Summarize to one third its length:
The widow living with the zamindar Sharadashankar’s family, in the big house at Ranihat, had no blood-relatives left. One by one they had died. In her husband’s family, too, there was no one she could call her own, having no husband or son. But there was a little boy – her brother-in- law’s son – who was the apple of her eye. His mother had been very ill for a long time after his birth, so his Aunt Kadambini had brought him up. Anyone who brings up someone else’s son becomes specially devoted: there are no rights, no social claims – nothing but ties of affection. Affection cannot prove itself with a legal document; nor does it wish to. All it can do is love with doubled intensity, because it owns so uncertainly.
Kadambini poured her frustrated widow’s love on to this boy, till one night in Śrābaṇ she suddenly died. For some strange reason her heartbeat stopped. Everywhere else, Time continued; yet in this one, small, tender, loving heart its clock’s tick ceased. Keeping the matter quiet, in case the police took notice, four Brahmin employees of the zamindar quickly carried off the body to be burnt.
The cremation-ground at Ranihat was a long way from human habitation. There was a hut on the edge of a tank there, and next to it an immense banyan tree: nothing else at all on the wide open plain.
Formerly a river had flowed here – the tank had been made by digging out part of the dried-up course of the river. The local people now regarded this tank as a sacred spring. The four men placed the corpse inside the hut and sat down to wait for the wood for the pyre to arrive. The wait seemed so long that they grew restless: Nitai and Gurucharan went off to see why the firewood was so long coming, while Bidhu and Banamali sat guarding the corpse.
It was a dark monsoon night. The clouds were swollen; not a star could be seen in the sky. The two men sat silently in the dark hut. One of them had matches and a candle, wrapped up in his chadar. They could not get the matches to light in the damp air, and the lantern they had brought with them had gone out as well. After sitting in silence for a long time, one of them said, ‘I could do with a puff of tobacco, bhāi. We forgot everything in the rush.’
‘I’ll run and get some,’ said the other. ‘I won’t be a minute.’
‘That’s nice!’ said Bidhu, perceiving his motive. ‘I suppose I’m to stay here on my own?’
They fell silent again. Five minutes seemed like an hour. They began inwardly to curse the two who had gone to trace the firewood – no doubt they were sitting comfortably somewhere having a smoke and chatting. They were soon convinced that this must be so. There was no sound anywhere – just the steady murmur of crickets and frogs round the tank. Suddenly the bed seemed to stir a little, as if the dead body had turned on to its side. Bidhu and Banamali began to shudder and mutter prayers. Next moment a long sigh was heard: the two immediately fled outside and ran off towards the village.
Kadambini, the widow with everyone in her husband’s side having died, lived in landlord Sharadashankar’s household at Ranihat. She had brought up her brother-in-law’s son from his birth as his mother didn’t survive an ailment that plagued her after the child birth. Kadambini lavished all her love on that boy.
On an ill-fated night, Kadambini perished due to an unexplained cardiac arrest. In order to preempt police trouble, the Zamindar asjed four of his clse confidants to habe Kadambini cremated at the earliest. Bidhu, Banamali, Nitai and Gurucharan hurriedly took Kadambini’s corpse to the funeral ground that was quite far off. It was on a river bed where the dried up river’s flat surface allowed the digging of a pond.
Nitai and Gurucharan went away to see why the firewood had not yet arrived. Bidhu and Banmali kept the corpse inside the sole ramshackle hut and waited for the firewood to come. Banamali went out to rrange some tobacco. They had no way to light a fireas the wind blew fast. Bidhu was shocked to see some movement f the leg of the corpse. He felt utterly shaken by fear. [190 words]