Housewife by Rabindranath Tagore

All of us have our share of embarrassing moments when we are ashamed to such an extent that death seems a sweeter option than the bitter humdrum existence. It may be a disastrous job interview, a guffaw in front of your relatives, or a rash judgement resulting in mortifying discomfort! As an adult, there are lacs of situations which constantly bring their rewards and punishments.

Thankfully, God has gifted us with a wonderful fickle memory, that refuses to accumulate tragic events and tries to balm the sore injuries by simply forgetting bad memories, while cherishing the happier ones for years to come. But, if the inauspicious moment arrives in someone’s student life, and that too at the behest of a teacher, it becomes psychologically frustrating and emotionally appalling for the poor child.

Housewife (Ginni in Bangla) by Tagore is one such story that revolves around such an unlucky boy, Ashu who became victim of an insensitive teacher Shibanath. The teacher has a very frustrating habit of name calling his students. He often twists their names in a non savory manner, which though entertaining for himself and fellow mates, is deeply hurtful to the unfortunate name bearer. Sibanath, though Tagore says nothing about his background, seems to suffer from some deep rooted complexes and derives sinister pleasure out of boys’ discomforts, and it is this specific trait, which is highlighted by the writer in the present story.

The protagonist of the story, Ashu is his newest victim. Apparently, he is a shy reticent fellow, introvert enough to shun his classmates, private enough to conceal his familial matters and sensitive enough to be hurt by slightest insult, in short, a perfect target for bullies. One day, Shibanath gives him the name of ‘Ginni’ literally Daughter-in-law or Housewife.

Though, the teacher thinks nothing of calling him by a feminine salutation, it is deeply humiliating for a teenage boy, who is marked for life with a sissy image. Docile Ashu is exposed in front of all his classmates, as the teacher laughingly teases him by this name, all because he has seen the boy helping his younger sister in doll marriage!

Before I read this story, I always thought a bully to be a socially misfit burly boy, who hurls abuses and exerts physical violence on smaller, weaker boys. But, Housewife changed my entire perception. A callous teacher can far surpass all the hurts caused by a fellow mate.

And, as I talked about this story with my colleagues, they actually recollected their own versions of such adult bullies. Perhaps, Tagore himself experienced or observed such treatment being meted out to others, and his sensitive mind never allowed him to attend a formal school. He sincerely believed in honing one’s natural talent instead of hammering some crammed phrases into the delicate brain of a child.

Housewife gives us a glimpse into Tagore’s views and his possible experience with obtuse pedants. The present story highlights a common yet obscure problem that probably, played a vital role in creation of Shanti Niketan, as the seat of unconventional knowledge.

A very short but thought provoking story!

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