Comments by Debashis Guha
The title of the piece: Just Ektu Kachhe is wrong. A more appropriate title would have been ‘Bas Thoda Kachhe’.Sunil, as one would expect, misses the point entirely. Languages always evolve etc is fine, but the essential point to note is that the evolution is asymmetric. Hindi is not borrowing much from Bangla, is it? In fact, Hindi that sounds like translated Bangla will be the butt of jokes, but Hindi that sounds like it is translated from English is quite cool. It is always the provincials that try to imitate the
metropolitans, never the other way around. As the TV producer quoted in the story has correctly figured out, “Hindification” is an aspirational choice.
This trend isn’t new. I have observed for a while, maybe more than a decade, that Bengali yuppies from Kolkatta (note the misspelling), often claim not to know Bengali well, but are always fluent in Hindi. The resistance to this trend must also be understood in this context. I doubt that so many people would have been so offended if yuppies decided to speak, say a French accented Bangla. For the older generation, who still remember the former subaltern status of Hindi in Kolkata, it must be very galling to think that imitation of Hindi is now considered aspirational for their provincial children.
Taking out processions against it is useless of course. Macroscopic social dynamics of this sort has its own logic and cannot be easily arrested or reversed. As long as the rich, famous and powerful are from Delhi and Bombay, or New York and Shanghai, this cannot be changed.”
A few more thoughts on the language issue:
- Nietzsche wrote in the 1880s that the German language had started to change since the advent of Bismarck and had taken on a more staccato and militaristic cadence. He surmised that this would lead to a change in the German national psyche and from a nation of poets and ineffectual dreamers they would be transformed over time into a more warlike and violent nation. Even if we ascribe some of the success of this amazingly accurate prognosis to luck, the basic point stands that a nation’s psyche and its modes of thought owe a lot to the shape of its
language, no doubt through a sort of feedback process. I wonder what this will mean for Bangla and its culture as it moves closer to the Hindustani model.
- The ascendancy of Hindi is inevitable in India. When the Bengali Hindus threw in their lot with
India in 1940s, and there wasn’t much of a choice of course, the future was already sealed. What people probably didn’t foresee, given the cultural primacy of Bengal in the first half of the last century, is the precipitate decline in the status of the Bengali Hindu elites and their
rapid cultural subjugation by the Hindi-speaking elites in the next fifty-odd years.
A part of the failure of the Bengali Hindus can be ascribed to their adherence to Leninism, and ironically, their misunderstanding of Marxism. The Bengali Hindus failed to understand the basic Marxist tenet that in the long run economics determines politics. Under the influence of Lenin and Mao, they came to believe that cultural revolutions can override economic reality. Unfortunately for them, the Leninist impulse proved to be just as wrong in Kolkata as it did in Moscow and Beijing.
Comments by Raja
The Bong pseudo-intellectual, brought up on a diet of Sarat Chandra’s tragedies and Tagore’s imagery of deprivation being synonymous with a certain lofty spiritual and moral status, mistakenly embraced Lenin and later Mao as the flag-bearers of the deprived, carrying out their Robin Hood like mission of forcibly parting the wealthy from their riches so that it could later be distributed among the underprivileged. This approach was also very convenient for the typical middle-class Bong, whose ancestors had been educated and brainwashed by the brigands of the East India Company into becoming minions of the traders who plundered the newly conquered land in very many ways for untold riches and whose counterparts took over administrative control of the land to ensure that the natives did not either develop aspirations of taking a bite out of the plum cherry or even inadvertently disrupting the systematic stripping and looting in any way. The archetypal Bong, weak of
disposition and lazy by nature, with nary an entrepreneurial thought, readily acquiesced to this scheme of things and effortlessly fitted into the role of babus, gomustas and clerks, adapting to a life of relatively simple living and professedly high thinking. Since they had effectively boxed themselves into a corner in the process, the Robin Hood scenario became a convenient means of asset enhancement and a better way of life since it did not call for either taking entrepreneurial risks or an industrious bent of mind for achieving these desired outcomes. All they needed to do was to find Robin Hood of their dreams and entrust their futures to him. Thus, when, after independence, the patriarchal figure of Dr. B.C. Roy was removed from the scene by the grim reality of mortality, the typical Bong soon gravitated towards anointing
the Leftists as the Robin Hood who would bring to fruition their cherished dream of enhancing assets and lifestyles without any corresponding strenuous effort on the part of the average denizen.
The need to learn new languages or to explore new geographies and regions has always been dictated by economic necessities or desires. Having disdainfully cast aside entrepreneurship or the need for industriousness as a means of enhancing assets and wealth, the Bong became increasingly blinkered in his world view and exposure. Language skills and knowledge of new geographies and opportunities languished as a result. Since nature abhors vacuum, the Marwaris, Gujaratis and Punjabis among others who moved in to take control of the levers of trade and industry after the departure of the British, were disdainfully dismissed as ill-educated, uncultured ‘banias’ who were crassly given to the worship
of Mammon to the exclusion of everything else. Since hard physical labour and doing menial jobs which would severely affect social standing and result in a loss of face were a no-no for the typical Bong as well, the needy from neighbouring states, who had no such pretensions and couldn’t afford to carry such chips on their emaciated shoulders, flocked to Calcutta and W. Bengal in large numbers and took up these tasks. This afforded the laid back Bong an opportunity to flaunt his intellectual snobbery and dismissively label these johnnies-come-lately as ‘khottas’, ‘bhaiyas and ‘oondeys’ among others.
What happened thereafter is well documented history and an aspect that has already been touched upon earlier as part of this thread and hence does not bear repetition.