I have been spell-bound by Tagore’s poems before, but this one, ‘Choker Bali’ is better than the best. His magic brush paints the intricate characters to life effortlessly and the book holds you in its grip long after you have finished reading it.

Choker Bali means a grain of sand lodged in the eye, an irritant.. and this is the name the two female protagonists of the story give each other.

This story is about Bindoini, the young and beautiful widow, who takes shelter in the home of Rajlakshmi, which also houses Rajlakshmi’s newly married son Mahendra and daughter-in-law Ashalata. The newly wed love birds become a thorn in Binodini’s life, which has been denied of all conjugal bliss.

The other characters that add to the story are Behari, the stable and loyal childhood friend of Mahindra, who without realising is in love with Asha. He is the epitome of inner control and dutiful son, while Mahin is lost in his false presumptions of power and lust.

Bindoini embodies the polarities of both the whore and the virgin, she is temptress, the seductress who seduces Mahindra into an extra marital affair, but her respect, love and loyalty always lie towards Behari.

This novel explores the white, gray and the darkest shades of love, spirituality in the form of Annapurna (the pious aunt of Mahindra.). The beautiful and pure love offered by Asha, the child-woman who is yet to learn the intricacies of marriage, love and household chores. The possessive love of the mother is brought out through Rajlakshmi. But it is on the slender and beautiful shoulders of Binodini that this story is carried..

My words can never do justice to a story of this calibre. Pick up a copy and read it yourself. Go on a roller coaster ride with Bindoini as I try to catch the movie by Rituparno Gosh sometime, and I can already imagine Aishwarya Rai stunningly fitting the role of Binodini or Binod as she is addressed by Mahindra..

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