Stories of Jibanananda Das
I completed reading the collected short stories of Jibanananda Das. He is regarded as the greatest poet of Bengal after Tagore. Many years after his death, manuscripts of his prose works were discovered, and it seems the volume of prose works comes more than that of his poetry. Unemployment, poverty, love, memories, nostalgia, love towards nature and all animals - these are the basic theme and underlying vision of all the stories in this collection, and the preface says that they are almost autobiographical. May be because of this, I felt like the same characters are appearing in all stories even though their names are different. I felt two of the stories are very beautiful and liked them.
In "In the Company of Ghosts" (Pretnir Rupkatha), the main character, Sukumar, is traveling to Calcutta looking for a job. He meets an old friend in the boat and they talk about old incidents and stories. His thoughts eventually are drifted to a love affair he was having fourteen years ago. He remembers traveling in the same boat in a night and sitting in station watching outline of Binata's face in the flickering penumbra of the kerosene lamp. Jibanananda Das uses simple sentences and straight-forward narration, for e.g.., Sukumar thinks of Binata: "...There are times when she comes to my mind quite unexpectedly. I don't speak about her with anyone - her face rises before me quietly and in solitude. My memory of her is a very private thing. She might care nothing for me if I meet her today, yet I do want to see her again. It has been so long since I last saw her...". These sentences reminded me of the Malayalam short stories written by Uroob and Karoor depicting "aesthetic love".
In the story "The Return" (Nirupam Jatra), the main character Prabhath is in Calcutta in search for job. He has been there for four years, and couldn't get a permanent job yet. He survives with some temporary jobs like giving tuition to school students etc., and couldn't afford to visit home even once. He was having a dog called "Ketu" at home. When she was small, Prabhath had once thrown her from the verandah to the courtyard in a sudden burst of anger, and she broke her leg. The bone didn't mend and Ketu had to limp after that. Prabhath is anxious about Ketu, and in every letter to home, he asks for the dog. But nobody take the queries seriously and don't event mention about the dog. He dreams of the dog sitting alone under the Jamun tree, staring at the empty road, waiting for him, and limping back to her resting place in the evening. What might she be thinking about him? Is she alive now? He doesn't know.