22 December 2015

Rajmohan's wife

In the busy humdrum of day to day living, do we end up losing ourselves in life's labyrinth? Or do we unknowingly, ( notwithstanding our choices ), gravitate towards a pre ordained conclusion? How much of life is ruled by fate and how much can we succeed in forging our own destiny? 

Rajmohan's wife abounds in all of these and more. 

On a foggy December evening, I found her in one of the bookshelves in BCL; hard pressed and jostled amidst the overpowering presence of works of Elizabethan bards. Like a fish out of water she gasped for space and I picked her up. "First Indian novel in English", ( the first work of the author in English literature) the book cover read. The thin ribbed book, wrapped in scraps of antique cover, and with yellow, dog-eared pages offered a rather bland first impression...

But appearances can be deceptive and one should never judge a book by its cover !

The novel was serialized in 1864, in the weekly serial edited by Kishori Chandra Mitra
A moving narrative of the life of a women trapped in the mud-bricked domestic, confines of 19th century patriarchal society, Matangini dwindles in the cross currents of deliverance from her marital bondage and the responsibilities that life has pinned her down with.

The Legend

Bruised with blows from invoking the wrath of her husband-Rajmohan, Matangini, lying in a pool of tears ruminates about her life; how the sails of destiny blew her up to this foreign shore, married to a man she hardly knew. The colourful memories of the salad days of her life spent with her sister Hemangini clouded her mind, when suddenly outside the little window in her room she hears voices- one uncannily familiar! What does the voices outside her window reveal? Or so eavesdropping, is she able to foil a cataclysmic endeavour without compromising her husband's modesty?

The sudden employment of archaic language just to convey romance and the abrupt ending makes it  somewhat stilted. However the book is unique for its portrayal of women in the olden days and the strong, resilient character of the heroine who fights against the caprices of the society and who's undaunted spirit manifests itself in the challenges she throws at her captor:

"Look; I am a full grown woman and atleast your equal in brute force. Will you call in allies?"

Bankimchandra's vivid descriptions of the routine of Bengali household provides a revealing portrait of life in 19th century. Rajmohan's wife continues to be relevant for its universal themes of love and romance and resonates even today for its portrayal of strong women"

The book jacket sums up its entirety in a nutshell: " The beautiful and passionate Matangini, married to a villainous man and in love with her sister's husband, represents the vitality of women who remain strong in the face of brutality and the confining expectations of middle class society."

                    Happy Reading. :)


A staunch bibliophile, a travel-head and an occasional painter, Ahona Das is pursuing her graduation in English
from Presidency University, Kolkata. The columnist for ExPRESS Magazine is very interested in photography as well.

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