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Bengali fairytales

Once upon a time, in a village in the surreal land of Poschimbongo, there dwelt a sweet young girl called Cinderella who had a very wicked stepmother. Manas Chakravarty writes.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2012 22:29 IST
Manas Chakravarty
Manas Chakravarty
Hindustan Times

Once upon a time, in a village in the surreal land of Poschimbongo, there dwelt a sweet young girl called Cinderella who had a very wicked stepmother. Cinderella's stepmother and her stepsisters made her slog all day, gave her rice and dal to eat and rags to wear. Cinderella's dad, being a Bong, was of course completely hen-pecked and couldn't help her.

One day, the prince of Calcutta — a guy called Ganguly — invited all the ladies in the land to a party, so that he could choose his wife. Cinderella's fairy godmother turned her rags into a lovely jamdani saree, gave her a pair of beautiful glass slippers and transformed her into a radiant beauty. All that was required was for her to take the train to Calcutta to attend the party, meet her prince and have hilsa fish and mishti doi ever after.

Unfortunately, though, an evil sorcerer called Trivedi had hiked the train fares and Cinderella didn't have the money to buy a ticket. So she continued to lead a miserable existence, consoling herself with the thought that the prince was probably a CPI(M) supporter, so she would not have married him anyway.

Romeo and Juliet
Many moons ago there lived a smart young man called Romeo Banerjee, who was enchanted by a nubile young woman called Juliet Ghosh. They spent a lot of time in coffee houses, discussing cinema verite and art noir and Mayakovsky and how to get a green card for the US.

Juliet introduced Romeo to her parents, who were happy, since Romeo was a software engineer. Likewise Romeo's parents approved of Juliet, because she knew Rabindrasangeet. But the couple's little idyll was shattered when Juliet's parents, who were staunch TMC supporters, came to know that Romeo's family were CPI(M) followers. They immediately broke off the engagement. Juliet then uttered the famous lines:"O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy party and refuse thy ideology, or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I'll no longer be a TMC backer"…and…

"Oh, what's in a name? That which we call a CPI(M) by any other word would smell as sweet."

After that, as is the norm in these stories, Romeo and Juliet kill themselves.

The Emperor's New Clothes
You are all familiar with the story of the con artists who pretended to weave such a lovely dhoti and kurta for the emperor that they couldn't be seen by stupid people and how everybody pretends to be able to see the fake clothes and the emperor parades naked until a child cries out that he's not wearing anything at all. In the Bengali version, the child is immediately put behind bars for outraging the modesty of the emperor.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
There was once a young girl called Snow White who spread baseless rumours about her being driven out by an evil stepmother who had a magic mirror. This is a foul canard and a conspiracy by the CPI(M). There were never any evil stepmothers in Bengal. Snow White made up the story to besmirch the reputation of the queen, who was a nice person. She was also the most popular in the land, as the magic mirror showed. Investigations revealed that Snow White was actually Snow Red.

Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood, as well as her grandmother, was eaten by the big bad wolf. Served her right, too, for wearing red.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. Views expressed by the author are personal.

First Published: Apr 21, 2012 22:22 IST

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