Indigo Summary, Theme, Critical Appreciation by Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray (192 1-1992), mainly an Indian Film maker of international renown, was a diverse talent of the 20th century. Sukumar Roy, his father, was a prolific writer of prominence and an excellent craftsman in creating humour through his short stories, plays and poems. He was short-lived and therefore, Suprava Roy, Satyajit’s mother had to toil hard in order to lead a dignified life.
Satyajit Ray graduated with Honours from Presidency College, Calcutta and then got admitted to Tagore’s Shantiniketan. But he came back to Calcutta without completing his education at Shantiniketan. He, however, worked as a calligrapher, illustrator, photographer, music composer, film maker, and writer and so on. Though Satyajit’s fame and awards rested on his films, he wrote considerable volume of prose in the forms of novels and short stories.
His science fictions, blended with fantasy and imagination have drawn considerable readership. Ray also wrote crime fictions and other short stories for adolescents and children. His interest being diverse in the matters of middle class people, he choose mysticism, occult, phantasm, clairvoyance, necromancy ,apport, sorcery, human relationship, boyhood etc. for his subjects to deal with. He was awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University. His films were also widely acclaimed and those brought several national and international awards.
Indigo About the Author Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray (1921-1992), mainly an Indian Film maker of international renown, was a diverse talent of the 20th century. Sukumar Roy, his father, was a prolific writer of prominence and an excellent craftsman in creating humour through his short stories, plays and poems. He was short- lived and therefore, Suprava Roy, Satyajit’s mother had to toil hard in order to lead a dignified life.
Satyajit Ray graduated with Honours from Presidency College, Calcutta and then got admitted to Tagore’s Shantiniketan. But he came back to Calcutta without completing his education at Shantiniketan. He, however, worked as a calligrapher, illustrator, photographer, music composer, film maker, and writer and so on. Though Satyajit’s fame and awards rested on his films, he wrote considerable volume of prose in the forms of novels and short stories. His science fictions, blended with fantasy and imagination have drawn considerable readership.
Ray also wrote crime fiction and other short stories for adolescents and children. His interest being diverse in the matters of middle class people, he choose mysticism, occult, phantasm, clairvoyance, necromancy, apport, sorcery, human relationship, boyhood etc. for his subjects to deal with. He was awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University. His films were also widely acclaimed and those brought several national and international awards.
The theme of Ray’s short story “Indigo” is a supernatural one. But to reach to the theme, he has spent words and space-at times telling upon the patience of the reader. Manifestation of supernaturalism is usually attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature. In the story, the wraith of English Indigo planter, infamous in his own country and India as well, for his cunning and cruelty, possessed Aniruddha, an Indian young man and repeated what he did during his last few days.
Aniruddha took shelter in the cursed, dilapidated Dak Bungalow for a night. During the night, the said English Indigo planter possessed him, changed his looks and dress, and made him write last words in a diary although Aniruddha was in his full sense. Rex, the dog, also came to life and was killed by a pistol shot. Aniruddha, alias the English planter, shot himself at the right ear.
Rex was killed by the pistol shot, but Aniruddha was not although the same pistol was fired at him. The story is a haunting experience for Aniruddha and looks like his experience is a paranormal phenomenon. There is also suspense and horror in the story.
Indigo Critical Appreciation
Ray’s “Indigo” is a short story with an elongated circumlocution. Aniruddha’s journey by car to Dumka to comply with his friend’s request is interspersed with so much of details that the reader’s curiosity might pale into discernment about the main story which takes a little time to read and finish.
The story is all about Aniruddha, a young man working in an Advertising Agency. Mention may be made that Ray’s penchant for Advertising Agency is well known, as he started his own career in an Advertising Agency. However, Aniruddha, on his way to Dumka, is waylaid in a nor wester and takes shelter in an old, dilapidated Dak Bungalow in a remote place.
The Dak Bungalow was built long ago by a British Indigo planter infamous in his own country and in India for his cruelty. At night, Aniruddha finds that the paraphernalia of the room where he laid on a charpoy has changed. There were English boots, galoshes, a writing table and so on.
He himself had changed into an Englishman. He was in his full senses all the time. It is like those children’s ghost stories where ghosts’ possess men and women and they act according to the will of the ghosts even when they are in full senses.
The ghost of the British Planter made Aniruddha write a few confessions in a diary and then shot “Rex” his ghost hound and then shot himself at the right ear. Aniruddha, like those ghost stories, fainted and did not die. In children’s ghost stories, when a ghost leaves the possession of a man or a woman, they faint and do not die.
Ray’s long introduction to come to the main story makes it somewhat cumbrous and patience consuming. The creation of a supernatural environment is simple and fails to carve a niche in the mind of the reader.
Aniruddha Bose is the central character in Ray’s “Indigo”. He is thirty-nine years old and a bachelor. He works in an Advertising Agency of Calcutta. He possesses a flat and an ambassador car which show that he is reasonably well off. At times, he writes and those are even published in periodicals bringing appreciations from his known circle.
It is therefore, evident that he has a penchant for literary activities. He has a wander lust. Ever since he bought a car, he travelled hither and thither. Unfortunately, he does not have a friend in Calcutta and perhaps that is why he undertakes such so trips. On receiving an invitation from Promod, one of his childhood friends, to visit Dumka where he was posted as a forest worker, he packed his baggage and decided to travel all the 200 miles by his Ambassador car.
Solo driving for 200 miles through unknown roads and unthought-of possible troubles along the road was not possibly a wise decision. More youthful zeal and less of wisdom it was not to check the condition of his car.
Twice in the road his car had flat tyres, lost right track of road and was caught in a norwester with thunderstorm. Determined to find a shelter, he found an old, dilapidated Dakbungalow and entered into it. Sukhanram was the name of the caretaker and Aniruddha confirmed from him that there never was a ghost or a spectre in or around the Dakbungalow for ages. His initial fear was gone.
At night, he was possessed by the ghost of a British Indigo planter. But Aniruddha was in his full senses. He could see changes in the room, in his behaviour, tone, looks but was not afraid. The spirit took possession of his body and mind.
He did not have that strength of mind to come out of the spirits’ possession. However, the spirit finally called out “Rex”, his pet hound, shot him and also shot himself in the right ear. Although he possessed Aniruddha, Aniruddha did not fall dead by the gun shot. He simply fainted and forgot everything. Like all ghost stories, the ghost leaves him.
Indigo Title of the Story
Whereas the original Bengali title of “Indigo” is “Indigo horror”, the present English title does not connote the sense of horror and supernaturalism of the original story. However, it becomes clear from the setting of the short story that the purpose of the author to create an atmosphere of suspense, thrill and horror-leading to something ominous and uncanny, is successful and the essence of supernaturalism is established. Aniruddha is possessed by the spirit of a British Indigo planter who is sick with malaria, then a dreadful disease in Bengal.
Even possessed by a ghost, Aniruddha is in his full senses but cannot either control his physical movements or his speech. Aniruddha, impersonated as the British Indigo planter, looked at his changed dress, his complexion and wrote in a diary about his pitiful tale. Then he shot ‘Rex’, the faithful hound of the Indigo planter and shot himself at his right ear, but Aniruddha did not die by the gunshot of the British Indigo planter who simply repeated his action which occurred in the long past. The title therefore, is justified.
Indigo About the Story
Mr. Aniruddha Bose, a twenty-nine year old bachelor worked in an Advertising Agency in Calcutta. He had an Ambassador car which he drove himself. He had always a desire to go on long drives. One day he received a letter from Pramod, one of his childhood friends, now working in forest department at Dumka, to visit his place. Aniruddha was glad to receive the invitation letter and decided to go there by car. Dumka was 200 miles away, and it would take 5 or 6 hours to reach there. There was initial delay for various reasons before departure and therefore Aniruddha drove out at 10 minutes part 11.
On way to Dumka, he had a flat tyre in the rear but somehow he replaced it. By then the sky was getting darker with clouds and then unmistakably, it was a norwester and it soon turned violent. As ill luck would have it, another tyre of the car became flat when he was close to Massanjore and he had no more spares. After a truck driver and his assistant helped him push his car by the side of the road, he went inside his car and through the windows saw a rectangle of orange light.
He got out of the car and somehow reached the source of the light. It was a small cottage and a middle aged man came out. On enquiry, Aniruddha came to know about the existence of a Dak-bungalow close by. But there was neither any provision for food and nor any bed but a charpoy.
However, Aniruddha had had some chapatti and dal from Sukhanram at his cottage to meet his hunger. Sukhan, the keeper of Dak-bungalow unrolled Aniruddha’s bedding on the charpoy and lit a lantern. He informed that this Dak-Bungalow was owned by an erstwhile British Indigo-planter.
Aniruddha fell asleep but suddenly woke up at the scratching sound at the closed door. Aniruddha tried to resume sleep but the barking of a hound woke him up. Aniruddha looked at his wristwatch to confirm the time of night. But it had disappeared. To his surprise and panic, he discovered that his torch and suitcase had vanished too.
Suddenly he looked at his hands and found those all white. He also found that his vest was replaced by a long-sleeved silk shirt. He came out of the room and called out, “Chowkidar”! It was the accent of a typical Englishman and not a Bengali. The landscape had also changed miraculously. Back into the room the charpoy was replaced by a cot with mosquito net. The pillow had border frills. There was an ornate kerosene lamp on the table. Other objects in the room had also changed.
He touched his face and felt that now he had a sharp nose, thin lips and narrow chin. His hair was wavy and there were side burns that reached below his ears.He walked into the bathroom and looked at the reflection in the mirror. The mirror showed a nineteenth-century Englishman with a sallow complexion, blonde hair and light eyes from which shone a strange mixture of hardness and suffering.
Aniruddha was perfectly within himself, but had no control over his body or behaviour. He was fully aware of the changes. A possessed Aniruddha came back to bed room, sat on a chair and wrote the story of his possessor. Malaria killed the English Indigo planter’s wife and daughter. He should have gone back to England but his past misdeeds there had made many enemies. He knew that he would die here and nobody would miss him except Mirjan,the bearer, and Rex, the dog.
Then a spirit -possessed Aniruddha, drew out a loaded revolver from the drawer of the table, went to the veranda, and called out “Rex”. The moment Rex appeared, Aniruddha, alias the Indigo planter, fired at him and killed him. Back to bedroom, Aniruddha fired the revolver at the right ear and fell senseless. This far Aniruddha remembered, and the story ended there.
The main setting in Ray’s Indigo is framed in a stormy night, at a dilapidated Dak Bungalow-built by an English Indigo planter during the Raj. As per Sukhanram, the keeper of the Dak Bungalow, the place was not haunted. Other travelers also stayed in the Dak Bungalow and nobody complained of any spectral existence. The bedroom was large and the ceiling was high and the furniture consisted of a charpoy, a table-set against the wall on one side, and a chair with a broken arm.
The chowkidar lit a lantern for Aniruddha, the central character in the story, but the dim light from the lantern, must have made darkness of the big room more prominent than illuminating it. The sound of drizzle had stopped outside. The place was now filled with the sound of frogs croaking.
An old, dilapidated Dak Bungalow with an old chimney standing close by, with almost no human habitation except the caretaker and the croaking of the frogs will certainly bring an eerie sensation in any human being. But as an exhausted man finds in a brick or a pillow enough peace to sleep on, Aniruddha had to be content with the paraphernalia of the Dak Bungalow. Undoubtedly therefore, such setting creates an uncanny, ominous feeling in one’s mind. Thus, the setting appears to be indicative of horror and supernaturalism.
Indigo Annotations and Vocabulary
person/s one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend Instilled — gradually but firmly establish in a person’s mind
Hectic — frantic activity
Snag — An unexpected or hidden obstacle
Dingy — gloomy and drab
Dreary — depressingly dull
Redolent — Strongly reminiscent or suggestive of
Predicament — An embarrassing situation
Dripping — fat that has melted and dripped from roasting meat, used in cooking or eaten cold as spread
Muggy — unpleasantly warm and humid
Norwester — a kind of thunderstorm
Vicious — deliberately cruel or violent
Assault — make a physical attack
Precarious — dangerously
Frolicsome — lively and playful
Puddle — A small pool of rainwater
Stocky — broad and sturdily built
Squinted — look at something with one or both eyes partly closed in an attempt to see more clearly or as a reaction to strong light.
Heyday — The period of a person’s great success.
Jocular — fond of joking.
Spooky — sinister or ghostly in a way that causes fear and unease.
Adjoining — next to, or joined by.
Ajar — slight opening.
Bay — Bay dogs chase and circle the boar, keeping it cornered in one place, while barking intensely. This behaviour is known as baying or keeps the boar at bay.
Ornate — elaborately decorated
Sideburns — facial hair grown on the sides of the face extending from the hairline to run parallel to or beyond the ears.
Quill — The hollow, sharp spines of a porcupine, or hedgehog.
Fiendish — extremely cruel or unpleasant.
Alien — belonging to a foreign country
Wagged — Move or cause to move an animal’s tail