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Tagore Translations

The Ordeal of Fame

A humorous skit[1] by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Somdatta Mandal

Hasyakoutuk(1914) or Humour by Tagore, the collection in which this skit was published.

Scene One

The lawyer Dukori Dutta is sitting on a chair. Kangalicharan enters nervously, ledgers in hand.

 Dukori: What do you want?

Kangali: Sir, you are a well-wisher of the nation –

Dukori: Everyone knows that. But what do you actually want?

Kangali: You have devoted your life for the welfare of the ordinary man –

Dukori: And I do so while I am carrying on my legal business but what is your point?

Kangali: Sir, actually I don’t have much to say.

Dukori: Then why don’t you finish soon.

Kangali: Think for a while and you’ll have to admit “ganat paratrang nahi”, that is to say, nothing is better than music —

Dukori: Look here, man. Before I admit anything, I need to know the meaning of what you just said. Say it in Bangla.

Kangali: Sir, I don’t know the exact Bangla meaning. But the main idea is that one loves to listen to songs a lot.

Dukori: Everyone doesn’t like them.

Kangali: Anyone who doesn’t like songs must be —

Dukori: Lawyer Dukori Dutta.

Kangali: Sir, don’t say such things.

Dukori: Then should I lie?

Kangali: The sage Bharata is the first Aryan to have…

Dukori: If you have any lawsuits to file against the Sage Bharata then tell me. Otherwise stop giving a speech on him.

Kangali: I had a lot of things to say.

Dukori: But I don’t have the time to listen to a lot of things.

Kangali: Then let me state the case in brief. In this city we’ve established a society called “Gannonati Bidhyaini” – The Society for the Betterment of Music. Sir, we want you —

Dukori: To deliver a lecture?

Kangali: No, Sir.

Dukori: To be the chairman?

Kangali: No, Sir.

Dukori: Then tell me what it is that I have to do. Let me tell you before hand, singing songs and listening to songs – I have done neither previously and will not do either of these things in future.

Kangali: Sir, you won’t have to do either. (Advancing a receipt book) Just some donation–

Dukori: (Startled, gets up) Donation! Good grief! You aren’t an easy man to please. When you came in you appeared to be a good-natured man and came in with an embarrassed face – I thought then that you were in legal trouble. Take your donation booklet immediately or I will file a police case against you for trespassing.

Kangali: Wanted a donation but got a beating! (To himself). But I I’ll teach you a lesson.

 

Scene Two

Dukori Babu with newspapers in his hand.

Dukori: This is great fun. Someone called Kangali Charan has informed all English and Bengali newspapers that I have donated five thousand rupees to their “Gannonati Bidhayini Society”. What donation, the only thing I didn’t do is throw him out by the collar. In the meantime, I’ve gained a reputation that will be very good for my business. They will also benefit from this. People will think that since they have got five thousand rupees as donation, it will turn out to be a huge meeting. No doubt they will get greater donations from elsewhere. Nevertheless, fortune will surely favour me.

The clerk enters.

Clerk: Sir, have you donated five thousand rupees to “Gannonati Sabha?”

Dukori: (scratching his head and smiling) Well, it is just a story some one has made up. Why do you listen to it? Who told you that I have donated? Suppose I did, so what? Why make a fuss about it?

Clerk: Oh, what humility! Paying five thousand rupees in cash and then trying to conceal the deed is no feat for an ordinary man.

Enter servant.

Servant: Plenty of people have assembled downstairs.

Dukori: (To self) See! In one day, my income has increased. (Gladly) Bring them upstairs one by one – and bring paan leaves and betel nut as well as some tobacco.

The first supplicant enters.      

Dukori: (Shifting a seat) Come – be seated. Sir, have some tobacco. Who is there? Hey—could we have some paan.

First Supplicant: (to himself) Really, what an amiable person! If he doesn’t fulfil one’s desires desires, who will?

Dukori: And what could have brought you here?

First Supplicant: Your generosity is famous all over the country.

Dukori: Why listen to such gossip?

First Supplicant: What humility! I had heard about you earlier, but today the difference between sight and sound has been eliminated.

Dukori: (To self) I hope he will come to the point now. Plenty of men are waiting downstairs. (Openly) So, what do you need?

First Supplicant:  For the development of the nation, from the heart —

Dukori: Yes, it is good of you to mention the heart.

First Supplicant:  That’s right. Great honourable persons like you are India’s —

Dukori: I am agreeing to all that you are saying so why don’t you concede this part to me? And so —

First Supplicant: It’s the habit of people who are full of humility that when it comes to their own virtues –

Dukori: Spare me sir. Come to the point!

First Supplicant: You know, the fact is that day by day our country is regressing —

Dukori: That is because people don’t know how to say things concisely.

First Supplicant: Our once rich and glorious motherland is now mired in poverty.

Dukori: (Like a long-suffering person, covering his head with his hand) Go on.

First Supplicant: Day by day sinking in the well of poverty –

Dukori: (In a pleading tone) Sir, what is the point?

First Supplicant:  Then let me tell you the real thing –

Dukori: (Enthusiastically) That’s better.

First Supplicant: The English have been looting us.

Dukori: This is something worth pursuing. Collect proof and I will appeal to the    magistrate’s court.

First Supplicant: The magistrates too are sharing the spoils.

Dukori: Then I will lodge an appeal in the court of the District Judge.

First Supplicant: The District Judge is a dacoit.

Dukori: (Surprised) I can’t figure you out.

First Supplicant: Let me tell you, all the money from the country is being sent abroad.

Dukori: That is terrible!

First Supplicant: So, a meeting –

Dukori:(Alarmed) A meeting?  

First Supplicant:Yes, see this is the booklet.

Dukori: (Wide-eyed) Booklet?

First Supplicant: Some donation would be –

Dukori: (Jumping up from the bench) Donation! Get out — out — out!

Quickly the table is turned, ink spilled, the first supplicant tries to exit hurriedly, falls down, gets up, chaos ensues.

The Second Supplicant enters.

Dukori: What do you want?

Second Supplicant: Your country-wide munificence —

Dukori: I’ve gone through it all once before. Tell me if you have anything new to say.

Second Supplicant: Your patriotism –

Dukori: Good lord! He seems to be saying exactly the same things!

Second Supplicant:  Your virtuous acts for the motherland –

Dukori: This is too much! Come straight to the point!

Second Supplicant:  A meeting.

Dukori: What? Another meeting?

Second Supplicant: Here, see this booklet.

Dukori: Booklet? What booklet?

Second Supplicant: To collect donations.

Dukori: Donations! (Pulls his hand) Get up, get out, out – if you love your life —

                        The man leaves without saying anything else

Enter third supplicant.

Dukori: Look, here. Appeals to my patriotism, generosity, politeness – all these have been exhausted. Try something else.

Third Supplicant: Your openness, philanthropy, and liberal views –

Dukori: That’s somewhat better. At least he’s saying something new. But sir, leave all those things and start our discourse.

Third Supplicant:  We have a library –

Dukori: Library? Not a society?

Third Supplicant: No sir, no society.

Dukori: Oh! I’m relieved. Library! Excellent. Go on.

Third Supplicant: Here, see the prospectus.

Dukori: Sure this isn’t a subscription booklet?

Third Supplicant: No sir, not at all. Merely printed leaflets.

Dukori: Oh! What next?

Third Supplicant: Some donation.

Dukori: (Jumping up) Donation! Who’s there? There’s a dacoit in my house today. Policeman! Policeman!

The third supplicant escapes as fast he can. Enter Harashankar Babu.

Dukori: Come in, come in, Harashankar. I remember our college days. But we haven’t met since then. You don’t know how happy I am feeling after seeing you.

Harashankar: I too have a lot of pleasant and unpleasant things to share with you. But I will do those things later. First let us finish a piece of business.

Dukori: (Excited) I haven’t heard anyone talk to me about business for a while now, brother. Tell me, tell me so that I can fill my ears with business talk. (Harashankar takes out a booklet from under his shawl). Oh, what is that? I see a booklet coming out!

Harashankar: The boys in my locality have decided to hold a meeting –

Dukori: (Startled) Meeting?

Harashankar:  Yes, sort of. So, for some donation –

Dukori: Donation! See I have loved you for a long time now but if you utter that word in my presence, we will become enemies for ever.

Harashankar: Is that so! You can donate five thousand rupees to some “Gannonnati Sabha” of Khargachia but cannot sign a cheque of five rupees at the request of your friend? One must be a heartless person to step in here to seek your company!          

Exits with great speed. A man enters, notebook in hand.     

Dukori: Notebook? Bringing a notebook to me yet again? Get lost, will you?

The Man: (Scared) I’ve come from Nandalal Babu —      

Dukori: I don’t care for Nandalal or anyone else. Leave immediately.

The Man: Sir, what about giving some money—

Dukori: I won’t pay you any money. Get lost.

The man runs away

Clerk: Sir, what have you done? He was trying to return the money Nandalal Babu owed you. We need to get the money back today. We can’t do without it.

Dukori: Good grief! Go and call him back.

The clerk goes out and comes back a little later

Clerk: He’s gone. I couldn’t find him anywhere.  

Dukori: This is a problem indeed.

A man enters with a mandolin in hand.

Dukori: What do you want?

The man: We need connoisseurs of music like you. What haven’t you done for the advancement of music! I will sing a song for you.

He starts playing his mandolin immediately and sings a song set to the tune of Raga Iman Kalyan.

                        Glory be to Dukori Dutta

In the world his munificence saw…etc etc.

Dukori: What nonsense! Stop, stop.

Enter a second man with a mandolin in hand.

Second man:    Sir, what does he know of music? Listen to my song:

                        Dukori Dutta you’re a blessed man

                        Whoever knows your greatness can…  

First man:       Glory – g—l—o—r—y

Second man:    D—u—u—u—u—kori—i—i

First man:       Duk—o—o—o—

Dukori:(With fingers in his ears) Oh my god! I can’t take it anymore!  

 A man enters, tabla in hand.

Player: Sir, a song without a musical accompaniment? How can that be?

He begins playing. A second player enters.

2nd player: What does he know of accompaniment? He cannot even hold the tabla correctly.

1st singer: Stop.

2nd singer: Why don’t you stop!

1st singer: What do you know about singing?

2nd singer: What do you know?

The two start arguing about the scales and rhythm of music. Then they fight with their mandolins.

The two players start bandying the beats used in tablas such as “dhekete didhey ghene gedhe ghene.” The contest climaxes with a tabla fight.

Enter a group of singers and some more men with donation booklets in hand.

1st person: Sir, song –

2nd person: Sir, donation –

3rd person: Sir, meeting –

4th person: Your benevolence –

5th person: A khayal in Raga Iman Kalyan –

6th person: For the welfare of the country –

7th person:  A tappa song by Sari Miyan—

8th person:  Shut up, shut up!

9th person:  Please stop, brother. Let me finish my words.

Everyone starts pulling Dukori’s shawl and shouts of “Sir, listen to me, Sir, listen to my words” can be heard etc.

Dukori: (in a voice admitting defeat) I am going to my uncle’s place. I will stay there for a while. Don’t give my address to anybody.

Exit.

The brawl between the singers and the musicians continues in the house for the whole day. In the evening the clerk tries to stop the quarrel, gets injured, and collapses.


[1] [Translated by Somdatta Mandal from “Kshatir Birambana” B.S. Magh 1292].

Somdatta Mandal is a former Professor of English and ex-Chairperson, Department of English, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, India. A recipient of several prestigious fellowships like the Fulbright Research and Teaching Fellowships, British Council Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship, Rockefeller Residency at Bellagio, Italy, Salzburg Seminar and Shastri Indo-Canadian Faculty Enrichment Fellowship, she has been published widely both nationally and internationally. She has also an award from Sahitya Akademi for the All India Indian Literature Golden Jubilee (1957-2007) Literary Translation Competition in the Fiction category for translating short stories series ‘Lalu’ by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

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