This article is on Rabindranath Tagore’s short story The Castaway.
SUMMARY OF THE CASTAWAY
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 a house on the Riverside in Chandernagore. Kiran, the wife had been ill for sometime and the doctors had advised her change of air. Hence the family had come here from their village. Now Kiran felt she had recovered fully. Hence it was time for her to return to their village. But according to her husband Sharat, Kiran was still weak. So she needed rest for some more days.
NILKANTA, THE CASTAWAY ARRIVES
Kiran loved to remain busy and help others. She was about to give in when the servant informed him that a Brahmin boy had saved himself by swimming across the Ganga. He had come into their garden. Kiran immediately got out some dry clothes for the boy. She warmed a cup of milk and invited him to her room.
EVERYBODY GIVES SHELTER TO THE CASTAWAY
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. The arrival of Nilkanta made Sharat happy as he thought 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.
SHARAT DISLIKES NILKANTA, THE CASTAWAY
But within a few days both Sharat and his mother 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. Not only this, he had even petted a street dog. It would come in with it’s muddy paws and spoil Sharat’s white bedsheets. He even 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 Sharat’s both old as well as new clothes to wear. She also used to call him to her room. He would recite songs with appropriate gestures.
STORY OF THE CASTAWAY IN SHORT
Although Nilkanta was seventeen years old, he looked as if he was fourteen. In the theatre he had played the parts of Sita, Radhika, and Damayanti. Because he looked so young, nobody ever treated him as a grown up adult. But now here in Sharat’s house he swirly began to change into manhood. He felt ashamed when he was treated as a boy by Kiran.
KIRAN-SATISH RELATIONSHIP IN THE CASTAWAY
One day Sharat’s younger brother Satish arrived there to spend his summer vacation. His arrival 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 had a lot of fun. Satish took up Kiran’s entire attention. Kiran ignored Nilkanta completely. Nilkanta was depressed. He would lie on his bed and weep till he fell asleep.
NILKANTA’S DEPRESSION IN THE CASTAWAY
Nilkanta imagined that Satish was responsible for his misfortunes. He believed that Satish had poisoned Kiran’s ears against him. Hence Nilkanta developed a strong hatred against him. He would remove Satish’s soap from the bathing place, or throw his trousers in the river.
KIRAN’S FAMILY RETURN BACK IN THE CASTAWAY
At last it was time for the family to return home. 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. He burst into tears. Kiran too was sad to leave Nilkanta behind. But Satish was angry to see a grown up boy howling like a child. He wished he had a knife to cut Satish into pieces.
NILAKNTA’S REVENGE IN THE CASTAWAY
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 took him into another room.
THE CASTAWAY STORY OUTLINE
She told him that if he had taken the ink stand he should give it to her. Kiran assured him that nobody would say a word to him about it. But he hid his face in his hands and began to weep. She 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 IS SHOCKED IN THE CASTAWAY
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.
THE CASTAWAY STORY SUMMARY
In the meantime Nilkanta also came into the room. He thought that Kiran was spying on him. She would think he was a thief. He wanted to explain to her that he was not a thief. Nilkanta 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.
THE CASTAWAY GIST
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.