Translated by Joyasree Mukerji
A collection of short stories, She gives us a glimpse of some of the women in Rabindranath Tagore’s writing. Through these stories we also come to know the social conditions in which women were placed.
The treatment of women and their position in society was of serious concern to Tagore.
The violence, both psychological and physical, against women in Bengali society was all-pervasive, cutting across class, caste, rural and urban divide. Its functioning was sometimes blatant but often subtle, insidious and invisible. What was worse was that society as a whole, even the women, seemed to have got used to this slow poisoning without realizing the effect it cumulatively had on it.
Tagore saw in the women of his country an immense wealth – their courage against all odds, their power of survival under the worst possible conditions and oppression, their forbearance, their self-sacrifice and gentleness. It pained him to see such colossal waste of so much human treasure.
Through his stories and novels he wanted to shape public opinion, personal beliefs and the society’s self-perception. He wishes to bring out into the open, and consciously and critically look at, the position of women in Indian society.
Joyasree Mukerji, the translator of this collection, was born in the same riverlands of rural East Bengal – now Bangladesh – where Rabindranath Tagore spent some of the best years of his life, and wrote some of his best short stories. She studied in Calcutta where, as she puts it, she “learnt to dream in English.” But at home, in holidays, she was introduced at a very young age to Bengali literature and particularly to Tagore’s writings.
Being a woman of the same social fabric, she identifies completely with the women in Tagore’s writings. “That is why”, she says, “that I have dared to undertake the stupendous task of translating the master writer’s stories of women, the eternal She.”
Rabindranath Tagore. Translated from the Bengali by Joyasree Mukerji