ChapterBonku Babu’s Friend

Bonku Babu’s Friend is a science fiction story about a man who learns about his own strengths after a chance encounter with an alien. All you need to know and learn about this chapter is given below.

Meet the Author

  • Satyajit Ray was a writer and filmmaker known as the father of Bengali cinema.
  • Born: 2nd May, 1921
  • Place of Birth: Thornton, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
  • Died: 23rd April, 1992
  • Major Works: The Adventures of Feluda, Pather Panchali, Aparajito
  • Best Known For: His groundbreaking contributions to Indian cinema as a director, screenwriter, music composer and graphic artist, with his films like the Apu Trilogy earning global recognition and acclaim.
Satyajit Ray, 22 years old
Satyajit Ray, 22 years old

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Story in a Nutshell

  • Bonku Babu, a timid school teacher in Kankurgachhi, faces constant teasing from students and peers.
  • During a village meeting, Bonku suggests the possibility of alien visitation, mocked by others.
  • One night, Bonku encounters Ang, an alien from Craneus, near a glowing object in a bamboo grove.
  • Ang communicates with Bonku, demonstrating superior knowledge and technology.
  • Bonku gains confidence from the encounter, confronts his tormentors at a village gathering.
  • The story ends with Bonku asserting himself, leaving his peers astonished by his newfound confidence.

Read on for a detailed summary of Bonku Babu’s Friend, part of the ICSE Class 9 English literature curriculum.

Summary of the Chapter

Bonku Babu was a school teacher in a village called Kankurgachhi in West Bengal. He was a timid person. No one had even seen him angry. For the last twenty-two years, he has been teaching Geography and Bengali. He was always the one on whom jokes and pranks were played.

Every year, a new batch of students replaced the old one, but old or new, the tradition of teasing poor Bonku Babu continued among all the students. Some drew his cartoon on the blackboard; others put glue on his chair; or, on the night of Kali Puja, they lit a chasing rocket and set it off right behind him.

Except for a few good children, the others didn’t really treat him humanely. Bonku thought that if he showed his displeasure, then they would remove him from the job and he would not be able to find a new one. Hence, he continued for the sake of those students who liked him. Teaching them was what kept him going and made him feel rewarded. Sometimes, he even invited them to his house. He offered them snacks and told them many stories. He told them about life in Africa, the discovery of the North Pole, the fish in Brazil that ate human flesh and about Atlantis, the continent submerged under the sea. He was a good storyteller, he always had his audience enthralled.

During the weekend he would go to Sripati Majumdar’s house to spend the evening with other regulars. At these meetings, the teasing became so severe that Bonku almost reached breaking point. One day, at these addas, there was a discussion among all who had assembled about the topic of ghosts. Bonku boldly exclaimed that he is not afraid of ghosts at all. This made the rest of them find out a method to poke fun and they tricked him that night.

As he was going home that night, a thin figure with black ink smeared all over itself emerged. Bonku was under the tamarind tree. This ‘spook’ was probably the idea of someone at the meeting.

Bonku Babu was not frightened. But he was injured. For three days, his neck ached. Worst of all, his new kurta was torn and had black stains all over. What kind of joke was this?

Sripati Babu was an important man in the village and at meetings. Despite his status, he needed Bonku Babu for amusement. One particular day, when all of them had gathered there, the topic of discussion was space-ships and space travel. In the north direction, sunset time, there was a moving point of light and something similar had been seen three months back as well. However, that had turned out to be a Russian satellite called Khotka or Phoska! Anyways this satellite was spinning above the Earth at a height of about 400 miles and supposed to be providing very useful information to scientists.

On that evening, Bonku spotted a glowing light and showed it to his friend, Nidhi Babu. However, Nidhi Babu took complete credit that evening at the meeting and said that he himself had spotted the light. But then, Bonku kept quiet. Nobody in the group had much information on satellites. However, they started expressing their views.

Chandi Babu remarked that it means nothing just because a light had been seen in an obscure part of the sky, and the press covered it. Ramkanai countered it by saying that it is still a great human achievement even though none of them were involved.

Nidhi Babu, said to forget satellites and talk about something else. A satellite is nothing extraordinary. Even a top rotates if you get it going and even a fan rotates if you put the switch on. However, rockets are far better. Chandu Babu was not impressed. What was so great about a rocket, he asked. If one was made in the country and took off from Calcutta, it would be worth buying a ticket and watching. Ramkanai too agreed that for people in a village, rockets barely mattered.

After a few minutes of silence, Bonku Babu cleared his throat and said gently,
“Suppose…suppose, they came here?

Nidhi Babu pretended to be amazed. What is Bumkum saying, he said. Who wants to come here and from where? Bonku Babu repeated his words in a gentle tone asking what if someone from another planet came here?

As always, Bhairav Chakravarthy slapped Bonku’s back loudly and rudely. He grinned and asked whether a creature from a different planet would choose Kankurgachhi of all places to land on? It would choose neither Moscow, New York, London or even Calcutta. Of all places, it would come here. He said that Bumkum really thinks very big!

Bonku Babu became silent however there were a lot of questions on his mind. Was it really impossible? If an alien had to visit the Earth, would it really matter where it arrived first? All right, it was highly unlikely that such a thing would happen in Kankurgachhi village, but who was to say for sure that it could not happen at all?

Sripati Babu who had been silent so far, shifted in his seat and spoke knowledgeably:

Look, if someone from a different planet does come to Earth, I can assure you that he will not come to this God-forsaken place. Those aliens are no fools. It is my belief that they are sahibs, and they will land in some Western country, where all the sahibs live. Understand?

Everyone agreed with the sole exception of Bonku Babu.

Chandi Babu sarcastically agreed with Bonku Babu's statement, using it as an opportunity to mock him further. He nudged Nidhu Babu, indicating he should join in the ridicule, and said in a fake innocent tone that it would be natural for aliens to want to take Bonku Babu as a specimen since he is so unique. Chandi Babu suggested that if aliens were looking for a human specimen, they couldn't find anyone better than Bonku Babu, implying he is strange and unfit for normal society.

Alien
Alien

Nidhi Babu agreed and said that considering looks and brains, Bumkum was indeed the perfect specimen. Ramkanai too joined in saying that Bonku was ideal to keep in a museum or zoo. Bonku felt that if he was so ideal as a specimen, weren't the others ideal as well? He told himself in his mind that Bhairav Chakravarthy had eyes like a tortoise, Nidhi Babu resembled a rat, Ramkanai looked like a goat and Chandi babu - a flittermouse.

Tears began to well up in his eyes. He had come to the meeting and for once hoped that he could enjoy himself, However that was not to be. He could not stay there any longer, so he stood up.

Take care, Bonkuda! remarked Ramkanai. He added that since it was a moonless night, it was very auspicious for ghosts and spooks. All who were present howled delightedly in laughter. Bonku had neither a torch nor a lantern. There was no need for it. It was too cold for snakes to be roaming and also he knew the route well. There would not be many people on this path and it would be a shortcut for him.

In the last few minutes, he sensed something unusual. He tried to reason out the exact cause. Something seemed different tonight. At first he could not understand. What was wrong? What was missing? Suddenly he understood. The crickets were silent and none was chirping. Today it was eerily silent. What had happened to the crickets, he wondered! Had they gone to sleep?

Puzzled, Bonku Babu walked another twenty yards, and then suddenly he saw the light. At first, he thought a fire had broken out. Bang in the middle of Poncha Ghosh’s bamboo grove, in the clearing near the small pond, quite a large area was glowing pink. A dull light shone on every branch and every leaf. Down below, the ground behind the pond was lit by a much stronger pink light. But it was not a fire, for it was still.

Suddenly Bonku Babu heard a sound. His ears started ringing and there was the sound of someone humming loudly and steadily. There was no way he could stop it. Bonku Babu became curious. He got goose-pimples. He could not resist himself and he moved further forward.

Going past the cluster of bamboo stems, he came across an object. It resembled a giant glass bowl turned upside down and it covered the entire pond. Through its translucent pink light, the entire surroundings looked radiant. He stepped back a little to get a better view, but suddenly felt as though an electric current was passing through his body. Within a jiffy, he was rendered totally immobile. His feet and hands were tied with an invisible rope and he could move neither forward nor backward.

A second later, a voice spoke, shattering the silence of the night. It sounded human, but was extraordinarily thin. “Milipi-ping kruk! Milipipingkruk!” it said loudly. Bonku Babu jumped a little. What did it mean? What language was this? And where was the speaker? The next words the voice spoke made his heart jump again.

Who are you? Who are you?

These were words in English. Was the question being addressed to him?

I am Bonkubihari Datta, he replied twice.

“Are you English?” the voice enquired twice?

“No Sir,” Bonku shouted back. “Bengali Sir” he said twice.

There was a short pause. Then the voice said, “Namaskar”. Bonku was relieved. He greeted it back saying “Namaskar” and then felt the grasp loosening. The invisible bonds that were tying him had slowly disappeared. He was free to escape. But he didn't. He was astounded. He saw that a portion of the glass mound was sliding to one side, opening out like a door.

Through that door, a head appeared - like a plain, smooth ball. And then the body of the creature. Its arms and legs were thin. Except the head, the entire body was covered in a pink outfit. On the face, there were two holes where there should have been a nose and another hole where there should have been a mouth. There was no sign of hair anywhere. Its eyes were round and bright yellow. They were glowing in the darkness.

The alien creature slowly approached Bonku Babu, stopping just a few feet away. It stared at him intently without blinking. Bonku instinctively folded his hands. After staring for nearly a minute, the creature spoke in a flute-like voice, asking if Bonku was human and if this was Earth. Bonku replied affirmatively to both questions.

The alien then explained that its instruments were malfunctioning. It had intended to go to Pluto but wasn't sure where it had landed, so it had first spoken to Bonku in the Plutonian language. When Bonku didn't respond, the alien realized it was on Earth. The alien expressed frustration at the wasted time and effort, mentioning a previous incident where it had mistakenly gone to Jupiter instead of Mars, causing a day's delay.

Bonku Babu didn’t know what to say. He was feeling rather uncomfortable as the creature was examining his hands and legs with its long, bony fingers. When it finished, it proudly introduced itself - “I am Ang, from the planet Craneus. A far superior being than man.”

Bonku Babu found the alien's statement about being greater than humans highly amusing. He almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of this strange-looking creature claiming superiority over humans. Bonku's skepticism and amusement were evident on his face, and the alien, named Ang, seemed to read his mind. It immediately said that it can prove it. It asked Bonku how many languages he knew. Bonku said he knew English, Bengali and a little bit of Hindi.

“You mean two and a half?”

“Yes.”

I know 14,000 languages Ang replied. It said that it knew all the languages in the solar system. It said it also knew thirty-one languages spoken outside the solar system and it has traveled to twenty five of them.

“How old are you?” enquired Ang.
Bonku said that he was fifty years old.

I am 833, it replied. Then it asked Bonku if he ate animals!

Ang said that earlier they used to eat meat, but now they have stopped or it would certainly have eaten up Bonku by now. Ang offered Bonku a small object and asked him to have a look at it. It looked like a small pebble. When Bonku touched it, he felt the same strong electric current pass through his body and he immediately withdrew his hand from it.

Ang smiled. “A little while ago, you could not move an inch. Do you know why? It was because I had this little thing in my hand. It would stop anyone from getting closer. Nothing can be more powerful than this in making the enemy utterly powerless, without actually hurting him physically.”

Ang said, "Is there any place that you have wished to visit, or a scene that you have longed to see but never could?”

What had Bonku seen? The whole world remained to be seen. He taught Geography but he had hardly seen anything beyond a few villages and towns in Bengal. He was yet to see the forests of Sunderbans, snow-capped Himalayas, seashore in Digha, or the grand banyan tree at the Botanical Gardens of Shibpur.

However he said nothing. “There is so much I would like to see”, he finally admitted.

He was just starting to say why he wants most of all to see the North Pole. when Ang quickly took out a small tube, one end of which was covered by a piece of glass.

“Take a look through this.” Ang invited.

Bonku peered through the glass and stared in disbelief. He was amazed. Could this be true? He felt his hair rise.

Bonku Babu found himself in a vast, snow-covered landscape. As far as the eye could see, the ground was blanketed in white, with large, icy mounds dotting the horizon. Above him, the sky was a deep, rich blue, and the Aurora Borealis danced across it, its colors shifting and changing with every passing moment. In the distance, Bonku noticed an igloo, a traditional Inuit dwelling made of snow and ice. Nearby, a group of polar bears roamed, their thick, white fur camouflaging them against the snowy backdrop. But what caught Bonku's attention was a strange, unfamiliar creature - a walrus. In fact, there were two of them, engaged in a fierce battle. Their massive tusks, each as large as a radish, were bared as they attacked one another, locked in a fierce struggle for dominance or territory.

“What about Brazil?” Ang asked. “Don’t you wish to go there?” Bonku, who was a geography teacher, suddenly thought about piranhas - those deadly carnivorous fish. How could Ang read his mind, he thought. Bonku once again peered through the tube and he saw a dense forest. It was very difficult even for the sunlight to pass through. There was a huge tree with a snake hanging. Gosh! It was an Anaconda. Bonku remembered reading about them in the National Geographic magazine. It was so big. Bigger than a python.

Oh, he could spot a canal. There were crocodiles sleeping on the banks. One went into the water and splashed around. Bonku could almost hear the splashing. When it came out of the water, it was holding five fish with its sharp teeth– Piranhas. Bonku couldn’t bear to see anymore. He started shaking and his head was hurting.

Now do you agree that we are superior? asked Ang. Bonku’s lips were dry. “Yes, of course! " he said.

Ang, after observing and examining Bonku Babu, declared that he belonged to an inferior species compared to the alien's own. However, the alien acknowledged that among humans, Bonku was a good man, but had a major flaw - he was too meek and mild-mannered. The alien suggested that this was the reason Bonku had not made much progress in life. The alien emphasized that it is wrong to remain silent in the face of injustice or when one is hurt or insulted without provocation. It stated that standing up for oneself is not just a human trait, but something that any creature should do. The alien found it pleasant to have met Bonku but expressed that there was no point in wasting more time on Earth and that it was time to leave.

Very well. Look, I have been observing you... I mean, you are a good man. But you have a major fault. You are much too meek and mild. That is why you have made so little progress in life. You must always speak up against injustice, and protest if anyone hurts or insults you without any provocation.

Before Bonku had time to properly say goodbye and before he could grasp what was happening, Ang had leapt over into the spaceship and had risen over Poncha Ghosh’s bamboo grave. Then when he completely vanished, the crickets started to chirp once more. It really was quite late.

Bonku walked back home pondering over what had happened. Slowly, it began to sink in. Ang from a different planet had chosen to speak to Bonku of all people. How incredible. Among millions and millions, it was he, Bonku, who had the chance to meet Ang. How extraordinary. Bonkubihari Dutta - teacher of Bengali and Geography in Kankurgachhi village was certainly unique in the whole wide world, at least in this very matter. It struck Bonku that he was no longer walking. In fact, he was dancing.

The next day being a Sunday - everyone turned up for the meeting at Sripati Babu’s home. There was some mention in the newspapers about a small light being observed but it was only a small report. A few handful people had noticed. That’s it. The news was given the same relevance as flying saucers. That night Poncha Ghosh also came for the meeting. He was talking about his bamboo grove. The bamboos around the grove had lost their leaves overnight, he said. Leaves dropping off in winter was nothing unusual but becoming bare overnight was certainly a remarkable occurrence. Everyone was busy talking when Bhairav suddenly asked where Bonku was. Why was he so late?

Nidhu Babu speculated that Bonku Babu might not attend the meeting that day, as he had been criticized the previous day when he tried to share his thoughts. However, Sripati Babu expressed concern and insisted that they must have Bonku present. He asked Ramkanai to go and fetch Bonku Babu. Ramkanai responded that he would go as soon as he finished his tea. But before he could take a sip, Bonku Babu suddenly entered the room, causing a dramatic effect. It was as if a small hurricane had swept inside, disguised as a short, dark man, leaving everyone in stunned silence. Bonku Babu then burst into an uproarious laugh, the likes of which no one, not even Bonku Babu himself, had heard before. He laughed loudly for a full minute, breaking the silence and surprising everyone with his uncharacteristic outburst.

When he could finally stop, he cleared his throat and began speaking. He addressed them as friends and said that this was the last time he would be coming for these meetings. Just how Ang had asked him to be bold and not be afraid, Bonku said many things. Firstly, he said that they talk rubbish about things which they have no knowledge about. Secondly, he addressed Chandi and said that he indeed acted childish by hiding others' shoes and umbrellas. He asked him to return his umbrella and brown canvas shoes by the next evening.

Nidhi Babu, if you call me Bumkum, I shall call you Nitwit, and you must learn to live with that! And Sripati Babu, you are an important man, of course you must have chamchas, sycophants. But let me tell you that from today, you can count me out. If you want, I can send my cat to you. It’s quite good at licking feet. And..oh you are here as well, Poncha Babu! Let me inform you and everyone else that last night, an Ang arrived from the planet Craneus and landed on the pond in your bamboo grove. We had a long chat. The man..sorry..the Ang was most amiable.

In the same instant, he slapped Bhairav Chakravarthy’s back so hard that he almost choked. He then walked out with his head held high, a bounce in his step and a sparkle in his eye. At that very instant, the cup fell from Ramkanai’s hand shattering into pieces and splattering hot tea on everyone else.

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Above and Beyond the Text

More On Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray received the Honorary Academy Award in the year 1992. His movies continue to inspire international directors also. The 1992 award was his Oscar Lifetime Achievement Award. He accepted the award from a hospital bed in Kolkata and termed it as the best achievement of his movie making career. He could not fly to Los Angeles and the award was announced by none other than Audrey Hepburn. Till date, he remains the only Indian who has been given this prestigious award.

Sci-Fi

Science fiction is a genre that speculates about imaginary elements such as advanced technology, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. While not as prominent as in Western literature, Indian sci-fi has a rich history, with notable works like Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain's "Sultana's Dream" (1905), Satyajit Ray's "Bonku Babu's Friend" (1976), and Samit Basu's "The Simoqin Prophecies" (2004).

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Bonku Babu’s Friend Questions and Answers

Below are a few questions that you can look out for your examinations and class tests. Stand out with perfectly written answers with help of Aneetta Class.

Yes, Ang could do a lot more than any human being could. He was certainly much more superior.

Yes. Ang told Bonku that he must not be quiet when insulted. Ang’s words brought about great changes in Bonku.

No, all the people who came for the meetings at Sripati Babu’s house on Sundays used to crack jokes and laugh at Bonku. They even called him Bumkum.