Srikanta, the narrator, is an aimless drifter, a passive spectator who cannot survive without the support of an individual stronger than himself. As a child, he idealizes the chaste Annada Didi—the epitome of selfless devotion to a worthless husband... As a young man he travels to Burma looking for new experiences and meets the rebellious Abhaya—who rejects her violent, bigamous husband to live openly with her lover—and learns to question the hypocritical social norms that bind a woman down but let a man off. He experiments with becoming a sanyasi, is bewitched for a while by the Vaishnavi, Kamal Lata, and wanders on till his directionless existence finally finds a focus—when he resigns himself to life with the notorious but stunning Pyari Baiji, breaking free of the social values he grew up with.
Through his dynamic and arresting characters, Saratchandra brings alive nineteenth-century Bengal, a prejudice-ridden society that needed to be radically changed. Srikanta set the precedent for socially conscious writing in modern Indian literature.
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