By Gaurav Gandhi
I entered this place as a 3-year-old but I’d have to be infinitely old and dead for it to leave me. Bengal is filled with people who’ve made this nation swell up their 56” chest. Be it Dada, whose heroics have always been praised and the sight of whose chest hair seems to be embedded in almost every Indian’s memory, or be it Tagore, commonly known as Thakur ( synonym for God in the Bengali) here, whose melodies and poems are so pleasing, so serene, you’d almost forget the painful world that is around you.
Bongs are stereotyped. Let’s face it. And those people who do stereotype it, have never even felt the beauty of being in the place. You say we eat fish, all day, and night. No. We all do not like to eat fish. I don’t. You say we are lazy. Yes, we are. But does that take away the success from us? I seriously do not think so. You say we eat a lot? YOU’VE NO IDEA. We eat much more than just a lot. I could go on more about the stereotypes if only I had cared more.
Somebody recently asked me, “What do you really think, completes a “Bong”?”.
Well, to start with, Durga Puja. If you haven’t seen a Durga Puja the Bengali way, you have a lot to do in life. It’s more than just an extravaganza. It is a feeling. A feeling completely insane. The whole state shuts down. People roam, they eat, they pray, they love, they cry, they smile. And come on, we all know, nothing is more beautiful than a bong girl in a saree. To top it up, there’s a beautifully themed “Pandal” every 500 feet. But what really matters, is the essence. It is the love we have for our Maa Durga.
We have the best food in the country. There’s diversity, the food is cheap, to say the least. And tasty. A poor man can survive happily here. The street food is utterly amazing. Cricket. The world knows that the Eden loves its game. You just cannot separate this place from the history of the game. Be it Shoaib Akhtar’s first tour here which saw the stadium being empty for the match to continue or Laxman’s infamous 281 and his love affair with the Eden and Australia.
We love cricket. But we sure aren’t biased. Football anyone? Come and visit this place and bongs love to get to the middle of the mud and run with the ball between their two feet, and occasionally juggling on every last part of the body. It’s no coincidence that we have the best stadiums and football clubs in the country, along with some visitors like Maradona, Messi, Forlan, Kahn, Bayern Munich etc. etc.
We’ve got trams, we’ve got the Ganges, we’ve got beaches, we’ve got theaters, literature, we’ve almost got Sundarbans, we’ve got white tigers, we’ve got cricketing tigers, we have our own wax museums, and we’ve got a huge chunk of the modern history. For quite some time, we had more Oscars and Nobel laureates than the rest of the country combined.
It was here that we first saw the idea of a free country, in the eyes of S C Bose and Mangal Pandey. We have, in our roads, homes, buildings, offices, pieces that remind us of our independence, the British rule and the story of a nation enslaved and freed. We’ve survived through cyclones, food scarcity and partitions. We aren’t perfect. We are lazy people. But we still make the country proud more than anyone.
There is a sense of calm around this place amongst all the politics and attacks. Is it the music, or the art, or the food, or the love, we’ll never be able to differentiate. I wasn’t born a Bengali, but I have grown up around these people, spending more than half of my life here.
There is so much I want to write.
About how much I love that place.
About why I love that place.
It is the passion, mostly, that these sweet, food loving creatures have for anything and everything that will make you fall in love with this place, over and over again.
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