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Mustache Thievery – Sukumar Ray

Mustache Thievery by Sukumar Ray is generally considered as a non-sense poem. Chief Babu, the head officer in a Bengali firm, was drowsing in his chair when he had a wild dream. He dreamed that Shyambabu’s milk vendor had stolen his mustache!

Stanza 1

Head Officer Chief Babu was a very peaceful man–
And then he turned mental–who knew how it began?
He sat drowsing in his chair, smiling a happy smile
When suddenly, it seemed, something drove him wild.

Meaning
Questions & Answers
  1. Was Chief Babu really a peaceful man? Why do you think so?
  2. ‘And then he turned mental.’ What does this mean?
  3. Which of the lines sheds light to the fact that Chief Babu had been dreaming about the thievery of his mustache?
  4. What sort of a dream drove Chief Babu wild?
Stanza 2

He leapt up and flung his arms about, his eyes red as brick,
He shouted out, “I’m lost, I’m lost, do save me quick!”
Some ran for a doctor, some yelled “Police!” with all their might,
Some advised restraint: “Careful, he could bite!”

Meaning
  • Flung his arms – Threw his arms
  • Eyes red as brick – Grew angry
  • About – Around
  • Yelled – Shouted
  • Might – Strength
  • Restraint – Self control
Questions & Answers
  1. Pick out a simile in the first line. What does it compare with?
  2. What was the effect of the dream upon Chief Babu?
  3. How did Chief Babu’s subordinates respond to his frantic behavior?
  4. Why did some of the staff warn that Chief Babu could bite?
Stanza 3

Everyone was rushing frantic, leaving letters untyped–
Then the Babu cried, “Oh help, my mustache has been swiped.”
Lost his mustache? Incredible! How could it be?
But his handlebars were just the same, plain for all to see.

Meaning
Questions & Answers
  1. What were Chief Babu’s subordinates when he suddenly went wild?

They tried to explain things, held a mirror to his face:
His whiskers weren’t stolen, that couldn’t be the case.
But angry as fire, an eggplant in hot oil, he sputtered and shook:
“I don’t believe a single man, I know each of you crooks.

Meaning
Questions & Answers

Dirty and ragged, an over-used broom–an obvious pretender!–
This kind of mustache was kept by Shyambabu’s milk vendor.
I’ll shoot the whole lot! if you say this mustache is mine.”
And right away he proclaimed for all a rather hefty fine.

Meaning
Questions & Answers

Getting hotter by the minute, he wrote and underlined in red:
“Give anyone an inch of rope, they’ll climb up on your head.
These monkeys at the office, with brains of dung and hay–
Where my perfect mustache went, not one of them can say.

Meaning
Questions & Answers

I should grab their whiskers and dance them up and down
Or shave their sorry heads with a spade upon their crown.
They claim the mustache is mine–as though it’s something you can own!
The mustache owns the man, my friend–that’s how we all are known.”

Meaning
Questions & Answers

What do you think?

Wind – Subramania Bharati

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