Abol Tabol: Bong chauvinism

Picture this. You’re angst-ridden, deeply traumatised by the global hegemony of English, concerned about the lack of respect shown to the mellifluous Bengali language. How do you demonstrate your deep dissatisfaction with the state of affairs?

From The Statesman: “After playing a couple of songs apparently to promote their cause, the language cops proceeded towards the KC Das confectioners. Near-violent by now, the mob painted “Banglay chai” on the walls and glass windows. Pamphlets, demanding immediate inclusion of the “ignored language” on signboards, were pasted all over. Sunil Gangopadhyay himself tried to stick some posters as well. Shops alongside JL Nehru Road were not spared blotches of red paint either, red symbolising “the blood of martyrs confronting the social evil of language hierarchy”.

The same author had some years ago condemned the blackening of non-Bangla billboards at Kolkata Book Fair by another group.

Mr Santanu Sen of VIP World, one of the shops targeted, looked shaken. The activists threatened to ransack the shop if he failed to put up a Bangla signboard in three days. “Well-known personalities were rude to us. They wanted to know why the name of our shop was in English,” he said.”

Aside from the observation that the line about “well-known personalities” is priceless, the Babu would like to know what Sunil Gangopadhyay, endlessly prolific author of note, is doing sponsoring the kind of hooliganism good Leftists in Kolkata ritually deplore when it’s carried out by Hindu right-wing groups.

Perhaps we should be kinder? Perhaps we should feel their pain? Rubbish, says the Calcutta Telegraph. “It is, indeed, a lamentable reality that the substandard teaching of Bengali is largely responsible for the young Bengalis’ ignorance of and profound lack of interest in the language and its literary traditions. The degradation of the language in the contemporary media and political rhetoric is yet another manifestation of this neglect. To link, moreover, the demise of Bengali with the rise of English is to give this mix of insecurity and chauvinism another unthinking twist. Supporting such a crass expression of “love” for a language undermines not only the value of the language, but also the principles of democratic politics itself.”

Nicely orotund, that.


  1. dear hurree,have you ever considered a career as a literary agent? if you need partners, you will find them lurking on the edges of kunzru book launches

  2. Oh, I’d be no good as a literary agent or indeed at any profession that required organisational and networking skills. But if you’re thinking of taking the plunge, get in touch if you need any assistance. I’d be more than happy to help. And if you remember the old joke about Lerts…Sign says: Be Alert! Graffiti says: Your country needs Lerts!Sign says: Be Aloof! Graffiti says: Your country needs Loofs MORE than Lerts!Likewise, Be A Literary Agent. We need them more than Loofs OR Lerts.

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