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“The Punishment” by Rabindranath Tagore

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The story ‘Punishment’ written by Rabindranath Tagore is a poignant story about two brothers and their wives, and the relationship each of them shared with one another. It is a heart rendering tale about conflicting emotions.

The story starts when the two brothers Dukhiram and Chidam return home in the village after a long, hard day at work. They find their respective wives sitting in the verandah with the elder wife’s little son, eerily quiet. It appears that the ever quarrelling sister-in-laws had fought yet once again. Famished and extremely tried, the elder brother Dukhiram demands his food from his wife, Radha. Unexpectantly, taunts her husband by saying that there is no food in the house and asks is she should go out on the streets to earn it. Dukhiram, infuriated by his wife’s remarks, suddenly grabs the farm knife and without thinking plunges it into her head. She died in a few minutes. Chidam and his wife, Chandara were left stunned. Dukhiram, himself was stunned by his actions.

The brothers were long pending on their house rent, and their landlord, Ramlochan, untimely arrived at their home that evening. He saw Radha lying dead on the floor and Chidam, impulsively said that his wife had killed Radha in a flash of fury. Ramlochan was astounded. Chidam realized the mess he had got himself into. In order to save his brother he had put the life of his wife, whom he loved a lot, in danger. He pleaded with Ramlochan to help him out. Even though Chidam wanted to save his brother, he loved his wife passionately and wanted to save her but when Chandara saw what her husband had done, she was dumbfounded. She too, loved her husband a lot and could not believe what he had done

Chidam and Chandara were very well-matched to each other. They both were very good looking and recognized each others faults very well. Chandara suffered great shock from her husband’s deeds. In her mind, she decided that death-which she would get for the crime she did not commit, would be better than going back to her husband who was ready to sacrifice her for the sake of his brother. She was determined not to go back to her husband and begged the judge, when the case was taken to the Sessions court, to sentence her to death. Chandara’s pride did not allow her to return to her husband.

Chidam was greatly troubled by his wife’s behaviour. He regretted his hasty decision and by and by the real story came out in court. But the judge did not believe the real story thinking that it was a farce to save Chandara. Thus, a proud, guiltless, innocent woman was sent to the gallows at the cost of her husband’s impetuous decision.

The story is ironic in the sense that when Chandara’s father had married her off to Chidam, he was satisfied that his fun-loving, innocent daughter had a bright and happy future. He did not imagine it would end up in the noose. Chandara’s destiny coursed her way from a promising, happy life in the village to the silence of death. Destiny played the biggest role in Chandara’s life who could have led a long, satisfying life which was instead cut short by the untimely death sentence she was pronounced.

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