Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Kothay Jachhen,Tarapadababu?"

(Where are you going Tarapadababu?)

There is something about Rays and Bengali literature - the only two authors whose entire work adore my bookshelves are Satyajit and Tarapada. For years, actually decades - years spent in wasting my college days; years where I tried to overcome the early workplace excitement and, subsequent frustration; single years where I tried to find meaning of everything in things like Beer and Kababs -- books like "Ko Kho Ga(w) Gho", "KandogYan", "Bidyabuddhi", "Sheshmesh" were a part of my bedtime routine. Heck, even my wife - who understands but cannot read Bengali - nagged me regularly to tell "funny stories from that mota boi" ("Golpo 365" - anthology of Ray's humorous writings). Tarapada seemed to have a life made of dreams - childhood spent in East Bengal in a big family that includes every unknowing neighbor; experimenting grandparents; weird relatives; youth dedicated to "Krittibaas Movement" - that was all about late nights in burning ghaats, drinking (and often smoking LSDs brought in by likes of Alen Ginsberg), and writing stuff that were never written before
-- and above all -- a solid, secure, executive level job with Govt of West Bengal that ended as soon as Buddhadeb Bhattacharya took over!

He claimed most of his jokes were "copied" from Joke books he bought used from Berkeley (where his son teaches) bookshops, but not all - not even most of it were lifted from foreign sources. I live in US for a decade and never seen an English joke book with ShilNora jokes! Most jokes were either on him, or on his brother (Sajal), his sons - Dodo and Tatai, his wife - Minoti, his East Bengal neighborhood, Calcutta offices, Shibram Chakraborty and late-night drunks (read - Shakti Chattopadhhay). He tried funny fictions too - namely the ones with a detective named 'Patal laal' (pronounced as one in Bengali) and an aging heroine 'Julekha'. Puja special numbers for daily "Aajkaal" usually carried this series. He wrote - and loved more than writing anything else - enormous number of poems, some excellent ones. Lately, he delved in some real auto-biographical stuff too -- the title of this blog being title of one such book (read - his jokes with actual character names on it). But like every other successful funny man, he carried a burden to prove himself to be "non serious". Thus poet Tarapada remained sidelined to the joke writer! To me, some of his poems would rank the same as early Nirendranath Chakraborty - same lucidity, similar Calcutta-East Bengal identity dilemma, and not overtly just about chasing skirts (actually, saris!) when drunk.

Tarapada Ray died yesterday. News of death - as we grow older - becomes more painful. But when a humorist dies, it becomes unbelievable. Like Tarapada, Art Buchwald - whom the former had tremendous respect for and had actually met in US - also died of kidney complications. Buchwald worked on a book titled "Too Soon to Say Goodbye" in his final days. This book contained eulogies prepared by his friends, family and media that were drafted earlier when a false news of his death was reported. After the day of his death New York Times posted a video obituary where Buchwald himself said "Hi, I am Art Buchwald and I just died". Knowing Tarapadababu, he would never do the video part, but probably would have done the book by all means. My eulogy on him would just be - "The first man in billions of years of Universe who wrote jokes on Moshari and Gamcha is no more. Airplane economy class travel would no longer be the same without his books unraveling why one bajaar never has more than one pagol and one shaaNd!"

Glossary -

Moshari - Mosquito Net. Discovered way before Rasagolla and perhaps a truer identity for every true Bengali.

Bajaar - Fish Market. Vegetables - namely, potatoes - can also be sold, but as long as there is no fish (not frozen, fresh) - it is not officially a 'bajaar' for Bengalis.

Pagol - A lazy folk -usually perfectly alright - who adorns a locality, a bajaar or the book store near a bus stop. Neighborhood gladly welcomes one pagol, but gets divided in their support when there is more than one. It usually ends in bitter physical fight between two pagols for territory. Bengali folks can pay money, or, more usually, misses work to witness such fights.

Gamcha - originally hand-woven cotton spread with different shades of red used to wipe water off Bengali body after a bath. There could be as many as 139 types of red color in one single gamcha. Best gamchas are usually available in Sealdah. Even though "towel" became a French sounding "towaale" in Bengal-land, true Bengalis stick to gamcha (or the gamcha colors stick to them).

Shaan(d) - Ox. As lazy as the pagol. Lives on the vegetables from bajaar that remain unsold.

ShilNora - A two-part stone tool used in Bengali Kitchen to ground spices. ShilNora's average life is about 145 years. In other words, no new shilNora has been made after Bidhan Roy had died. So, if you use one, thank your grand mother.

1 comment:

Bishu said...

No comments for a post of Tarapada Roy. I am really sad at the state of things and here's my attempt to rectify.
ps: Regd Shil-nora, my wife got one in her check-in luggage last time we visited India :P