May 15, 2011

Where the Mind 'Was' Without Fear...

As a school kid, I often wondered why West Bengal was called 'West' Bengal when it was located on the Eastern side of India. A concrete answer was elusive until a subject called history made a quiet entry in my academic life, perhaps in class VI.

With time I came to know about Bengal's glorious past and how it played a pivotal role in shaping India's history. Other than the fact that Calcutta served as the capital of British Raj for several years, Bengal was intertwined in almost every significant historical landmark that India crossed. Right from the first war of Independence in 1857 to the tragic partition in 1947. From Bose to Rajaram Mohun Roy, Bengalis contributed immensely to the cause of One India and 'Indian-ness'.

Gradually as my knowledge and understanding of the world started to take some vague shape, I started to appreciate the likes of Rabindranath Tagore and Bankimchandra. They were not only great artists and carriers of the lantern of knowledge in the dark days of British Rule, but were in fact somewhat ahead of their times. Somehow, I always put Tagore and Socrates in the same league, they shaped conscience, philosophy and outlook of their respective countries.

And like any other common Indian, Films caught my imagination once I was an adolescent. Here also Bengal was ruling the roost with likes of Kishore Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Mithun, the list is almost endless. As a student of Film Making in my graduation days, a man called Satyajeet Ray was definitely the most talked about, may be along with a certain Alfred Hitchcock. Art, music, literature (Devdas!), colors (Durga Puja), life, happiness Bengal was simmering with every divine aspect of human existence. (Also, somewhere around 1999, Sourav Ganguly bewitched me).

But every shadow of white is accompanied by a tinge of red. Nothing in this world is spotless. Bengal learned this fact quite literally by getting itself embroiled in the Red Cauldron for 34 long years. Freedom of expression was brutally suppressed in a regime that thrived on an obsolete ideology. Wheels of development came to a screeching halt in the state, which was once the fountainhead of India's growth and industrialization. Lathi & cadre Raj took center stage in lives of modest and soft spoken Bengalis who relished ink, brush-strokes and strings.

Nadir is an understatement for what Bengal achieved in 34 years of Left Rule. Cultural decimation, intellectual erosion and mental repression were the gifts presented by a ruthless communist regime in the garb of socialism and poor-protectionism.

Mamata Banerjee might not be the best orator, she might lack the quintessential charm and polish of a politician, but she surely is a fighter. A street fighter who has risen above all odds, taking blows after blows, to fulfill a dream that looked impossible to be realized. The lady who wears simple cotton Saris, bathroom slippers and carries a small little world in her Jhola has definitely created history by toppling the longest ruling, democratically elected (sadly) Left regime. 

Its time for her to celebrate, relax and unwind. She deserved every bit of it after fighting relentlessly for all these years. History awaits her transition from a dogged fighter to an able administrator.


  1. Now I know why West Bengal is named West despite of being situated on Eastern side. :P

  2. All of the region known as Bengal is in the extreme southeast of India and in Bangladesh. West Bengal is just the western part of the Bengal region.

    :P :P

  3. Man, seriously, you blow me away.!
    A reader wouldn't know this was a political opinion piece until the end.
    As Rich as a Snickers Bar, As well-crafted as a Cashmere creation... You are turning into a Masterful Writer.
    Kudos! :)

  4. Thanks Gurman. I find your appreciation quite encouraging and flattering. How do you manage to get such adjectives? Thanks a ton Mate. :))

  5. U "Summon" them from within me Brother. :D
    Most Welcome yaar :)

  6. well written and well presented....would have loved it to be a bit more lengthy and having more insights..

  7. @Raunak: I am happy that u want more. Would have loved to elaborate a bit more myself. But refrained fearing length and palatability factor..Ur feedback gives me courage to do so next time. Thanks Bro :)