Charandas Chor, Habib Tanvir

I've  been an audience to a fewer plays than I would have liked to , and fewer still have I read. Like all other good things in life I might have missed out on , I think the excuse for this is I didn't ever come across one or rather I didn't really think it would be as interesting as it eventually turned out to be. Well Charandas Chor , caught my attention at the Saiha District Library a couple of months ago and I said , "Well , why not!".  This would be the first time I was reading Habib Tanvir's work and I was quite looking forward to hit.

Through the nimble footed and quick witted thief we encounter multiple characters and situations infused with irony. The play makes for an entertaining read and is more visual than what what i would have expected plays in texts to read like. I can see the agile Charandas giving the slip to the huffing puffing Havaldar. I can almost hear the group chanting this and all other chants that accompany the appearance of the corrupt guru
" The baba roams the forest alone
 The sadhu roams the forest alone
Offer a Sadhu a tiger skin
Offer a clerk some dough
Offer a peon a cup of tea
Need we say anymore?
With money it is done in a jiffy
that we know for sure"

"All you have to do is just
Give the guru his due
Is it salavation you want? just
Give the guru his due
All your learning is sham till you
Give the Guru his due
and in return he will be quick to bless you--
Cash Down! - Give the Guru is due "

About the origins of the play. I understand that Habib Tanvir first heard this originally Rajasthani forlk tale    from Vijay Dan Detha and the final form in which it was performed in India and the world over came to be only after two years of labour . The play i understand differs from the original in the fact that that it closes with Charandas's execution and posthumus deification while the original shows his guru to be the opportunist he was in accepting the role of the king. I did read the story as translated from Vijay Dan Detha's work at and was more than surprised by the difference in tones between his work and Charandas Chor. While the plot remains largely the same, the treatment provided to the subject, so vastly different. Charandas Chor is resplendent with comic ironies and unsubtle jibes , while The Crafty Thief is mellower and reflective throughout. It didn't bother me in the least that i was reading the same story twice so to speak . but was amazed at the potential that each plot holds and how it transforms as though under the spell of the teller herself/himself.
Charandas Chor essentially  to me is about the paradoxes and contradictions of the lives we live and the esteem attributed to certain virtues, which are largely viewed in a myopic haze. Read both I'd say.

My last opportunity to do some experimental reading (if there is such a thing) was on multiple translations and now reading a folk tale and the play based on it adds to this exploration! Enriching.