Reading at random: Parashuram

Sukanta Chaudhuri and his colleagues recently came out with a translation of the stories and miscellaneous writings of ‘Parashuram’, one of Bengal’s best-loved, and most feared, satirists.
Here’s a selection from ‘The Scripture Read Backwards’, a “what if India had ruled over England instead” piece Parashuram wrote around 1928-29:

The Richmond Banga-Ingiya Pathshala. Mr Cram, pandit in charge. Tom, Dick, Harry and other boys.

…Dick: “Where’s the Meti Pond, Pandit-mashai?
Cram. Why don’t you look at that map in front of you? It’s that sea near Italy. It used to be called the Mediterranean. The Indians couldn’t pronounce the name, so they started calling it the Meti Pond–just as they call Ulster Belestera, Switzerland Chhachhurabad, Bordeaux Booze-shop, Manchester Nimta. Get on with your reading.

Then there’s this, From the commercial columns of The Rashtrabit:

PURE JOY-LADDUS. Don’t ruin your health by eating English biscuits larded with fat. Try our Joy-laddus. They strengthen your teeth. Nothing but ground rice and molasses. Not touched by machine: made by Bengali women with their own hands. Five shillings a packet. Available everywher. Manufacturers: Rasamay Das, Lizard Market, Calcutta.

AMBERGRIS POWDER. Memsahibs need not feel frustrated any more. This miraculous powder will remove the unfortunate natural pallor of their complexion of Bengali women. If you want to enhance the dark effect, mix in a little verdigris. As used by Ramachandra-ji. Price five shillings a phial. Marketed by Sheikh Azhar, Leadenhall Street, India House, London.

3 comments

  1. I really liked his earlier translation of Sukumar Ray (though the bongs tell me that it’s nowhere near as good as the original, which is untranslatable…) Will look out for this one.

  2. These are wonderful, as well as sobering. It does put the matter of “who’s on top” in good perspective. I’d like to read a whole book written from this point-of-view.

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