Tagore Translations

Skit by Rabindranath: The Treatment of an Ailment

Translated from Bengali by Somdatta Mandal, this satirical skit was part of Hasyakoutuk[1] (1914) or ‘Humour’ by Tagore

Courtesy: Creative Commons

Scene One

Enter Haradhan panting and limping.

Haradhan: God! Today I’ve really been heckled in trying to steal duck’s eggs from the English doctor’s stable. I thought I’ll die in the way he chased me. Scared, I tried to escape and fell inside a ditch. My leg is fractured but I’m not sad about it. I’m satisfied in being able to run away alive. The doctor kills all his patients as soon as he gets the opportunity; he wants to finish me off though I don’t have an ailment. From now on, I will not steal duck’s eggs everyday. I will steal the duck once and for all and it will lay eggs in our house.

From inside: Haru!

Haradhan: (fearfully) Oh, father has come. If he finds me limping in one foot, he will beat me so much that the other one will also become lame.

Enter Father.

Haradhan: (advancing) Yes, father.

Father: Why are you limping?

Haradhan scratches his head.

Father: (annoyingly) How did you break your leg?

Haradhan: I didn’t break it deliberately.

Father: I know that. But tell me how you broke it.

Haradhan: I don’t know, father.

Father: You don’t know how you broke your leg? Will the oilman Gobra from the other locality know?

Haradhan: I did not realise when it got broken.

Father: Is it so? If I break your head with this stick, will you know then?

Haradhan: (quickly shielding his head with his hand) No, father. I broke the leg in trying to save this head.

Father: I’ve understood. Like the other day, did you go to the English doctor’s house to steal duck’s eggs and they have broken your leg?

Haradhan: (rubbing his eyes) Yes, father. I am not to be blamed. I did not break my own leg, they broke it.

Father: Shameless boy! Will you never be conscious?

Haradhan: What is consciousness, father?

Father: You want to know what consciousness is? (Hits him on the back) This is called consciousness.

Haradhan: I get that every day.

Father: I can see that you will die in jail.

Haradhan: No, father. If I get consciousness everyday, then I will die at home.

Father: Oh, I cannot cope with you.

Haradhan: (looking at the basket) Father, for whom have you brought that palm fruit? Can I eat it?

Father: (whacking his back) Here, have it.

Haradhan: (rubbing his back) I did not like it.

From inside: Haru!

Haradhan: Yes, mother?

Mother (from inside): I’ve made palm fruit fries for you. Come and have it.

                                               [Haradhan goes out limping]

Scene Two

Haradhan is about to steal the duck in the doctor’s stable.

Father: (from afar) Haru!

Haradhan: Oh my god! Father is coming. What should I do?

Haradhan has a long bag dangling from his neck to his stomach. He puts the duck quickly inside the bag.

Father: Haru! (silence) Hara! (silence) Hero!

Haradhan: Yes, sir.

Father: Why has your tummy swollen up like that?

Haradhan: After eating the palm fruit fries yesterday, father.

Father: Why is there a quacking sound?

Haradhan: The intestines inside are making that noise.

Father: Well, let me feel it with my hand.

Haradhan: (quickly) No, no. Don’t touch it. It’s too painful.

Quacking sound heard from the tummy again.

Father: (to himself) I’ve understood everything. I’ll have to teach this naughty boy a lesson. (To Haru) Your ailment is not very simple. Come son, let me take you to the hospital.

Haradhan: No, father. This happens sometimes but gets cured on its own.

Quack, quack, quack.

Father: What happened? This is gradually increasing. Come, no more waiting.

Drags him and goes out.

Scene Three

Haradhan, Father and Mother.

Mother: (crying) What has happened to my poor boy?

Father: Listen, don’t create so much trouble. He will be cured once he’s taken to the hospital.

Mother: Am I creating too much trouble or is your son’s stomach creating too much trouble? (scared) He’s quacking like a duck. My dear Haru, I’ll never give you duck’s eggs to eat – there’s a duck quacking in your tummy. What will happen?

Haradhan: (quickly) No, mother. It’s not a duck but the palm fruit fries. Who told you it was a duck? It can’t ever be a duck. OK, let’s have a bet whether it is the palm fruit fries or not.

Mother: Do palm fruit fries call in that manner?

Haradhan: Mother, please keep quiet. My stomach is calling even more because you are creating such a commotion.

Father: I have some work in the Bose household. I’ll take Haru to the hospital after that.

Quack, quack, quack.

Mother: Oh my god, this is gradually increasing. Oh Mukherjee Babu!      

Enter Mr.Mukherjee.

Mukherjee: What’s the matter?

Mother: My poor son’s pain is increasing gradually. Please take him quickly to – what you call it – your hospital.

Mukherjee: I’ve been saying that right from the beginning. Haru’s father has been delaying the whole thing. (To Haru) Come, get up. Let’s go.

Haradhan: No, grandpa. I won’t go to the hospital. Nothing has happened to me.

Mukherjee: What do you mean nothing has happened? The whole locality is upset by the call of your tummy. It seems that the three elements – rheumatism, cough and bile – have all combined together to create a war in your stomach.

                                                                 [Takes him out by force.]

Scene Four

In the hospital. The English doctor and Haradhan.

Doctor: What has happened to your stomach?

Haradhan: Nothing, Sahib. You forgive me this time sahib, nothing has happened to me.

Doctor: If nothing has happened, then what is this?

Pokes his tummy and the quacking sound doubles.

(laughing) I have completely understood your ailment.

Haradhan: I am touching your body and promising you sahib. I do not have any ailment. I’ll never do such a thing again.

Doctor:  You have a serious ailment.

Haradhan: Don’t I know my ailment? You know?

Quack, quack.

(He beats the bag with anger). Oh god! This quacking never stops.

Doctor: (brandishing a huge knife) You have a stealing ailment and it will not be cured without this knife.

He tries to cut open his stomach.

Haradhan:(cries and takes out the duck) Sahib, here’s your duck. My stomach could not tolerate your duck in any way. The eggs were better instead.

The doctor beats Haradhan.

Sahib, there is no need for it. My ailment is completely cured.

[1] Translated from “Rog-er Chikitsya” (Jaisthya 1292 B.S.) by Somdatta Mandal

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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