The Lost Jewels by Rabindranath Tagore
In The Lost Jewels by Rabindranath Tagore we have the theme of equality, materialism, control, trust, appearance, selfishness and independence. The story itself is a frame narrative with a merchant calling himself Bhusan Saha narrating the opening section of the story while the narrative is then taken over by an old schoolmaster. It is also after reading the story that the reader realises that Tagore may be exploring the theme of equality. There seems to be very little equality in Bhusan’s marriage. He needs to acquire a loan and he knows that the best way to get the loan is to pawn some of the jewellery that he had previously given to his wife. However Mani does not agree to this venture as she feels as though the jewels are hers and hers alone and that she will never get them back. If anything Mani is being materialistic rather than being reasonable. Bhusan is in desperate need of the money and rather than taking control of the situation he accepts Mani’s refusal to give him the jewels. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that Tagore writes of a strong female character, Mani, something that would not have often occurred at the time the story was written. Many writers wrote of women submissive to their husbands in order to highlight a truer reflection of society. Though Mani shows an ability to refuse her husband. She is unable to refuse herself. Something that is noticeable by the large amount of material possessions that Mani possesses.
It is as though Mani is judging her self-worth based solely on how many possessions she has. The reader also aware that Mani herself may not necessarily know how many material things she may own. There is also a sense that Mani does not trust Bhusan hence her employing her cousin Modhu to keep an eye on Bhusan’s business and to report back to her. Even though Mani knows how desperate things are for Bhusan she does not change her mind about giving Bhusan her jewellery rather she goes to her father’s home bedecked in all her jewellery which Bhusan has bought. Appearance seem to be more important to Mani than helping Bhusan salvage the business. Which may lead some critics to suggest that Mani is acting selfishly. If it were not for Bhusan’s generosity Mani would not have many of the material possessions or jewellery that she has. It is also possible that come critics will suggest that Bhusan himself is weak for not demanding the return of the jewellery from Mani. However throughout the story Bhusan at no stage ever questions Mani. It is as though the stereotypical roles of the marriage are reversed. With the power within the marriage favouring Mani.
Some critics have suggested that should Mani have been an equal partner in the company she might not have been so hesitant to help Bhusan. Though there is no dialogue between Mani and Bhusan regards a partnership it might still have been an issue for Mani. Though it is also possible that Tagore is suggesting that Mani and many women in particular are more concerned about their appearances than they are their general well-being. It cannot be lost on Mani that should the business collapse so too will the lifestyle she is accustomed to. Just as Mani suspects that Bhusan is reliant on her for love Mani herself is reliant on Bhusan being a successful businessman. It may be a case that neither Mani nor Bhusan are really independent of one another despite the fact that Mani would like to think she is. Bhusan is paying for everything and Mani with open arms is accepting each gift that Bhusan buys her. Yet she is not prepared to give something back (the jewels) for a short period of time. Which may leave many readers to suspect that Mani is acting selfishly and not being there for Bhusan or the business. Yet she wishes to reap all the rewards when the business is successful.
The end of the story is also interesting as Tagore leaves the ending open to interpretation. Some readers will believe that the merchant who has been listening to the old schoolmaster tell the tale of Bhusan Saha is in fact Bhusan himself. All that has occurred is that he has remarried and reclaimed the jewels that he had given Mani. However some critics will suggest that the merchant is not Bhusan Saha and that he is only playing a game with the old schoolmaster. However it might be important to remember that the merchant gave the old schoolmaster the wrong name at the beginning of the story. So he may very well have waited till the old schoolmaster told his story before giving him his real name. Bhusan despite the passing of time might have decided to return back to what is rightfully his. With a new wife and a new future planned. Tagore does not say as to whether Bhusan drowned at the end of the story he just lets the reader know that his body went under water. Perhaps Bhusan was never killed.