Sampurna Chattarji & Sukumar Ray

The Scent Predicament
(from Sukumar Ray’s Abol Tabol)

The king sat down on his throne to the crash of bell and gong.
The old minister’s mind was seized by a tremor deep and strong.
“What’s that smell about you,” said the king to his minister.
“A scent, my king,” came the reply, “sweet more than sinister!”
“Sweet or sour, let the doctor tell,” announced the king.
Said the doctor, “With my stuffy nose I cannot smell a thing.”
The king hollered, “Send then for Ram Narayan Scruff!”
Said Scruff, “I cannot Sire, I’ve just taken some snuff.
Stuffed with snuff no smell can enter, not a whiff.”
Said the king, “Step forward, constable, and prepare to sniff.”
“Alas,” said the constable, “for of camphor I am reeking,
So strong a smell obscures the other one you’re seeking.”
The king said, “Champion wrestler Bhim Singh is my man!”
Bhim said, “I feel so faint I don’t know if I can.
Last night I had a fever Sire, I do solemn swear.”
Saying this, Bhim Singh simply keeled over right there.
Catching his brother-in-law at last from the courtly lot,
The king said, “Chondro, why don’t you give it a shot?”
Chondro said, “Execute me if that’s what you’re getting at,
But to kill me with a smell, what sort of whim is that?”
The head clerk aged ninety was present at the court—
“My death is near, why should I fear,” this very old man thought.
“They’re talking rubbish, Sire,” said the ancient to his lord,
“I’ll do it, if you give the word, and also a reward.”
The king said, “I’ll give you a thousand rupees neat.”
At this, the old gent rose excited to his feet.
Sniffed the robe the minister wore—inhaled with all his might,
As the court in wordless wonder watched, the old gent stayed upright.
Throughout the land hurrahs rang out, bells danced and drums did jive,
My, what vigour in the oldie’s veins to have sniffed and stayed alive!