As the AW Chain Ship (see sidebar) sails its way through the fifth round, it’s landed at my dock after crossing BK 30’s harbour
. BK wrote about how you can never trick her into exercising or dieting, unless you mask those evil things as something else. Makes complete sense to me. Her post
is hilarious. If you are in need of a laugh, go read it.
I admire people who can make you laugh with their writing. It requires a special skill and the ingenuity to view the world in a skewed manner. Writers who trigger a tickle in the funny bone time and again are, in my view, geniuses. And no, I don’t use that term lightly. The writer we meet today is a master of those funny missiles. He is the versatile, uproarious, and nonsensical Sukumar Ray
—Bengali literature’s very own Lewis Carroll.
I am so glad I learned reading Bengali as a child. Otherwise, I would have been denied the magic of this master of nonsense. My first brush with his strange worldview took place when I was a toddler. That was around the time I was made to learn by heart some poems from Abol Tabol or Gibberish, Ray’s repository of nearly 50 balderdash verses. I didn’t hate memorizing these poems; if anything, the converse was true. To the innocent and unbridled mind of the little me, such weirdness was delicious and worth getting serious about.
For, who would not delight to learn about the activities of the royal folks and subjects of Bombagarh, a fictitious kingdom, where the king keeps dried mango candy framed on his walls, the queen roams around with a pillow tied to her head, the citizenry does cartwheels on catching a cold, the king’s aunt plays cricket with pumpkins, and the minister beats an urn while sitting on the king’s lap?
In Gaaner Gunto or Musical Knock, he talks about the voice of the great Bhishmalochan Sharma—who starts singing on a scorching summer day—traveling from Delhi to Burma. People fall off and die by the dozens, unable to survive the “good vibrations” rampaging through the streets. Scores of animals fall prey to this thunderous singing session too, until a crazy goat knocks Bhishmalochan down with its menacing horns. That’s when his savage vocal chords are finally laid to good rest.
Sukumar Ray becomes a child’s friend in the most effortless way, just as Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear do. For here is someone who gives them the license to not only ponder on nonsense, but also to have limitless fun with it.
Ha Ja Ba Ra La or Mumbo Jumbo is a novelette peopled by strange creatures who are governed by even more outlandish rules. This complete nonsensical story is often compared to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in style and presentation. Yet, Ha Ja Ba Ra La, which is actually a random ordering of six Bengali consonants, remains peculiarly Bengali in its idiom and rendition.
While in your childhood, Sukumar Ray and his creations entertain you as dear friends, as an adult, you begin noticing the subtle satirical undertones in his works. He takes a dig at corrupt politicians in Ha Ja Ba Ra La
, pokes fun at non-laughing pseudo intellectuals in the poem Ramgarurer Chhana
(Ramgarur’s Offspring), and even some of the images in Bombagarher Raja
insinuate the lack of activity that leads members of the royalty to find inane vocations to busy themselves with.
Over the course of the next few posts, I will introduce you to Dashu, a character created by Sukumar Ray. Be alarmed; Dashu is a bundle of surprises, accidents, and craziness. If you don’t like laughing, you may not be interested in knowing about him. But otherwise…stay tuned!