A New Translation of a Tagore Story Plus a
Link to an Excellent Source of Bengali Short Stories
Tagore shorter fiction are often on the border between the parable and the short story. A few days ago I was happy to get a notice from Parabash that they had just posted a special edition devoted to Tagore which included a brand new translation of one of his stories, "The New Doll".
As "The New Doll" opens we meet an eighty year old man who makes dolls for royal princesses. We are at the annual doll festival held in the royal court yard where all of the doll makers of the region always defer to the eighty year old man. This year a new craftsmen has entered the event. To the older man he seems to lack discipline.
"However, new times meant new demands. Today’s princesses say, “We want these dolls.”The followers of old times said, “Arre! What bad taste!”
This only increased the obstinacy of the younger lot.
Crowds didn’t flock the old man’s stall this year. His dolls sat inside the basket and kept gazing wistfully like people waiting for a boat to reach the other shore.
A year passed by, then two; everyone forgot the old man’s name. Kishanlal became the master craftsman at the royal doll fair."
The old man can no longer make a living from his dolls so his daughter and son-in-law invite him to live with them where he will keeps wandering cows out of their garden. He has a sixteen year old granddaughter he loves with all his heart. One day the girl asks him to make her a doll. He reluctantly agrees to make her one after he tells her he is no longer considered the master doll maker. He begins to get into making dolls again when his daughter, whom he is very much afraid off, tells him he is neglecting his duties in the garden at that his granddaughter at 16 is too old for dolls (girls were entered into arranged marriages at less than 16).
The granddaughter shocks her mother by selling the doll for a gold rupee. Now the daughter has a bit of respect for the doll maker. She tells her daughter if she can sell 16 dolls it will be enough to buy her daughter a gold necklace to wear at her wedding. To the old man she is just a little child and he cannot conceive her getting married. One by one the granddaughter is able to sell the dolls. She presents her shocked mother with 16 rupees to buy her a wedding necklace. The mother tells her all that is missing now is the groom. The granddaughter says she has the groom. It seems when she went to the doll fair for the first time she was told the doll would not sell because it was too old fashioned. She was leaving the festival in tears when the man who had replaced her grandfather as master doll maker to the royal family saw her and told her he would fix her dolls up in the modern style so they could be sold. The girl and the man fell in love and now he is being presented to the old doll maker.
"The old man asked, “Where is he?”
“There, under the Piyal tree,” replied the granddaughter.
The groom-to-be entered the room; the old man said, “Arre! This is Kishanlal!”
Kishanlal touched the old man’s feet and said, “Yes, I am Kishanlal.”
The old man embraced him tight and said, “My dear, one day you had snatched my hand's doll, now you are taking away the doll of my life.
The granddaughter put her arms around the old man’s neck and whispered to him, “Dada, with you in tow.”
"The New Doll' is a simple touching story about the love of an old man and his granddaughter.