The Castaway

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The Castaway

The short story, ‘The Castaway’ follows the journey of a young orphan, Nilakanta, or “the castaway” as he seeks to win the affection of Kiran, the lady of the house he has been given shelter. Nilakanta is a troubled young boy, and beaten by his previous master has led an unsettled life. This life has had an impact on him and his personality, not allowing it to grow to its full potential but instead “traps him in a half-boy, half-man state”-as mentioned in this story, “if it was about fourteen or fifteen, then his face was too old for his years; if seventeen or eighteen then it was too young.” The theme of this story is how the turbulence of Nilakanta’s youth encounters the alluring and fascinating life of Kiran. After his boat capsized during a stormy night, Nilakanta, a young Brahmin boy, is welcomed into the home of a Bengali couple, Kiran and Sharat. The mother-in-law is pleased that a Brahmin boy will stay with them and that she may profit their guest with her kindness. Sharat is happy that this welcome distraction will prevent his wife, Kiran from leaving back to her parent’s home. Kiran is enamoured by him. Nilakanta is just happy about his “double escape”, freeing himself from his old master as well as finding a home in a wealthy family. Yet, Nilakanta is a playful boy. He finds pleasure in “smoking Sharat’s hookahs”, and even befriends the village mongrel not letting it out of his sight. He evens gathers a devoted group of boys of various ages from the village so that “not a solitary mango in the neighbourhood had a chance of ripening that season”. As a result Sharat had taken to disliking the boy and would even box his ears. But, Nilakanta didn’t mind. In his short life, Nilakanta understood that “life was made up of eatings and beatings, and that beatings largely predominated.” Nilakanta would entertain Kiran periodically. Kiran would sit on her bed with Betel box at hand, and watch him while he would “recite pieces out of his...
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