[Subimal Misra (b. 1943) began writing in the late-1960s, and in a writing career spanning four-and-a-half decades, he wrote only for little magazines. He is regarded as an anti-establishment and experimental writer, and credited with the introduction of cinematic language in Bengali writing. The 1970s saw the publication of three collections of his short stories – which came to be known as 'anti-stories', and his trilogy of 'anti-novels' was published in the 1980s. His writings comprise over thirty volumes, of stories, novellas, novelettes, novels, a play, essays, interviews and letters.
This is a translation of the original Bengali story, “Moynar Mar Ghore Ekhon Babu Eshechhe”. The translator acknowledges the valuable assistance of Nilanjan Bhattacharya.]
A babu’s arrived at Moyna’s mother’s room now. Moyna’s dad stands on the road pacifying his sobbing daughter. Up above, on the dais, are the ‘leaders’. Binoculars on eyes, they study the people’s behaviour. From time to time they nod their heads in the style of Uttam Kumar. Down below,
People, lots and lots of them, hover around with their slithering infants.
They were apparently reservists, to be used at the time of revolution. The clerical father’s diatribe directed towards his unemployed son is audible: “How much longer shall I feed the whole dynasty to their fill … earning a living tears the ass …”
In the darkness of the Maidan lovers get on with their feelings of love, each in their own way. The ‘leaders’ give directions on the mike – who should advance by how much, who should lean to the left by how many degrees for the cause of revolution – they tell them all that. There was no need for people to think or worry about anything whatsoever, the ‘leaders’ would think it out on their behalf, people only have to make revolution in accordance with their formula. They were forbidden to think in any way, asking questions was forbidden. At Pagla Baba’s ashram, the uninterrupted collective kirtan on the name of Hari goes on. Some people stay up through the night in order to see the effulgence of red at sunrise next morning.
The bumpy road is being levelled by a
steamroller. At the matinee show, a Bengali film
runs full house. Paternal aunts open boxes and put paan and zarda into their mouths.
Spanning the screen
Bengal’s hero, Bengalis’ hero.
He-was-sometimes-a-lover-sometimes-a-doctor-sometimes-a sanyasi-sometimes an M.L.A. sometimes
A detective donning dark glasses. He
Sips tea, smokes a cigarette, drinks whisky, sometimes he embraces the heroine too But never kisses her. There’s a
Deep sigh in the dark auditorium. “Oh, fantastic! Guru you’re incomparable.”
‘Leaders’ span the dais.
Uttam Kumar spans the screen.
It’s as if the girls, who’ve come wearing saris for the first time, are so mesmerized that they’ve forgotten to blink. The game heats up. From Sagarika to Datta via Pothe Holo Deri. … “Believe me Arun I am ruined – God cannot be worshipped any longer with this flower …” The audience, with talcum-powdered necks, settle into their seats in anticipation. Prem korechhi – besh korechhi – korboi to … The teenage heroines expose their navel and prance around in forest and mountain. Every once in a while they embrace the hero. Every once in a while, with a dreamy look in their eyes, they burst into song … “Suman, is love a sin? …” The game heats up. The game of Bengal. Here there’s a simple peasant, or an idealist doctor, or a kind-to-subjects zamindar – who distributes sacks and sacks of paddy to his subjects at the time of drought. Waives off unpaid taxes. Here a girl who’s a graduate of Bethune College black-markets rice on account of poverty. The zamindar’s debauched brother forsakes alcohol in an instant and becomes a sadhu baba, a ‘leader’ of the peasant struggle. The public gapes with exploding eyes, gapes and become entranced.
Whenever inflation-driven barren party-politics rooted in
Petit bourgeois mentality
Beds with foul-capitalism
Seeks to become wealthy overnight, then right there
Begins the digging of the grave of leftist politics.
Leftist politics is then transformed
Into mere power-lusting hoodlumism.
Class struggle becomes merely a weapon to capture the locality.
And once leftist politics in any country
Capitulates to petit bourgeois immurement
Then its mask of civility keeps slipping away –
It becomes entangled
With the politics of locality-capture,
No political party at all can escape the cage-trap of this
Actually the business of murder does not bother anyone anymore
Whatever kind of murder it may be.
The steamroller goes on levelling the national highway. Coolies in shorts, rubber shoes on their feet, pour hot liquid pitch from the grates of their tins on the sharp-edged stone chips. The progressive dad, proudly chewing paan and swaying the folds of his dhuti, sets out in the evening to view a girl for his engineer son. He is against taking dowry but the girl’s side must definitely adorn the girl appropriately. A babu’s arrived at Moyna’s mother’s room now. Moyna’s dad stands on the road consoling and pacifying the sobbing girl. Sultriness everywhere. The month of Jaistha. Not a fleck of cloud in the sky. The laid-off jute mill workers fry alur-chop in front of the main gate. Sultriness. The unease of confinement everywhere. In the evening, applying talcum powder on his neck after a bath, the professor, a local people’s leader, comes and stands on the first floor verandah. The hair on his chest flutters in the breeze through his unbuttoned T-shirt. Seeing three boys who didn’t give a damn about non-violence and suchlike walking along the dark alley nearby he begins to have palpitations. The bastards had said they would make revolution. He glances furtively at the sleeveless arms of his college-going younger sister-in-law, he gets excited. Puffing on the filter-tip of his cigarette he gazes compassionately at the masses from the first floor verandah, he explains to the Mrs that the stupid masses could not fathom his thesis on revolution. ‘Leaders’ span the dais. Uttam Kumar spans the screen. Sometimes he’s a lover, sometimes a doctor, sometimes a sanyasi, sometimes an M.L.A, sometimes a detective donning dark glasses. The detectives in Bengali films don dark glasses even at night. That tradition continues unabated from Sagarika to Datta via Pothe Holo Deri. Here an illiterate peasant sets out to plough the field with Bhagalpuri bullocks while singing a song in the voice of Hemanta Mukherjee. The millionaire’s daughter ups and marries their driver. Here, at the end of the film, the Mahavirprasads of illicit enterprises voluntarily go to the police station in repentance. The zamindar’s debauched brother forsakes alcohol in an instant and becomes a sadhu baba, a ‘leader’ of the peasant struggle. Here the impoverished school-master dies of starvation but does not abandon his ideals. At the end of the film, the punishment of wrongdoers and the nurturing of good fits in very well. That’s Bengali cinema. Here Uttam Kumar is omnipresent, our national hero. Here poverty and greatness embrace. Here.