Tag Archives: dipankar dasgupta

Jr 23 March, 2021–Paper and Pastry

I can’t quite recall when I woke up this morning. Nor am I sure if I looked forward to my day ahead. In fact, I am a habituated non-forward looker. I see nothing much blooming ahead of me, except of course the final day. But there is a great deal that forces me to recede back into the past.

As soon as my brain began to whisper early in the morning therefore, I travelled back to January and ruminated over a tryst I had with destiny. Some call it a bank. My account there had been hacked. Most of its contents, otherwise known as money, had disappeared in less than 15 seconds, as I stared in wonder at my phone and admired the finesse with which the job was accomplished. By someone, who amongst other things, was quite invisible. Frankly his skill impressed me to no end and, had he not insisted on remaining invisible, I might have even agreed to pay him the rest of my money in the bank simply to watch him perform. But he was not visible. So I rushed to the bank, panting under my covid mask. The bank in turn prodded me to rush further to the police station and then rush back to the bank to tell it what the police had to say. The police actually had not said much. But one policeman gave me a number to be handed over to the bank. Which I did, not knowing what the bank needed it for. As I had correctly surmised, the bank didn’t know what to do with it either. But it did store that secret number in a secret enclosure and forgot about the matter.

Since there was not much point hanging around, I travelled further back in time to recall one of my favourite Beatles songs. This is the way the song ran — You never give me your money/You only give me your funny paper/And in the middle of investigations/You break down. For those who are over-inquisitive, here’s the link .

That’s the way I spent the last two months. Forcing my vocal chords to crow this song in my inimitable soprano or whatever. My neighbours complained probably, but I remained blissfully immersed in my money music. For two whole months! There were intermissions of course. Vaccination for one and the time wasted in the vaccination centre, all because a large number of people had forgotten that each one of them will need to die some day or the other, some way or the other. I was at peace with myself though. Nothing to complain about, till a certain Saturday arrived. On that sacred day, at 7 in the evening, I was delivered a digital message by the bank that, in accordance with my request, my account had been completely deactivated.

After an agonising Sunday wait, when banks, like God, take rest, I huffed and puffed back one more time to the bank to find out when I had made the said deactivation request. And the guy said he didn’t know. Upon which, I produced for him the message I had received and inquired what seemed natural to me. Didn’t the bank send it? His reply was a confident “yes”. And as far as the reason underlying the bank’s decision to excommunicate me went, he was equally clear. “I don’t know,” said he with supreme confidence. He appeared to be an honest idiot. Honest, since he didn’t disown the note. Stupid, because he had no idea why the note had surfaced in the first place.

Alternatively, he could have been an existentialist philosopher, drawing my attention to the absurdity of existence itself. I stopped singing my Beatles song therefore and sighed. He sighed too, sympathy oozing out of his eyes. He stuck doggedly nonetheless to the principle he had enunciated at the very beginning of his speech, viz. “yes it is, but no it is not”. As far as a resolution of the problem went, like our mutual sighs, the guy stared at me for a while and I stared back at him simultaneously. Both avoiding speech as a means of communication. Which is when my brain waves brought up a new question and I found back my speech. “If you didn’t send this message, but it went from your machine all the same, could it be possible that someone who’s not you, but who’s you at the same time (somewhat resembling the “yes but no” theorem) walked into your office and shot the ‘arrows of outrageous fortune’ at me? Or, does it have something to do with that fateful number?”

“What number,” asked he, visibly shaken. “Your bank account number?” “No,” said I, “the one that the police guy gave me to pass on to you.” He was taken aback. He had no idea that a number had once played a role in the drama, however nebulous. And that was the end of the episode more or less. I searched the wall behind him just in case the mystery number was lurking there under the paint. Without success, needless to say. Those Beatles guys were super intelligent. They knew that a chap never gave away his number, creating thereby a breakdown. The mention of a number had a debilitating impact on the “yes-no” man. He collapsed in his chair and since I didn’t wish to accompany him to a hospital, I quietly left the bank in search of the rest of the day.

And during that search, I remembered Ashim all of a sudden, who lived next door during my youth in Jatin Das Road. Hard to avoid this. The past invariably keeps landing me there. Well, it so happened that Ashim had managed to arm himself with a pocketful of money and offer me a treat in Tiger theatre (it no longer exists) on Chowringhee Road (now Jawaharlal Nehru Road).

Quite elated, I accompanied him to the theatre where we purchased 2 matinee show tickets and waited outside the auditorium for the show to begin. In the meantime, Ashim felt hungry at the sight of rich cream layered pastries on sale right next to the entrance to the theatre. The large hearted chap offered to buy me a pastry too and I readily agreed. Unfortunately though, as he was getting rid of his money in exchange of the pastries, my attention was attracted by a poster showing Audrey Hepburn at her loveliest best. It was an ad for the next movie to be shown at the theatre.

Well, when Audrey Hepburn captures the attention of a teenager, he cannot be blamed I suppose for dismissing pastries to the realm of oblivion. Only Ashim had not noticed the poster and went on to procure the pastries in question and came back and stood next to me. “Here’s your pastry,” he said merrily I think. But at that particular moment, it was Audrey Hepburn whom my heart desired in helpless agony. So, I hardly knew what Ashim had said. I ignored him completely and concentrated back on Audrey Hepburn, forgetting alas the long tested wisdom underlying the proverb that a bird in hand is worth a million or so in the bush. Ashim repeated his offer. I hardly understood him and merely muttered, “Oh, I see! Keep it in your pocket!” I must have confused the pastry for his money and forgotten completely that the money had found its way into the vendor’s pocket and Ashim’s pockets were not exactly suited to store cream layered pastries. Then suddenly the bell rang, announcing the beginning of the show that we had gone there to watch. I turned around and caught the expression on Ashim’s face as he was trying desperately to push into his pocket the pastry of contention. He bore an expression on his face that appeared to be precariously balanced on a razor’s edge separating rage from homicide. It took me less than a moment to realise the blunder I had committed and I quickly retrieved the pastry peeking out of his trouser pocket. I am not sure if I consumed it finally, but I remember distinctly the cream smeared gooey state to which his pocket had descended.

Ashim didn’t speak to me for several days following that event. But finally we managed to make up, though he often reminded me that he liked my brother more than me. And Audrey Hepburn never spoke to me at all. Her picture merely ensured that Ashim lost his money, in those deep, dark prehistoric days. Long before digital money was born. But then, money was invented by humanity with the sole intention of losing it. Wasn’t it?

Loving Thalia

Thalia the Greek
Whom I met by the creek
And instantly fell into a swoon
On a faraway, faraway, faraway noon
And I failed alas to teller
That I never ever weller
Loved a girl other than she —
Which was the end of her ‘n me.

গগনবেড় — Pelican

A limerick that cannot but remind you of Ogden Nash, was apparently not written by him. It seems to have been penned by yet another American, Dixon Lanier Merritt, in 1910. There are two versions of the poem.

Version 1.
A wonderful bird is the pelican.
His bill can hold more than his belican.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

Version 2.
A funny old bird is a pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belican.
Food for a week
He can hold in his beak,
But I don’t know how the helican.

Incidentally, I searched for other poems by Merritt, but could not locate a single one other than this one.

Produced below are two of my own Bengali adaptations of the limerick.

Version 1.

আজব পক্ষী বাবা পেলিক্যান
উদর চাইতে তর ঠোঁইট ক্যান
ধরে বেশি খাইদ্য?
শিবেরও অসাইধ্য
দেওন এ রহইস্যের ব্যাইখ্‌ক্যান।

Version 2.

গগনবেড় (পেলিক্যান)
গগনোবেড়, সে জাতে ক্রৌঞ্চ
উদর ছাপায়ে যার চৌঞ্চ
ধরে বেশি খাদ্য
বোঝে কার সাধ্য —
সে কি শুধু অলীকো প্রপৌঞ্চ ?


ভাসতে ভাসতে মেঘটা হঠাৎ থমকে
দারুণ ডেকে আমায় দিল চমকে
তারপরেতে জানলা দিয়ে খানিক হাপুস চোখে
দেখল আমায় — মিছেই মনে পড়িয়ে দিল ওকে
আসল ফিরে গানগুলো তার বৃষ্টি ভেজা সুরে
মেঘের কোলে এলিয়ে যে গান হারিয়ে গেছে দূরে
মেঘটা কেবল থমকে
মিথ্যে আমায় চমকে
এমনি করে পালায় কেন অনন্তকাল দূরে?
যেখান থেকে দেখবে না কেউ একটি বারও ঘুরে?

Harakiri – Haiku

sharp blade of lightning–
sky used to carve itself up —
harakiri time …

The Covid Paradox — Keynes turned around

Economic and Political Weekly, 30 May, 2020.

The Paradox of a Supply Constrained Keynesian Equilibrium_The Covid 19 Case


Folks, I’m told there’s nothin’ to feeya

For coroneeya’s simply melareeya

So it seems assures Trumpia the grouchia

Leaving no escape for Anthonia Faucia.

Ogden Nash inspired.


(রাগ বেহাগ, জলদ একতাল। চলন – রজনীকান্ত সেনের “কেউ নয়ন মুদে দেখে আলো/ কেউ দেখে আঁধার”)

কেউ বলে ক-রোনা চিনা

কেউ বলে কপাল

(আবার) কেউ বলে সে পাকিস্তানের

সব্বোনাশা চাল।

(কেউ বলে কপাল …)

কেউ বা বলে ছুঁসনে আমায়
কেউ বা বসে মুখোশ বানায়
কেউ চিল্লায় আন ক্লোরোকুইন
ছিঁড়ব নচেৎ ছাল।

(কেউ বলে কপাল …)

কেউ বলে সে হাঁচলে আসে
কেউ বা পালায় কাশলে পাশে
কেউ বলে তার জম্মো দিল
প্যাঙ্গোলিনের পাল।

(কেউ বলে কপাল …)

কেউ বা বলে ছাপ রে টাকা
কেউ বলে ভাই বিড়িই পাকা
কেউ জ্বলছে ক্ষিদের জ্বালায়
দিচ্ছে গালাগাল।

(কেউ বলে কপাল …)

একলা আমি ঘরের কোনে
সাবান দিয়ে আপন মনে
চলব বোধহয় হাতই ধুয়ে
হায় অনন্ত কাল।

(কেউ বলে কপাল …)

দুষ্টু বুড়ি

জানিস না কি, দুষ্টু বুড়ি

বয়েসটা তোর একশ কুড়ি?

তাই বলে কি মধ্য রাতে

স্বপ্ন আমার করবি চুরি?

দুষ্টু, দুষ্টু, দুষ্টু বুড়ি

যখন তখন স্বপ্ন চুরি

করলে আমি কেমন করে

মেঘ মুলুকে বেড়াই উড়ি?

দুষ্টু বুড়ি, দুষ্টু বুড়ি

বয়েসটা তোর একশ কুড়ি

তাই বলে কি যা খুশি তোর

ইচ্ছে হলেই করবি চুরি?


ভাসতে ভাসতে মেঘটা হঠাৎ থমকে

আমায় দিল চমকে —

বলল সে তুই করবি কী আর বল?

আমার সাথে তার চে’ বরং নীল আকাশেই চল ।

পুড়িয়েছে তোর কপালখানা সে,

আঠারশ ঊনত্রিশে,

বাজিয়ে দোতারা পুড়িয়েছিল

যেমন নিরো রোমকে।

তাই তো বলি মেঘ হয়ে তুই

নীল আকাশেই চল —

সেখান থেকে বৃষ্টি সেজে

ফেলিস চোখের জল।