While reading Tapan Raychaudhuri’s memoir, The World In Our Time, I came across this most excellent Bengali “local ballad” of Barisal from the 19th century. Basically, Raychaudhuri’s great-great-grandfather, Rajkumar Sen, had once been “poisoned by his Brahmin guru and a co-conspirator, one Mr Mahalanabish (no relation of the famous statistician and progenitor of Indian planning).” Here’s a translation of the ballad that sprung up in response, which Raychaudhuri tells us is “still current in that area”:
In the village of Kirtipasha lived a famous Babu,
Rajkumar by name.
What can I say of his noble deeds
Wonderful to recall.
His Diwan, Mahalanobish,
A black sheep born of decent parents
Conspired with the guru
And put poison in his sherbet.
Oh, the bastard, the bastard whose sister must be screwed!
As for the sun-dried rice-eating Brahmin?
Cut open his arse
And take out the sugar, butter and ghee
The scoundrel had eaten all these years
Oh the bastards, the bastards whose sisters we must screw.
I suppose it could be said that this is an illustration of rape being an instrument of power more than a crime of lust—but that’s hardly a revelation. Funky song, though, isn’t it? Mahalanobish the bastard indeed!