Ghanada introduction in Mosquito and Other Stories – #3

The Ghanada stories combine different narrative styles and techniques, but if there is one characteristic that they share, it is the variety and exuberance of the geographical settings. Buddhabev Bose, writing in as early as 1948, remarked on this as being a principal aspect of Mitra’s literary style, noting that Mitra not only conjures up romance in geographical names but also discovers ‘poetry in geography itself’. Ghanada’s bold and risky geographical forays are essential to the success of the stories, especially in the way in which the intimacy and familiarity of the boarding house setting are contrasted with the exotic and unfamiliar landscapes.Much of the pleasure of reading the stories comes from the question mark that always hangs about Ghanada. Who is he really? Every time he is nearly caught out, but not quite. And yet, his stories always fall a mite short of conviction. One is never sure about where he stands either. If he is the biggest liar on the planet, there is also the problem of accounting for the amazing accuracy of his narratives. There are other problems too. In the story ‘Eye’ (‘Chokh’), when Ghanada complains of having lost his spectacles, his chums concoct a message made up from various arcane scripts, to fox him. Ghanada claims that his eyes are so bad that he can’t read it. But in the story that follows, Ghanada tells his young friends about an inscription that he was asked to decipher by the wily Chinese doctor Ching Sun. Ghanada tells Ching Sun that he isn’t as big a fool as the other thinks; he can read inscription which is medley of letters from various alphabets: Egyptian, Brahmi, Kharosthi, Phoenician, ancient Ethiopian and so on. Together they form the phrase GHANASHYAM DAS HOAXED. As Ghanada pauses to puff at his cigarette, the conspirators are aghast: ‘When Ghanada started to give his account of the medley of ancient scripts, we looked at each other in dismay. Some of us turned red, others purple. Who would have known that the elaborate trick that we had devised would rebound on us like this!’  However one looks at him, Ghanada isn’t quite what he seems to be.
– Amlan Das Gupta