Chapter 22


January 31, 2022


Maqbul is a very well-behaved boy. His qualities have not got any comparison. He prepares his lessons attentively. No student stands on a par with him in studies. His father cultivates paddy and jute. He assists his father in farming. Once he came to Calcutta from Chandpur with his maternal uncle. Coming to Calcutta he ate jackfruit pickle and rasamálái [a sweet]. He was very happy to see Calcutta Zoo. There he drew pictures of many birds and animals. All admired his behaviour. All the people of the town felt proud of him. Everyone expects that he will render service to the world when he grows up.

The Perils of Intoxication

A person who loses his or her senses due to excessive drink and starts shouting, or talking incoherently; or starts imagining that his or her cot is flying in the air; or starts thinking that, seated on a throne, he or she is eating pát́isápt́á,3 [meanwhile] wallowing in the filth of a drain; is called koshátakin [or “drunkard”]. There are many popular tales about this type of drunkard.

Once a few drunkards were sauntering along the road towards Krishnanagar railway station from Gori at midnight. Some policemen appeared all of a sudden. The drunkards, after deliberating how to escape, stood in a line along the drain beside the road. The policemen came up and shook them, asking, “Why are you loitering here so late at night?” They replied, “Why are you disturbing us, young men? We are innocent creatures. Are you blind? Can’t you see, we are lampposts! We never meddle in anyone’s affairs. Can’t you see the lights shining above our heads?” ( The drunkards were holding torches over their heads.)

Once several drunkards were ambling along the road, mumbling all the while. A few policemen appeared. The drunkards muttered among themselves, “If we talk here the police will think we are drunkards . . . if we discuss nuchi, puri, rasagollá and sandesha [sweets], they will think that we are returning from a feast. If we keep silent, they will conclude that we’re going to practise meditation in the cave of a hill. So we’d better keep quiet. If we discuss nuchi, puri, and so on, the police may ask, ‘Where was the feast you attended?’ It’ll be rather difficult for us to reply to this question. So it’s advisable to keep silent. If we say we’re going to meditate in the cave, the police, out of reverence for us, may spare us undisturbed.”

So all of them remained silent. After a short while however, Rambabu, drunkard number one, said loudly, “Hey, hush! Keep quiet.”

Then drunkard number two said more loudly, “Hey, shhh! No talk.”

Then drunkard number three raised his voice and shouted still more loudly, “Hey, hush! No shouting.”

Drunkard number four raised his voice still higher and bellowed in a gruff voice, “Hey, hush! Don’t talk.”

And finally with the sound of “Keep quiet,” “No talk”, “No shouting”, the noise was almost like that of a fish market. Hearing this commotion the police came running to the spot. What happened thereafter we don’t know – that only the drunkards can say!

I heard that once a few drunkards were returning home at midnight after enjoying a nocturnal drink. One of them fell into a well. The rest of them got quite worried. They became inwardly restless to render some social service, following the noble example of Occidental people. They held one round of deliberation among themselves.

“Here is indeed a golden opportunity for social service,” they said. “Last year we had a slight opportunity to do some social service at Svarup-ganjaghat on the occasion of Churamani Yoga. While availing the opportunity we suffered from a severe lumbar pain which is still persisting.”

How it happened was that once [these] five drunkards went to attend the relief camp at Svarupganjaghat. But as ill luck would have it, not a single person was drown[ing] in the river whom they could rescue. There was not the least scope for social service. Not a single child was missing, so they did not get any scope to announce over the microphone, “Gobar (Cow-Dung) Babu, your son, Bhondar (Sea Lion) is now in our camp. Please come and take him.”

Now they were desperate to do something. They noticed a seven-year-old girl facing the ghat and eating a potato chop.4 They went to the girl and asked her, “Little girl, why are you standing here alone, staring at the ghat? Are you lost?”

“Lost! I’m not lost,” she replied.

The drunkards said, “Oh yes, you are certainly lost.”

“Look sirs, I am eating a freshly-fried potato chop. If you want to eat some, give me money and I will purchase a few pieces for you also,” said the little girl.

They said, “No, no, we don’t eat potato chops by themselves. We eat potato chops as an appetizer before and after a drink. We wouldn’t relish a plain chop brought by you.”

“My little girl, where are your golden bangles? Are they lost? Have they been stolen?” one of them asked her.

The girl replied, “I never had any bangles on my wrists.”

“Then where is your nosering?” they asked.

“My nose was never pierced. How can I wear a nosering?” replied the girl.

They said, “Then we are convinced that you are really lost.”

The girl looked towards the ghat and started shrieking, “Auntie dear, auntie dear, come quick. These strangers are speaking all sorts of nonsense to me.”

Her paternal aunt had just finished her bath, and, having placed a folded wet towel on her head, was bargaining for a feather duster in front of a broom shop. The shouting of her niece caught her attention. She immediately picked up a coconut broom and started rushing to where her niece was standing, shouting all the while, “Who are you wretches, trying to kidnap my dear niece? I am Jagadamba the Bamni,5 of Amghata Village. Who in the world . . . in India . . . in Nadia District does not know me! All the sinners, all the wretches, and all the cunning fellows prostrate before me when they see me in public, but in private they call me all kinds of names – louse, shark, and so on. Today either you will be finished or I’ll be finished. I’ll give you such a thorough thrashing that you will forget the names of fourteen times two equal to fifty-two generations of your ancestors. I’ll clean all the poison from your brains.”

Then the aunt began to thrash them mercilessly with the broom – sapásap-jhapájhap-damádam came the sound. After receiving a good drubbing they took to their heels.

These same people, after a long time, became overjoyed to see [the] drunkard falling into a well at night. Finally, they thought, they had been given an opportunity to do some social service. They felt inwardly restless to utilize the opportunity for a humanitarian cause.

“Let’s hold a press conference today,” one of them suggested.

“No, let’s first issue a press release today,” another said. “Let’s first rescue him from the well and then we can conveniently hold a big press conference.”

The third one proposed, “First ascertain whether he is dead or still alive. It’ll be better if he is dead.”

All of them agreed. “That’s right, that’s right. It is the best proposal. Even a learned judge would admit that,” they said.

Then all of them gathered around the well and announced, “Hello, Bhonda, we are here to rescue you. First tell us whether you are alive or dead. If you are dead, we’ll immediately go to your house and convey the news to your family, and we will hoist you up with the help of the ropes and carry your dead body to the cremation ground. If you say that you are still alive we’ll inform the hospital authorities. They will send an ambulance within a short span of two or three days and take you to the hospital.”

In this way the drunkards continued their clamour. In the freezing night they made the heavy air warm and roared, “Tell us, you wretch, if you are dead or alive. We’ll utilize this opportunity for social service.”

I Love This Tiny Green Island6

I love this tiny green island Surrounded by the sea Touched by the sea Decorated by sea I love this tiny green island Surrounded by the sea Am I a secluded figure In the vast, a little, a meagre No, no, no, no, I’m not alone Great is with me The Great is with me

(1) From Nútan Varńa Paricay (“New First Reader”) Part 1, 1989. –Eds.

(2) From the section on “Koshátakin” (“Drunkard”) in Shabda Cayaniká (“A Collection of Words”) Part 8, 1989.

(3) A kind of delicious cake. –Eds.

(4) Known in India in English as “potato chop”, an álur cap (আলুর চপ) is a slice of potato coated with a paste of gram (chick-pea) flour and spices, then fried. –Eds.

(5) A Bamni is a Brahman woman, particularly a widow. –Eds.

(6) Song number 68 in Prabháta Saḿgiita: The Songs and Their English Renderings, Vol. 1, 1995. –Eds.