Bondhu tomaye e gaan shonabo bikel belaye
The 10 commandments for Bengalis
We are a soft, curvy and nice set of people. Our hearts are eider down pillows and our manners are dew drops falling softly on a baby’s bottom. We don’t usually issue commands and all that. We get things done, for sure. But in a more sober sort of way, with less testosterone deployed. Not to take anything away from the lovely people who make bombs, bark commands and dance aggressively. They too are a nice bunch. And the world has gadgets because of them. But we are a bit different. It comes from loving fish, I think. But I am not sure. That is also one of our strong traits — the deeply inquisitive, self and soul searching fumbling with the fingers of our mind before we finalise any conclusion. In our mind’s manuscript, epilogues can just as swiftly and magically turn into prologues. That is us.
I was contemplating (there you go again) titling this — the ten requestments for Bengalis. But then I realised, that would be quick and facetious and, therefore, not very Bengali. For us, it has to be thought through till the last fibre of cognition has frayed into submission and the cranium feels like a pair of continuously worn socks after a 15 day trip to Leh. My cranium didn’t. So I kept the title as you see it now. Only, slightly modified. The title is now the subtitle (details matter to us) and the title you see is a snatch (excerpt) from a sunset that means, according to me — I shall sing this song for you at dusk, my friend.
So what are these commandments? And why on Robi (pronounced ‘row-bee’) Thakur’s green earth should we have them at all in our lives? The price of fish has not increased faster than our ambitions and the cost of real estate is not unreal yet. Then why this strange fever with commandments and all that? Our communes are doing fine, our doll house politics is very okay at best and our traffic police wear white. What are we worried about then? What is bothering the great Bengali men and beautiful Bengali women so much that they need to listen to prickly manifestos with commandments in them?
Nothing, really. In no manner whatsoever has the Bengali come under any direct threat. Much like the Tamil-ian and the Uruguay-ian, the Bengali too has been principally focused on improving life, leaving a legacy and drinking some good whiskey in between. But the problem is, and I sum this up thus because I love Bengalis, am one myself and would most certainly like to see West Bengal and Calcutta right up there in the reckoning — the problem is, we are making ourselves extinct. We are making ourselves extinct by leaving, by being taken over (and no longer just overtaken) and, eventually, by discovering our ineptitudes instead of our successes. We are becoming our own worst epilogues.
The other day, I came across a fabulously simple and childishly brilliant diagram (drawn by the chief executive of linkedin and shared with me by the chairman of a company I co founded) that looks like this — it is a venn diagram of sorts with 3 circles. Each circle has a label. Label 1 says ‘dream big’. Label 2 — ‘get shit done’. And, Label 3 — ‘know how to have fun’. These 3 circles represent different kinds of people but what Jeff (the linkedin ceo) was trying to say was — he likes to work with people who are at the intersection of all 3 of these circles.
I was sorely tempted to have just these 3 commandments for my lot — the Bengalis. But I realised, we are pretty far out gone. We need more ‘intervention’ as the Americans would say in the TV series 24 (or, generally in life). So. 3 won’t do. 10 may. So 10 it is then. They are my own and I claim no statistical survey or significantly corroborated sample size behind their construction. But then, who needs them? Our conscience is our own most validated corroboration and sanction.
Here goes —
Speak less and do more
Measure what you are doing
History and culture are compasses, not seat belts
Invest resources other than money in Bengalis — time, energy, support, faith, references, the works
Go easy on the sweets and ballistic on the armchair
Believe in the possibilities of your own kind
Consciously convert one blueprint into action, howsoever diminished it may be, every year
Buy big things on loan
Write about Bengalis, Calcutta, West Bengal, the culturenama and the shundorbondhu — make everything about Bengal very, very famous