There I was, all of 13 years old and thinking that my mother’s going back on her promise of me getting a puppy was the most unfair judgment in the world. My barely adolescent mind could not cope with this sense of injustice. Little did I know, there were more to come.
Fast forward several years to college life, where I really found out new heights of unfair. I had been teased and taunted by bullies before. But nothing in my life had ever prepared me for the hounding and harrying I had to face here for being born a Bengali! It’s not like they beat us Bongs up or mock or ridicule us in public. It starts with a small statement. For me it came in the form of my neighbor, the girl who used to live right in the next room. In her words, “Saare Bangali akal se paidal hote hain”. (It was a bit rich, coming from someone who belonged to the state with the lowest literacy rate of 63.8% as per the 2011 census.) For someone who hadn’t even heard of that particular expression it was hard to retort back at that moment. I later found out that it meant that all Bongs were dumb. And I still don’t have a good enough comeback for something so outrageously wrong. She should be just picked up and plopped down in the middle of Indian Coffee House with a translator on a busy day. Maybe then she would get a hint of the intellectual prowess of the Bengali middle class.
“Just kiddin’ yaar, don’t take it personally!” Wtf?!
FYI, Bengali IS our mother-tongue! Not Hindi. That is the national language. There’s a difference. So it’s okay as long as we know bits and pieces of it to communicate all over the country. We really don’t need to perfect the language and memorize that a “train aata nahin, aati hai” or “moochh lamba nahin, lambi hai”. How many of you out there know more Bengali than “kemon achho?” or “aami tomake bhalobashi”?
Talking about language, another major complaint of all non-Bongs is that when two Bongs get together, they tend to speak in Bengali, which can cause the rest to feel left out. Well, I am sorry! I’m sorry that we fail to recognize your insecurity and uncontrollable need to be a part of everything that’s going on, just to feel worthwhile. A little suggestion, if any of you goes abroad and after staying there for a couple of months or so, all the while speaking English or whatever language is spoken there, encounters a fellow Indian, or better yet someone speaking the same mother-language as you, can manage to NOT revert back to your roots and start yapping away in your own sweet language, without making a conscious effort, then I’ll take back everything I said.
Oh and before I forget to mention, it was in this language that Rabindranath Tagore (yeah, that’s the guy who composed our national anthem) wrote the Gitanjali, which later translated to English got him the Nobel Prize, which is our ONLY Nobel in the field of Literature as Indians.
Yes, we pronounce it shondesh and not sandesh; bijoy and not vijay. Oh and we LOVE fish. Yeah, maachh-bhaat! No use turning up your pretentious noses at that; I know how most of you devour the same fish with the hunger of 10 starved men, when served with some fancy presentation at a Goan shack. And for the rest of you, who sincerely hold a grudge against us for our choice of food, don’t even get me started on the jaw-breaking chalk-flavored snacks you people keep munching at.
Oh and all the stereotyping! “Bengalis are so kanjoos!” Aren’t all Indians kanjoos? And exactly what kanjoosi are we talking about here? According to recent studies, no other Indians, with the exception of Gujaratis, have such insatiable wanderlust as Bengalis. And that is the middle class we are talking about. If we were a bunch of cheapos as per popular belief, then wouldn’t we just sit tight in our homes, and count our cash and lock it up safely in tijoris, instead of scouring the entire country and overseas as well. Talk about contradiction!
“Bengalis are lazy and unathletic.” Yeah, just hit any of the maidans of Kolkata, especially on a monsoon evening. You can see exactly how lazy and unathletic we are. Mud-soccer, anyone?
“Bengalis are fattu.” No we are not. We are the craziest, wildest bunch of people in India. Forget the independence movement, ever heard of the Naxalite movement? Before it blew out of proportions and became the pro-terrorism front of the North-East, it was just a bunch of us “fattu” Bengalis revolting against and overthrowing the government by force.
I could go on and on. Yeah, no culture is perfect. We have our flaws of being, on the whole, indisciplined and hedonistic. But at least we don’t burn our bahus when they don’t bring us enough dowry and practice rampant female foetacide and infanticide. Just saying. I’m proud to be a Bengali. Suck it.
(P.S. Compliments are welcome. Criticisms are, however, not. It’s pretty obvious that I’ve had enough of that. If anybody has any antagonistic opinions, they can keep it to themselves and not take the pains to post it here, because they will be promptly deleted. That’s the way it is. J)