This article is a short summary of Rabindranath Tagore’s short story, The Punishment.
SUMMARY OF THE PUNISHMENT
STORY OF THE RUI FAMILY
The two wives of the Rui family quarrelled with each other everyday. Both the Rui brothers Chidam and Dukhiram are farmers. The two wives begin screaming with each other with the breaking of day. The neighbours never interfered in their regular strife. They were fully habituated to it. Rather when the wives remain silent, the neighbours were anxious. This is because their present silence is just a presage of the forthcoming storm that is more violent.
THE PUNISHMENT – A SHORT STORY
After a day long toil the two Rui brothers returned home tired. The house is extraordinarily silent.
The envoys of the zamindars forcibly engaged Dukhiram and Chidam in mending the leakage in the office roof. Hence they could not return home for lunch. When they finally returned home they found the house turned into a hell. They saw the younger wife Chandara lying stretched on the ground, Radha was sitting on the verandah. Her eighteen month baby was crying helplessly.
DUKHIRAM’S RAGE IN THE PUNISHMENT
Out of terrible hunger, Dukhiram howled to his wife for food. Radha in return screamed louder to announce there was no food in the house. She even made it clear that it was not her duty to walk on the streets to earn for it. Her humiliating words frenzied her wearied and starved husband. He lost his sense and roaring like a furious tiger thrusted his knife into her head. Instantly Radha collapsed into her sister-in-law, Chandara’s lap and within minutes she was dead. Although this horrific sight shocked Chandara, Chidam prevented her from screaming. As for Dukhiram, he dropped the knife fell down on his knees hiding his head in his hands.
INNER-MEANING OF THE PUNISHMENT
The village head Ramlochan Chakraborty, had returned home after his visit to post office with a letter. While smoking comfortably he remembered the debt of Dukhiram. Dukhiram had promised to pay a portion of it on that day. Hence, he walked to the Rui cottage. He thought that the brothers must be there in the house. On his arrival to the Rui’s house, Ramlochan felt uncomfortable. He heard sounds of muffled sobs coming from the inmates of the cottage.
CHIDAM SAVES DUKHIRAM IN THE PUNISHMENT
Ramlochan called for Dukhiram. Chidam came quickly before Ramlochan, wondering what to say. In his mind he was developing the plot of removing the corpse elsewhere. The unexpected arrival of Ramlochan puzzled Chidam. He distorted the truth by saying Chandra had struck at Radha’s head with a farm knife. Ramlochan was shocked to hear such a mess. When Chidam asked Ramlochan how to save his wife, he suggested Chidam to blame it on his elder brother, Dukhiram. But, Chidam was not however, ready to defame his brother. According to Chidam it is impossible to replace a brother if he is hanged but he can replace a wife. Ramlochan departed hearing Chidam’s viewpoint. He said Chidam should then say what actually happened if his brother was more important to him than his wife.
WHO GOT THE PUNISHMENT ?
Soon the news of Chandara’s murder of her sister-in-law spread all over the village. The police stormed into the village scaring both the guilty as well as the innocent. Chidam was afraid to expose the truth of the murder, after concealing the original fact from Ramlochan. He decided to stick to his own point. Hence, he ordered his wife Chandara to take the blame on herself. He assured her safety if she acted according to her husband’s advice. Although Chidam sorted out an easy solution to save his brother, he was panick-stricken while his wife remained dumb.
CHARACTERS OF THE PUNISHMENT
Chandara was a teen aged girl, full of liveliness. On contrary Radha was a bit reserved and unkempt in her dress. Her world comprised only her child and her daily chores. However each of the wives matched well with their husbands. While Dukhiram was a huge looking and a fearsome man, Chidam had a figure like a sportsman. He was full of energy, and eager to make himself charming among the women. But Chidam’s true love was for his wife Chandara. The bond between them was very firm.
CHANDARA CONFESSES IN THE PUNISHMENT
Dukhiram relied on his brother for everything. Knowing this Chidam endeavoured to teach Chandara the fabrication of Ramlochan. The elder wife was about to attack her with the vegetable slicer. Hence, Chandara picked up a sharp knife to stop her. But, somehow the knife pierced her and Radha was killed accidentally. Although Chidam tried to save his wife, Chandara said she killed Radha without any threat from the latter. She did so because according to her it was better to waste away her youth instead of surrendering to her husband. Thus, the police arrested the lively expressive teen aged Chandara. A huge crowd followed her to the police station, where she made no attempt to wash away the undeserved blemish on her.
CHANDARA IS ADAMANT IN THE PUNISHMENT
To the deputy magistrate, however, Chandara again confessed her guilt. But she reported no harm from her sister-in-law, as advised by her husband. Finding Chandara terribly resolute, Chidam broke out into tears, pleading to the magistrate that his wife was innocent. Gradually, the true story came out. But it was of no use.Ramlochan Chakraborty was the most trusted witness, who informed of having heard from Chidam the true story of the murder. The village head had previously prepaired stories to save Chandara, but finding her ready to wear the noose, decided not to take any risk of giving any false information.
CHANDARA PLEADS FOR THE PUNISHMENT
Chandara’s statement remained firm even when the judge warned her of her punishment. Hearing her punishment, she pleaded with the judge to give it to her. She said she could not take it any more. Even seeing her husband in the court, Chandara didnot confess her love for him. She did not feel the urge to say the fact which might have saved her death sentence.
MEANING OF THE PUNISHMENT
Dukhiram also attempted to save Chandara by saying the truth. But after cross examination, the judge concluded that the Rui brothers want to save the younger wife from the shame of death sentence. This is the reason they are confessing to the crime. Hence, Chandara was ordered to be hanged till death. Just before the hanging, in the gallow, a kind civil surgeon asked Chandara if she wanted to see anyone. Chandara expressed her wish to see her mother. When the civil surgeon informed her that her husband desired to meet her, she refused to see him.