Long before Sourav’s dadagiri on the field as well as on the small screen, other dadas have been reigning in the world of Bengali literature. It is alive with characters like Feluda, Tenida and Ghonada, each crafted with perfection and endowed with a distinctive character. For most of us, they have been an integral part of our childhood. Narayan Gangopadhyay’s sense of witty humour manifested through Tenida and his three chums makes us burst into laughter at every turn. ‘Di la grandi Mephistopheles yak yak!’ – this war cry of Tenida when leading his buddies on yet another adventure lingers in the hearts of all Tenida-lovers. Whether it is snatching a talpata-pack of aloo-kabli and polishing it off in a jiffy, or sending off one’s kan (ears) to Kanpur or nak (nose) to Nashik with a tight slap, or giving a lesson of one’s life to a gora (white) sergeant at 'Gorer Math' (Maidan) – these bring back to our minds the big-mouthed airhead of Potoldanga, Tenida, also the sole owner of a nose as steep as the mythical Mainak Parvata! Along with the team of colourful characters led by Tenida, like the weak-stomached Pelaram, the cleverest of the lot, Kyabla and the Bangal (from East Bengal) Habul, we also fondly imagined ourselves a part of their hilarious adventures. This awesome foursome took us, the readers, on a roller coaster ride of laughter.
Though the rich flavour of Bengali literature can be properly savoured only through reading in Bengali, translating is the sole way to make it reach a wider audience. Many Bengali texts have been translated into English. Now it is the turn of the ever-popular Tenida stories. The Best of Tenida, as the book has been titled, brings together some of the best stories of Tenida and his gang, including the well-known novella Charmurti. In Charmurti, the Potoldanga pack recount the adventures of one summer in Jhontipahari, when they spent an entire holiday running from villains with peculiar names like Swami Ghutghutananda and his ‘unworthy disciple’ Gajeshwar. In the short story ‘The Bhajahari Film Corporation’, Tenida and Pelaram hatch a hare-brained scheme to dupe their fellow colony residents for a few KC Das rasgullas. In fact, the greed for food is a recurrent theme in Narayan Gangopadhyay’s tales and often the primary reason for getting into trouble. Much of Tenida and his friends’ activities revolve around procuring snacks and sweetmeats. Tenida is well-known for his voracious appetite.
The translation comes with a handy glossary of all things Bengali and a little note on Tenida’s Kolkata. This wonderful translation has been published by Puffin Classics and is priced at Rs 250. The book is definitely going to bring mirth to all those who can’t read Bengali but want to have a taste of the rich vein of wit in Bengali literature.