SUMMARY AND QUESTIONS ON THE CASTAWAY
THE OUTLINE OF THE STORY:
The story begins on a stormy evening when the sky is overcast with dark nimbus clouds. Already there were thunder and lightning. The Ganga was flowing in rage.
A husband and wife were quarrelling in a closed room in ahouse on the Riverside in Chandernagore. Kiran, the wife had been ill for sometime and the doctors had advised her change of air. This had brought the family to this place from their village. Now Kiran felt she had recovered fully and hence it was time for her to return to her original home in the village; but her husband Sharat was against this decision of his wife. According to him, Kiran was still weak and so she needed rest for some more days. But Kiran was adamant and the result was the present quarrel. She however ultimately stopped arguing but her eyes were filled with tears.
Kiran was loved and liked by all. She loved to remain busy and help others, but here in Chandernagore she felt very lonely. Here she had no neighbours to keep herself busy with. She was helpless and was about to give in when the servant informed him that a Brahmin boy had saved himself by swimming across the Ganga and had come into her garden. Kiran immediately set to work. She first got out some dry clothes for the boy. She earned a cup of milk and invited him to her room.
The boy told his name was Nilkanta. His hair was long and curly and his eyes were very expressive. He had no hair on his face. He was a member of a theatrical troupe. When their boat had capsized they were coming to play in a neighbouring villa. The arrival of Nilkanta made Sharat happy as he thought it was since his wife would now stay on for some more days. Sharat’s mother was also happy since she would receive blessings for showing kindness to the Brahmin boy.Even Nilkanta was happy because he had escaped death and received shelter in a wealthy family.
But within a few days both Sharat and his mother changed their opinion about the boy and wished Nilkanta went away. Nilkanta secretly smoke Sharat’s hookah and went away for a stroll in the pouring rain with Sharat’s best silk umbrella. He had even made friends with the village boys. Not only this, he had even petted a street dog to such an extent that it would come in with it’s must paws and spoiled Sharat’s white bedsheets. His mischiefs did not stop here. He went around with a band of village boys and pick unripe mangoes from neighbouring orchards.
But Kiran was very fond of him. She gave him both old as well as new clothes of Sharat to wear. She also used to call him to her room. He would recite sons with appropriate gestures. Kiran even asked Sharat to listen to the songs of Nilkanta but he refused to be present as he disliked him.Sharat’s mother would rather like to have her mid day nap than listen to the songs of Nilkanta.
Sometimes Sharat would even box the ears of Nilkanta but he did not mind since he was used to much harsher treatment as a member of the troupe. He believed beating was a part of life.
Nilkanta might be seventeen years old but he looked as if he was fourteen. In the theatre he had planned the parts of Sita, Radhika, and Damayanti. It was because of his so young look that he was never treated as a grown up adult. But now here in Sharat’s house in Chandernagore he swirly began to change into manhood. He felt ashamed when he was treated as a bit by Kiran. One day Kiran urged him to play the part of a lady’s companion. The idea of wearing a saree embarrassed him. Nilkanta now thought of learning how to read and write but could not concentrate. His thoughts wandered and he only pretended to learn.Hence, he could learn nothing. Earlier the songs he sang had a mechanical tone in them but now he realized their meaning. When he sang those songs he wastransported to another world.
While Nilkanta was undergoing these psychological changes from adolescence to manhood, Sharat’s younger brother Satish arrived there to spend his summer vacation. His arrival at this critical time changed Nilkanta’s life entirely. He experienced frustrations he had never experienced before.
Satish was the same age as Kiran. Both of them were very good friends. Satish’s arrival filled Kiran with delight. They enjoyed practical jokes and a lot of fun. They laughed, they quarreled and made up again. Kiran’s entire attention and time was taken up by Satish. Nilkanta was completely ignored. Earlier Kiran used to serve food to Nilkanta. She enjoyed watching him eat good dishes. He ate well. But now instead of Kiran, the maid servant served him. Nilkanta did not enjoy eating. He would say he was not hungry. He hoped that Kiran would somehow come to know of it and would start serving him for herself. But Kiran never came to know about it. Nilkanta was depressed. He would lie on his bed and weep till he fell asleep.
Nilkanta imagined that Satish was responsible for his mission misfortunes. He believed that Satish had poisoned Kiran’s ears against him.Hence Nilkanta developed a strong hated against him. But he could not express his hostility towards Satish openly.Nilkantacursed him andwished to harm him in every possible way secretly. He would remove Satish’s soap from the bathing place, or throw his trousers in the river.
One day Kiran summoned Nilkanta to review her favourite song in Satish’s presence. But Nilkanta could not sing. He stood there silently. Kiran asked Nilkanta what the matter was with him. He just replied that he could not remember the song and walked away.
At last it was time for the family to return home. Satish too was going with him. Kiran proposed to take Nilkanta along with them. But everyone else was opposed to this suggestion. So Kiran too gave in. She called Nilkanta and gently told him that he should go back to his village. Nilkanta was moved by his kind words. He burst into tears. Kiran too was sad to think that she had showered her as affections on someone whom she had to leave behind. But Satish was angry to see a grown up boy howling like a child. He said that Nilkanta was weeping to soften Kiran’s heart because he did not want to reurn to his village. Nilkanta hurriedly walked away without a word. He wished he had a knife to cut Satish into pieces.
Satish had brought with him from Calcutta a fancy ink pot. He liked it very much and cleaned it everyday very carefully. The day before their departure the ink pot was missing. Satish was in a great rage. He was sure that it was Nilkanta only who had stolen the ink stand. Nilkanta was summoned. Satish accused him of stealing his ink stand and told him to give it back immediately. Kiran was also there. Nilkanta felt humiliated and angry. Kiran was distressed. She took him into another room. She told him that if he had taken the ink stand he should give it to her. She assured him that nobody would say a word to him about it. But he hid his face in his hands and began to weep. Kiran came back and said that she was sure that Nilkanta had not stolen it. But Satish was not convinced. He suggested that Nilkanta’s room and box should be searched. But Kiran firmly objected to it. So, nobody harassed Nilkanta anymore.
Kiran wanted to give a parting gift to Nilkanta. She wanted to give him a surprise. With two suits of clothes, a pair of new shoes and a bank note she went into his room. Nilkanta was not there. She opened his box. It was cluttered up with odds and ends, and her gift would not go in. So she decided to put things in order. When she emptied the box she was shocked to find the ink pot at the bottom of it.
In the meantime Nilkanta also came into the room. He stood behind him and she did not see him. He thought that Kiran had been spying on him and she would think he was a thief. He wanted to explain to her that he was not a thief. He had not removed the ink stand out of greed but out of revenge. He intended to throw it into the Ganga to cause pain to Satish, but in a hurry he had hidden it in his box. But he felt he would not be able to explain it. So he just turned back and disappeared. He was not seen again.
Kiran put the ink stand back into the box. She put her gift on the top of everything. When Nilkanta had disappeared Satish wanted to search his box. But Kiran again prevented him. She kept the box with her. When they were going home, she quietly threw the ink stand into the river.
Now the garden was desolate. Only Nilkanta’s starving mongrel whined there all day long.