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In his 1998 monograph, Precious Nonsense, Stephen Booth argues that it is not

because literature is good for us that we value it, but rather for the pleasure of
the experience it affords us. Like spinach, many of the spiritual nutrients
contained in acclaimed works of fiction cannot be processed by the mental
digestion of even the most sophisticated readers; and what draws us to these
works (and also to their lesser brethren) is the state of delighted perplexity that
they induce in us. In other words, where the Western academic paradigm extols
the virtues of profundity and the elevated insights that are supposed only to be
extracted by dedicated chewing through texts rich in intellectual fibre, Booth
argues to the contrary that the special appeal of highly valued works is that they
are in one way or another nonsensical. Nonsense should ideally be intuitive rather
than intellectual. Padgavkar, a renowned Marathi writer, sees the genre of nonsense as
a fundamental part of us, but also believes that access to its mystical source is limited
for adults, if not completely impossible. We may begin by classifying literary nonsense
texts as those where there is a type of balance between sense and nonsense. Such
balance is necessary if the text is not to become either plain sense or utter gibberish. In
order to maintain the balance, the sense side of the scale must weigh heavily i.e. it
must be composed in tight structures; it also usually follows meticulously many rules of
language. Like grammar, syntax and phonetics. Or in other words there is much that
actually makes sense in quite an ordinary way. On the nonsense side of the scale are
all the ways in which the text fights against the textual norms, primarily on the semantic
and logical levels. It is important to note that nonsense operates not by ignoring the
rules of sense but by subversively playing with them- stretching, flipping upside down,
yet in the end, still depending on their existence. Indeed, nonsense usually emerges
from an excess of sense rather than a lack of it. In the west we have become familiar
with the genre of nonsense with the works of Edward Lears The Owl and the Pussycat and of course Lewis Carrolls Alice books. But in India this often unrecognized
genre finds new audiences through the works of Sukumar Ray, and Rabindranath
Tagore. In this paper I shall tend to argue how the contemporary socio-political scenario
helps the construct nonsensical verse and the response of the Eastern colonized
nonsense to their counterparts in the West.
If you trace the history of Bengal, we will notice that in Lord Curzon partitioned
Bengal the cradle of British rule in India and the birthplace of the Bengali intelligentsia
- by proclaiming that it was administratively prudent to divide such a populous and
geographically unwieldy entity into two separate states. One of the main reasons of this
split, however, was to undercut the influence on the educated Bengali bhadralok
(gentleman)- a group of middle class professionals, minor bureaucrats and servicemen,
who, Dipesh Chakrabarty puts it, had warmly embraced the European Enlightenment
themes of rationalism, science, equality and human rights in the 19 th century and were
increasing campaigning for reform and representation within the colonial state. The
desire to rein the raising power of this emergent group became increasingly nationalistic

and anti-British. The Swadeshi movement, the cornerstone of anti-British constructive


programs, celebrated all things homegrown and local and also a defiant towards all
forms of official authority. This attitude filters into childrens stories written by
Upendrakishore Ray and his son Sukumar Ray. A close reading to Goopy gyne bagh
abyne, Ha-ja-ba-ra-la and Abol Tabol would suggest as anti colonial texts that seek to
empower Bengali children living under colonial rule.

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