Our Once and Future Selves

I’ve been re-reading my great-uncle’s booklet about my great-grandfather and the family, as it was then. It is a wonderful, anecdotally-rich glimpse into the liberal, socially committed, ‘cultured’, Sanskritophile, and slightly elitist Sengupta clan of Bikrampur and Jhargram.

I read the book first when I was still in junior school — indeed, when I’d just learnt to read fluently — and I can see now how its more memorable bits tendrilled into my consciouness and grew roots, as I went from little me to a-little-bit-bigger me. Now that I am in my twenties, I can trace my most definitive, Rimiesque qualities to the stories, the people, and to the stories-within-the-stories in this book. It is… comforting.

I wish it was a few hundred pages longer.

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23 comments

  1. I’ll admit, I wish your family was less cultured/elitist and more Dadar Kirti. That would have made for fun reading.

    • This is my family two generations back. My immediate family now — that is, my deeee-urly beloved parents — are as Dadar Kirti as you’d care to ask for. They torture me gleefully day in and day out.

  2. Also, Bublada, I mean no offence by this at all, but I didn’t realise tumi fluently Bangla porte paaro, or at least enough to read “Babar Kotha”. Amar ma has only just managed to acquire proper Bangla reading skills these past two or three years πŸ™‚

    • Dadu’r ‘Bibhuti Rachanaboli’ series-ta mone achhey? I finished one of the parts (atleast 300 short stories?) during my Class 2 summer vacation, when you or Mum were not even born. πŸ™‚ Baba’r Kothae oirokom time-e published hoyechhilo, as well as the one on Pritikin… Read both of them.

      • Good lord. I’ve always been told tomar English lekha khub bhalo chhilo, but given the rest of the family’s lack of Bangla reading/writing skills (by ‘family’ I mean my ma, mashis and boromamu — chhotomamu is a shining exception) I just assumed je onyo shobar o aeki obostha hobe πŸ˜€ What is Pritikin, btw?

        • Well there was a fad by certain members of our family in the mid-80’s, about a diet called Pritikin’s Diet. Boro dadu (Jhargram-er dadu) wrote a book on that, a pretty lengthy hard-bound. It even had a cover picture which included one with our dadus and didas enjoying a winter picnic at the Jhargram property. πŸ™‚

          • And he used to dabble in a bit of poetry too, one of which I remember for it’s simplicity (he told it to me when i was in Class V and had gone there for Bhushu Kaku’s marriage) : “Bachhurdobar Sukhomoy Sen, Dubey thekeo bheshe achhen!” πŸ˜‰

  3. I often can’t help thinking… there were people who were so progressive and liberal a hundred years ago and now crappy serials like Balika Vadhu are considered progressive because they pretend to talk about child marriage, and adult education while reinforcing stereotypes cleverly. How we have gone to seed. Shotyo Selucus ki bichi ei desh! πŸ™‚

    • You are generous, Gautam. They don’t do it cleverly at all, they use the most culturally universal symbols (or, of course, these symbols have become universal by constant reinforcement). I watched two episodes while on a work trip, and it was unapologetically regressive and super-melodramatic, with crippingly bad acting.

      • Biya hamari Bahu ki is another serial of this type running now. Its eyepoppingly regressive. They have almost made an art form of it and very deliberately too. Apparently the focus groups recommend it. I don’t really see all this crap continuously…but I stay in touch from time to time because I have to.

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