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 …



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

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