The Innate Bengaliness

How much of a Bengali am I as a person? A question that often bothers me and a blog post was the most obvious and inevitable solution that I could come up with. Apparently people usually think I am a part of this convent educated, extremely westernised, wannabe clan of Bengalis who take pride in saying “oops my Bengali is a bit weak you know”. Correction – my Bengali is NOT weak. I had finished the entire collection of novels by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay during my 3 months vacation after 10th standards board exam. I could bamboozle you anytime with my Bangla vocabulary. But then why do I run an English blog instead of having one in my own native vernacular? I follow a Bengali blog and I know I can never write with that much poise in English ever in my life; unless perhaps I go for a formal degree course in English literature or something. So Bengali would have been a far easier choice for me. But then why did I take all the trouble? Firstly, I did not want my blog viewership to be restricted to one community (Well, most of the people I am acquainted with don't speak Bengali, let alone read).  And secondly and more importantly, even if I started writing in Bengali it doesn’t mean I could reach that level (level of my Bengali blogger guru). I have read other people’s Bengali blog; trust me, they are full of crap. Mostly they are either filled with insufferable so-called intellectualism that Bengalis are (in)famous for or overseas Bengalis shedding crocodile tears over their great culture and good memories back home. So it’s basically hypocrisy coupled with bad punctuation and poor vocabulary.

Like every other Bengali, I grew up in a typical purely Calcuttan (My ancestors did not come from Bangladesh. #ghotipridealert) household with parents who would buy me Thakumar Jhuli and Professor Shonku’r Kandokarkhana before Treasure Island or David Copperfield. My all-time favourite book is Historical Novels by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. I don’t think I will ever get over my crush over Feluda that rooted its seed at the tender age of twelve. I cry while watching documentary made on Sukumar Ray. I am going to make voodoo doll of you and pinch it to death if you badmouthed Saurav Ganguly in my presence. The news of East Bengal getting defeated by Mohanbagan never fails to give me that feeling of satisfaction even though I don’t know squat about football. I have better knowledge of old Bengali movies than most Bongs out there. But yes I think Praktan is bullshit of a movie and you are stupid if you think that's the usual standard of Bengali cinema. Yet I am not your typical Bengali girl. All my life I have hated being a typecast by the usual standards and norms of society. So no, I do NOT like to eat rosogolla. I do NOT wear kantha stitched kurta and listen to Kabir Suman on loop. In fact, I have never liked that person much, nor his songs. I have never been to Shantiniketan till date. I never liked Sunil Gangopadhyay's works or the person himself. I hate Indian Coffee House that most Bong nerds go gaga over. That place stinks of cigarette fume and obsolete, anarchist leftist ideals; both of which I avoid like plague virus. I do not read any recent Bengali author's books; I think most are crap. The only Bengali intellectual of current generation I actually respect is Chandril Bhattacharya. Oh yes, I do. I don’t think that one must visit Kolkata Boimela (book fair) every year in order to keep the intellectual tag after their names intact. Damn you, I hate that tag in the first place. I only go to Nandan because it’s cheap and clean. I don’t watch Bengali theatre; I would die of headache if I did. All the places in Calcutta I love are bearing the signs of our colonial heritage. The cemetery, the museum, Victoria memorial, old churches, Prinsep ghat, Park Street…  You name one and I would raise my hand. Most of my friends and acquaintances are from non-Bengali circles and even with the Bengali friends I converse in English mostly. Again, not a wannabe. Just a habit. And as I had said before, I am not particularly fond of the nerdy, poetry reciting, novel reading Bengali men. Nor do I like the usual Bengali habit of unhealthy eating and aversion to exercising. Bengali men are so proud of their big tummy.

Being Bengali is a tag that I carry in my blood. I am proud of it. I am proud to be part of the most intellectual community of India. I am proud to be a part of that opulent legacy. I am proud to be born in a community where people don't judge others by caste or creed or bank balance. But at the same time I hate being entrapped by petty stereotypes. I love the fact that India is a nation with so much cultural diversity. And if anything I learned from my liberal Bengali family that would be always keeping that window open and look out at the world with unadulterated curiosity and amazement. I think that's where my Bengaliness stands true, without having to wear the mask of pseudo-intellectualism and hypocrisy. So I can sit here being a right-winged nationalist and worship my Marvel superheroes while listening to Carnatic music and imagine myself as a reincarnated Tibetan and yet I would be no less of a Bengali than you lot.

Did I ever happen to mention that I am a big fan of Nirad C. Chaudhuri?