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Dui bon (Two sisters) – Stories by Rabindranath Tagore (7)

Dui bon (Two sisters) - Stories by Rabindranath Tagore

At the onset, the outline of the story, Dui Bon (Two sisters) reminds one of the story of Nashtanirh (The Broken Nest), but with the genders of the protagonists changed. Nashtanirh is about a woman falling for her husband’s brother because of the common interests and rapport they shared; whereas Dui bon is about a man who falls in love with his wife’s sister with whom he shares his innermost thoughts and easily gels with. At the end the brother and sister in the respective stories realise the complexities of their situations and leave to pursue their individual goals. The similarities between the stories end there.

Dui bon talks about what qualities a man seeks in his wife. As per the Sanskrit shloka in Neeti Shastra, an ideal wife is one who has six virtues. The shloka goes, ‘Karyeshu daasi, karaneshu mantri, bhojeshu mata, sayanesha Rambha, roopeshu Lakshmi, kshamaya Dharitri, shat dharma yukta, kula dharmapatni’. As per this shloka, an ideal wife is one who is hardworking, advises as a minister would, feeds like a mother, gives pleasure and happiness like the heavenly danceuse Rambha, charming like Goddess Lakshmi, forgiving like Mother Earth. In all, a complete woman who would contribute to a happily married life in all ways.

However, in reality, what are the chances that a woman would possess each and every quality mentioned above? It would be a very rare occurrence. But yet, perhaps the man might still seek each and every quality from his wife. Dui bon is a story that highlights such a need of a man.

Shashank is a happily married engineer working with the British government and is awaiting a promotion. His wife, Sharmila, dotes on him, taking care of his every need including food and clothing, so much that Shashank is completely depended on her for every little thing and sometimes he gets a motherly scolding from her for his forgetfulness. But her over protectiveness does get to him, especially when he is spending a relaxing time out with his friends during late evenings and Sharmila sends him a message through their servant, to come home as it is already late. Sharmila is constantly worried about her husband. She feels he is like a little child who must be taken care of. Even since she had met him, she had always wanted to marry him, take care of him and keep him protected.

Shashank has a friendly and comfortable relationship with his wife’s sister Urmi, with whom he shares his penchant for playing tennis and other games and often shares jokes and light moments with her. Urmi is an aspiring doctor engaged to be married to Nirad, another aspiring doctor. She aims to fulfill her late father’s wish of working for their hospital so that it could help the poor and needy.

Nirad was her late brother’s friend. Her brother, also a doctor, had succumbed to an illness leaving their father shattered. Their father, a rich man, had built the hospital for his son, so that he could fulfill his dream of taking the hospital forward and making it among the best in the city. Post his son’s death, it was Nirad who stood by him and gave him moral support. Therefore, before passing away, he fixed Urmi’s alliance with Nirad, so that they could jointly take forward the dream that he had for the hospital.

Sharmila and Urmi’s father had identified the talent of an orphaned young Shashank, providing for his educational needs and later giving his daughter Sharmila in marriage to him. Because of this, Shashank is always filled with a sense of gratitude towards his father-in-law and Sharmila and thus, not able to open up to his wife the way he would have liked to. His only source of satisfaction and the happiness derived therein, is his work – his job as an engineer, where it is his own hard work that is put in and not somebody’s mercy.

But this happiness is only short lived, when the promotion due to him is given to another British officer. Shashank is disappointed and depressed which outpours into his behaviour when he turns irritating and angry, shouting at his servants for flimsy reasons. Sharmila, noticing this change in her husband’s behaviour soon finds out the reason and advices her husband to quit his job and start a business, partnering with her uncle who is in the construction business. Sharmila’s rich father had left her some property and a hefty amount in her bank account. She proposes to Shashank to use this money as investment. However, Shashank agrees to take it only as a loan.

Shashank and Nirad dislike each other, but remain cordial when they are face to face. Nirad feels that Shashank has no self-respect, for he unabashedly enjoys his father-in-law’s wealth and property and has no qualms in accepting money from his wife. On the other hand, Shashank feels that Nirad is not the right choice for Urmi, he imposes too many restrictions on her, preventing her from the little things that she enjoys doing.

Meanwhile, Nirad and Urmi’s applications to get enrolled in a University in London is accepted. However, Nirad asks Urmi to stay back for the hospital’s sake and leaves for London. Before he leaves, Urmi offers him money to meet expenses, which he refuses saying that he is not shameless like her brother-in-law.

Shashank is soon engrossed in his work, putting the best he could, doing things that give him satisfaction and completing the project successfully. His happiness knows no bound when he returns the loan that he took from his wife. He had always felt burdened with gratitude. This extra burden, he wouldn’t have been able to carry for long. A rare sense of freedom enters his being.

Urmi pays a visit to her elder sister who has not been keeping well for some time. Sharmila would earlier fall sick occasionally, but now her frequency of illness had increased. Her doctor suggests her to keep herself happy, that would be more than enough to bring her back to normal health. But Sharmila’s source of happiness has been her husband, who has been spending more hours at work and less at home. Shashank’s obsession with his work and his resolve to return his wife’s money as early as possible has resulted in him working harder and spending lesser time with his wife. His timings too became erratic, putting Sharmila’s routine off course. She had been getting up at odd hours and sleeping at odd hours, so that she could take care of Shashank’s food and other needs. This started taking a toll on her health.

SBRT - Dui Bon - 4 (1)

With Urmi’s visit, Sharmila feels a little better. She asks her to spend some days with them.Urmi too had been feeling lonely. After refusing to take money from her, Nirad himself wrote a letter to her from London, asking her to send money as it was hard to meet expenses with just the scholarship amount. Urmi was habitual with this twin nature of his and sent him the money. Urmi had always been in awe of her brother-in-law because of his hardworking and joyful nature, an adulation which Nirad always resented. He wasn’t mean like Nirad, but was straight forward and good natured.

Soon, Urmi receives another letter from Nirad, acknowledging the receipt of the money and that he would return it as soon as possible. However, since it would take him five years to finish his degree and return to India, he wouldn’t want Urmi to wait for him. Also, he was getting married to his British colleague, so their engagement now stands cancelled. More than feeling a sense of shock after reading the letter, Urmi felt a sense of relief and Shashank and Urmi erupt into laughter when they imagine Nirad getting married to a British girl.

With Sharmila bedridden, Urmi and Shashank spend more time together talking about their lives, likes & dislikes, their innermost feelings, etc, bringing them closer than they would have ever thought they could be. So much that Shashank starts ignoring his work to spend more time with Urmi, resulting in a huge loss at work.

Sharmila is not unaware of the closeness that her husband and sister have started to share. Her health keeps deteriorating, her source of happiness, her husband, is going farther away from her. Meanwhile her uncle visits her to complain about the loss at work and the carelessness that Shashank had been showing towards his work of late. Sharmila makes some decisions and with the help of her uncle, she mortgages her jewellery and property to help repay the losses and start the business afresh. She asks her uncle not to reveal about it to Shashank for she knew he would feel burdened again. Meanwhile, Sharmila requests Shashank to take Urmi as his second wife because all she wants is their happiness. Also, with her ill health and no hope of recovering, she would be at peace that her beloved husband is in good hands.

Urmi had overheard her uncle tell her sister that Shashank had been ignoring the business since a month, exactly the same time since she had been living at her sister’s house. She had already started realising that her continuous intrusion into her sister’s life has caused enough loss, monetarily as well as psychologically. Her sister now wants Urmi to take her place in Shashank’s life. The bond she shared with Shashank, perhaps was a natural outcome of their closeness. But her sister’s life was too precious. Her ailing elder sister’s poignant request leaves Urmi shattered from within. A realisation dawns on her that her sister needs her husband more than ever and she leaves. Her ambition of fulfilling her father’s wishes for their hospital now becomes the centre focus of her life and she leaves for England to complete her education.

On the other hand, Shashank too is perplexed when his wife asks him to marry her sister. Meanwhile, he glances upon the business accounts and realises that there has been a huge loss. He visits Sharmila’s uncle to ask for forgiveness and that he would work hard to repay the losses. It is then that her uncle reveals about Sharmila mortgaging her jewellery and property to repay the losses and invest in a bigger project. Shashank realises how selfish he had been all along. Sharmila had always wished for his well being and happiness. She had even taken care that if she passed away, there would be Urmi and her property to take care of him. Her love for him was unconditional and all she sought from him was his love. He apologises to Sharmila and resolves to take care of her, provide the best medication, give her lots of love and bring her back to normal. He returns her mortgaged jewellery and property papers and vows to work hard and keep his wife happy on his own merit.

Dui bon is a complex story, because of the complexities of the characters. Each bound by their own mindset and seeking happiness within that bounded frame. It is not easy to portray such characters on screen, without making them look good or bad. But Basu has managed to steer clear of those shades and keeping them as real as they can be.

 

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6 Comments

  • Popliarchana@hotmail.com'
    Reply
    Archana popli
    February 15, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    Relationships have so many layers and each relation opens a different emotion .you shown the complexity of friendship and the bonds it brings beautifully you also shown a wife unconditional love for her husband ,it was a very heartening story

  • Reply
    DurgaS
    February 16, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for commenting Archana. Tagore has written some great stories revolving around characters and their complexities. Dui bon goes deep down into the psyche of these characters. I haven’t read much of Tagore’s works, but this series on Epic Channel has introduced me to some amazing stories.

  • Popliarchana@hotmail.com'
    Reply
    Archana popli
    February 17, 2016 at 4:20 am

    I have read his geetanjali ,it in poetry form also see this movie the Japanese wife it was directed by aparna sen ,one of the finest movies ever made based on a poem Tagore ,have you read his stories ,one of them is set in Afghanistan it’s called “the Kabuliwallah “.

    • Reply
      DurgaS
      February 17, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      I hope someday I get to read Geetanjali. I have heard of the Japanese wife. I had read Kabuliwala in school, perhaps that must have been a shortened version. Anyway, Kabuliwala was also shown in the above series and I have written about it. You can read it at https://writersbrew.com/2015/08/kabuliwala-stories-by-rabindranath-tagore/

      Dui bon is the seventh post I made about ‘Stories by Rabindranath Tagore’. If you click on the tab #StoriesbyRabindranathTagore given under the post, it will take you to the previous posts.

  • Popliarchana@hotmail.com'
    Reply
    Archana popli
    February 19, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Thanks I look it up sometime ,happy writing

    • Reply
      DurgaS
      February 24, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks 🙂

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