The Deeds of Dashu (continued)
On one occasion, just after the vacations, Dashu came to the school with an intriguing box. Master Mashai asked him, "What's in that box, Dashu?" He replied, "My things, sir." A little debate ensued among us regarding the nature of his "things." We noticed Dashu had all the essential school items with him--books, notebooks, pencil, blade. Then what "things" was he talking about? When we asked him, he didn't give a direct reply. Instead, he clutched the box to his chest and said, "I am warning you all. Don't ever mess with my box." Then, he opened the lid slightly with a key and peeked inside while mumbling some calculations. The moment I tried to lean over to catch a glimpse, Dashu locked it up.
Soon, this became a hot topic of discussion for the rest of us. Someone said, "It's his lunch box. He must be hiding food inside it." But I never saw him opening the box during lunch time to eat anything. Some suggested, "It could be his money bag. It must contain a lot of cash. That is why he never parts with it." To this, another boy said, "Why such a big box to keep money? Is he planning to open a money-lending business in the school?"
During lunch one day, Dashu hastily gave me the key to the box and said, "Keep this with yourself, make sure you don't lose it. If I get a little late in returning, please hand over the key to the watchman before you all go to the classroom." With that he went away, leaving the box with the watchman.
We were thrilled! After so long, we had an opportunity; now only the watchman needed to move away for a while. Shortly, the watchman lit his stove to make rotis* and went to the water tap with a few utensils. This was just the moment we were waiting for. Five-seven of us boys bent over the box. I opened it and saw a fat bundle of papers rolled tightly with tattered cloth strings. Quickly opening the knot, we found another paper box inside, which in turn carried yet another small paper bundle. On opening that, a card popped out. One side of the card said, "Eat a green banana,"^ while the other side had the words "Excessive curiosity is not good." We started exchanging stupefied glances with each other. At last someone said, "The lad sure took us for a ride." Another boy said, "Let's tie it up exactly the way it was, so he doesn't have any inkling that we'd opened it. That would teach him a lesson, all right." I said, "Fine. When he returns, you all politely request him to open the box and show what it contains." We quickly wrapped up all the papers with strings and dropped the bundle inside the box.
I was just about to lock the box when we heard a thunderous guffaw. That's when we saw Dashu, seated atop the boundary wall, laughing insanely. The buffoon was actually watching the whole show from a vantage point. We realised the entire chain of events--giving me the key, keeping the box with the watchman, making an excuse of going out at lunch--all these were part of Dashu's prank scheme. He had been carrying that box for all these days just to make us appear like idiots.
Is it without any reason that we call him Crazy Dashu?
* Roti = Indian flat bread
^ Eat a green banana = In Bengal, this phrase is used to mildly snide effect, after fooling someone or to indiacate that a person's wish isn't going to be granted.
Translated by: Bhaswati Ghosh
Pagla Dashu, Sukumar Ray, Humor, Bengali Literature