and sensitive portrayal of two tormented souls. The writing (translation included) is very balanced on both the sides, never once breach the lines of decency, yet retaining the sensuality as needed. No glorifying of the actions, nor being judgmental. The translation retained most of the fragrances of the Bengali Language. Fascinating short novel.
It Rained All Night (1967 )
Buddhadeva Bose ( translated from Bengali by Clinton B Seely 1973)