Bengalis are an -for the lack of a better expression- odd lot! They love to turn pejoratives into adjectives. They bask in the glory of their supposed superiority (and earn the wrath of rest of India). They christen people with terms such ‘Bandha Kopi’ (Cabbage), ‘Tentul’ (Tamarind), ‘Khotta’ (Bad character) and other epithets (which I am not going to disclose for they are way too in -your-face and hence more offensive) based on their appearances, eating habits and places of origin.
They divide themselves as ‘Probashi’ and ‘Bongo (well more aptly Kolkata) Bashi’ and it is to the latter that I belong. And over the years they have started feeling more in sync with being a ‘Bong’ rather than a ‘Bengali/Bangali’. No matter then. I have been pondering upon my own ‘Bongness’ and what follows is a reflection of the same.
First things first. I look for signs of being the ‘authentic Bong’.
I have to have a rice meal at least once in a day (although I have been without one on too many occasions in my 26 years; such a shame). I have a ‘wheatish’ complexion. I am told I have nice hair (no not the ‘thaak thaak chul’) which is no thicker than a few twigs taken together. I also have the quintessential specs, a diploma in Rabindra Sangeet , the habit of flaunting my ‘intellect’ (and not intelligence) with or without context and a preference of brain over brawn (ah well goes without saying). Oh yes, how can I forget? I also have a fascination for Kalo Cha (black tea).
But then I weigh the above against parameters more deep-rooted and voila I come across as perhaps one of the most ‘Jali’ Bongs ever!
The Bong has to have the ‘best of education’. S(he) cannot conceive of being schooled in anything but the South Points, the La Martiniers (not La Marts mind you), the Modern Highs, the St. Jameses or at least the Patha Bhavans. I on the other hand am a ‘public school product’. Can there be a bigger scar of disqualification?
Further my primitive mental faculties did not allow me to pursue either engineering or ‘daktari’ and I ended up studying trade and commerce and not even the Arts. Granted, the choice was neither wise nor commensurate but I am branded for life anyway. The Bong who betrayed her faculties and how!
When your nostrils refuse to be enticed by the smell of ‘maacher jhol’ offered once a week under certain circumstances, you more or less stop reveling in your Bongling. Even more deprave (no offense) is the act of patiently picking out the bones for a Punjabi kudi!! And when you are home, you refuse to be given anything but a small portion of Rui on alternate days just to appease your bewildered parents.
And hark this. I hate Hilsa with all my heart. It has a cantankerous combination of paper-thin bones and extremely phishy smell and even the lure of ‘shorshe bhapa’ doesn’t tempt me. However, to nullify the jaliness to some extent, I must admit I am quite fond of Chingri in all forms.
Next, I stay far away from Chunni, Panna and what not!
I am careless and prone to losing things. How then, can you expect me to carry around stuff made of expensive metals and stones and not blame their loss on the thieving magpie(s)? The Cats’ eyes and Moon’s faces do not adorn me. They are crippling more than anything else. Aha Thakur ‘paap diyona’ please.
Now, this one is little short of blasphemy.
Like every Bong child I was expected to excel at swimming, drawing, singing and all sorts of performing arts. Out of all the things I was expected to do, I only completed a formal training in singing. And why? Because I had nothing better to do! I find it grotesque when someone quips ‘Ekta Rabindra Shongeet ga na’ for not only do I not remember the lyrics, I also run the risk of going ‘off-scale’ which is worse. That is not to say I abhor Robi Thakur. No Bong – authentic or jali – can be audacious enough to do that!
Truth be told, I can add a few more Jaliness to the list such as my disregard for Bonglicized Marx-Lenin-Stalin ideals, discomfiture with the whole 6 yards (although I do drape it around me on rare occasions), apathy towards ‘political discussions’, no maniacal cravings for ‘mishti’ and much more. But I guess that is a more a by-product of ‘aajkal kar Bangali’ rather than being an innately Jali Bong! So I will stick to the tell-tale signs by all means.
Now aren’t those reasons good enough to float in the incredible lightness of being a pucca Jali Bong! Ooops, see the exhibition of the Bong’s hold on English is so natural. Pucca Jali! An oxymoron in the unlikeliest of contexts!