A musical hit
(This is only a crude copy of a Bengali story by eminent writer Narayan Gangopadhyay which I had read as a child. I have not attempted a faithful translation as I do not have the calibre to do so. I have taken up the theme and moulded it in my own way.)
The four of us were sitting on the fence outside the football stadium. The football match was over and the crowd had departed but the four of us sat there contemplating the future.
I picked up a stone and aimed it at the stray dog that was having a nap under a tree. The stones missed the dog by a wide margin, but the dog woke up and eyed me malevolently, bared its fangs and walked away leisurely to another safe corner.
Habul was munching peanuts while Kabla was reading a comic. Tenida had his chin on his palms and appeared deep in thought.
"Let us start a gym," Tenida spoke out suddenly, coming out of his deep contemplation.
"Yes, let us start a gym," the remaining three of us chorused without having the least idea as to why we needed to have a gym. But, Tenida was our leader and we were his yes-men. So, whenever, he had anything to suggest, we responded with a "yes".
"All of us are growing weak and we must start a gym to build our muscles," Tenida elaborated. We nodded our heads in agreement.
"The gym can be started in the shed at the back of my garden," Tenida said. We nodded our heads vigorously in assent.
"We will require weights, dumb-bells and so on," Tenida said. Three heads once again oscillated vertically in agreement.
"I think we will require around Rs 1500 to get these things," the leader said. In between throwing stones aimlessly, munching peanuts and reading a comic, we agreed.
"How much money do you guys have?" the leader demanded.
After the comforting thoughts of starting a gym, all this talk of money was jarring.
But, orders were orders and each of us put his hands into the pockets.
I dug out a ten rupee note, Kabla managed 20 rupees, Habul fished out 15 rupees while Tenida himself came out with a tenner.
The resources were pooled and the total came to a princely 55 rupees. But this was far too short of the 1500 rupees we needed.
Despondency set in, but Kabla suddenly remarked, "I know what we should do."
Kabla was the brightest among us and Tenida always looked upon him for advice.
"Yes?" Tenida inquired eagerly.
"We will raise funds from the neighbours," Kabla suggested.
"But why should people give us money just like that?" Tenida wanted to know.
"We will organise a concert. We will go door-to-door singing 'We shall overcome' early in the morning," Kabla said. "People are usually in a good mood in the early mornings and they will surely support our good cause," Kabla elaborated.
Tenida patted him on the back, asked him to prepare three copies of the lyrics and hand them over to the rest of us. It was decided that we should learn the song by heart and arrive at the football stadium at 4.30 am sharp on the next day. For musical instruments, it was decided that Habul should bring his harmonium while I had offered to bring along an empty tin can that produced pretty good sound.
Next morning, all the four of us reached the football stadium at 4.30 am sharp. Habul was there with his harmonium and I had brought along an empty tin can. We were all excited about starting on our venture and were in no doubt that our ingenious fund-raising concert was sure to be a huge success.
There was darkness everywhere as the dawn had not yet broken and people were deep in slumber.
"Let us start with that house," Tenida said pointing to the first house in the lane and we gathered in front of the gate. At a signal from Tenida, all of us broke into "We shall overcome, we shall overcome ...."
Habul's harmonium and my tin can added to the cacophony.
We had reached "We shall overcome some day" when the door flew open and something whizzed past us at tremendous speed. Few other missiles followed swiftly and we did not wait to tell the occupants what we were determined to overcome but ran for our dear lives.
"let us go home," Habul was almost in tears.
Tenida was furious. "Shut up," he told Habul. "We spent the whole evening yesterday learning this song by heart. Do you want our efforts go waste?" he asked Habul.
We marched towards the next house.
"We shall overcome, we shall overcome ....."
Fortunately, no door flew open this time but a huge German Shepherd, awakened from its sleep, leapt at the gate. Luckily the gate was much higher and it was beyond his canine powers to leap over to the other side. His barks, however, chilled our bones. The dog had not liked our song even a little bit.
We decided to move on.
When we reached the third house, we were all shaky. The dog was very huge and all us shuddered to think what would have happened had it managed to come out.
But Tenida was a true leader. He was unfazed.
We reached the third house.
It is said that cats and dogs do not see eye to eye. If a dog wags its tail, it is in joy whereas if a cat sways its tail, you can be sure it is not doing so in delight. What is good for the dog is bad for the cat and what is good for the cat is bad for the dog - this is the universal principle.
But this universal principle was proved wrong at the third house. A huge tabby cat emerged from nowhere, hissed at us, spat and made gestures which indicated that it wanted to tear us apart. Both the cat and the dog were unanimous on one thing - we could not sing.
After this, not just Habul but all of us were convinced that our venture was doomed to fail. Even Tenida appeared defeated.
Okay, we will make just one last effort," he said in a small voice.
We marched to the fourth house.
"We shall overcome, we shall overcome"
No missiles flew at us.
Encouraged, we sang the next line, "We shall overcome some day."
No dog came barking at us.
"Oh deep in my heart, I do believe ....."
No cat appeared.
"We shall overcome some day .....
Someone switched on the lights in the house.
"We'll walk hand in hand," we sang the next line discordantly.
The door opened.
We made to flee.
But before we could escape, someone came rushing by. It was Mr Ghosh. He was dancing!
Mr Ghosh came out and held Tenida in a tight embrace. There were tears in his (Mr Ghosh's) eyes. Our song had moved him.
"You have saved my life," Mr Ghosh said still dancing.
"My alarm clock has failed and had it not been for your hullabaloo, I would still have been sleeping and would have missed my flight to Chennai," he said, almost kissing Tenida.
"I have no time now, but meet me after two days when I come back from Chennai," Mr Ghosh said and rushed off.
Three days later, all of us were sitting in our new gym surrounded by weights and dumb-bells. "I was sure Kabla's idea would pay off," Tenida said.
We had met Mr Ghosh. He had come from Chennai after clinching a sales deal which had ensured him a huge commission of Rs 30,000. Had we not awakened him with our noise, he would would have missed the flight and the Rs 30,000. It was, therefore, only natural for him to hand over a sum of Rs 2,000 in cash to us - Rs 500 more than what we had bargained for.