Dashu's Madness

(This is a feeble translation of a story by Sukumar Ray)

When the school broke for vacations, the students decided to stage a play. Dashu was very keen on getting a role; he tried every means to obtain a part, but all of us were dead against him.

Last time when Dashu was given the role of a general of the king's army, the play was a complete washout! When the Trichur emissary challenged the general to a duel and said, "Draw out your sword if you have the courage", Dashu had to immediately pull out his sword and say, "Come then, face me." But Dashu kept tugging at the sword like a fool; the sword was stuck! In his fright Dashu even forgot to deliver the dialogue. To save the situation, the emissary once again bellowed, "Draw out your sword." Dashu is such a fool that he scolded the emissary at the top of his voice, "Wait, can't you see it is stuck." Fortunately, I helped him unfasten the sword, else curtains would have come down on the play there itself.

Towards the end of the play the king said, "Name your reward, general." Dashu had to reply, "I pray for a just and fair rule in the kingdom always." But Dashu jumped the line and began saying something which he was supposed to utter next. Realising his mistake, he grinned at me sheepishly and stuck out his tongue. "Oh my! I had forgotten the words," he said. When I glared back at him, he quickly gathered his wits and spoke the right words.

So, this time we were unanimous in our resolve: "Dashu should not be given any role in the play." Bishu said, "Dashu and acting! Then it will be curtains for the play at the very start."

"Instead of Dashu, it would be far better to give Bhaju gardener a role in the play," Taapa put in.

Poor Dashu; he pleaded at first, then grew angry and, finally, went and sat in a corner, and refused to talk.

On the days when we held our rehearsals, Dashu used to come to the hall, sit in the corner, and listen. Since the last few days, we noticed that Dashu had developed a good friendship with Gonsha who was in the fourth grade. Although a kid, Gonsha was good at recitation and, so, had been given the part of "Devdoot" in the play. Dashu brought snacks and sweets for Gonsha every day, he gifted him colour pencils and a drawing book, and also promised to buy him a football. We could not make out why Dashu had become so affectionate towards Gonsha all of a sudden. All that we saw was that Gonsha, after receiving the gifts, had turned into an ardent disciple of "Dashu-da".

We learned the truth on the day when the play was to be staged! Much ahead of time, Dashu entered the dressing room and started wearing Devdoot's costume. That surprised us and we asked him, "Hey, what are you doing here?" Dashu replied without batting an eyelid, "I am wearing my costume."

"Wearing your costume? But you are not acting!" I told him.

"Oh my! You people don't keep your eyes and ears open! Don't you know who is going to act as Devdoot today?" Dashu said.

This statement shocked us.

"Why? What has happened to Gonsha?" I asked.

"You had better ask that question to Gonsha," Dashu said.

It was then that we realised that all the actors had arrived excepting Gonsha. Ramapodo, Bishu and I immediately rushed out in search of Gonsha.

We searched the entire school and, finally, found him hiding in the lunchroom. Gonsha tried to escape as soon as he saw us, but we "arrested" him and started dragging him to the dressing room. Gonsha started wailing; "I will not act in the play; Dashuda will not give me a football if I do." But we turned a deaf ear to his pleas and continued to drag him. Mathematics teacher Haribabu came there just then. He glared at us. "Three ruffians harassing a kid! Don't you feel ashamed of yourselves?" He slapped me and Bishu and twisted Ramapodo's ears. After inflicting the punishment Haribabu walked away at a brisk pace. This brief interlude provided Goneshchandra an opportunity to disappear once again.

There was nothing else to do; smarting under the insult we returned back to the dressing room. An argument was in progress between Dashu and Rakhal in the dressing room. "We will never allow you to act the part of Devdoot," we heard Rakhal telling Dashu.


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