The “RATS” Feast😂

story by -Rabindranath Tagore-

It is very unfair, we will not study under a new teacher,” the boys said.

The new teacher, who is arriving, has the name Kalikumar Tarkalankar. Even though the boys had not seen him yet, they had nicknamed the teacher as “Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli”, a ridiculous translation of the teacher’s name.

The vacations had ended and the boys were returning back to school from their homes in a train. Among them was a jolly fellow who had composed a poem entitled “The Black Pumpkin’s sacrifice” and the boys were reciting the poem at the top of their voice. Just then, when the train stopped at the Adkhola station, an old man entered their coach. With him was his sleeping bag all folded up, few pots that were closed at their mouths by pieces of cloth, a tin trunk and few bundles. One bully-type boy, who was called Bichkun by the others, roared, “There is no place here, old man. Get into another coach.”

The old man said, “There is a huge rush and there is no place elsewhere. I will adjust myself in this corner and will not cause you any trouble.” So saying, the old man vacated the seat among the boys and sat down after spreading his sleeping bag on the floor in a corner.

He asked the boys, “Where are all of you going, and why?”

Bichkun promptly replied that they were going for a “shraddha (a religious rite performed after the death of a person)”.

“Whose shraddha?” the old man wanted to know.

Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli’s, he heard in reply.

The boys once again chanted at the top of their voice, “Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli, we will show you your place.”

The train halted at Asansol and the old man alighted to bathe at the station. When he returned after taking a bath, Bichkun cautioned him, “Do not remain in this coach, mister.”

“Do tell me why,” the old man requested to know.

“There are a lot of rats here,” was the answer.

“Rats! What is all this talk of rats?”

“Just see what the rats have done after removing the covers of your pots.”

The gentleman saw that the pots that had contained sweets and other eatables, were absolutely empty.

“The rats even scurried away carrying away one of your bundles,” Bichkun said. The bundle had contained five or six luscious mangoes from the old man’s own garden.

The gentlemen laughed and remarked that the rats must indeed have been very hungry.

Bichkun said rats are like that; they eat even if they are not hungry.

The other boys joined in the fun and laughed out aloud. “Yes mister, had there been more eatables, they would have finished that too,” they said.

The gentleman said he had made a mistake. “Had I known there would be so many rats traveling together in the train, I would have brought more good things to eat,” he said.

The boys were disappointed that the old man was not angry at their prank. It would have been fun if he had lost his temper.

The train came to halt at the Bardhaman station. It will stop for an hour and the passengers have to board another train for their onward journey.

The gentleman said, “Boys, I will not trouble you any more. I will find a seat for myself in a separate coach.”

“No, no,” the boys cried out in unison, “you must complete the rest of the journey with us. If you have anything left in the pots, we will guard them and nothing will go missing this time”.

“Alright boys, you get into the train. I will join you in a moment,” the gentleman said.

The boys jumped into the connecting train. After some time, a confectioner approached their coach pushing his cart and halted by the window. Along came the gentleman too. He handed over a packet of sweets to each of the boys and said, “This time, the rats will not face any impediments in their feast.” The boys jumped in joy. Shortly, a mango seller also came by and delicious mangoes were passed around.

“Where are you going and for what purpose?” the boys demanded to know.

He said, “I am going in search of employment. I will get down wherever I find work.”

“What sort of work do you do?” the boys demanded to know again.

“I am a teacher. I teach Sanskrit,” the gentleman replied.

The boys clapped their hands in delight and said, “Then, you must come to our school.”

“Why will your school employ me?” he asked.

“The school will have to employ you; we will not allow Black Pumpkin Fresh Chilli to enter the school premises under any circumstance,” the boys cried out in unison.

“You have put me in a dilemma. What if the school secretary takes a dislike for me?” the old man wanted to know.

He has to like you – else, all of us will leave school and go away, they said.

“Okay boys, then take me to your school.”

The train came to a halt at their destination. The school secretary was himself present at the station. On seeing the old man, he said, “Come, come, come Tarkalankar Sir. Your room has been readied and spruced up.” The secretary then bowed and touched the old man’s feet in reverence.