The Resignation, translation of the 1937 Hindi novel Tyagpatra by Jainendra Kumar, is an addition to India’s recent surge in translations into English. In its afterword, Mridula Garg comments on Jainendra’s use of his inimitable, conversational Hindi. The economy and depth of his language is striking and it has been preserved in the translation by Rohini Chowdhury.
Jainendra, born in 1905, is regarded as a leading light in Hindi literature. He won the Sahitya Academy award in 1965 for his novel Muktibodh and was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1971. In Tyagpatra, Jainendra delves deep into the minds of the protagonist, Mrinal, and the narrator, Promod. This is a very sensitive and poignant story, saturated with deeper ethical questions. Pramod narrates the story starting and ending it under the pseudonym Sir M Dayal, who resigns from the post of Chief District Judge. He grows up as a little boy in the company of his aunt Mrinal, who is only four or five years older. His aunt is a very sensitive and independent-minded, good looking woman, who lost her parents at an early age and lives with his elder brother.
Promod is very devoted to his aunt and is her main confidante—in a relationship full of adolescence sensuality. Mrinal is attracted to the elder brother of Promod’s friend. Their romance grows stronger and she is often late returning from school. One day she is caught by his sister-in-law. She is caned mercilessly, debarred from going out of the house or to school and is soon married off to a stern and insensitive person. For Mrinal, a life of continuous turmoil and strife ensues. She can’t forget her first love. Her husband senses something and repeatedly canes her. She conceives and comes back to his elder brother’s house and attempts to abort the baby by taking some herb. Her condition worsens. Finally, her husband takes her away. Her life hereafter is full of contradictions.
Promod tries to answer ethical questions from a logical standpoint. Contrastingly, Mrinal finds solutions to her dilemmas in a very matter of fact manner. She has a masochistic trait that brings upon her miseries time and again. Benumbed by her interactions with the society, only (self-inflicted) extreme pain can make her feel she is alive. This makes for a surprisingly deep psychological novel, perhaps unequalled in Indian literature.
Her story, of a woman tied down by society, or a portrayal of a tormented human psyche, rings true across time and space. Jainendra’s work glitters like a long lost little gem.