When it comes to true love it is said that it is not what is verbally expressed that matters but it is the unspoken word that truly matters and there is no better novella than “Parineeta” written by the great Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay that reflects this old adage quite beautifully. The title of the novella Parineeta which means “The Married Woman” in English is quite aptly used to describe the protagonist of the book Lalita. This book was basically written originally in Bengali which was then translated into Gujarati, Marathi, and English.
The basic plot of the book is based in early Twentieth Century Kolkata or Calcutta as it was known then. This beautiful story begins with the protagonist a 13-year-old Lalita and her intense bittersweet romance with a much older Shekhar who happens to be her neighbor and also with whom she has spent her entire childhood. The young Lalita is an orphaned young girl who lives with her uncle Gurcharan who acts as her guardian. Unfortunately for Gurcharan who has five daughters’s of his own and as a result needs money to pay for all his daughter’s dowries which forces him to take a loan from Shekar’s greedy father Nabin Roy. It is under such circumstances that a beautiful unspoken romance begins to bloom Lalita and Shekhar. Everything is fine between the childhood sweethearts’s until Girin a mild mannered bachelor who is the cousin of Manorma the mother of Charu who is Lalita’s neighbor and childhood friend. This unexpected entry of Girin who also shows interest in Lalita causes an egoistic Shekhar to feel jealous and irritable towards Lalita. To add more fuel to the fire Shekhar’s father and Gurcharan have a serious fall out due monetary issues which causes Shekar’s father to build a wall between their houses and completely stop contact with Lalita’s family. These complications forces the lover’s to stray apart and finally meet years later under emotional circumstances
This book which is basically translated to English from Bengali by Malobika Chaudhuri who has done a wonderful job in not only using simple and, fluid English but also in retaining the real essence of the beautiful romance between Lalita and Shekhar i.e. unspoken love. What this book also quite beautifully reflects are the issues that existed during the early twentieth century in India such as caste, religion, child marriage. Especially the issue of child marriage has been handled quiet sensitively throughout the book without ever making too obvious for the reader. As this story is essentially written in the form of a novella the narrative is extremely fluid and thus making it an engaging and a quick read and total credit must go to the great Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay for this. What the novelist also has managed to depict quite beautifully is that true love can withstand any barrier it faces. So be it religion, caste, age difference, family status etc it can overcome it all no matter how difficult the situation may seem.
With this novella gaining a reputation of being a true Bengali classic in the world of Indian literature over the year’s one must certainly admit that it certainly deserves to be considered among the classics. With beautiful romance as a plot set and a conservative Indian society acting as the background this novella is certainly a must read for genuine book lovers especially if it happens to be a beautiful rainy Sunday afternoon.
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