Crazy Dashu

(His name is Dashroti, but known among friends as “Crazy Dashu”. It’s an unfair appellation; Dashu is intelligent and good-natured who likes to play crazy tricks just for fun. This is only 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 recognize Dashu at first glance. When the new watchman - a village simpleton - came to school and first heard about Dashu, he could correctly identify Dashu from the description. Dashu's facial expressions, his manner of speech, and his general behaviour forthwith warned the observer that the boy was slightly batty. He had large round eyes, the ears were unusually large, and the head was covered by a shock of tousled hair. The very sight of him reminded us of the verse:

A lean body with an over-sized head,

like a weighty 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 immediately brought to mind the images of a shrimp.

He was not a dumb student. Far from it, his brains worked wonders while solving math problems, especially those which involved long and complicated calculations. At times, he played such pranks to fool us that we would be left dumbfounded at his intelligence.

At the time when Dashu - short for Dashrothi - joined our school, Jagbandhu was regarded as 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, "Do you think I have no other work 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 day after!" This annoyed Dashu, and he told Jagbandhu in his face, "You are very mean." Jagbandhu complained to the class-teacher who reprimanded Dashu so severely that the boy felt crushed.

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 are studying?"

Jagbandhu opened his mouth to offer some kind of explanation but Bishtubabu would have none of it. "There is no need to pretend to be good; I have seen enough."

Jagbandhu's ears turned a scarlet red in embarrassment, but we felt happy at his discomfiture. We later learned that it was all Dashu's doing. He had put the detective novel, wrapped in green cover, in Jagbandhu's bag.

Dashu was always the butt of our jokes. We laughed at him in 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. I just 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. 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.


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