29 July, 2015

Throbbing Lust















A team of cricket illiterates from Champaner suddenly learnt the game and defeated adroit rivals.


There’s nothing to be shy about, it’s only between you and me
There you go with your rubbish early in the morning, no, it’s better not to, besides I can’t sin
Not a bad idea if husband and wife jointly run an enterprise, do you understand … no one ever has too much money ... good food, fine jewelry, every girl wishes for that, doesn’t she … look Maya, whatever I’m saying is the truth, if you go around the neighbourhood you’ll understand, there’ll definitely be a case or two
I don’t know, dear, I don’t go around the neighbourhood, so how would I know
A lot of people do all this, I know it, those who are the quiet types are the ones who’re most cunning … alright, don’t men look at you, tell me my dearest
Of course they look, and they look in such a way
Do you know, a gentleman lives in our neighbourhood, I’ve heard he’s a military man, he isn’t married either, he’s tall and stocky in appearance, you’d be frightened to look at him, I’m acquainted with a relative of his, he’s sent messages through him several times
Okay … when I went past his house last month, he had called me, oh baba, I was so scared … the gentleman lives all alone in a rented flat
Eesh, does anyone squander such a wonderful opportunity, be a bit clever, Maya, people starve to death unless they’re clever, tell me, why did you run away, you could have heard him out, what he says, what he wants to say
Peeping through the hole, I saw the police were exchanging fire
As if I don’t know, he’ll ask me to sleep with him, what else could a man have to say
You made a terrible  mistake, Maya, you could have spent half an hour or an hour with him, he wouldn’t do it just like that, definitely for money, any other girl would have simply
Alright, please tell me the truth, are you trying to test me
Not at all, there’s nothing to test, I’m telling you the plain truth, if ten out of ten girls in society are bad, how long will you stay good, perhaps inwardly you want me to stop you, but that’s what leads to turmoil, if you have your husband in hand, then there’s nothing whatsoever to worry about
I got that, lets say I bring someone, where will you be
Why, don’t we have two rooms, I’ll be in one and the two of you’ll be in the other one, just get rid of your inhibitions and then everyone will be happy
What do you mean everyone will be happy
The great crematorium in Nimtala will be beautified to resemble the Gandhi-ghat in Delhi
No Maya, that’s not correct, however wealthy women might be, if they don’t get proper satisfaction down below
Whatever you might say, since you want to hear I’ll talk, all these years of being married to you was quite alright, but now I don’t feel there’s anything inside my darling
So tell me that I’m lying
Look, if you’re willing
But I’ve already told you
If you don’t create domestic turmoil about this, then there’s no need to get the military man, there are so many rich guys here, the half-old man in the provisions store devours me with his eyes, if I just give him a hint … besides that contractor chap has a lot of cash
The senior students had stripped him naked and poured hot liquid wax in his anus
How much will he pay
That’s what’s more problematic … nowadays you can get girls on the streets, men don’t want to spend much, but if you’ve got what it takes and can appraise the situation and strike accordingly, then, if not five hundred, he’ll definitely give two hundred
Let’s see how it goes, but I know there’ll be no shortage of men for me
If you can squeeze out money
Just you watch, when you’ve put me into the business I’ll conduct myself accordingly … get up now and start cooking, let me go to the market
Alright, go … I have evening duty … tell me, how will I know
Why, when you see the door bolted from within, then you’ll know someone’s in there, the food will be kept in the other room, eat quietly and spread out the floor mat
Alright
I warn you, don’t try to peep or anything, the man who spends money and comes for satisfaction must not be annoyed
Binodini ascends from the waters of the Ganga and comes directly towards Bihari
Hello Boudi, it’s been a long time, do tell me what you need
I need a lot of things, but where’ll I get the money
What do you want to say, Boudi, please tell me frankly … if it’s money you need
We’re needy folk, if we don’t need it then tell me who does
How much do you need, tell me
I’ll do that, but how will I repay you
Pay me when you can
Why don’t you come to our house at night, nowadays my husband has night duty, we can chat for a while, I’m all alone and don’t have anyone to talk to
You say
I’ll tell you then how much I need
I too wanted
Do come, I’ll make you forget all your sorrows
Really, Boudi
On the charge of stealing a bulb, a deaf-mute girl was stripped naked and was branded on her genitals with a hot skewer
Do come from time to time, no one will mind
But your husband
He won’t say anything
The neighbours … the neighbourhood
Makes no difference whether they’re there or not, it’s just a half-domestic neighbourhood, in fact people come in the afternoon to the house next door
Amazing, I didn’t know about that
So much happens inside the basti homes, do outsiders know about all that
Alright then, but I hope I won’t end up getting thrashed
Oh no, my husband and I will take care of that, but I need five hundred
Immediately after word of the murder got around, the incensed mob began to damage and vandalize the nearby locality
You’re asking for too much, Boudi, if it’s about two hundred that’ll be okay
Not two hundred, make it three hundred, once a week, four times a month, at the same rate
You’re very clever
Did I ask for too much
It’s alright, but I can’t pay you now, come at night and take it, when I’m closing the office
Alright, when will you come … who knows when the old man from the provisions store will come
The language of love was the language of his protest
Uncle, when will you come
After I close the shop
Alright
Will there be something then … I can’t spend the whole night, at most till eleven at night
Okay, I’ll cook and keep food ready
Oh no, there’s no need to cook, if I eat outside there’ll be a commotion at home, I can’t stay away at night, can’t eat outside
When you come, how’ll you recognize my house
I know it well, I’ve been observing it for a long time
I hope you can remember it
The leader of the People’s War Group has been arrested in the jungles of Goaltor
Dada, could you please give me a couple of things quickly
What’s the hurry, you’ve come after a long time, hey, you rascal, get a nice cup of tea, tell him to make it a special one, tell me, what do you need
Oh, I need lots of things but I can’t get the things I need, like oil and soap
Is that all, chee-chee, when I’m there
No, no
I’ll give you the whole month’s provisions, later, when you have the money
Oh, how can that be, where’ll I get such a lot of money all at once, I know you’ll give the stuff, but unless I pay in time, does anyone give anything, tell me
I like you, that’s why
Exhibiting the male body is the latest fad now
I like you too, Uncle
But the matter of liking is of a different kind, I’m sure you understand, I won’t let you lack for anything
I got it
When I’m with you, all deprivation will fly away
All this is sinful, besides I’m scared, I’ve not thought about the husband aspect, and there are neighbours and the neighbourhood
Don’t talk about neighbours, as if neighbours matter in such neighbourhoods, if you’re without food would anyone come to feed you ... listen, do something, go home, I’ll send all the stuff in a rickshaw, my shop’s closed tomorrow
Alright, but do think about my side
Patriarchy does not depend merely on the individual bearing the father’s name, it creeps into every possible level of the man-women relationship, at home and outside
What’s up, how far have you got with the cooking ... what’s in the pan ... oh, only some vegetables ... listen, please cut this fish
I can’t cut such a big fish, why didn’t you have it cut
We’ve got to eat haven’t we
Why did you get such a big fish, won’t we need oil
You don’t have to worry about all that, how much oil do you require, make some tea first, a rickshaw-full of stuff is on its way ... when you’ve given your consent, just you see how and what I do … look at these two crisp hundred rupee notes, there’s a rickshaw-full of goods, that’s from the provision store
How will you pay back so much money
Don’t I have the capital … why aren’t you cutting the fish … the contractor won’t stay the whole night today, only till ten at night, and tomorrow’s the old man from the provisions store, each one comes once a week, you can keep watch if necessary … we don’t need anything more … can you go outside and look, I think I can hear the rickshaw horn
A woman phones the fire brigade in the middle of the night: there’s a fire in my heart, please come and douse it
Yes, my dear Maya, a rickshaw-full of goods
Go, go and get the stuff … bring it carefully
As if I ever create any trouble
No one looked at them, everyone comes happy and content
Baba, where’ll I keep so much rice and daal
Put everything under the cot, I’ll arrange everything tomorrow morning … did you pay the rickshaw now
He didn’t accept it
Why’s that
Look Maya, the receipt’s for four hundred and twenty rupees ... really Maya, in just a single day you’ve managed to organize this
You just keep quiet henceforth … arrange everything properly … quite a good amount in cash and then there’s the relation
But that would mean a lot of hardship
You idiot, the hardship won't be every day, just for a day, and then everything’s familiar … here, take your fish
After paying a huge sum as ransom the kidnapped businessman returned
Those who know the body know how to pay the price
Instead of talking, if you can, try to arrange the things on the shelf ... let me fry the pieces of fish, and then I’ll make the gravy, just enough for the two of us
Here, do you think it’s done
It’s okay, but there’s more stuff in the bag
There’s a lot of stuff here, every kind of spice, he’s sent all the household requirements
Go and have your bath, won’t you go to work
Let it be, I think I won’t go today
What on earth do you think, you’ll eat and go to work like everyone else, you can’t eat off the money earned by your wife, I’m telling you, you have to go to work everyday, bear in mind, I can get along even if you’re not there … taste it and tell me
What can I do, have I learnt cooking
Learn to cook too, those who’ll spend the whole night with me will extract full value for their money
Howrah’s starving workers now want to take revenge through the ballot
They pay for the quality they see
How’s the fish, do you like the gravy
The taste of fresh fish is something else altogether, I’m eating a big fish after a very long time
Baba, my stomach’s really full, when you return from work today remember to buy condoms, the last packet is still there … who knows what diseases people have, got to be careful
Alright, baba, one burden’s gone, now for a cycle … so I’m off, but do be careful
Yes my dear, you go now
Then Rohini Hattangadi looks for and picks up a stone, and meditating on Shiva, begins to perform puja
Hello Boudi, I’m sure you’re waiting for me
Yes, do come in, sit in this room, let me shut the door, it’s a small room, no cot or anything, you won’t be very comfortable, Uncle
I will be, for sure I will be, keep this relationship in good shape, and why only a cot, you’ll get so many things ... do you know Maya, if a boy’s cunning it’s very dangerous ... I can’t sleep with your boudi anymore, but of course your boudi has no more sex … where are you, come to me
I want to sit on your lap
Come, let’s do that, if you sit you’ll understand
I don’t allow that, if they’re squeezed too hard they’ll begin to sag … yes, like that, use your hand
Maya, can you ever forget me
I’ll try, Uncle, we can chat later, but finish the business first
I don’t have the patience to sit any more, fold your legs
On Children’s Day, we vow that we will not let children be deprived of the full development of all their inner capabilities – Department of Women & Child Development, Government of India
No, don’t do that … where’s it, put it in … why do you delay, how much longer, Uncle
I don’t know
Why’re you acting like a teenager
Don’t I get aroused
Take it, will it run away this time too, you shouldn’t do that
Believe me, Maya
What
No great damage is done by that, why are you getting up, lie down beside me for some more time
In order to blow up the Rajdhani Express in an explosion, a time-bomb has been placed on the rail line
Where do I put it
You don’t have to get up, who’s stopping you
Would you like to eat fried fish
Is there any
Baba, why wouldn’t there be any, the taste of fresh fish is something else altogether, do you get that, let me make tea, fried fish and tea
You’re stupid, fried fish goes well with booze … I drink now and then
But the taste of fresh fish is something else altogether
No, not today, next week, around nine, the shop’s closed on that day, you see I have to keep up the home front as well as the external front
Whatever you wish
In Burdwan, a sick child was given another child’s injection
Yes, my dear, this is the first time I’ve earned, but if you don’t like to see that
I’m all aflutter inside, you know, I’m really happy, you know what you want
So what if there's some hardship, there’s happiness besides the hardship
That’s what’ll be, Maya, I hope your wishes are fulfilled
How long before the next visit
It won’t do to be so crazy ... hey, it’s ten-thirty, tell me what I should bring for you, make a list and give it in the market
You’ve already given all the stuff from the provisions store
I have to get up now … stuff to do at home … this door’s open
Oh baba, he hasn’t even come in ... don’t be standing at the door, who knows who’ll
I’ll see you around
Yes
You’ll live long, dear, I thought you’d have come home and gone to sleep
What are you … didn’t anyone come …you had said he’d stay all night, I’m sure you lied to me
No, my dear, not a lie, you see he has a grown-up son at home, it’s not possible for him to stay all night, he left just fifteen minutes ago ... here, take off your shirt and trousers, I’m terribly hungry, have a wash while I put the rice to boil
Globalization and patriarchy – it’s because of this link that in the forthcoming World Social Forum of 2004, one of the ten key subjects for discussion is patriarchy
How many times
At first twice in succession, and then once more before leaving
Is that’s all
Just the three times made me forget my dad’s name … what’re you doing … has the strength of an ogre, hey, please massage my body, just see how it’s swollen from squeezing
Baba, it’s really swollen … will I get something
You’ll get it, my dear, but massage my body first
You just carry on, Maya, just carry on, there’s nothing to fear, if required I’ll opt for the night shift, I’ll do all the household chores as soon as I wake up in the morning
That you have to do, my dear, I’m earning now, look here, it’s in my interest to give peace to those who come, isn’t it, they’ll give baksheesh
That must be extracted
If you’re at home, I’ll be panicky … terror in the mind
Alright, as soon as I can I’ll take the night shift
A complaint was made against a promoter for deploying hijras to evict a tenant
What happened, why did you get up
I have no clue about what you did when
You’re lying
You’re terribly naughty, hey, I’m sleepy now, let me go to sleep, when you wake up in the morning, wash the cooking utensils, sweep the rooms, make tea and then wake me up
Alright, let me sleep now
The ballot papers were torn in the booth itself and the box was dumped in the water
Hey, Maya, wake up, it’s nine, don’t you want tea
What time is it
It’s nine
Nine … have you done all the work, have you filled water ... where’s the tea, give it to me, I’ll lie down in bed and have tea, I can’t get up before I have tea … do you know, I slept so well, my whole body feels light … light the stove, I’ll have a bath and then cook today, god, what an ache, dear
Is it bad … listen, it’ll relieve you if I give you a hot compress
The seven-year-old girl, Rinku, searches among the ashes of the burnt hut for her Kisalay book
It’ll be great if I can get it
You’ll get it, but go to the toilet now, you’ve been farting away all this while, take your bath and come out
I’ve lit the stove, let me sweep the other room
We should get some good mosquito nets, pillows and quilts now
There’s money in hand, so we can buy it
Do you think I’ll buy it with my money, are you out of your mind, it’s those who come who soil our bed-linen, and it’s they who’ll buy it
Hey, can you hear me, where are you, please give me the towel, what a lovely fragrance in the soap, what soap is this dear, what’s it called … this is the norm, Maya, as long as you’re young, just grab it
Come out, let me take a bath ... I have to sleep a while after eating
Nowadays, in private parties, women openly hire male dancers and make them strip naked
Boudi, are you at home
Who is it
It’s me
Oh, it’s you, it’s so dark outside, what time is it, just wait, the light’s not turned on, how on earth did I sleep so long, it’s seven, if you hadn’t called me … come in, come, believe me, it’s terrible, I’ve never slept so long
Is that so, what did you dream about
A lot of stuff, please sit down, let me just go to the wash-room, god, I badly need to pee
A boy died leaping from the roof, imitating Spiderman
Would you like to have some tea
Yes please make it ... hey, silly girl, I have a family too, I know what all is needed in a family, just maintain the relationship with me and you’ll never know deprivation ... listen, your nightie’s in the cloth bag
Here’s the tea, but there aren’t any biscuits
Take it out and see
Alright, I’ll wear it and come
Why, wear it in front of me
Okay ... it’s nice ... do you like it
Hearing about the death due to a wrong injection, the Superintendent said, but he would have died one day
Not in this room, come to the other room … I did up the room today
Whatever you wish, take me wherever you want ... oh, such a lovely room, absolutely secluded ... is your husband alright
Yes of course, why shouldn’t he be alright ... I say, weren’t you supposed to come at nine o’ clock
I just came by
Whatever you think’s right ... so where shall I sit, on your lap
That’s right ... you’re even younger than my daughter
Look here, love doesn’t heed age
Buchanan and company won’t allow Sourav to recover from his injury
Maya, that’s what I think when I look at your face
Oh baba, what have I sat on dear
How on earth did you land on your husband’s fate
I don’t know … maybe it’s so … where’s your thing
Let’s see where you’ve hidden it
The colour can’t be discerned in the light from the bulb
A manly woman has been arrested for disguising as a man and marrying an eighteen-year-old girl
So you’ve snared me
What do you mean
There’s nothing to fear, there may be a little bit of hardship ... hey take a look, I hope there’s no piss anywhere, I don’t like it
I’ve put on some scent for that reason ... don’t worry
I won't hurt you
Not like that
In today’s world, dreaming of surviving as a gay is a purely personal matter of yours
So that’s what makes the guys happy, they get pleasure when you inflict pain
There’s no other worry, you stay this way and you won’t ever have to worry about difficulty
Go to sleep now … what happened, do you want to
Can you take a risk regarding whatever’s connected with your home
I’ll give you more
There’s no point giving you unnecessary trouble ... lift up your head and look, look at me, keep looking
Take my love … don’t get lost
What are you saying, Maya, my head will go in
Try to put your head in and see … I’m not lying
What do you mean
It means nothing
It was as if a baby was being delivered

THE END

[2003]


This is a translation of the original Bengali story “Madankotkoti” by Subimal Misra.
Translated by V. Ramaswamy.





21 February, 2014

The Mosquito





















A long-standing desire, for a ceiling fan, in the bedroom. But every month, there's never any money left. Finally, I couldn't take it any more, I bought one a fortnight ago. In today's newspaper, the same fan company has advertised that a 15% discount is being offered on their fans. That means the fan bought for 360 rupees is now cheaper by more than 50 rupees. After seeing that, I felt terribly annoyed. I don't like the boring drone of literature. Instead let me now tell the story of a mosquito. This is the mosquito that at some time, unknown to me, sat on my left lung and punctured it, and finally took my all –

This mosquito now flies over Victoria Memorial. It's shadow falls on Victoria's head. The colour of the fairy changes, the shadow keeps spreading in the direction of the Maidan, leaving behind the vast human settlement in the south, it began to encircle the Maidan. The last of the day's sunlight was there now, sticking to the leaves on trees. Moloy Bhattacharjee lies with his head on Chandana Sen's lap. This is the Moloy Bhattacharjee who stuffs Number Ten cigarettes in a Wills Navy Cut packet, lighting it carefully in front of his lover, to show that it's Wills. And the whole evening, the rubbing of face and neck with a half-wet gamcha. To get a reddish tinge. On the cheeks.

And this is the Chandana Sen who, even at the age of thirty one, seeing the lack of effort from home towards getting her married, willingly or unwillingly fed honey to the Moloy Bhattacharjees, regularly, when darkness descended beneath the tree, but she wasn't able to hook anyone. Now the mosquito goes and sits on Moloy Bhattacharjee's cheek. It lowers the proboscis, sucks it up, yes, that's right, blood. Then it flies off after some time. Chandana Sen looks at Moloy Bhattacharjee lying with his head on her lap, here, but despite the proximity he was not quite there, from the corner of his eye, again and again, he was looking intently at a buxom young woman walking with her blue sari blowing in the wind – the mosquito now flies northwards, further north, it then goes and sits on the elbow of a middle-aged conjurer, who was performing for a thousand people beneath Shahid Minar. This was the conjurer wearing a black achkan over a jet-black silk lungi, who speaks in a fabricated language made up of an amalgam of Bangla and Hindi, he makes a skull speak and shows simple-minded folk the way to reach Ramrajya.

The mosquito sits on the conjurer 's elbow and keeps sucking blood, as the people stood encircling him, after a while, looking at the conjurer's face, they sense something, and then each one goes his own way, they keep leaving.

The mosquito flies off, and with it goes its shadow.

It comes and sits on Burrabazar's Jagmohan's fleshy thigh. Now he, Jagmohan, with two telephones in two hands, is engaged in discussion about the share market, this is the Jagmohan who can discern at a glance gold and silver buried under ash, who buys the government's goats from the government and sells it back to the same government with a 100 per cent margin. The mosquito merrily sucks Jagmohan's blood through the proboscis, when its belly is full it flies off – the mosquito flies along, taking the large shadow along. It comes and sits on Baghbazar's Jhantu Kayal's shoulder. Jhantu Kayal has then fallen asleep in the stifling heat, in the course of trying in vain to cool himself with a hand-fan, after a whole's day's back-breaking labour. This is the Jhantu Kayal who works 12 hours in a lathe-machine workshop in Bantra, at the end of the month he receives a salary of 347 rupees, returning at night with grease-blackened hands, tears of pieces  of roti and stuffs them into his mouth, labour-fatigued, his eyes shut, the eyelids.

The mosquito goes and sits on his elbow, but there's no blood to suck there. It sits on his back, which is hard and bony, with leathery skin, it can't prick and insert the proboscis. It sits on the forehead, there's no flesh there, it's unyielding, solid, bone, and forehead, Jhantu Kayal is fortunate. The mosquito then flies off. Again. Jet propellers on its wings. Sound. Speed. In the wings. Its body becomes heavy. The shadow keeps spreading. Of the jet propeller. The mosquito's shadow spreads across the entire Maidan, the martyr's pillar is in shadow, as is Gandhi on Park Street and the stone fairy atop Victoria Memorial. A gust of wind blows, clouds gather, the symbolic size of the sun  becomes small. No one can see, or sense, when, it goes and sits, with a quiet plop, on the barrel, of the pipe-gun, held, in the hands, of the 18-year old boy.

THE END


This is a translation of an extract from the original Bengali anti-novel, "Rong Jokhon Shotorkikoron Er Chhinnho" (When Colour is a Warning Sign) (1984), by Subimal Misra.

Translated by V. Ramaswamy. 

25 October, 2013

Babumoshai, enjoy the fun










Eight-feet and sixteen-knees went to catch fish with unease, casts on land a net so fine and catches fish come rain or shine. Tell me, Babumoshai? Couldn’t get it? It’s a spider. Come, Babumoshai, sit. Babumoshai, enjoy the fun. Standing or sitting, just have fun. Coming or going, just have fun. Eating or sleeping, just have fun. Babumoshai, enjoy the fun. Couldn’t get it, Babumoshai? It’s a spider, Babumoshai.


One hundred funs, two hundred funs, a thousand funs. A contest for how far one could throw a baby snatched from its mother’s bosom – what fun! At the competition to eat ten rupees worth of rossogollas, the clean-shaven, sparkling youth circled naked around Dalhousie Square at broad noon – what a fun incident, isn’t it? Just imagine there’s a 7-month old baby in a woman’s bosom. A peace-wallah came up to her. As he grabs the girl, the baby began to cry. The peace-wallah then gave a push and threw the baby on the ground. After falling down the baby began crying even more loudly. Seeing that peace was being disturbed, the peace-wallah then pressed the baby’s head under his boot. He squashed the head. The others exclaimed, bravo! Just imagine, what fun it is. For that matter, one can make fun with you too. For instance, I will ask you: which year is this, brother? You will wonder what this is about. It’s nothing, it’s only a piece of fun. Or I could tell you, in the next few days, whenever you get the opportunity, use your two hands like feet, that is to say, you now have 2 feet + 2 hands; now, if the value of a hand is equal to the value of a foot, then how many feet do 2 hands equal, and how many feet would you have altogether? Are you getting angry? Don’t be angry, this is fun, simply fun. Do you know, for the last few days, I feel that the rear, seat region of my trousers keeps rising and expanding, that hair is rapidly spreading all over my face, my jaw is getting flattened, and two long teeth keep growing out of the two ends of my mouth – I’m wondering whether this too is a piece of fun. What – so you’re not finding it funny? Are you getting bored? Don’t conclude that all fun is like this – merely vegetarian fare; that’s not so, Babumoshai –

Gulp vegetarian fun
There’s also the non-vegetarian bang
Come, tell me on which tree
Do two seed-filled fruits hang?

Ha ha, God! That was really funny, isn’t it? Yes, you will definitely have fun, it was for just such fun that you were waiting all this while. Listen then to another piece of A-grade fun. There’s floods in North Bengal. You’ve gone from Calcutta to undertake flood relief. You’ve taken along rice, daal, clothes and so on. You’ve parked the boat on the bank and are undertaking flood relief. As you’re distributing clothes, you suddenly spot in the distance, behind the clump of shit-babla, a full-grown piece of fun, standing. A girl, concealed by the clump, she’s not in a condition to come to you and take a sari from you. And it’s not possible for her to come out in the open with whatever she’s wearing. All of you saw it, heard it, understood everything; winked at each other. Because the girl is …  Ha ha, God! … Want some more fun? You’re a daily passenger – observe the stations carefully – you’ll have loads of fun. In every station there’ll be middle-aged people, who are bent double, there’ll be two or four unclad, harried mothers with a child on the bosom, there’ll be a whole bunch of naked, hungry children. And right next to them, a meticulously dressed, smart-looking babu – whistling to himself and waiting for the train; a job in Calcutta. There’s fun in statistics too. If Ram earns 1 million rupees a month and Shyam earns 51.50 rupees a month, then calculate the average annual income of Ram and Shyam together. Do it, you’ll have fun. Keep your ears pricked when you travel by bus or tram. There’s fun there too. “Hey mister, why do you forget that the son of a petty clerk is destined to become a petty clerk even if he is an engineering graduate – and the director’s son will become a director even if he fails high school – it’s a peculiar country, mister – such fun the dialogue is, isn’t it? There’s fun like this everywhere. The silver jubilee of India’s independence. The Prime Minister’s speech on the transistor. The haat in Kakdwip. As you’re listening to the speech, you see an old hag who’s come to sell, as her final resort, her two pet ducks. She says she’ll give away the two ducks in exchange for two kilos of wheat-flour. Nobody buys it. Accompanying the silver jubilee of independence is this 2 kilos of flour in exchange for two pet ducks – isn’t it fun? Fun like this is found everywhere. In marketplace, village, town, shop or street. The red flag procession is held up when it confronts His Holiness Sri Sri Bhabataran Baba’s procession. The grandeur of the wedding of Burrabazar’s Hukumchand Nagarmal’s grandson – a car decorated like a swan with flowers – men bearing an array of ornamental lanterns on their heads, bare-bodied, black backs, weary eyes – this causes a traffic jam, half a mile long – trams and buses are all held up. Isn’t it fun? Babumoshai, enjoy the fun – go to Seadah station late at night. You’ll find fun there too. You won’t be able to walk. You’ll tread on people at every step. People come from the village. From nameless towns. Hundreds of them. Thousands. Countless. Even so many years after independence, queues of hapless people come to the station and become beggars. Rows and rows of faces of wives, children and malnourished babies. In the station precincts, in the waiting room, on the pavement – everywhere the same faces. Wives, children, babies. In the middle of the night. In the stilled station. Every now and then, a loud, sharp whistle. The sound of railway shunting. And in the middle of that, a procession of weary, starving faces. There’s fun there too. Just be a bit observant. You’ll see 2-3 policemen waking up all those weary sleeping bodies and taking collections. Do you know what the collection is for. It’s tax. The police have to be paid a tax of 10 paise per head to remain in Sealdah station. There’s fun incidents like this all around. Mohammad Abdul from Baisata, Haran Mandal from Debisabad, Kishore Maity from Baurmal, Banamala from Satguchi, all of them give pay the collection of 10 paise to the police and occupy the station premises. 25 years after independence, look at Sealdah station alone, you’ll find such incidents occur day after day. The area around the station is flooded with starving beggars. The police can’t keep them away. They clear one place and new beggars and from another place fill up the vacant space. The whole station fills up in half an hour. It’s a fun thing isn’t it? There’s fun like this all around. There’s fun to be had in hotel, shop, restaurant … in the Maidan. There’s fun in newspapers. On its left side is printed a picture of a beggar who was found dead on the railway platform. And an advertisement is placed on the right side, a bra-clad, semi-naked, female body. On one side it’s written: Starving Calcutta – 3 persons died of starvation in Sealdah; on the other side: Feminica – guaranteed to bring perfect feminine beauty to your flat chest within 3 months. People see it. They have fun. Fun happens. Fun happens throughout the newspaper. Fun happens all over the station. Fun happens throughout the nation.

Oh my! Blooming flowers in beds so round
Flowers the colour of cowrie
Wild spinach fritters hurry

Fun – fun - fun. One hundred funs, two hundred funs, a thousand funs. Babumoshai, enjoy the fun! Oh my! Blooming flowers …

THE END

[1973]

This is a translation of the original Bengali story, “Babumoshai moja koroon”, by Subimal Misra. Translated by V. Ramaswamy.