Of Women, Outcastes, Peasants, and Rebels: A Selection of Bengali Short Stories

By Kalpana Bardhan | Go to book overview

The Old Woman

Manik Bandyopadhyay


1

It is a very important day for the old woman. It is the wedding day of her eldest great-grandson, her son’s son’s son, not a small triumph for her. The home, full of family and relatives, is humming with the busy activities one expects on a wedding day. She is not doing anything, and they are busily going about without paying much attention to her, the way the busy activities in a king’s palace go about without involving the king. That is how it seems to her.

She thinks she is present, directly or indirectly, in everything that is going on in the house on this occasion, just as she feels she is present in all the daily activities, the collective life of the household. For sixty years she has been there, the roots and branches of her existence alive with other lives so totally accustomed to her presence that they are oblivious to it. She is like the big old tree on the west side of the big room in the house; its branches are full of birds busily chirping throughout the day, and it can be heard creaking with the wind in the dead of night.

The old woman sits in her usual corner of the porch with her many torn quilts of rag and the bundle that she uses as a pillow. The joints are all rusty, the spine is bent forward, the hair flaxen, the skin loose and wrinkled, the mouth toothless, the cheeks sunken, and the eyes dim with cataract. Seems so very old. But when she walks slowly with the help of a stick, one can see, if one looks closely, that there is strength in the skin-covered bones of her hand. When she shouts, one can tell that there is strength in her lungs. Most of the time, however, she spends lying down or sitting in her corner, talk-

“Boodi” appears in Uttarkaler Galpa Sangraha, ed. Pijush Dasgupta (Calcutta: National Book
Agency, 1963), 42-46.

-148-

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Of Women, Outcastes, Peasants, and Rebels: A Selection of Bengali Short Stories
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • The Living and the Dead 51
  • The Punishment 62
  • The Girl in between 72
  • Haimanti 84
  • Letter from a Wife 96
  • The Witch 110
  • Variation on "The Witch"- An Excerpt 124
  • The Unlucky Woman 128
  • A Tale of These Days 135
  • The Old Woman 148
  • A Female Problem at a Low Level 152
  • Paddy Seeds 158
  • Dhowli 185
  • The Funeral Wailer 206
  • Strange Children 229
  • The Witch-Hunt 242
  • Giribala 272
  • The Daughter and the Oleander 290
  • In Search of Happiness 299
  • Through Death and Life 304
  • A Day in Bhushan’s Life 322
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