• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Translations | Novel
  • When Bholu Became King: Translation of a Children's Fiction By Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay [Parabaas Translation] : Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay
    translated from Bengali to English by Chhanda Chattopadhyay Bewtra
    Cover | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

    When Bholu Became King

    Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay

    Translated from the original Bangla novel
    Bholu Jokhon Raja Holo (ভোলু যখন রাজা হল)

    Chhanda Chattopadhyay Bewtra

    Patol was always happy to see Nagenbabu. Naturally.

    Nagenbabu’s arrival always brought Goddess Lakshmi’s blessings. Patol could almost hear the anklets of the Goddess. Nagenbabu was a big customer. He never noticed small inconsequential dealings.

    It happened about a month ago. It was early evening, eight thirty or quarter to nine. That was plenty late for the village folks. Patol too always shut down his shop as soon as it became dark and double bolted the doors and hung a heavy lock. The security guard Ghana didn’t like to stay after dark as he was getting old and on top of that he was night blind. So Patol was alone. The business after dark was of questionable nature. So for safety Patol conducted all exchanges through a small window. The poor village folks came in daytime to pawn or sell their simple belongings. At night the thieves and robbers came to get money for their loots.

    Nagenbabu of course could not be included amongst those petty thieves. Patol did not really know how to classify him. In fact Patol so far had seen only the left hand of Nagenbabu. But what a hand! Smooth, fair skin, long slim fingers, two huge rings in two fingers. One gigantic lotus cut diamond, and the other an equally large ruby. A gold banded watch at his wrist and the silky sleeves showed fine embroidery.

    Patol was equally adept in recognizing gems as well as people. But, so far he had not seen the entire person of Nagenbabu. The nocturnal dealers usually did not like to show their faces. Some folks actually covered their faces in towels. Patol didn’t care. He could figure out from Nagenbabu’s hand that he was a high-class person who could not be bothered with trivial matters. Therefore he deliberately underweighted the gold coin. “Sir, leaving aside the added metals etc…”

    Nagenbabu sounded impatient, “Don’t bother with your calculation. Just name your price.”

    Patol carefully counted out five thousand rupees, “Sir, here is five thousands, I’m sorry but I can’t pay any more than…”

    “Ok, ok!”Nagenbabu took the money and disappeared in the darkness.

    Patol offered a thankful prayer to Goddess Laxmi. He was sure that the gold coin would easily be worth fifteen or sixteen thousands. His heart was racing in excitement.

    After about ten days, Laxmi incarnate arrived again. The same window, the same left hand. This time the hand was holding a dazzling link of gold buttons with pearl setting.

    “Can you tell me how much this one will cost?”

    Patol’s hands were shaking. He must have done something really special to merit such abundance from the Goddess. It was true that he was an honest man. Whatever others might say about him, he could not find any major fault in himself. Yes, he had cheated a few rupees for the sake of business, but he never committed any major robbery or murder. Besides he always worshipped Laxmi, the Goddess of prosperity.

    Patol weighed the buttons in his hand, “You are a respectable gentleman Sir, and I must keep up your prestige. Here are six thousands. It will be a loss for me, but for your sake…”

    As before, Nagenbabu merely said, “It’s ok” and disappeared with the money.

    Patol’s heart was beating double time. He was afraid he might have a heart attack right there.

    After ten or twelve days, again the same left hand arrived at the window. By now Patol was well familiar with the hand, “Is it you Sir?”


    “My good fortune!”

    “Well, Patolbabu, the other day you called me a respectable gentleman. Do you know me?”

    Patol smiled unctuously, “Well sir, I can always recognize a gentleman, Sir.”

    “Have you seen me before?”

    “In a way, yes, Sir. You are very fair, tall and have good taste. You don’t have to do menial work, and you belong to upper class.”

    “Hm. You do have some brain.”

    “What brain! I’m just a simple person…”

    “Do you buy stolen goods?”

    Patol hurriedly said, “Oh no, Never! I am a religious man. I have no desire to go to hell for dealing with stolen goods.”

    “But I myself have sold you such items.”

    Patol tried to cover up, “Surely you are kidding Sir. I have seen your hand. Beautiful as God Kartik’s. How can such a hand steal something?”

    “Do you know God Kartik himself is the patron God of the thieves?

    “Of course I do.” Patol was wringing his hands, “But I also know the hands of the thieves. They are ugly, calloused, dark, with dirt under he nails, shapeless fingers, you can’t even tell if it is a hand or a paw.”

    “How do you know that?”

    “Well Sir, I’m old enough. Have some experiences too.”

    “That means you do deal with the thieves.”

    Patol said with great humility, “Well Sir, never did it knowingly. But sometimes it is impossible to tell. You see, the items are never marked as stolen.”

    “That is true.”

    “Can I be guilty of buying unknowingly?”

    “Guilty? Not at all. Actually I am searching for a thief.”

    Patol said happily, “But Sir, there is no dearth of thieves. This area is full of them. Behind the doors, below the windows, under the bushes, there are thieves everywhere.”

    “But I don’t do wholesale business in thieves. I just want one specific person. I don’t know his name. Can’t describe his looks either. All I know is that he has a tattoo on his right wrist, written, 'With God’s help'.”

    Patol again smiled his oily smile, “That may be like looking for a needle in a haystack, Sir.”

    Suddenly a gem encrusted heavy necklace appeared in Nagenbabu’s left hand. “Can you price this one?”

    Patol’s eyes were shining with greed. Even in the dim lamplight, the necklace was dazzling his eyes. In a choked voice he said, “This is a beauty. This could bring, minimum, fifty thousands easily.”

    “In the market, Madan the goldsmith wanted to pay two lakhs!”

    Quickly Patol said, “That will be a big loss for me, Sir.”

    “Ok, I will go with fifty thousand, plus the name of the thief!”

    “Yes, Sir.”

    With trembling hands, Patol counted out fifty thousand rupees and placed it in the fair hand of Nagenbabu, “Sir, I have a family, small children. Please don’t spread it around.”

    “Don’t worry.”

    “Sir that hand belongs to Gokul. Abidyathakur’s hired gun. But who are you sir? I don’t think you live in this neighborhood.”

    “My name is Nagen Rai. You don’t need to know anymore.”

    “OK Sir.”

    Patol was of course overjoyed with his luck. But at the same time he was now worried too. He gave away the name out of sheer greed. Gokul was not only a thief but also a dangerous criminal. Kidnap and murder were easy jobs for him. He had even been to prison a couple of times.

    Patol shut down the window and realized an uneasy feeling in his heart. His whole business was based on secrecy and confidentiality. Snitches did not last long. The goons were not going to let them be.

    He got this twenty-carat necklace at a real bargain. Yet he could not enjoy his good fortune. It felt like gravel in his rice, or sand in his molasses. He didn’t eat his dinner well. At night the fear and worry kept him up. Tossing and turning and drinking water, nothing could help him.

    Nagen Ray walked straight from Patol’s shop towards the mango orchard. It was dark in that area. Not many people were around.

    Suddenly a man stepped out of the shadow of the trees.

    “Job done, boss?”

    Nagen held his head in two fingers of his right hand and said, “Yes, done, but I still can’t remember many things.”

    The man sighed, “What can you do but have patience. You are lucky to be alive at all.”

    “But is there any meaning to this living?”

    “Just wait and have patience. Things will work out.”

    Nagen Ray just said, “Hm.”

    They silently walked on in the dark orchard. Nagen ahead, the second man a few steps behind. His name was Danu.

    “Do you recognize this place boss?


    “But you used to speak out ‘Chandraghoshpur’ in your sleep.”

    “Don’t know.”

    “Remember Nafarganj?”


    “You came here at least two or three times since last month. Anybody recognized you?”


    “Not even in Nafarganj?”


    “And that tattooed hand? Whose is it?”

    “Someone named Gokul. He is apparently a follower of a man named Abidyathakur or something.”

    “May be we should get hold of him. May remember something.”

    “No. No use.”

    “Why? What’s wrong in trying at least?”

    “I remember things like that suddenly. But if we don’t know the contexts, what came before or after, it is useless to just ask about a tattooed hand.”

    “But what if the man recognized you and called you out by your name?”

    “That is what I am scared about.”

    “Scared? Why boss?”

    “That man Gokul is a robber. The gentle folks of the village haven’t recognized me, suddenly if a robber recognizes, how will it seem? It is better I remain ignorant of my nature.”

    “Then there is no use hanging around Chandraghoshput?”


    “Then why leave those expensive items with that shylock Patol? If you want me to…”

    There was a motorcycle parked at the end of the orchard. Nagen Ray climbed on it and said absently, “Yes.”

    Danu disappeared immediately. After some time a dozen stray dogs at a distance started barking and fighting. The noise was loud enough to wake up the dead.

    As it was Patol was not getting any sleep that night, then the nonstop barking, it really made him mad. First he tried to shoo off the dogs through the open window. When that didn’t work, he took a stick and a flashlight and stepped out. After that he didn’t remember anything.

    After half an hour, Danu came back silently and started the bike and both of them sped away.

    “Say, do I need to drain the water off the daal?”

    “No, sir.”

    “ Have you ever had date palm fruit roll?”

    “No, sir.”

    “Have you ever heard a cow roar?”

    “How can that be?”

    “Cultivating rice in desert, blooming lotus in sea, growing beard in a woman, are these at all possible?”

    “No, sir.”

    “But all of these are happening already!”

    “If you can explain it for us simple folks.”

    “If I explained, will you believe me?”

    “Why not? What have I not believed so far? Like when you said last winter, ‘Hey, Haruram has taken a bath today!’ Didn’t I believe you? Even though I knew that Haru has severe hydrophobia, never touches water in his life. Then, say last spring, when you said that Nidhe milkman’s milk has a layer formed on top, didn’t I believe it? I even believed that the miser Diginbabu bought a new pair of shoes, in spite of knowing that he never wore shoes and walked with rags tied under his feet.”

    “But now will you believe what I am going to say?”

    “Try me.”

    “Then listen, I am having penitence.”

    “Penitence? What is that?”

    “Like regret, repentance, get it?”

    “A little bit.”

    “Something like that.”

    “Is that a good thing Sir? Does it need treatment?”

    “You know, I believe I am not going to live long. There are some bad signs.”

    “But sir, your appearance is quite hale and hearty.”

    “These are matters of mind. You can’t see them from outside.”

    “Shall I drag in Biraj doctor?”

    “Let’s not talk about him. He must be pushing ninety nine. I went to visit him one afternoon, He was having lunch. I said, “Doc I needed to see you’. And he said, ‘Just wait, I will go take a bath.’”

    “That is true. The other day I saw him knocking on his own door calling, ‘Anybody home?’”

    “Repentance has no treatment. It is because of all the nasty deed I have done in my life.”

    “Nasty? You have done nasty jobs? I am surprised.”

    “Nonsense! What have I done my whole life? Robbing, stealing, kidnapping, murdering, beating up, terrorizing, have I left anything?”

    “But you said nasty, bad deeds. Which one is bad?”

    “Why? Killing and terrorizing are not bad in your books?”

    Danu scratched his head, “Oh, those things. I thought you were talking about something more serious.”

    “You are hopeless!”

    “Well, how do I know that those are bad acts?”

    That morning Kaliprasad had told his wife too about his regrets. His wife stared at him for a long time, then said, “One has to follow the rules of one’s clan. No? I am the daughter of Kalo bandit; I grew up on looted income. And you too are the son of a goon. All your life you have enjoyed cheating and stealing. Suddenly this regret?”

    Kaliprasad could not explain. But it was a fact that he was suffering mentally.

    He called Nagen that evening, “I want to tell you something.”


    “You are suffering from amnesia. You don’t know who you are. Near Paldighi Hatkhola a few terrorists gave you such a beating that you almost didn’t survive.”

    “I know that much already.” Nagen said.

    “Yet, but it is better to remember them once more. I have some doubts.”

    “OK. Please tell me more.”

    “You received serious wounds in your head, face and chest. In fact in the hospital, they declared you dead within two days. You were kept with the unclaimed bodies. Thank God an undertaker saw you moving. The surgeons managed to do most of the repairs. The rest you owe to doctor Biraj. But your memory could not be restored. Who you are, your name, address nothing is known yet. But I have been observing you and am impressed with three things, one, you are very strong, physically, two, you are also very sharp and intelligent and the third is your enormous courage. It is near impossible to see all three qualities in one person. Usually one who is strong is not as smart, or one who is smart, does not have the guts. Or one who has the guts is neither strong nor smart. It is strange to see all three in one man.”

    “But is there a need to remind me of this?”

    “Yes. There is a need. Now I feel that I haven’t utilized your strengths properly. I have made you commit many crimes. Today I feel I have done you wrong. You have the look of aristocracy. I didn’t think it to be of importance.”

    “Is that why you are suffering from regrets?”

    “Yes, my son. That is the reason.”

    “But you have paid me well for my work. I had to do something to sustain myself.”

    Kaliprasad shook his head, “No my son. I used you for wrong purposes.”

    “Well, please don’t worry so much. I have no memory. You gave me the name I go by now. I don’t even know my own family history.”

    “No. I have thought a lot about. Unless I can return you to your home, I will not be able to atone my sins. In your sleep you used to name two places, Nafarganj and Chandraghoshpur.”

    “Yes. I have been around both the places, but nobody has yet recognized me.”

    “You know what I think?”


    “Your appearance must have changed a lot after all the scars and surgeries. Perhaps you comb your hair in a different way now. Perhaps you had beard and moustaches in past. Danu says you want to quit Chandraghoshpur?”

    “There is no use uncle.”

    “I think you are making a mistake. I think people are not recognizing you because of the changes in your appearance. You are very neat and clean now; perhaps you were not like that in past. Too, that tattooed guy you learned about? I have a feeling he might be of some help in finding your roots.”

    Nagen Ray frowned, “Does this mean you do not want to hire me anymore?”

    “No my son. I keep feeling as if I am making a noble person commit criminal acts. I don’t want to add to my list of sins anymore.”

    “But perhaps my past is not that pristine either.”

    “True. But whatever it is, we need to know it first. Perhaps your loved ones are still waiting for your return. It has only been six years. Not much time. People don’t forget that fast. You go and ask one by one, someone will surely be able to name you. I am positive.”

    “And those goons who tried to kill me? What if they recognize me first?”

    Kaliprasad stumbled a bit, “Yes. That is a threat all right. I didn’t think about it. Then perhaps you better not show yourself too much.”

    “Don’t worry uncle. I may be amnesic, but I am not stupid. I will figure out a safe way.”

    “Do that my son. Please. Perhaps that will help lighten the load of my sins.”

    Danu was listening quietly, now he sighed, “Are we doing the right thing, sir?”

    “What is wrong now?”

    “It is rare to find an expert guy like Nagen. Without him, our business could never have started.”

    “You won’t understand. You have no regrets.”

    “Who says I have no regrets? I have plenty Sir. My house is not yet three storied. I could not afford the Mehboob band in my daughter’s wedding; I haven’t yet taken my wife on an airplane. No end to my regrets.”

    “You are completely drowned in sin. Now at least try to float up a little.”

    Danu happily said, “I made arrangements for that too sir, see this amulet? It’s from a holy man. He told me to wear it and commit any sin I want. Just at the end of the day, I’ve to dip this amulet in a glass of water and drink it. All my sins will be cancelled!”


    Baburam had noticed the hole in daytime. In the northeast corner of the garden, there was a grass covered stone slab. It was difficult to notice it by a casual glance. But Baburam knew that he had the sharpest eyes, and he saw a gap under the slab. He was sure it was the hidden entry of a tunnel. He didn’t want to start digging in daytime. People might notice and ask questions. So tonight he stealthily crept in the palace, armed with a crowbar and a flashlight.

    First he crept near the gap and checked it closely. It just needed a little digging and he would open the mouth of the tunnel. He looked around again and just as he was going to dig in his crowbar, a soft voice said from behind. “Think it is wise?”

    Baburam was so startled that he dropped both the flashlight and the crowbar. His limbs were trembling, his teeth were chattering, He somehow managed to wail, “But I do need the money!”

    The flashlight had gone off. In the dark Baburam saw a vague outline of a tall human form in dhoti and shirt.

    “But do you think it is wise?” The man asked again.

    Baburam spoke respectfully, “Who are you sir?”

    “I’m a very old man. My name is Amitesh. But what is your intention?”

    “Just digging around a bit, nothing much.”

    “But this is the house of Tejenbabu. If you spoil his sleep at this late hour, he will surely get very upset.”

    Baburam was confused, “I didn’t know Tejenbabu lived in this hole. But who is this Tejenbanu?”

    “He is the patron snake of this palace. Pure viper.”

    “Oh my God!” Baburam jumped back four feet.

    “But why all this digging at night? Looking for some hidden treasure, are you?”

    “Yes, sir.” Baburam admitted tearfully, “Aren’t there treasures hidden in this palace?”

    “I have heard so too. But there is also a matter of ownership of the treasures. You can’t just walk in and grab it for yourself.”

    “Alas, that means I’ve lost all that money!”

    “What loss?”

    “Sir, I had to pay the bandits their travel expense, lodging, boarding, bribes… I have already lost fifteen hundred rupees.”

    “Only fifteen hundred?”

    “Sir, we are poor folks. Fifteen hundred is a lot for us.”

    “Ok. Behind you, about ten feet from here, you see that bel tree? Now do you see a termite hill near it?”

    “Yes Sir. I know that hill.”

    “Break down that hill with your crowbar, and put your hand in the hole below.”

    Baburam did just that. Before putting his hand in the hole, he said fearfully, “Hope there are no Tejenbabu in this hole?”

    “No, no. Just go deep inside.”

    Baburam dug his hand as far deep as could, trying to feel around when his fingers felt something hard.

    “Feel anything?”

    “Yes, perhaps a plate or something?”

    “Pull it out.”

    It was difficult pulling the thing out. It did look like a large, heavy metallic plate, smeared in mud.

    “What is it Sir?”

    “It is an old plate, solid silver. You will get good price if you sell it.”

    “I want to touch your feet Sir!”

    “No need. Just don’t waste your time searching for hidden treasure. There are many complications; it is not an easy job. As far as I know, only some one from the royal lineage can dig out that treasure. And he has to have a trident mark on his body.”

    “Then there is no hope for us?”


    There was moonlight that night. Baburam saw the man gradually fade off in the moonlight.

    Baburam was so surprised that he quite forgot to be afraid. He picked his flashlight, crowbar and the silver plate and set off for home. He would get a lot of money by selling the plate as an antique. But for some reason he did not feel any temptation.

    Brahmagopal was at his fountain, brushing his teeth when he met Baburam Aditya sitting there. He had no tall boots or hats and he looked very thoughtful.

    Out of politeness, Brahmagopal asked, “So, how is digging going along? Got any hidden treasure?”

    Baburam looked at him very seriously, “Brahmababu, do you believe in ghosts?”

    “Ghosts!” Brahmagopal too turned somber. He engaged in his deep thinking for sometime. Then said very seriously, “the problem is that I am a member of the Atheists’ club. Our president Atmaram is a strict atheist. Atheists don’t believe in gods nor ghosts, spirits, paranormals etc. I’m also not supposed to. But sometimes…”

    “Sometimes, what?”

    “I may not believe, but they do exist. Ghosts, spirits etc. Even divine messages can be real.”

    “Then why don’t you believe in them?”

    “But I’m not supposed to. But never mind about me, why did you ask about ghosts? Have you seen something? I should warn you beforehand. I’m not a believer.”

    “Then there is no point telling you.” Baburam was disappointed.

    “Come on. Why not? I told you, even if I don’t believe; I know that they do exist. My problem is that I sometimes hear the divine message. Once I blurted out in the club, Mr. Atmaram was so mad! ‘You hear a divine message, eh? Divine? Now you will start seeing ghosts, then gods, next you will go around wearing amulets with magical powers, take shamanic medicines for your tummy ache, Who knows what more.’ Since then I have decided let gods and ghosts be as they are. I’m not going to believe in them. But did you really see a ghost?”

    “Of course! A real live ghost!”

    “Baloney! How can a ghost be alive?”

    “If not alive, how would you know it is a real ghost?”

    Brahmagopal couldn’t figure it out. “But, if he is alive, by definition he can’t be a ghost. You have to be dead to be a ghost. No? It is not meshing logically.’

    “Look here. You can’t get anything done by a dead ghost. Can you? To run their lives, the ghosts have to be alive. If you object to that, fine. I won’t tell you my story.”

    “No, please tell. If I don’t believe in ghosts, it makes no difference if they are alive or dead.”

    “Not only did I see him alive, he was walking and talking. Told me about the hidden treasure. Even showed me the spot where I found a heavy silver plate. He said his name was Amitesh. It sounds vaguely familiar. Ring a bell?”

    Brahmagopal immediately folded his hands in prayer, “Of course it rings bell. He was the fifth king in the royal family tree. I’ve heard this palace was quite something else in his time. So, did he tell you where to find the treasure?”

    “No. He said that you have to have ownership in the treasure to search for it. And this owner supposedly should have a trident shaped birthmark. Do you believe all this?”

    “No. I am prohibited from believing. But I too have heard something like this.”

    “What?” Baburam asked.

    “That an heir to throne will be born with a trident mark. He will be very lucky. These kinds of rumors are what destroyed the royal family.”

    “How so?”

    Brahmagopal sighed, “Our rational atheist club was founded to confront such superstitions. And we are doing some good work. It seems Bhavesh Chowdhury’s son had a trident mark on his back. So the rumor spread that this boy would discover the treasure. As a result, all the bandits and thieves of the area gathered around him. To save him, Bhabesh Chowdhury fled the village. But Bhabesh could not save himself. The goons beat him to death in Paldighi, and then spread the rumor that he was a thief and was trying to break in someone’s house.”

    “And the son?”

    “He too probably died with his father. If he did survive, he is probably one of the millions of homeless orphans in our country.”

    “Something is missing in your story.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “The goons may kill Bhabesh Chowdhury but not his son. Otherwise who will locate the treasure?”

    “That is true. But all this happened five or six years ago. Since then nobody has heard or seen this boy.”

    “If he were alive, how old would he be now?”

    “Bhabesh left the village twelve-thirteen years ago. The boy was seven then. So if he was alive, he would be nineteen-twenty today.”

    “OK. Tell me something.”


    “Do the ghosts know more than we do? Are they wiser than us?”

    “Look man, I told you before that I don’t believe in ghosts.”

    “Nobody is asking you to believe. Just tell me without believing.”

    “I will tell you but you have to promise not to spread it around. Otherwise I will be insulted in the club. They may even throw me out.”

    “Who is going to tell anybody else?”

    “Well then, listen, I firmly believe that ghosts and spirits can see and hear many things that you and I can’t.”

    “How do you know that?”

    “Do you know the spelling of Haritaki has two long ‘e’s?”

    “Two long ‘e’s? Are you sure? Two long ‘e’s will make Haritaki rather heavy, no?”

    “Can you spell Lieutenant?”


    “Root over math?”

    “Sir, math is a terrible subject.”

    “That means you don’t know. I didn’t know either. But Khnedi does.”

    “Who on earth is Khnedi?”

    “Last spring our housemaid Jamuna left for home as her father was very ill. The very next morning Khnedi arrived at our doorstep asking if we needed someone for a maid. We said yes. And she started working right away. And what a work! In minutes she made the whole house shiny clean. And then her cooking. I tell you man I can still taste her cooking! There was not even a scale of fish in the house yet Khnedi cooked Ilish fish head with greens, ah! Tasted like out of this world!”


    “I swear! Wife said,‘Khnedi, where did you get the fish from?’ and she said. ‘Oh, just from the market around.’ When did she go to the market none of us could figure out. Similarly, we ran out of ghee and yet Khnedi cooked superb biriyani for my son’s birthday. Most surprising thing happened when my daughter asked me the spelling of Haritaki. I wasn’t sure and was hesitating, Khendi immediately spelled it out. With two long es. Later I checked the dictionary and she was right! Many years ago we lost a brass mug in our well. We tried to pull it out but just couldn’t. One day I see Khnedi using it to scrub the laundry. I said, ‘Where did you get this mug?’ and she innocently replied, ‘I got it from the well.’ I said, ‘How did you do it?’ She replied, ‘You just have to know how to do it.’”

    “Well, it only proves that your housemaid is one in a million, adept in many things, has many skills and even knows reading and writing. But how does this relate to ghosts?”

    “What? You don’t get it? You are something man. This is crystal clear. But, for you I will explain it again. The other day my wife made shrimp and gourd curry, knowing that our president Atmaram loves this dish, she sent Khnedi with some curry to his house. Now this curry tastes better with some coconut, which Atmaram’s family didn’t have at home. But there were plenty of coconuts in the tree in his yard. Now who could climb and get some? Khnedi said she could, and before anybody could say anything, she tightened her sari and started to climb. Atmaram himself saw her through the window, climbing up easily, like she was walking up the tree. She got four or five coconuts and came own just as easily.”

    “And what did Atmaram do?”

    “Nothing! He just fainted. Next day he called me over and said, ‘Never, ever send that girl to my house again. Or I will lose my conviction in atheism. And without that I have nothing to cling on to’.”

    “Very true! He said it well.”

    “Now do you see the connection with ghosts?”

    “I am getting a faint smell of ghosts. But just climbing a coconut tree is not a paranormal phenomenon. People climb Everest all the time. And that is much more difficult than coconut tree climbing.”

    “No, it is useless trying to convince you. You heard everything and still wouldn’t believe?”

    “Now, now, please don’t get upset.”

    “I am getting upset because I am upset!”

    “Do I guess that you want to prove Khnedi as a ghost?”

    “Prove? What is there to prove? Don’t you see it clearly? If not, then you are the most obstinate man on earth. And I haven’t yet told you that it was Khnedi who corrected the spelling of lieutenant and taught my daughter root over maths. And you still can’t believe? Who else can have such wide ranged knowledge?”

    “Your arguments are amusing. If knowledge alone made one a ghost, all the experts and learned men would be ghosts? Say a man can climb a coconut tree, can spell haritaki and lieutenant correctly and can do root over math. Shall we call him a ghost?”

    “I give up. You are an expert in pointless arguments. You just messed up my mood early in the morning. You think you are the only one who has seen a real ghost? And my ghost is just a fake?”

    “You may call her whatever you please, but I can’t call her a ghost. She just doesn’t have that aura of a ghost. She is too clear-cut, too flesh and blood. A ghost can’t be so obviously flesh and blood!”

    “Fine! You don’t want to recognize my ghost; I won’t accept your ghost Amitesh either. He too is not a ghost.”

    “How can you say that? Amitesh is a living ghost. If he is not a ghost, then there are no ghosts in the world.”

    Just then a twenty something dark girl burst through the ground, “Oh yea? If Khnedi is not a ghost, who the hell is? That Amitesh of yours? Bah! I spit on such a ghost!”

    Immediately a dhoti clad elderly man dropped down from the sky and roared like an enraged tiger, “Hey, watch your mouth, watch your mouth! You’ve become too big for your britches, eh?”

    Published in Parabaas, September 2015

    The original novel "Bholu Jokhon Raja Holo" (ভোলু যখন রাজা হল) by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay was first pubished in 2015 by Ananda, Kolkata.

    Illustrated by Ananya Das. Author of several books and an illustrator, Ananya Das is based in Pennsylvania.

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