“Myself & my wife, Shu-ja-ta…..” thus spaketh, the Bong!
      I am sure many of us, prime-time viewers on Times Now must have come across this ad where this Bengali man talks about the couple’s exploits with the “Brangelina” pair…!
   What particularly sets this ad apart from trying to convey the essence of the medium is that it highlights the age-old idiosyncracies of the average middle-class Bengali gentleman( the Bangali Bhodrolok) whom we better know today as the “Bong”. Note that part, where the man in the ad specifically mentions that it was an “English Movie” which he & his wife had gone to watch. The Bong & his weakness for the English language is legendary. I remember reading the book, “An autobiography of an Unknown Indian” by Nirad C. Chaudhuri wherein he mentions about an incident where a college student from an affluent Kolkata family went to the Kalighat Temple one fine morning along with his father only to greet the presiding Goddess Kali with, “Good Morning Madam…how do you do?” much to the chagrin of his father. The individual in question was a student of one of Kolkata’s most premier institutions during the era of the Raj.
   Even today toddlers just learning to read & write are encouraged to read & speak in English rather than in their vernacular. Yet, strangely enough you are met with a sneer if you happen to speak or write decent English in a public place. That is where Communist leanings rear their ugly heads about class consciousness…& yes, that is one ideology an average Bong swears by..never mind if he is oblivious of Karl Marx & the junta.
     Kolkata or erstwhile Calcutta was the 2nd city of the Empire after London under the British Raj…(gasp)! No wonder that a trip to England was considered to be a pilgrimage in its own right! You & your family’s esteem would increase exponentially if you belonged to that “elite” class of “Bilet Pherot”(returned from England)!
    This place is yet to get over the Raj hangover even today…probably one of those places in India which has its roads, lanes & bylanes still named after prominent British citizens. To cite instances, you still have Bentinck Street– named after Lord William Bentinck-onetime Governor-General of india; Dalhousie Square-after Lord Dalhousie, the British Viceroy in India at that time. Yet this place at one time was the hotbed of the Leftist Movement in India with their trademark ideology & action of bringing down the bourgeoise & imperialism.
       Kolkata & her Bongs..oops Bengalis never cease to amuse one…..especially when they seem to provide fodder for ad commercials!