A Story a Day #29: Rabindranath Tagore
March 11th, 2020
"My Lord, The Baby"
A servant man raises a child and then the child grows up and he becomes a servant to him and his new wife. They have a baby and the servant becomes obsessed with him and dotes on him relentlessly. One day they are out by the river and the child sees a flowering tree and wants the flowers. The servant says alright and goes to get some. While doing this, the child disappears. The servant is sent away by the distressed family. Shortly, the servant and his wife have a baby of their own but the wife passes away. Raising the child on his own, the servant is convinced that this is the other child reborn. He dresses and raises him as wealthy although he is not. He sends him to the best boarding school and dresses him in the best clothes. After many years, he goes to apologize to the mistress for losing her child and confesses that he "stole him." He then presents his own child as the stolen one and she is overwhelmed with joy. They send the servant away, still bitter for stealing in the first place, but agree to send him some money. The money is comes back to them as there was no one there.
The thread that ties this story together is the protagonist's love for the children in his life. I found this interesting because often these roles are reserved for women. It is rare to see a man portrayed as so loving and nurturing of children, especially in a positive sense that is not seen as creepy or pedophilic. Granted, I have Western notions of who raises children. The culture of India, where this story was written, could have other norms around servants and raising children.
What else that connects the story is how clearly selfless this man is. He devotes all of his time and energy to these children and expects very little in return. Even at the end, where he willingly gives away his own child that he raised, he expects nothing in return. It appears that he dies shortly after this act, indicating that his whole life's purpose was to advance others. Again, these tropes are not necessarily new and have been around for a long time, but I have only ever seen them attributed to women. Rarely are there whole stories that center around these issues.