Trilochan Sarkar has recently obtained his law degree and become a vakil. Though very intelligent he does not get any client. All litigants crowd to that old-fashioned baldy Shashi Hazra, whose title of ‘Rai Bahadur’, diabetes and ugly bulging belly are the signs of his great prosperity. They shun the poor yet clever Trilochan. Having failed to become either a Munsif or a Deputy Magistrate he has now put all his faith in the skill of a wily tout named Hriday Biswas. Many briefless vakils are said to have prospered in their profession only through his hawking. While Trilochan was also waiting for his good fortune to dawn in the same manner an incident happened. Popular rumor exaggerated it, but in short it is like this. Jogu has killed his boy-servant with a slap, the police have arrested and sent him to jail where he has become totally dumb and is not uttering a word. Some of his well wishers approached Mr. Hazra who, after hearing the case, has refused to appear for him.
Trilochan felt tempted. He did not want to waste his time any more relying on the uncertain power of Biswas to change his fortune. He decided to make some efforts to take advantage of this opportunity. He buckled up and riding his bicycle went to the police station and arranged to meet Jogu in the jail. II As soon as the police guard moved away a little dumb Jogu opened his mouth, – “You are free to fight for me, but I shall pay you nothing, for I don’t have a single farthing now. If you can save me I shall pay you later.” “So it is true that you have killed your servant?” “Yes, I slapped him because he was whining for his wages.” Saying this Jogu became silent. Trilochan also sat there for some time in silence and finally said, “Well, then ----” III Trilochan became determined to save the man. The baseless popular belief that Shashi Hazra is the only skillful lawyer and others are a bunch of idiots needs to be dispelled. Moreover, Jogu may not pay him now, he will certainly pay all his dues later. Reasoning thus he spent some money out of his own pocket and got Jogu released from jail on bail. But the police and the medical reports as well as the attitude and number of eyewitnesses convinced him that in the normal course Jogu was sure to get a death sentence by hanging. And it will not be possible to prove by any means that Jogu did not commit the murder. Such an attempt, if made, will produce the opposite result. But if one is intelligent enough one can always find a way out of such a difficult situation. Trilochan also found a way out. He advised Jogu to feign madness. IV So Jogu became mad.
The judge asked him, “Did you slap your servant?”
Jogu made a strange noise – “Oy, oy”, and then began to giggle and show his thumb to the judge. The whole courtroom was awe-struck. The court inspector said, “What are doing? You are misbehaving before the judge! Answer him and tell whether you struck your servant.” “Oy, oy,” again Jogu began to giggle and showed his thumbs to the inspector too. Trilochan rose to address the judge, “My lord, my client is totally insane. He killed his servant in his madness. Please ask his family members and his neighbors. He has always been a bit queer in the head, now he has become totally mad.” Witnesses were already arranged. All of them deposed in one voice that Jogu had all along been mad. Under cross- examination none of them retracted from what they said. According to law the judge ordered that Jogu be placed under the observation of a psychiatrist. Trilochan had inferred as much. Hence he had also taught Jogu beforehand the chief symptoms of insanity. V Before long it was clear that Jogu was not only an easily excitable character but also a good actor. He succeeded in befooling even the keenly observant specialist who opined that Jogu was really mad. There was of course a rumor of the specialist being bribed but that was probably baseless and all the credit must go to Jogu’s acting skill.
Whatever may be the reason, Trilochan’s wish was fulfilled. Jogu escaped the hangman’s noose. The same law that was going to tighten it around his neck now loosened it. The judge ordered that he should be lodged in a lunatic asylum.
Jogu felt that he had got a new life. The lunatic asylum in which he was now going to live was a palace in comparison with his hovel where he had to put up with a shrew of a wife, an old paralytic father, an eccentric aunt, a rheumatic mother, a large number of children, poverty and disease, and, outside that miserable hovel, a moustached landlord, overflowing open drains, an unemployed life --- now he was free from all these!
Trilochan took an opportunity to meet Jogu separately; he had to spend some money for this purpose though. He said, “My brother, before you go please make some arrangements for me. I have saved you from the gallows; my fees, the money I spent on the case from my own pocket including the bribes I gave to various persons and places, you know ----” “Oy, oy, oy”, Jogu began to giggle and showed his thumbs to Trilochan.
Pen name of Dr. Balaichand Mukhopadhyay,(1899-1979) a physician by profession but a front ranking man of letters in Bengali literature. Mrinal Sen’s award winning movie Bhuban Shome was made from Bonophul’s short story of the same name. He also wrote many novels but he is specially famous for his ‘short’ short stories. The present story (entitled Jagab) was first published on 5th October, 1940 in the reputed Bengali periodical Desh, long before the currently raging controversy over Dhananjay Chatterji.