The Acrobats by Bhabani Bhattacharya
SACRIFICING SELF INTEREST IN UPHOLDING FAMILY VALUES
The true love between parents and their children overpowers the love between any other person outside the family circle. The short story ‘The Acrobats’ by Bhabani Bhattacharya brings out the platonic love between father and son. The writer reflects the family bond that exists among family members. In the Indian context family is given primary importance and each one thinks about the welfare of the other person. The story brings out a young boy’s longing for father’s love, joy of father’s love and fear of losing the father to a young lady.
The young boy has no mother. The writer informs the readers using the flashback technique that the boy is the ward of a single parent. This makes him long for parental love and care. The absence of the mother in the family brings the father and the son closer to each other. The family traditionally is involved in the profession of exhibiting their acrobatic talents for their livelihood. Excessive love for the son makes the father to teach the family skills but the boy does not show any interest and is adamant in not learning the skill. This attitude of the son irritates the father that results in the father fuming with anger and beating the son black and blue. The father in his anger leaves his home and returns quite later with an idea of not forcing the boy to learn the skill. But to his surprise the boy was practicing the skill alone. The father noticing the son practicing the acrobatic skill becomes very much pleased. It could be understood that the boy learns the skill out of love for the father, not wanting him to see angry and disappointed. Thus the boy who has no one to love except his father becomes possessive of him.
The boy finds joy in the company of his father. The story does not state anywhere that the boy thinks about his mother. He feels comfortable in the hands of his father and he travels with him to perform his acrobatic skills in the cities. It is understood from the story that he has been doing the acrobatic skills almost every day for twelve months, earning for their livelihood. He also finds joy in performing his skills and expects appreciation from the crowd that watches his daring feats. Deep down in his heart there is a doubt whether the crowd considers him or his father as the better acrobat. Thus his days are moving happily and he is more attached to his father.
The attachment with his father is so intense that he cannot tolerate anybody else in their circle. Though the period of time is not clear, it is obvious that the father chooses a particular place to exhibit their acrobatic skills purposely as he is attracted towards a young servant lady who keeps looking at the boy’s father in the guise of babysitting. The young servant lady spends more time than required to watch the acrobats that even irritates the mistress of the house. The innocent boy considers her observation just like that of any other spectator’s admiration for some days but on one particular instance when the boy was performing his skills he notices that the eyes of his father and that of the young lady from the balcony are fixed and he is able to read their minds and understands that it is nothing but romantic exchange. This romantic exchange of glances has been going on for a long time. One day when the father smiles at the young lady while the acrobatic feat was in progress, the boy understands that ‘the smile was not for him’. This brings unfathomable pain in his heart and loses his balance and falls on the stone pavement with a thud, breaking his skull and bones. The fear that his father might reject him choosing the lady brings almost an end to his life but survives.
The short story clearly portrays that his father is be all and end all for the boy. Being a motherless child, the young boy derives all solace only from his father and he feels secured in this hostile world. Even when he has no desires to pursue his family profession, just for the love of his father he trains his young limbs to perfection. He is willing to sacrifice anything or anyone in this world but not his father. Nevertheless it takes a long time for the father to understand until the son breaks his limbs. This is the turning point when the father realizes that he needs to divert his attention towards his two-member family. The story thus brings out the family values in the Indian context.
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