Rabindranath Tagore: Short Stories

Rabindranath Tagore: Short Stories Summary and Analysis of "Wishes Granted"


Subalchandra has a son named Sushilchrandra; the two are called Subal and Sushil, respectively, throughout the story. Sushil is not a well-behaved boy, and he goes around annoying all the people of the neighborhood. But his father Subal is old and arthritic, so he has a hard time chasing his ill-behaved son around the neighborhood.

One morning, Sushil claims he has a stomachache and can't go to school. Knowing Sushil's trick's, Subal tells him that he'll have to cancel his plans with his friends too, and will drink medicine instead of eating toffee. Sushil claims that his stomachache is over, but Subal refuses to hear it, and locks the boy in his room. While in his room, Sushil wishes to himself that he were grown up like his father so that he had the independence to do whatever he wanted. Subal, sitting alone, wishes to himself that he was young like his son, so that he could spend all day and all night studying.

That evening, the Goddess of Desires comes and grants the two their wishes. Subal wakes up as a small boy, with the clothes he fell asleep in much too baggy to wear. Sushil wakes up as an old man with a grey beard, his clothes so tight that they're bursting at the seams. Sushil tries to play games like climbing up trees, but finds it too difficult for his old bones, and is laughed at by passersby when, as an old man, he falls from a branch. He tries to eat toffee, but finds it much too sweet, and resolves not to feed it to the little Subal since it would make him sick.

Subal, on the other hand, claims that he can't go to school on account of a stomachache. Sushil had used that excuse too recently to accept it as the truth, so Subal goes to school. As soon as Subal gets home, Sushil is annoyed by the noise he's making, so he sits Subal down with a tutor to work on math until late at night. Sushil makes Subal stick to the same diet that Subal had as an old man, but that style of eating starves the young Subal and makes him lose weight. Sushil finds himself in pain from rheumatism and seeks medical help, but hurts himself any time he forgets he's an old man and jumps out of bed. Subal also forgets his age, and gets in trouble when he asks the schoolmaster for some tobacco.

Eventually, the two get fed up and start to wish that they were their original ages again. The Goddess of Desires visits them and asks if they've gotten what they wanted, and they say that they did, but want to go back to their previous states now. That night, she makes Sushil young again and Subal old again. The next morning when Subal asks if Sushil is learning his grammar, a perplexed Sushil says he seems to have lost his book.


"Wishes Granted" is rare amongst Tagore's moralistic fables. While most of the stories that Tagore wrote in that genre featured harrowing circumstances or some grim consequence, this story is light and humorous. It additionally stands out for its structure. While some stories of Tagore's don't follow traditional narrative structure or even have much of a conclusive ending, this one ends on a punch line, as the young Subil makes a claim that sounds like an excuse—that he lost his grammar book and can't study—which is really the consequence of his father likely having lost the grammar book as a young boy.

A common theme that appears in this story is Tagore's use of the supernatural. He construes this as a true fantasy by making up a Goddess who doesn't exist as part of the Hindu religious mythos, thereby spinning a supernatural yarn that makes sense within the framework of Indian mythology, but is situated firmly outside of it. Tagore uses this storytelling move to create a hermetic little world where he can craft a comedy that has a lesson, but doesn't have much folkloric baggage.