Mustache Thievery

Sukumar Ray

Head Officer Chief Babu was a very peaceful man--
And then he turned mental--who knew how it began?
He sat drowsing in his chair, smiling a happy smile
When suddenly, it seemed, something drove him wild.

He leapt up and flung his arms about, his eyes red as brick,
He shouted out, “I’m lost, I’m lost, do save me quick!”
Some ran for a doctor, some yelled “Police!” with all their might,
Some advised restraint: “Careful, he could bite!”

Everyone was rushing frantic, leaving letters untyped--
Then the Babu cried, “Oh help, my mustache has been swiped.”
Lost his mustache? Incredible! How could it be?
But his handlebars were just the same, plain for all to see.

They tried to explain things, held a mirror to his face:
His whiskers weren’t stolen, that couldn’t be the case.
But angry as fire, an eggplant in hot oil, he sputtered and shook:
“I don’t believe a single man, I know each of you crooks.

Dirty and ragged, an over-used broom--an obvious pretender!--
This kind of mustache was kept by Shyambabu’s milk vendor.
I’ll shoot the whole lot! if you say this mustache is mine.”
And right away he proclaimed for all a rather hefty fine.

Getting hotter by the minute, he wrote and underlined in red:
“Give anyone an inch of rope, they’ll climb up on your head.
These monkeys at the office, with brains of dung and hay--
Where my perfect mustache went, not one of them can say.

I should grab their whiskers and dance them up and down
Or shave their sorry heads with a spade upon their crown.
They claim the mustache is mine--as though it’s something you can own!
The mustache owns the man, my friend--that’s how we all are known.”

© 2003 by Prasenjit Gupta

Translation Published March 15, 2003

The original poem [go.Nph churi by Sukumar Ray] first appeared in Sandesh in Chaitra, 1322 BE(1916) and later in the collection of poems Abol Tabol, first published in 1923.

Translated by Prasenjit Gupta [Proshenjit Gupto ]. Prasenjit Gupta is a translator and writer living in Iowa City. (more)

Illustrations by Sukumar Ray.

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* To learn more about the ITRANS script for Bengali, click here.