It is established then. A Bengali from Kolkata, I was under the impression that miles away from the city, perhaps the familiar twang of magooo will be missing. I was terribly mistaken.
I remember my first day in the university when my professor asked how many people were from Bengal. In a class of 28, more than half the class was waving their hands up in the air! I have often narrated this incident in complete exasperation to people who clearly don’t comprehend my angst.
Many of us have left the city that flows in our veins, to find a place outside Eden Gardens, Victoria Memorial and College Street. We know our language, we carry the burden of being the intellectual snob and we know our fish. But a little deconstruction is needed.
Chittaranjan Park is the (un)official ghetto. This is indeed the place most non-residential Bengalis will flock to hoping to get the best house deals, the home food and the caring neighbours. If it looks, feels and smells like home — could it possibly be bad?
It is worse than bad actually. I am not crying about the dearth of feeling here, I feel smothered by too much. Not only does the place host the non-residential but in nooks and corners grow the original residents (the refugees from across the border who got rehabilitated here).
They brought with them a trunk-full of culture and then forgot all about it. The terrible osmosis of dust, dry heat and rude Delhi behaviour happened and what emerged is a terrible hybrid.
You have the older lot who reminisce about the past, the hawk-eyed women, your existence and your friends (shipped fresh from Bengal I say!) and the freshly starched taant saris, the haggling for the fish and the best cooler deal, the younger lot who have their feet on two shaky boats of the capital and the ex-capital and a tiny little bit of Bangaliaana.
The Delhi Bengali will shove their leftover culture in your face, they will celebrate every tiny little festival with much aplomb and their accent is murderous. It is, more often than not, hard to comprehend the strain of words flung between, ‘expletive ... expletive, Bengali expletive ... eta ki aache?’ And will accuse you of the political failure of Bengal with statements like, ‘Your Jyoti Basu did this!’
We swear by our food. While some would like the curd rice, we choose alu posto. We settle into our mother tongue when more of the kind congregates. Occasionally that’s okay. But I think it’s time we laid the defence shield low and stopped the ghettoisation. Bengali from Kolkata, yes. But a Delhi Bengali — I don’t think so!