"Nishikanata in the Rain" (1999, 4 pages) by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay
Two Very Interesting Stories by
Contemporary Authors from
Bangladesh was created in 1971 when East Pakistan declared its independence from West Pakistan. A terrible war broke out in which the materially advantaged West Pakistan caused terrible suffering to the common people of what is now Bangladesh. To compound the suffering one of the worse typhoons in history struck the area in the same period killing upwards of 300,000 people. Estimates for the death tolls for the war very widely, the best estimate appears to be around one million either directly by conflict or from resulting famines and disease. The army of West Pakistan made a systematic effort to kill intellectuals and writers. (There is a good article about the 1971 Bangladesh War for Independence HERE)
"Nishikanata in the Rain" by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay reminded me of the long term human costs of war in terms of its effect on forgotten people who will suffer effects all their lives and eventually live out their days among people who may no longer even recall the war. The central character in this short story is a seemingly mentally challenged man in his early twenties. No one really quite knows what is wrong with him or who his family might be. Most people in Bangladesh now have been born long after the war ended and have only partially heard of it or know much about what happened. We see the man wishes he could have a wife and is told by someone who takes gross advantage of him that even a beggar can easily find a wife. In a terrible scene we see into the nightmares of the young man as he remembers a long ago riot in which 1000s were killed, maybe including his parents. He was very young when this happened and was thrown out on his own. One of the most terrible long term human consequences of events like the 1971 war is the massive long term undernourishment of infants and toddlers which can result in a significant lowering of mental development for 1000s and 1000s of people.
Mukhopadhyay (1935-Birrampur, Bangladesh) wrote numerous adult and children's books. Severall of his novels have been made into movies. He is one of the most popular writers in Bangladesh.
"The Mango Belle" by Paritosh Sen is a very different kind of story. It centers on a successful artist and an extremely rich patron of the arts. I have noticed in the South Asian Short Stories I have read that a number of them deal with super rich people. I think it may be that such stories sell well in a place of terrible poverty and they evoke a treasured half mythical history. The artist is famous for his very beautiful erotic paintings of women. Beautiful women are treated as part of the "entitlements" of the rich. The artist constantly compares the women he paints to various kinds of fruit. He receives a very large offer from the wealthy patron to paint a woman who will remind all of the beauty and sweetness of the mango. (Mangoes are a fruit of the tropics and little eaten outside the very warm parts of the world which kind of localizes this story a bit. The mango is the sweetest and most luscious of fruits. The world's best Mangoes are grown in Zambales!) The artist goes into detail how different women are like different kinds of fruit. A lot of the fun of this story is in fantasying what it would be like to live like a prince in a country of terrible poverty. This is not a real profound or heavy story and does not pretend to be one but for sure it is a fun read and gives us a look at a world very different from the one most of live in.
Sen (1918 to 2008-Dhaka, Bangladesh) was a leading artist who also produced a number of highly regarded literary works.
Both of these stories were translated from Bengali.
You can find both of the stories Here