• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Translations | Essay
  • Tiger-Savant Long-Tail by Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay [Parabaas Translation] : Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay
    translated from Bengali to English by Sudeshna Kar Barua

    Tiger-Savant Long-Tail
    (Byaghracharya Brihallangul)

    Article II

    Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay

    Translated from Bangla by Sudeshna Kar Barua

    I Synopsis

    Once upon a time, in the dense jungle of the Sunderbans, scores of Herculean tigers and tigresses assembled to listen to a presidential address by Amitodor (Big-Belly). After the completion of his speech, he informed the assemblage of the pressing need for a Tiger Association for the uplift, both educational and cultural, of the tiger community. Quite naturally, the motion was passed unanimously with terrifying howls and growls. Thereafter, Amitodor announced that the assembly would soon have the rare privilege of listening to the vastly experienced and erudite Byaghracharya Brihallangul (Tiger-savant Long-Tail) who would be sharing with them his knowledge of the human kind which he had gained owing to his proximity to the two-legged animals during his own captivity.

    To the delight of the tigers and tigresses present, Byaghracharya Brihallangul spoke of the superiority of tigers and of his firm conviction that the weak human race was worthless and that men had been created only for the gastronomic satisfaction of tigers. He openly stated that in spite of his keen observation and experience he still had serious doubts about human customs and practices and about human nature itself. In response to the interesting talk, questions were asked and comments made for further verification and clarifications. To prove his point Byaghracharya Brihallangul explained that in spite of having spent considerable time inside a cage in a human locality, he did not quiet understand why human beings constructed colossal buildings or whether or not they consumed grass. It was not quite clear to him whether human beings would one day turn into monkeys or whether their fondness for cow’s milk indicated that they themselves had once been calves. Moreover, he was most intrigued by human activities in general and marriage in particular. Unfortunately, the discussion on marriage came to a sudden and unannounced end as the hungry President and the listeners failed to control themselves at the sight of a wandering fawn. The chase began and Brihallangul joined enthusiastically promising to continue with his treatise on marriage in a post-lunch session in the near future.

    Article II has documented the proceedings of the second meeting attended once again by tigers, all full-bellied on the occasion. The session had been judiciously timed in order to rule out the possibility of a repeat performance of the chase for food that had brought about such an unceremonious end to the earlier interactive session.


    Article II


    “Mr. President Sir, Tigresses and Honourable

    In my first speech I had made a commitment that I would be delivering a lecture on the human matrimonial system and on some other topics as well. Keeping one’s promise is the primary duty of the civilized. So, without further ado, I shall come to the subject directly.

    You are all aware of what a marriage means. All and sundry, now
    and then, at their own leisure, do get married. But there is some peculiarity
    in human weddings. Taking of partners by tigers and other cultured beasts is
    only for sheer necessity but it is not so with human beasts because quite a few
    amongst them marry only once and it’s forever.

    A human wedding is of two kinds—the regular and everlasting and
    the irregular and casual. Of the two it is the regular marriage solemnized by a
    priest that is accepted. The knot that is tied with a priest as an intermediary
    is a priest-sanctioned marriage.”

    Mahadangstra “(Sharp-Tooth): “What is a priest?”

    Brihallangul:  “The lexicon states that a priest is a kind of rice-and-plantain-eating human being engaged in the business of swindling. But this definition is incorrect because all priests are not eaters of rice and plantains. A number of priests are quite used to consuming both liquor and flesh. Many priests are omnivores. On the other hand it is not so that only by eating rice and plantains one becomes a priest. In a city called Varanasi there are a number of oxen ---they live on rice and plantains. However, they are not priests because they are not swindlers. Only when the treacherous eat rice and plantains do they become priests.

    In weddings solemnized by priests, one such sits right between
    the bride and the groom. He sits and prattles for a while. Such a lecture is
    called chanting. What that means I am not quite certain. However, because of
    the kind of scholar that I am, I have been able to make some kind of meaning
    out of those chantings. Perhaps, the priest says, ‘O bride and groom! I command
    you to tie the knot. If you get united, I too shall get my rice and plantains
    regularly…so do get married.  On the occasions of the bride’s conceiving,
    receiving the sacrament during pregnancy, entering the delivery room, I
    shall be getting my regular supply of food –so do get married. During the Shashthi puja of the child born, his rice ceremony, piercing of the
    earlobes, tonsuring, thread ceremony, I shall be getting lots of edibles,
    therefore do get married. Once you make an entry into family life, you will
    always be engaged in rites and rituals, in worship and religious ceremonies,
    sacrifices etc. As a result I too shall be receiving my rice and plantains, so do get
    married. Do get married, do not ever abolish marriage. If you get this annulled
    then I shall face great difficulty in my getting my rice and plantains. If so,
    I’ll just strike your heads off with tight slaps one after another. This is the
    command given to us by our ancestors.’ Perhaps, because of such strictures
    these priest-guided weddings are never abolished.”                            

    “The wedding system that is prevalent amongst us may be termed casual. Among human beings too marriage of this kind is usually in practice. Many men and women marry in both the regular and the irregular manner. But the main difference between the regular and the irregular marriages is that no one conceals a regular marriage but people go all out to keep the casual wedlock a secret. If a man comes to know about the secret marriage of another, then he does at times catch him and beat him up. In my opinion, priests are the root cause of this problem. They do not get their tit bits in the casual marriages—hence their mission is to suppress this practice. Following their instructions people thrash the partners of these irregular marriages. But the strangest thing is that there are many who themselves tie the knot secretly but when they see others getting married in this manner they just catch them and give them a good thrashing.”

    “From this I can deduce that a large number of human beings approve of such casual unions but for the fear of the priests and the rest they cannot utter a word. During my stay in a human locality I came to learn that people belonging to the upper class have a special liking for these irregular unions. Those who are as civilized as we are, hence bestial, are the ones who follow and imitate us. I am also confident in my expectation of a time when men will become as cultured as we are and then such clandestine relationships will be readily accepted in human society. Many human scholars are now writing books etc. for initiating such practices. They are undoubtedly well-wishers of their own race. In my opinion, to felicitate them we can make them honorary members of this Tiger Community and I hope that when they attend a meeting none of you will make a meal of them because like us they are versed in ethics and are benevolent.”

    “There is a
    special kind of casual marriage prevalent amongst human beings. It may be
    termed monetary matrimony. For solemnizing such a union a man touches a woman’s
    palm with a coin. Only then is a coin-marriage considered complete.”

    “What is a coin?”

    Brihallangul   :
    “A coin is a kind of Deity worshipped by men. If you have the curiosity to know more, I shall sing the praises of this great Goddess elaborately. Of all the deities worshipped by human beings, it is she who is the most revered. She has a physical form. Her idol is made of metals like gold, silver and copper. Her temple is constructed with iron, tin and wood. Silk, wool, cotton, leather etc. are used to make her throne. Day and night, men and women remain engrossed in her thought and all the while quite frantically they devise ways and means to catch a glimpse of this Deity. Day in and day out men visit homes where there is money. So great is their attachment and devotion that they do not leave these houses even if they are thrashed. The one who is the priest of this Goddess or the one in whose house she has her seat, is considered chief amongst men. Other men, all the while, sing his praises with folded hands. Men consider themselves to be privileged if a possessor of the Coin-Goddess so much as casts a glance at them.

    The Deity is omnipotent. There is nothing that cannot be achieved with the help of this Devi. There is no such object on earth that cannot be acquired with the blessing of this Goddess. There is no vice that cannot be concealed if this Deity wills it. There is no virtue that can be considered so in human society without her kind approval. What virtue can there be in one in whose house this Deity does not reside? Can there be any shortcoming in a man if she is conspicuously present in his house? In human society the favourite of the Goddess of Wealth alone is hailed as pious and absence of wealth is considered irreligious .If there is money, one is an intellectual. Whereas, according to human scriptures, a man without wealth is designated a fool even if he is actually a scholar. If we use the term ‘big tiger’, we refer to Herculean tigers like Amitodor, Mahadangstra etc. But in the human domain ‘big man’ does not mean the same. It does not refer to a twelve or fifteen-footer. The man in whose house this Deity dwells is labelled a “big man”. But if she has not been accommodated in a house, then its owner, even if a seven-footer, is referred to as a ‘small man’”

    “On hearing the eulogies of this Deity I had at first decided that I would bring her from the human locality and establish her in the Tiger world. But I desisted from doing so because of what I heard later. I heard that money is the root cause of all mankind’s problems. First-grade beasts like tigers are never envious of their own kind but men are always jealous of fellow-beings. Lucre worship is the sole cause of this hostility. It is for their avarice that all the time men are attempting to harm each other. In my first lecture I had mentioned that men gathered in thousands on vast fields to slaughter one another. Money is responsible for this. For the excitement of acquiring wealth men are killing, injuring, tormenting, insulting and slighting each other, all the while. There is perhaps no disaster in the human world that has not been brought about by the grace of this Deity. On coming to know about this I sent a prayer up to the Coin-Goddess and gave up all intention of worshipping her.”

    “Unfortunately, human beings do not realize this. In my first lecture itself I had stated that men are lacking in foresight and are trying to harm one another all the time. Consequently, like a potter’s wheel, they go round and round continuously in their attempt to collect silver coins and copper coins.”

    “The human marriage system is queer and so are some other practices. Anyway, lest my long-drawn lecture once again brings you close to your hunting time, I am stopping here today. In future, if time permits, I shall speak on other topics.” In this manner, after concluding his speech, Byaghracharya Brihallangul resumed his seat amidst a thunderous clap clap of tails. Then a well-educated young tiger named Dirgho Nokh or Long-Claw raised himself up and growled into an argument.

    At the end of a roar Dirgho Nokh Esquire said, “O honourable Tigers! Now I propose to thank the Speaker for his kind address. But it is also my duty to point out that the lecture was sub-standard and full of lies and that the speaker is an ignorant idiot”.

    “Please, I request you to quieten down. The civilized do not use foul language so openly. Indirectly, of course, you may abuse even more strongly.”

    Dirgho Nokh: “As you say. The speaker is very truthful. Even though the major portion of all that he has said is false, there are one or two true statements. He is a great scholar. Many here may feel that there is no substance whatsoever in his speech but we must be grateful for whatever we have received. However, I cannot agree with all that he has included in his lecture. Actually, the speaker has no knowledge of what marriage in human society really means. If, for the sake of procreation, a tiger chooses any tigress as his partner (a fellow-wanderer) we call it a marriage. Human weddings are not like this. Man, weak by nature , is quite devoted to his master. As a result each male requires an overlord and all men appoint women as their masters. It is this that they call a marriage. When they accept a master in the presence of a witness, it can be termed a priest-approved matrimony. The name of the witness is Priest. The explanation that Brihallangul Esquire has offered with regard to matrimonial chanting is not accurate. The mantra is as follows:

    Priest: Come on
    tell me what should I be a witness to?

    Groom: Be a
    witness. I am accepting this woman as my master for the rest of my life.

    Groom: And I
    pledge myself as her most obedient servant for life. The responsibility of
    supplying food is mine and that of eating is hers.

    (Addressing the Bride) What do you have to say?

    Bride: I
    willingly accept this slave. As long as I shall desire it, I shall allow him to
    be at my feet. The day I won’t feel like it, I’ll kick him out of my service.

    Priest   Amen.”

    “There are many other errors of this nature. For example, a coin or money has been described by the speaker as a man-revered Deity but actually it is not a Goddess. Money is a kind of poison. Men are extraordinarily fond of venom, hence they are so particular about collecting coins. Learning that man is devoted to coins I once thought, ‘Wonder how delicious or nutritious a coin is. I shall have to taste it one day.’ Once while devouring a man I had killed on the bank of the Vidyadhari river, I found some coins inside his garments. I gobbled them all up without delay. The next day I experienced a bellyache. Hence, can there be any doubt that a coin is a kind of poison?”

    After Long-Nail
    concluded his argument in this manner, other honourable tigers got up and
    delivered lectures. Later President Amitodar Esquire began to speak:

    “It’s quite late
    in the night and it is time for earning our livelihood. Who knows when a herd
    of deer will arrive! Hence it is not right to waste time by delivering long
    lectures. The talk was brilliant and we are much obliged to Brihallangul
    Esquire. What I wish to say is that from the two lectures that
    you have all heard, you must have realized that man is an extremely uncivilized
    animal. We are the most civilized beasts. So it becomes our duty to make men as
    cultured as we are. It seems that God Almighty has sent us to the forests of
    the Sunderbans to civilize human beings because if men are more polished their
    flesh may taste better and they may be caught more easily for, once educated,
    they will understand that it is every man’s bounden duty to offer his body as
    food to the tigers. This is the kind of culture that we wish to inculcate in
    them. Hence, do pay attention to this matter in particular. It is a tiger’s
    noble duty to first civilize human beings and eat them up thereafter.”

    Ending his talk
    in this manner, the Hon’ble President took his seat amidst loud clap clap  of
    tails. The important meeting of the tigers came to an end after a vote of
    thanks to the President. Thereafter, each one went which ever way he chose in order to
    earn his livelihood.

    All around the
    ground on which the meeting was being held, were some big and tall trees.
    Climbing them up and concealing themselves in the midst of leaves, some monkeys
    had been listening to the lecturers of the tigers. After the tigers vacated the
    meeting ground one monkey peeped out and called, “Hey mate, are you on the

    The second
    monkey replied, “Yes Sir. I’m here.”

    First Monkey:
    “Come on, let us begin a criticism of the discussion of the tigers.”

    Second Monkey :

    F M.: These
    tigers are our sworn enemies. Let us show our animosity by discrediting them.

    S. M.:
    Obligatory. It is the proper duty of our race.

    F.M. : Right.
    But just see, is there any  tiger near about?

    S. M.:  No.
    Still, tell me without coming out in the open.

    F.M. : That’s
    right. Or else who knows on which day I may land in front of a tiger and he
    may make a meal of me.

    S.M.: Please
    tell me. What are the errors?

    F.M. :  Firstly,
    bad grammar. We monkeys are experts in grammar. Their grammar is not like our
    monkey-ish grammar.

    S. M.: What

    F. M. : Their
    language is too impure.

    S.M. : Yes. They
    do not converse in our monkey tongue.

    F.M.  Well, that
    Amitodar said, “It is the duty of the tigers to first civilize human beings and
    then eat them up”. But, instead of that if he had said, ‘ First devour human
    beings and then polish them up’, it would have been more reasonable.

    Undoubtedly. Or else why should they call us monkeys?

    F.M. : They have
    no idea whatsoever how a lecture is to be delivered.. During a lecture one has
    to indulge in a little chatter, has to jump and leap, make faces once or twice,
    feed on bananas once or twice. It is their duty to take a few lessons from us.

    S.M. : Had they received
    some training from us they would have been monkeys and not tigers.

    At that time,
    plucking up courage, some more monkeys too appeared. One monkey said, “In my opinion
    , the greatest of errors in the lecture is that Brihallangul has said quite a
    few new things which he has discovered with the help of his own knowledge and
    intelligence. Such statements are not to be found in any book. Whatever has not
    been discussed repeatedly by earlier writers is absolutely unacceptable. We,
    the monkey brotherhood, have all through brought about the prosperity of the
    monkey domain through aping and imitation. This the tiger-savant has not done, and it is his greatest failing."

    Then a
    ruddy-faced monkey spoke, “I can, from these lectures, bring out a list of more
    than a thousand errors. I have not been able to understand thousands of things.
    Whatever is beyond my knowledge and understanding, can be nothing but a serious shortcoming.”

    Another monkey
    opined, “I shall not be able to point out any defect but I can make fifty-two
    kinds of faces and display my own culture and sense of humour by abusing

    In this manner,
    the monkeys remained engaged in vilifying the tigers. Observing this a plump
    monkey said, “The way we have criticized, Brihallangul will surely return to
    his den and fall dead. Come on, let us feast on bananas.”

    © 2008 by Sudeshna Kar Barua

    Published March, 2009

    Sudeshna Kar Barua, is Reader, Department of English, Gokhale Memorial Girls' College and
    Guest Faculty, University of Calcutta.

    Illustrations by
    Banbhatta. "Banbhatta," based in Kolkata, is a researcher and consultant in Civil Engineering. His hobby includes writing, photography, arts.

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