As a young bride, Bimala took pleasure in “taking the dust” of her husband’s feet each morning as an act of reverence, believing that her woman’s heart “must worship in order to love.” But her husband, Nikhil, didn’t want her worship. He wanted her to have freedom, to go out into the world and discover and become her true self so that they could truly know and love each other.
Bimala and Nikhil take turns as narrators in this 1916 novel by the Nobel prize–winning Bengali author Rabindranath Tagore. As they are trying to figure out how to love each other, a third narrator, Sandip, Nikhil’s old school friend, brings a new point of view, one that appeals to Bimala and pulls her away from her husband. Sandip is a political activist, driven to promote Indian independence from foreign influence. When Bimala hears him speak, she is riveted:
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