A ghostly affair
(This is a poor translation of a story by Narayan Gangopadhyay)
Only seven days to go before the exams. The terrorising school final examinations!
I had failed twice in succession, and elder brother had warned me that if I repeated the feat for the third time he would pack me off to Sodepur.
"Sodepur! Mahatma Gandhi used to stay at the Sodepur Ashram," I had pointed out with a solemn expression on my face.
"You will also stay there," brother said a tad more solemnly, "but not in the ashram where Gandhiji used to dwell. You will live with those whose milk Mahatma Gandhi consumed."
"Where?" I asked. I could not figure out the dwelling place elder brother had in mind for me.
"In the cattle shed."
"Why do I have to stay in a cattle shed?" I asked unhappily. "Do human beings live in a cattle shed?"
"Human beings don't live in a cattle shed but cows and goats do. That's the reason you will also stay there. You will eat tender grass and bleat like a goat."
I felt very depressed. One evening I ripped out a handful of grass from the ground and, when no one was looking, stuffed it into my mouth. It tasted awful! I went up to the terrace and called out "baa, baa". But, try as hard as I could, I could not mimic the melodious bleat of the goats.
I was in a terrible dilemma; so, I went and told everything to our leader, Teni-da.
Teni-da's situation is no better than mine; he has already failed thrice and this will be the fourth time. Habul Sen has failed twice. Only the wretch, Kaabla, has been passing with regularity and standing first in his class; he was three grades below me but has almost caught up. If he overtakes me, I will certainly have to go and stay in a cow shed.
Teni-da was perched on the fence around the Chatterjee's house and eating a custard apple. After hearing my tale, he devoted himself to some deep contemplation; so deep was he in thought that Teni-da gobbled up a few seeds and the skin as well. When he realised his mistake, he spat them out and declared, "Eureka. I have got it."
"What have you got?"
"The solution ...... planchet."
"What is planchet?"
"You are an ass. Don't you know what a planchet is? It is used to call spirits."
Just then Kaabla arrived from nowhere munching popcorn from a paper bag. "The pronounciatation is wrong; it should be planshet," he put in.
"Don't act smart," Teni-da said rolling his eyes at Kaabla, "spirits don't care for correct pronounciation". He snatched the paper bag from Kaabla's hands.
Kaabla howled in grief. "Don't yell. This is the punishment for your cheekiness," Teni-da roared at him and emptied the remaining popcorn in the bag at one gulp.
I had hoped he would give me a share of the popcorn, but my hopes died a premature death when I looked at the crumpled paper bag. "Let it pass ... planchet or planshet. But why all this talk about spirits? I dislike ghosts and spirits."