The first distinct memory of Sukumar Ray, for me, like many others is definitely ‘ Abol tabol’ ( ‘আবোল তাবোল), his collection of so called ‘ non sense verse’. The illustrations accompanying them were those which left indelible impressions . Surprisingly despite being absolutely illogical or at least being very adverse to usual sense of logic, most of his ‘verses’ having lyric grace and inimitable rhythm, caught our fancy. They were our ‘ nursery rhymes’ and we sang them too oft which only buttressed their popularity.
Many years after, on his birth anniversary, as I try to understand why were they so popular then, one thing that strikes me is the sweetness of fancy that most of his poems evoke. They talk of mundane things like how two persons can quarrel and yet that quarrel never turns into a quarrel as it becomes a poem filled with hilarious anecdotes, or for that matter ‘ bombagorer raja’ ( বোম্বাগড়ের রাজা) comes alive with his peculiar habits. Then there were those poems having ballad like qualities telling stories which can be related to by anyone so easily that they remain unforgettable. So we can never forget poems like ‘ সৎ পাত্র’ ( The suitable alliance) or ‘ কুমড়োপটাস্'( kumropotas). They took us to reality of dreams or fanciful presentations of the real.
Sukumar Ray , can never be compared with any poet for no poet even thought of working on the absurd so copiously as he did. We can find the ridicule and the ludicrous elements in other poets and writers, we can find poets writing excellent limericks, we can find writers bringing in that Coleridgean ‘ willing suspension of disbelief’, but we can never find one singular poet like Sukumar Ray putting lyric charm in ballad like poems having absurdities which are fanciful and fairytale like. And added to that which poet could have ever dared to write impossible songs apparently so meaningless and yet so enticingly rhythmic?
It is difficult, pretty difficult to categorise poems of Sukumar Ray. They are lyrical, albeit illogical. They are fanciful, unreal yet sometimes real and ironic. They carry pure laughter, fun and also sometimes ridicule.
They tell stories of familiar characters and on occasions come up with alien, strange, never seen creatures like hybrids of ‘porcupine ‘ and ‘ duck’ ( হাঁসজারু) . Only someone with a different set of skills embedded into ‘ Imagination’ can possibly think of and conceive ideas that Sukumar Ray so easily conjured up. Yes, he had been a conjurer too, a conjurer of a kind with unmatched sense of the absurd.