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.