TO be Bengali is to thrive in contradiction, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than now, when, on the one hand, we celebrate an Indian winner of the Economics Nobel, whilst, on the other, being deluged with stories and images of migrant workers trying, and sometimes failing, to return home from across India in the wake of an appallingly planned lockdown. About a decade andahalf ago, I was on a family vacation in Goa, enjoying a local beer in a beach shack, when I went into the kitchen to ask for another plate of fried fish from the extremely polite and helpful young men with whom I’d been conversing in bro ken Hindi, and walked straight into a conversation in Bangla. I’m not sure who was more surprised when I addressed them in the same language—them or me—but once it was established that I was one of ‘them’ the service became even friend lier and invitations were extended to take our meals with our fellow Bengalis. This has happened to me a few times when travelling: the sudden giveaway expression, phrase, or mis pronounced (Hindi or English) word leading to mutual recognition, followed almost inevitably by invitations to share food or drink. We Bengalis bond like no other when we’re out of our own languagezones—Bengal, Bangladesh, Tripura, or the Bengalispeaking parts of Assam. At home it’s a different story.
You can read up to 3 premium stories before you subscribe to Magzter GOLD
Log in, if you are already a subscriber
Get unlimited access to thousands of curated premium stories, newspapers and 5,000+ magazines
READ THE ENTIRE ISSUE
August 24, 2020