While I sit back in my room with a dim light which reaches me piercing the clouds with rain sputtering outside, I accidentally pull out a thin book from the stack over my table. It seems like my hands know the best thing to read at such day. What I grab is a fresh edition of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic Parineeta – the betrothed translated from Bengali by Subhransu Maitra and pleasantly published by Niyogi Books.
I flip through the first page, “When the Shaktishela struck him on the breast” and reach the deep alleys of Sarat Chandra’s careful carelessness where his words seem fluid, images turn sacrosanct and his narrative pull each thread of one’s heart and I suddenly realize the success of this translation cautiously done by Subhransu Maitra. I curiously finish the book (full of love, passion, trust, betrayal, catastrophe and faith) in one go and sit back resonating the musicality of this book.
Parineeta, the betrothed (1914) is the love story of Shekharnath and Lalita, set in early twentieth-century Bengal. Lalita is a thirteen-year-old orphan who lives with the family of her uncle Gurucharan. Gurucharan, though a principled man, is forced to take a loan from his neighbour Nabin Roy due to his impoverished circumstances. The two neighbouring families share a very cordial relationship despite Roy’s money-minded ways. Shekhar, Nabin Roy’s younger son has a bantering relationship with Lalita. As time passes, Shekhar and Lalita try to understand the true nature of their feelings. Meanwhile, tensions erupt between Shekhar’s father and Lalita’s uncle on the question of repayment of the old loan. The situation is further antagonized with the arrival of Girin, an eligible bachelor who is attracted to Lalita. A distance appears to build itself between the lovers. Much later, when an eighteen-year-old Lalita visits her old place one last time for selling Gurucharan’s house to Nabin Roy’s heirs, the story takes another unexpected turn.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (1876 – 1938), was an illustrious Bengali novelist and short story writer of early 20th century Bengal. Many of his stories narrate the lives, tragedies and struggles of the village people and the contemporary social practices that prevailed in Bengal. His writing matured at a time when the national movement was gaining momentum together with an awakening of social consciousness. Sensitive and daring, his novels captivated the hearts and minds of innumerable readers both in Bengal and in the rest of India. His best known novels include Palli Samaj (1916), Choritrohin (1917), Devdas (1917), Nishkriti (1917), Srikanta (1917), Datta (1918), Griha Daha (1920) and Sesh Prashna (1929). He remains the most popular, most translated, most adapted and most plagiarized Indian author of all time.
Subhransu Maitra, the person behind the translation of this book,was educated at Presidency College, Kolkata and Banaras Hindu University. He is now Superintendent, Publication at Netaji Subhas Open University, Kolkata. A distinguished translator, he translates modern Bengali literature into English.
Varsha Singh (M.Phil., Ph.D.) is an Independent Researcher, Critic, Poet, Translator and Editor from Jharkhand. She writes in English and Hindi. Along with being the Managing Editor of Reviews, she edits for several national and international journals.
Her published books include Deluges: A collection of poems, 2014, (Authorspress), Unbangled and other Poems, 2015, (Authorspress), Bhor – A Collection of Hindi Poems, 2016 (Authorspress), The Midnight’s Grandchildren: Articulating the Postmodern Spirit in English Fiction of India, 2017, (Authorspress), Parbati the traitor and other poems, 2017, (Authorspress), Recluse: Contemporary Verses, 2017 (Ed., Authorspress), Building Bridges: Kannada and Hindi Poetry (Co-authored, Upcoming in 2018 from Authorspress), A Transformative Poetic Art of DILIP MOHAPATRA (Ed., 2018, Authorspress). She has been widely featured in several journals, books and magazines.