This novel which in the original Bengali is known as Chokher Bali (lit. Eyesore) was first published in 1902. It is the first modern novel in Bengali and, one might say, in Indian literature-which is not to say that no novels were written in Bengali or other Indian languages before it. The credit of being the first great novelist in modern Indian literature must belong to Tagore's predecessor, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, whose novels laid the foundation of this form of literature in modern India. Tagore himself had written two earlier novels in the 'eighties of the last century in which Bankim's influence is clearly discernible. But these novels, whether Tagore's or Bankim's, can hardly be called modern in any true sense of the word. They are historical romances or social melodramas or a mixture of both, and while they can be still read with delight, they have little to do with life as commonly lived in contemporary India.
Though primarily a poet, it was Rabindranath Tagore who paved the way for the truly modern novel in India, whether realistic or psychological or concerned with social problems. And he began it with Chokher Bali.
The story is simple and is simply told. It centres round the problem of human relationship and tells of what happens behind the staid façade of a well-to-do, middle class Bengali home of the period, where a widowed mother lives with her only son on whom she dotes. One would imagine that nothing much ever happens in a home like that, and in fact nothing happens that may not happen in any Indian home. And yet passions, heroic and savage, are roused within hearts seemingly lowly and battles rage until the home is nearly burnt down without flame or . . .