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Chokher Bali (Bengali: চোখের বালি), literally Sand of the Eye, equivalent to eye-sore, is a Bengali novel written by Rabindranath Tagore in the early twentieth century.



Binodini is a young widow left to her own devices when her husband dies soon after they are married. She returns to her village and lives there for a couple of months until she accepts the invitation of Rajlakshmi to live with her and her son, Mahendra (who had rejected a former marriage proposal with Binodini). He is newly married to Ashalata (a naive, gentle girl), but soon begins to feel a strong sexual attraction for Binodini. The story details the relationships of these three and Mahendra's best friend Bihari as they deal with issues like distrust, adultery, lies, and numerous fallings-out between them.

Binodini is a convent educated young girl who has been widowed and hence reduced to living very badly (like all widows of that period). He husband had died soon after their marriage. When Rajalakshmi- a wealthy widow living in Calcutta where thanks to philosophers- widows are much better off (This is in the late 1800's- the Era of Ishwar Chandra Visdyasagar)- invites Binodini to stay with them, Binodini accepts.

Meanwhile- Rajalakshmi's son Mahendra claims to have no interest in marriage (he rejected Binodini's marriage proposal once) and accompanies his close friend 'Bihari' when Bihari goes to see a girl for himself. Mahendra falls for the girl - Ashalata and marries her.

Initially Mahendra is besotten with his wife and forgets the world for her- but after Binodini arrives- Mahendra and Binodini begin to have an affair. Binodini is delighted to be sexually active again- being able to enjoy passions of a young woman.

Critical acclaim

Tagore elaborately records early 20th century Bengali society, through his central character, the rebellious widow, who wants to live a life of her own. In writing this novel he exposes the custom of perpetual mourning on the part of widows, who were not allowed to remarry and were condemned to a life of seclusion and loneliness. It is a melancholy, stirring tale of the deceit and sorrow that arise from dissatisfaction and sorrow. Tagore has said about the novel, "I have always regretted the ending".

Film adaptation

Poster for the movie Chokher Bali

The novel was adapted into a 2003 film by Rituparno Ghosh, starring Aishwarya Rai, Prasenjit Chatterjee and Raima Sen.

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