Story-telling is actually balancing between telling and hiding: at the appropriate moment and to the necessary extent. Reveal too much, too soon, and the lifeblood of the story is drained away. What do they call the murder of one’s own child? Filicide. So, to avoid filicide, the writer needs to hide(I was going to type “parts of the story” but then decided to leave space for the “play” of meanings). But hiding too much may severe the telling part away from story-telling. That will be self-defeating. In telling the story of Chandra Bhaal Singh, I’ll try to reveal and conceal in a manner beneficial to the process of story telling and appreciation.
He was born to a father whose dual source of income had been reduced to around half by the time of his birth. Both his parents were from villages between Varanasi and Ghazipur. He was the fifth child of Kumar Sambhav and Kirti Prabha. His two elder brothers had died very young – both before he was born – due to meningitis. So, his parents were doubly protective towards this son of theirs. The father had christened his son Chandra Bhaal, that meant one whose forehead shines like the moon. Quite a name, a prophetic name, he thought – a name distinctive in itself. Kirti had no time for the name-fame-fortune projections her husband used to make. Her son’s being alive and healthy was cause enough for her to be happy.
Now, about Sambhav‘s sources of income: his father Chander Prakash had some agricultural land in his village, along with two mango and one guava orchards, from where used to come around one thousand rupees every year. That too at a time when one could buy pure ghee, enough to make parathas for two, in just one anna. They were rich, in a way, but that was not enough for Bhaal. He was restless and hated his identity that was fixed by his birth, time and locale. He broke through the bondages of birth and locale by altering one and inventing the other. He left his village for Kolkata, and, after some time, started writing “Singh” at the end of his name. His self-invention has a story of its own.
In the human ocean of Kolkata, no one had time for trifles like a stranger’s caste, unless they were going to dine with them, or offer their daughter’s hand to them in holy matrimony. Sambhav was alone, a bachelor, not ugly, hard-working and a teetotaler. So, they were naturally interested in his caste. Looking at him, and the way he outshone his colleagues and competitors, it was assumed already that he was from one of the two castes on the top of the hierarchy: Brahmin or Kshatriya. He had given tacit approval to the Ksahtriya Hypothesis.
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