Pumpkin, Grumpkin in Bengal lurkin

Without naming the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, Mamata Banerjee likened them to characters in the nonsense rhyme written in 1922-23 by Sukumar Ray, father of Satyajit Ray

Pumpkin, Grumpkin in Bengal lurkin
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NH Web Desk

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee has served to revive childhood memories in many of us this election campaign in a relatively civilised and gentle riposte to the heckling she's received from the BJP leadership.

In fact, they go back way beyond the living memories of most of us to 19 September 1923 when Abol Tabol, a collection of 46 titled and 7 untitled nonsense rhymes written by Sukumar Ray, father of "Bengal's Pride" Satyajit Ray was first published by U Ray and sons.

Confronted by the crudities of BJP leader Dilip Ghosh urging her to wear Bermuda shorts and Modi asking her "why she is bitter when mishti doi is sweet" or, for that matter promising all of Bengal, an Asshole Poriborton (whatever that may mean), Mamata has responded by referring to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah without actually identifying them: “I don’t want to malign the post of the Prime Minister. But two men from Delhi are visiting Bengal and spreading disinformation. One is hodol-kutkut (an overweight potbellied man) and the other is kimbhut-kimakar (grotesque).’’ She's also thrown in another childhood favourite Kumdo Potash!

Roughly translated Hodol Kutkut is a dark, pot-bellied and corpulent individual. A quick search on Facebook reveals 69 Hodol Kutkuts including a cat and several women, ironically including one who is part of the education support staff of Mamata's own All India Trinamool Congress!

And finally, the piece de resistance Kumdo Potash, a creature that has its origins in a large and flabby pumpkin. Here is a nifty translation of Sukumar Ray's original Abol Tabol translation:

Pumpkin-Grumpkin
(Kumro Patash)

(If) Pumpkin-Grumpkin dances- Don't for heaven's sake go where the stable horse prances Don't look left, don't look right, don't take no silly chances. Instead cling with all four legs to the holler-radish branches.


(If) Pumpkin-Grumpkin runs- Make sure you scramble up the windows all at once; Mix rouge with hookah water and on your face smear tons; And don't dare look up at the sky, thinking you're great guns!

(If) Pumpkin-Grumpkin calls- Clap legal hats on to your heads, float in basin down the halls; Pound spinach into healing paste and smear your forehead walls; And with a red-hot pumice-stone rub your nose until it crawls.

Those of you who find this foolish and dare to laugh it off, When Pumpkin-Grumpkin gets to know you won't want to scoff. Then you'll see which words of mine are full of truth, and how, Don't come running to me then, I'm telling you right now. (translated by Sampurna Chatterjee)

Since it originates in Bengal there's yet another version, possibly translated by Sukanta Chowdhury)

If Pumpkin-Puff should dance - Beware! Beware! You mustn't dare beyond the stalls advance. You mustn't glance to fore or aft, or cast your eyes aslant, But grapple close with tips and toes to the Rancid Radish Plant.

If Pumpkin-Puff should cry - You simply mustn't mount the roof to contemplate the sky. But stretched upon a pumpkin-frame and muffled in a quilt, sing hymns to Radha-Krishna with a slily solemn lilt.

If Pumpkin-Puff should roar - You perch upon a single leg beside the kitchen door; Then whisper Persian verses with an eloquence forlorn, And slink entirely supperless to lie upon the lawn.

If Pumpkin-Puff should run - You scramble up the window frame as though you'd heard a gun; Your cheeks and chin anoint with care in talcum blent with tar, And never turn your eyes aloft to gaze upon a star.

If Pumpkin-Puff should wail - You're meant to don your legal hats and climb into a pail. You make a paste of spinach-pulp to plaster round the nape, And heat a piece of pumice-stone and give your nose a scrape.

Perhaps you scorn my warning words, or think they sound demented. If Pumpkin-Puff should find you out, he'll make you sore repent it. And then you'll see my prophecies fulfilled in every letter: So don't blame me - it's you who thought you knew your courses better.

(Courtesy: Anikendra Nath Sen’s facebook wall. Published with his permission)

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