Why I Owe Didi Big Time

I am celebrating a psycho-therapeutic coup of sorts. I have been freed from two of my longest-standing complexes at one go.

The first is my complex about being a blot on the fair name of Bongdom. I don’t know my Bankim from my Manik, and I live happily without my daily fish. I cannot chat online at lightening speed in Bangla in roman script and I don’t burst into a Tagore song for every occasion. I can stay continent when I hear someone speaking Bengali in the supermarket aisles of New Delhi or Bangalore and I don’t hand in my resignation if my leave application is turned down during the pujas.

I take pride in being a Bengali, but given the generic pan-Indian definition of a good Bengali, I keep my pride, “if you really want to know about it,” a little hidden.


My second big-time complex is that I am not Shah Rukh Khan. Shah Rukh embodies my subconscious aspirations in many ways. Rising to stardom through sheer merit and hard work, being irreverently witty and outspoken, getting to own a cricket team and a Palm Jumeirah home, becoming the brand ambassador of Bengal, and being the dream of millions of young women (and men) across the globe.

However, this terrible duo of complexes that have run my life for decades has been successfully “banquished” by the developments in Bengal and New Delhi over the last few months, thanks to the winds of change and the presidential elections.

I am a Bengali living in Hyderabad for many years. I watch NDTV and CNN-IBN and take Times of India with me in the morning when I go. For sports and the weather, I look at Deccan Chronicle. Beyond the daily telephonic updates from my father, I stay largely insulated from local developments in Bengal.

Mamata has spent decades being the embarrassing and impetuous loud-mouthed girl of Bengal. The political and intellectual classes have repeatedly dismissed her as a crackpot. Yet she persisted in her efforts and positioned herself as a better choice than the mighty left front. She took the mighty left on and made me proud, despite my fondness for the cognac-sipping righteousness of Bengali leftist thought. Proud of the people who came out on the streets to protest against the way Singur and Nandigram were being handled. Proud of the genetically socialist Bengali electorate who were able to see through the rot that was being passed off as governance over decades. I wore my pride on my face like a newly-wed bride wears her sindoor.

The girl who danced on top of Jayaprakash Narain’s car in College Street, who was beaten into a coma by party goons two decades back, and who retained her commoner lifestyle and values in spite of becoming the chief minister of the state has earned the admiration of many. Sadly, this admiration is tinged with a strange mix of anger and frustration. Her impulsive, dictatorial and intolerant attitude, her paranoid branding of all criticism as a maoist conspiracy, and her emotional outbursts in public have added to her struggles as an administrator of a state that has been licking its wounds silently for way too long.

Starting with her tirade against Trivedi’s railway budget and arm-twisting the central government into replacing him, she has taken public position on a wide range of issues that have put her in a spot that no Shah Rukh Khan or KKR victory can pull her out of. Not satisfied with raging against college students on the CNN-IBN show and calling them Maoists, she went on to give an interview minutes later in her own office, calling the caricature of hers that got Ambikesh Mahapatra into deep trouble nothing but “decomposed photos” and asked Sagarika Ghosh, “you are also twitter?” Before one could recover from this LMAOist conspiracy, she went on to organize the KKR felicitation.


The KKR victory show put her being herself bang into the national prime time living room. For one wonderful day, regardless of what her critics might say, she went back to being the mass leader that she is. She sang and clapped while Shah Rukh danced to her tune, (You promised me that you will dance for four hours, Shah Rukh), and gave away gold chains while the city came to a standstill. Watching Shah Rukh doing his thing in the sweltering heat and humidity of Kolkata made me feel thankful for the second time in my life that I was not him. The first was when I watched Ra.One.

Mamata’s recent stand on the presidential nominee issue is another case in point. Her decision to not support Pranabbabu is seen by many as just another sulk. What I found admirable was that she had the, what’s the word, guts to take on the might of the Congress leadership when most others just used it to work out a deal. Time will tell whether she was justified in her adamancy or not, but the fact remains that she stood her ground against the kingmakers of our times. With Pranab in the President’s office, the only thing that will bring a smile to the nations face will probably be a slew of Bengali jokes.

Whatever the future holds for the public image of the Bengali - or Shah Rukh for that matter, I will now walk tall in the streets of Hyderabad flaunting my rootlessness since I no longer am the most embarrassing bong around. Though my pride, like that of many right- (or is it left-?) thinking Bengalis, might be short-lived, the payout in all this is that I have been freed from my all-consuming complexes, that of being a bad bong (chheletar parts achhey, but still …) and that of not being Shah Rukh Khan. The bottomline is that these three people, Mamata, Pranab, and Shah Rukh have come together to rid me of my self esteem issues. They are the undeniable cloud to my silver lining. And for that, I am thankful to them.

34 comments:

  1. ahahahah!! I SO SO deeply enjoyed this post and was so gratified to get an update on all things Bengali, Shah Rukh and Presidential Elections from your rolling on the floor laughing out loud brilliant post!!! You should write in newspapers, then maybe I will read them :-)

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  2. wow, that was quick. so happy, aarathi, that this post made you smile. maybe reading your blog regularly is having an effect on me.

    no newspaper will want to risk publishing me. if i were a newspaper, i wouldn't. thank god i am not a newspaper.

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  3. Finally a place where bong and mamata meet feat. SRK. Funny and informative.

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    1. sandeep, thanks man, it was great to see your comment this early on a sunday morning. i was really expecting no action on this post till late into tomorrow.

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  4. It's tough to take Didi seriously - a rebel without a cause and pause. But one thing we cannot deny, she is sans any Machiavellian designs unlike most of our polity.
    In my opinion she is too straight forward for her own good.

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    1. in spite of her madness, there is something endearing about her ways. i quite agree that maybe she is too sraightforward for her own good.

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  5. NOW DIDI WILL BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE NOT A MAOIST :)
    haha..
    awesome take :)
    But i am sad, she din't support me on presidential poll :(

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    1. ha ha ha, deepak, love your comment. it was not difficult to balance her crazy ways with the fact that she is basically a very simple person. also, i was scared that if i didn't say some nice things, she would come after me...

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    2. haha..
      Mr.Subh, i am following your posts and i am great fan of yours :)
      thanks for the honor.

      I am en route to Delhi, i need a separate president for Pschim banga :)

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  6. Enjoyed reading the post:-)

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    1. glad, vetrimagal, and thanks for taking time to leave a comment.

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  7. Fun read. So many obvious truths woven in a deceptive web of humour! Well done!

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    1. thanks, deepak bhai, and i loved that term deceptive web of humor. at least it tells me i have taken some steps in the direction of humor. living in a time when you are not sure if you should laugh or cry at the things going on around you, humor is not easy.

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  8. The Fallacy of Illicit Generalization mars your style. I like to think of myself as a good Bong, you know - My knowledge of late 19th century literature includes but is not limited to Bankim; fish is a good protein option here but we eat a lot more beef and pork at home; I hum or whistle Rabindrasangeet as often as Mozart or Whitney (am not skillful enough to do more demanding stuff); and chat in queen's English. And one whose blotty aspects encompass the universal set of humanity, not the subset of bongdom, would not be redeemed by being a bad Bong.

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    1. redemption was a by-product and not the goal. totally agree about the larger question of being a rotter at core, and pretending to be a bad bong. how very clever.

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  9. She takes her decision like a contestant in a buzzer round.But politics is a different ball game where only crookedly straight decisions are the only solution.She needs to concentrate more on the industrial renaissance of the state rather than branding college students..A leader should be more open to criticism.I think she got more humiliated from the then LEADING RED Party.
    However enjoyed your post with an ensemble cast in Bengal Political Ronokhetro

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    1. the most worrisome aspect of her unpredictability is that many people will be wary of investing in industry there. one must not forget that didi is an out and out socialist at heart, perhaps even more than the communists themselves. bengal desperately needs a reversal, not a driving straight into deeper waters.

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  10. Dang, I did not know you are a bad bong! The one of the primary reasons I befriended you was you are a Dasgupta! How can I not visit a blog written by a Bong??? After all as I notice, the blog world in India seems to be dominated in the non-technology sector by Bongs, TamBrams and Marathis:)
    Now that the truth is out...
    Mamatadi what have you done to the image of Bengal--you not only hurt the image of Bongs in everyday life, you are hurting the blogging world. See what kind of a blog Bongs write these days...:(:(

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    1. LOL, Bhavana. I am actually extremely, extremely proud of where I come from, and that includes my bongness to a large extent. I feel sad that because of a few people, the overall perception of Bongs is skewed. Of course, there is nothing quite as hilarious and weird as a bong, good or bad, but that is another matter altogether.

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  11. A fantastic post....i found the way you have put your perspective profound. Love it. Thanks for sharing. I am from Assam and we always have that keen interest in Bangal and Bengal Politics 

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    1. Thanks, Shamshud. The richness of the culture of Eastern India has been distorted by our gentleness and our ability to absorb influences. As we have tried to match the brash self promoting stereotype of the modern successful Indian, we have made a perfect hash of it.

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  12. Ur post did the same for me too.. Thanx! :)

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    1. He he, Somesh, I am so happy that you are feeling better!! Keep coming back for more of the good medicine.

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  13. You should be happy that you aren't living in Kolkata my friend.

    Once again a well written piece... and yeah, let's not kid ourselves about the Behenjis and Didis of Indian politics who seem to be suffering from some sort of malaise which borders on megalomania.

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    1. Thanks, Averil, but I don't know if I should be glad or envious that I am not in Kolkata. I guess I miss out on a lot of fun as far as public affairs and politics are concerned.

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  14. Well written post ! Enjoyed it.

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    1. Welcome to SJD, my friend. Glad you liked this post. Hope you will be back for more.

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  15. haha...good one..guess you wrote that one for all probashi bongs :)..but really, this has been a very embarrassing time for all all bongs and continues to be so...all i can hope for is that the didi stays out of news for the next 4 years...a pipe dream but hey she has not banned dreams..not yet ;)

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    1. The Bengal that has produced Tagore, Satyen Bose, Jibonananda, and Ritwik Ghatak is better known for its CM and the presidential nominee. Truly a strange twist of fate. On one hand we have a party half of which is made up of cadres from the erstwhile rulers of Bengal, and on the other we have the friend of Kamal Nath, Bansi Lal and Sanjay Gandhi whose loyal services are finally being rewarded. Truly a strange twist.

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  16. It's hard to reject the fact that Didi has guts. Only thing is she should use her adamancy in a right way and for the right cause.

    And what is this am I reading? You can live without fish???? Now even the fish would have been shocked if they could read this :P

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    1. Very true. Mamata has two things going for her. She genuinely believes in what she is doing, and she is not afraid of rocking the boat. If she uses these two strengths for the right reasons, nothing can stand in her way.

      Please don't tell the fish.

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  17. the only problem i have with her is she is a megalomaniac...
    she refuses to focus on what should be dealt with and instead is just another cpm who refuses to shut up... with her weird conspiracy theories about how people are wanting to kill heror everyone is maoist... she is all noise...

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    1. Loved your comparison to "CPM who refuses to shut up." I still would like to believe that she has the welfare of the masses in her mind. If nothing else, she has taught the left a very important lesson about not taking the electorate for granted.

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  18. politics never excites me but seeing the past how things have turned up thanks to ipl+pranab da+didi+SRK-ganguly .. i better start reading the first chapter of politics now ..

    well written Sub...

    rahul

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