Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Roshogolla Rhapsody

India is not a country, it’s a continent. Not just because of it’s vast landscape, but more so because of the multitude of vastly differing languages, cultures and temperaments residing under one umbrella. No other country in the world has so many disparate regional identities and attitudes, and yet manages to retain a single national character. Every caste has it’s own USP as it were, Punjabis are known for their “live-life-to-the-fullest” attitude, Gujratis for their entrepreneurial excellence, South Indians for their dignified conduct. Having said all that, each caste possesses some negative traits as well, which people from the rest of the country love to mock. I am not qualified to talk about other castes, but being a Bengali, I can endeavor to do an analysis of my own caste. So here it goes folks.....

What are the top 4 things that come to your mind when I say the word “Bengali”?? Fish, academic inclination/intelligence, artistic talent, self-centeredness.... That’s the answer most people would give you. The 1st two elements of the reply are uncannily related. More than half of humanity believes that a Bengali’s academic intelligence stems from the fact that fish is an indispensable part of his diet. Scientists have proved that fish is good for a whole lot of things... heart, skin, hair etc. But they are yet to find the link between fish and brain. Until they do, this will remain the most widely discussed rumor about Bengalis.

A Bengali’s fishy fetish stems from the fact that Bengal is a land of rivers, distributaries and backwaters. Fish and rice are the most abundantly available edible substances in the region. Just as milk and wheat have become synonymous with Punjab, coconut oil with Kerala, fish has become an integral part of Bengali culture.
The high level of academic inclination/intelligence has it’s roots in a Bengali’s nature. Bengalis are not known for their entrepreneurial skills. Most of them would rather work for someone else than start an enterprise of their own. Since most Bengalis belong to the service class, they lay extra emphasis on their children’s education. That they have to be good in studies is drilled into every Bengali child’s psyche, and as a result, most of them turn out to be pretty good at it.

Creativity and artistic talent are also traits which most Bengalis intrinsically possess. Most of them have clear and resonant voices, ideally suited for professions like singing and anchoring. Most are also good at one or another art form..... at painting, at literature, at instrumental music, at dance etc. etc. (And some a great punsters and cartoonists too!!!) Rarely would you find a Bengali without a passionate hobby. And yes, a Bengali loves his sport.
The last defining character of a Bengali is his self-centeredness. I would like to clarify here that self-centered is not the same as selfish. A selfish man may hurt others to achieve his own goals, whereas a self-centered man may not hurt others, but will also not go out of his way to help them. He is very happy to live in his own cocoon, not reaching out to others, and not taking initiatives in solving their problems. Most Bengalis would never cheat anyone, but will never be philanthropists either. This trait of theirs does at times make them unpopular amongst friends and society.

So folks, that was my take on bengalihood. My comments are the result of observations I have made through my interaction with friends, family and others over the years. I might be completely wrong in my assessment, and may alter my ideas if some more persuasive evidence to the contrary appears before me. Comments welcome!!!

p.s.-Well, so much for an insider's perspective.. for a non-bong's take on bongs, click here

1 comment:

Milind M. Tapaswi said...

mebbe since u don't indulge in it yourself, u forgot to mention it.

it = cigarette. and if i know them right, it goes like "sutta is the birthright and the bengali shall smoke it"

more typically the capston variety, which is made by the person who smokes. paper and tobacco are available separately, little of the latter taken, rolled into paper cut by the smoker himself and then puffed away without a filter!!

Long live the Bongs!!