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Sunday, February 18

Sense in Nonsense

One of the harmless, humble oft-neglected skills that I have is that of rhyming and making-up nonsense lyrics:-) Looks like I have inherited this skill(if I may say) from my father who does a lot of tukbandi and who though retired as a history professor could have done quite well as an ad agency copy-writer!

Though I don't feel motivated to write this nonsense verse bit often enough, I have promised myself to do one entire book for my son Neo. When I jogged my memory my magnum nonsense verse was written during my engineering days as a 'rebellion against mess food' against a certain warden called 'Yadav' at REC Surat!. Unfortunately among umpteen cities and house shifts have misplaced the said 'nonsense script'. Pity!

Anyways, this subject of nonsense verse popped up in my head as I sifted through a book review by Mitali Saran of IE. The said book is The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense! Edited by Michael Heyman, Sumanyu Satpathy and Anushka Ravishankar and brought out by Penguin.

Mitali says - The Tenth Rasa is a landmark anthology of Indian nonsense from Kabir to the present-day, a sort of stylistic, temporal, and geographic sampler of one of India's most marginalised forms of creativity.

Gleanings from Mitali's review:

1. It was Tagore who pointed out that the nine rasas of classical Indian aesthetic theory ignored what he called baalras, which was nevertheless everywhere in the joyful, nonsensical, traditional Bengali nursery rhymes called chhoda.

2. Sukumar Ray(father of Satyajit Ray) described this tenth rasa as the rasa of whimsy - a passable translation of kheyaal. Ray, writing in the wake of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, rescued the idea of nonsense from the nursery and the margins of hasya ras, elevating it to the status of a serious and complex game...

3. The book talks about the universal pleasurableness of nonsense, the joyousness and the play that it involves; about India's heritage of nonsense, in folk traditions like ulti bhasha and abol tabol.

4. It talks about how something can be meaningful even as it is meaningless, and differentiates jokes, which makes sense from nonsense, which does not. It also talks of the subversiveness of the nonsense genre, which can, like the court jester, get away with murder while playing the fool.

Sample this verse from the book - Idli lost its fiddli/ Dosa lost its crown/ Wada lost its wiolin/ And let the whole band down.:-)

And this one by the maestro Sukumar Ray's Glibberish-Gibberish"...

Come happy fool whimsical cool
Come dreaming dancing fancy-free,
Come mad musician glad glusician
Beating your drum with glee

I wonder if a brand can take this space and craft a small niche! Meanwhile must lay my hands on the Tenth Rasa...


pooR_Planner said...

My mom used to read me 'Abol Tabol' when I was a small kid. I still remember "Hat-tim-a-tim tim, tara mathe pare dim, tader mathaye duto sing." (Referring to the creature on the Cover Page)The bengali version is very much a part of my dad's book collection. Gotta grab the english version of Abol Tabol and Tenth Rasa.

Refreshing post. You make me nostalgic.

Manish said...

am so used to your web personna, forgot you are a Bong:-)

hey get a copy of the English version for me as well!

pooR_Planner said...

Will do, 'Kolkata Book Fair' is going on in full swing.

Anonymous said...
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meraj said...

ekkad bakkad bumbay bhon
assi nabbe poore sau
sau mein laga dhaaga
chor nikal ke bhaaga

ps: even i ws reading about this book...a review by good ol' khushwant singh. need to buy a copy for myself too.

meraj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Earbrass said...

Hope you like it! I've recently set up a blog for the 10th Rasa and Indian nonsense in general:

I'd love to see any nonsense you'd care to share!

Michael H. (I was the head editor of it, for better or worse!)

Manish said...

hey michael...was pleasantly surprised to get a comment from you..

sure will share some of my stuff with you ...

Had a glance at your blog and Khushwant Singh's nonsense verse...