The Mallik brothers, Jagmohan and Harimohan, are as different in temperament as day is with evening. The elder, Jagmohan, is a rationalist, a past master in the art of disputation. The younger brother, Harimohan, is a devout soul, faultless in his services to the cow and the Brahmin. While the latter indiscriminately pays obeisance to the gods, the former only acknowledges what he terms the sajib or the ‘full-of-life’. To counter Harimohan’s fervour for set rituals and daily recital of scriptures, Jagmohan, in line with his idea of the sajib, regularly hosts meals for the ‘animated’ in the shape of Muslims and untouchable Chamars. And then, in order to neutralise the sins incurred by his elder brother’s unheard-of effrontery, Harimohan feels compelled to organise elaborate feasts for BrahmINS, and Brahmins alone. Sick and tired of the endless cycle of defilement and purification, the younger brother at one point approaches the precincts of (colonial) law. Harimohan pleads that because of his despicable predilections, Jagmohan has forfeited the right to continue as a trustee of the Mallik devatra property. To get the judgment in his favour, Harimohan does not need to resort to bribes or other such dubious means. For, although an elite-caste Bengali by birth, Jagmohan has no compunction in declaring in court that he does not believe in gods, has no respect for taboos surrounding diet, has no objection to dining with Muslims, and, of all things, he does not know from which part of Brahma’s body Muslims have sprung. Following this candid testimonial, the district judge faces no legal obstacle in releasing Jagmohan from the responsibilities of the ‘sacrosanct’ property’s trusteeship.
The two brothers make their first ‘public’ appearance in Rabindranath Tagore’s 1916 novel Chaturanga (Quartet).