A Fictionalised Adaptation of “Haroun-al-Rashid-er Bipod”
Note: The preceding comic strip is a fictionalised graphic adaptation of a part of the short story called “Haroun-Al-Rashid-er Bipod” (The Plight of Haroun-al-Rashid) written by Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay in 1945. It tells the hilarious story of Haroun and Abul, two first generation learners from Janipur village, who have to travel 2 miles everyday early in the morning to reach their school. None in their family or among their neighbours have had access to formal education — there are no schools in the Muslim majority villages in this part of the state. Haroun and Abul are stereotypical back benchers; their uniforms are not exactly spic and span after walking by lakes, fields and bamboo-plantations, and nor are they academically sound. Moreover, with them being always late to class, they are perpetually subjected to the punishing cane.
However, they do learn and imbibe other important lessons because of their experience. The rules of the school may be rigid and uniform for everyone, but one can always wriggle one’s way out of punishment by bringing little gifts like fruits and vegetables for the teachers. They also learn that only sarkari trees are safe to be climbed, and that fruits from these trees can be taken and enjoyed by anyone. On good days, gifts like these may also help them go the extra mile, earning them a seat in the first bench. After all, school rules apply only when they are applied by the teacher.
In the Bengali adolescent school story tradition, there are many examples like this, which employ humour to satirise social injustices and systemic inequalities. For readers of Bangla, here is the link to access the anthology Iskuler Golpo where this story can be found. The volume is an interesting collection of school stories in Bangla as they have evolved throughout the years.
“The Plight of Haroun-al-Rashid” was written in 1945. The world is a different place now. There are more schools; there is more access to education. The more things change though, the more they remain the same:”Lack of Schools in Muslim-Majority West Bengal is by Design, not Chance”.
Hailing from Kolkata, Ahona Das has done her graduation in English from Presidency University. She is currently pursuing her post-graduation from The Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. There are a few things in life that she holds dear: the refuge of books, the resilience of friendships and anything that makes her feel alive. She is also the co founder of the online journal Birdhouse Poetrywatch. She resorts to art and literature to keep from going insane. When not in the Birdhouse, she prefers to rest under solitary skies.