(This is a feeble translation of a story by Sukumar Ray)
There was not a single student in my school who did not know Crazy Dashu. Even a newly-arrived person who did not know anyone else was sure to make Dashu's acquaintance first. The new watchman appointed by the school was a village simpleton. When he first heard about Dashu, the watchman immediately conjured up an image in his mind, and when he actually met Dashu the image proved to be accurate. Dashu's facial expressions, his manner of speech and his general behaviour forthwith cautioned the observer that the boy was slightly batty. He had big round eyes, the ears were unusually large, and the head was covered by a shock of tousled hair. The very sight of him prompted us to croon:
A lean body with an over-sized head,
like a Koi fish from Jessore in human shape.
Whenever Dashu walked at a brisk pace or talked rapidly he had a habit of flailing his arms. His actions unwittingly reminded me of a shrimp.
He was not a dumb student. Far from it, his brains worked wonders while solving arithmetic problems, especially those which involved long and complicated calculations. At times he played such pranks to fool us that we would be left dumb-founded at his intelligence.
At the time when Dashu, short for Dashrothi, joined our school, Jagbandhu was considered to be the best student in our class. Although good at studies, Jagbandhu was, however, catty. One day, Dashu went up to Jagbandhu wanting to know the meaning of some English phrase. Instead of explaining the meaning Jagbandhu snapped at him, "Don't you think I have any work other than to teach English to somebody today, solve someone else's arithmetic problem tomorrow, a third person will come up with a different request the next day." This annoyed Dashu, and he minced no words in hitting back. "You are very mean," he told Jagbandhu. Jagbandhu complained to the class-teacher who reprimanded Dashu so severely that the boy was disheartened.
Bishtubabu taught us English. Jagbandhu was his favourite pupil. While teaching if Bishtubabu needed to refer to the book, he would borrow it from Jagbandhu. One day Bishtubabu asked for Jagbandhu's grammar book. Jagbandhu promptly removed the book, which was neatly covered by a green wrapping paper, and gave it to the teacher. The teacher opened the book, and his brows immediately creased into a frown.
"Whose book is this?" Bishtubabu asked looking very grave.
"It's mine," Jagbandhu said with his chest swelling in pride.
"Oh! Is it a new edition? The whole book appears to have been revised," Bishtubabu said in the same grave voice and started reading from the book, "Inspector Jashowant - A Thrilling Detective Story."
Jagbandhu was puzzled. He could not understand what the matter was, and he merely stood with a stupid look on his face.
The teacher turned angrily on him. "So this is what you have been learning?"
Jagbandhu opened his mouth to offer some kind of explanation but Bishtubabu would have none of it. "There is no need for you to pretend to be good student; I have seen enough."
Jagbandhu's ears turned a scarlet red in embarrassment, but we revelled at his discomfiture. We later learned that it was all Dashu's doing. He had surreptitiously replaced the grammar book with a similarly covered detective novel in Jagbandhu's bag.
Dashu was always the butt of our jokes. We laughed at him at his face, and ridiculed his appearance and intelligence. But that never made him angry. In fact, he told us more stories about himself which caused us to roll on the floor with laughter. One day he told us, "Whenever my neighbours prepare aamsotto (an Indian delicacy prepared from mango pulp after drying in the sun), I am always invited. Can you guess the reason?"
"Is it because you love to gorge on aamsotto?" we asked.
"That is not the reason. I am called when the aamsotto is kept for drying on the roof terrace. I just have to go and show my face; no crow in the vicinity dares to steal the aamsotto after that, all of them fly away scared and the aamsotto can be left unguarded."
One day Dashu came to school wearing ill-fitting trousers. In those days the Indian "dhoti" was the garment of choice, and to see someone coming to school wearing trousers in the English style was a novelty. Dashu's trousers were ill-fitting and baggy, and on top of that he had also covered himself in an ill-fitting coat. It was a comic sight! Dashu was aware he was making a spectacle of himself.
"Why have you come wearing trousers?" we asked him.
"To learn English better," he replied smiling from ear to ear.
On another occasion he started coming to school after shaving his head clean. When we made fun of him, he was delighted. Dashu cannot sing, and he knows it; he has no knowledge of rhythm and tune. Yet, when the school inspector paid a visit to our school, Dashu sang out at the top of his voice just to provide us with some entertainment. If any other student had dared to do this, he would have been severely punished. But Dashu escaped without as much as a reprimand because he was crazy.