Scrappy Do!

This Facebook status is my favourite internet take-away of the day. I must admit, the best thing I like about Bengalis is their sardonic critique of themselves (which thinly veils a smug conviction of intellectual superiority).

Turns out my dog is a Bengali after all, despite his Crufts-winning dad and all highfalutin’ pedigree. Picture this – he was sitting very philosophically in the balcony watching the world go by. Then came the noise of some drilling from a flat near by. Chequers IMMEDIATELY gets inside the sitting room and starts barking from there, relentlessly, but refuses to go and face the situation from at least the balcony. No amount of coaxing could get him out. He continues to bark as I write this. True blue bangali…

Of course, nothing this provocative goes unanswered for more than a minute on social media, so while I was still reading the status, this response to it popped up:

“Unkind! We are scrappy. We were famous extremists. We have also shed blood like ketchup standing extreme left.

This claim — though made in jest — is actually rather graphically true. Our red Marxist victory flag from the 1970s was mostly organically dyed. But revolutions, though we appear to have a fascinated addiction to the idea, usually exclude the possibility of debate — which is the average Bengali’s favourite pastime — and involve a great deal of plebian physical effort, to which the delicate ‘intellectual’ Bengali stereotype is terribly averse. Besides, police, lawyers, courts and hospitals — all of which must sadly be included in anything revolutionary — cost money.

Words, however, are free.

Loquacity and a tireless commitment to comebacks, therefore, are the parsimonious Bengali’s chief weapons*. There are, after all, few things more democratic than crowd-sourcing a personal disagreement. A group will form under a minute, cliques will develop in ten, and all possible opinions on the subject will be served hot to the original interlocutors within twenty. Given the right sort of peeps, the nearby tea-stalls might see a sudden spike in business. Can’t say more republican than that, can you?

Plus, it beats the regular kind of street theatre hollow.

[*A strapping lad from Haryana, with a mint-fresh MBA, was shoved to Calcutta by bosses who obviously hated him. Three weeks here and at the end of his tether, he demandedof my buddy, his colleague, “Yaar, tumlog itna bolte kyun ho? Office mein main pak jata hoon, yaar! Koi ITNA kaise bol sakta hain?”. Apparently, his record was spotless, because he was terrified of getting into a possible argument with his pot-bellied, five-foot-seven Bengali boss]

Now, of course, the lippier amongst you might feel the burning need to point out that the doggie ran indoors, not out, so wherefrom all this public discourse? To which I shall say, with cutting contempt, that drilling tools being a poor recipient of heated recriminatory discourse, the clever beast was merely seeking the company of creatures capable of empathy and yapping-back, if only in an alien, other-species tongue. And the status above is proof that he found it. Thus, heroic left-radical cultural ancestry notwithstanding, the most representative comment on the community’s approach to conflict resolution was best summarised by S, when she said:

Chitkaar korey lok joro kora ekta mosto kaaj. [Screaming your head off to rouse the neighbourhood and whipping up a crowd is an enormous achievement in itself!].

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15 comments

  1. Okay. You too find me wrong. Check Mujtaba Ali. We were famous till Afghanistan for our prowess with explosives.

  2. When people say “You’re so Bong, dude.”, usually pejoratively, I say something along the lines of “Absolutely”. Or “Thank you”.

    I don’t like the automatic assumption of higher moral or intellectual ground because of one’s race, but find it delightful that I immediately bring to mind that archetype.

  3. Very true, Rimi.That is one of the very few things I am proud of vis-a-vis my bangaliana – that we can actually sit back adn criticize ourselves and there is an element of self-deprecating humour about it all…and yes, you are right about the thinly veiled intellectual superiority too. I Keep pretending I am different, above it all, in a sense – but it comes out in odd thoughts.

    Kind of like how, despite our conviction that we are the sorts who actually dream in English, we still sometimes find ourselves (at least I do) referring to a movie as a book (ref, oi boi ta khub bhalo chhilo)

  4. Duly noted. Any attempts on your part to actually face situations I will make sure to dictate to history in any way I possibly can. But talking about situations? You? Never!

  5. Interestingly, there were no Punjabi freedom fighters outside Bhagat Singh… who was a Marxist to begin with.

  6. Oh c’mmon, u’re just being garrulous here 😛 😀 I like this smackdown of our snobbery and tendency to form cliques. Endless deliberation leads to endless vacillation. Morality is an euphemism for pusillanimity.

  7. Rimi, only a Bengali will take that status and create such an article around it too – more power to us (good job only bangalis – of the born and honorary kind – are interested enough to read this or my statement would seem – and probably is – a true slap on the face).

  8. ‎”Our Marxist victory flag from the 1970s were mostly organically dyed.” A sentence worthy of any famous writer, really. What can I say or do to convince you to write your novel?

  9. It’s sad that people tend to base their stereotype of Bengalis on Bollywood caricatures than history. And it’s not even ancient history! But this is such a delightful piece of writing. Loved it. Also, “Marxist flag” bit, in absolute agreement with Sue.

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