The Deeds of Dashu
In our school, there was hardly anyone who didn’t know Crazy Dashu. Even those who knew nobody was familiar withDashu. One time, a new watchman came to our school; he was totally rustic. No sooner than he heard about Crazy Dashu, had he identified him. That’s because from his looks, speech, and movement you could tell Dashu was a bit off in the head. He had big round eyes, unnecessarily long ears, and a scrub of scruffy hair. Whenever he walked fast or spoke in a busy manner, it reminded one of lobsters for some reason.
Not that he was foolish. When it came to arithmetic, especially complex multiplication and division problems, his brain worked rather well. Again, there were occasions when he reveled in duping us with such well-forged plans, that we were left embarrassed and stunned.
At the time Dashu or Dasharathi joined our school, Jagabandhu was famous as the “best boy” of our class. He was good in studies no doubt, but we hadn’t seen a jealous wet cat like him. One day, Dashu approached Jagabandhu to ask him the meaning of an English word. Jagabandhu snapped at him without any reason, saying, “Do I have nothing better to do? Today I will teach him English, tomorrow I’ll have to help someone else with maths, the next day another one would come to me with a new request. And I’d just go on wasting time on this!” A livid Dashu replied, “Hey, you are such a petty little rascal.” Jagabandhu complained to Pandit Mashai, “That new boy is calling me names.” Pandit Mashai* gave Dashu such a yelling that the poor fellow just went quiet.
Bishtubabu taught us English. Jagabandhu was his favourite student. While lecturing, whenever he needed to refer to the textbook, Bishtubabu would get it from Jagabandhu. One day, while teaching us grammar, he asked Jagabandhu for the book. Our friend immediately handed him the green-cover-wrapped grammar tome. As he opened the book, Master Mashai^ asked grimly, “Whose book is this?” Broadening his chest in pride Jagabandhu said, “Mine.” Master Mashai said, “Hmm, is this a new edition? The entire book has changed, I see.” With that, he started reading, “Hair-raising detective tales of Inspector Jashobant.”
Unable to understand whatever was happening, Jagabandhu just froze, flabbergasted. Master Mashai rolled his eyes devilishly and said, “So you are learning such higher things, haan?” Jagabandhu tried to mutter something, but Master Mashai cut him short and said, “Just shut up now. No need to act nice and good. Enough of that!” Jagabandhu’s ears went red with shame and insult, and we sure were delighted to see that. Later of course, we learned that this was the handiwork of brother Dashu, who had replaced another green-cover book with Jagabandhu’s grammar book.
We always poked fun at Dashu, often ridiculing his intelligence and looks, right in front of him. I don’t recall him getting upset about it even once. A lot of times, he would colour our comments and make up funny stories about himself. One day he said, “In our neighbourhood, whenever someone makes dry mango candy, I am in big demand. Can you guess why?” “Why?” We asked, “Do you relish mango candy?” He said, “Oh no, that’s not the reason. You see, when they spread the candy for drying on the terraces, I go there and show my face a couple of times. That’s enough to drive all the crows away from the area. So no one needs to guard the mango candy while it dries.”
* Pandit Mashai = Respectable term for teacher.
^ Master Mashai = Respectable term for teacher.
Enjoyed? Read Part II here.
Translated by: Bhaswati Ghosh