Thursday, December 22, 2005

hark the siblinghood!

Alrighty! If no one else will do it (not including Priya and Prero), it’ll have to be The Rimi.

Right, so, as I was saying. Prero and I had this grand plan of jazzing up this template, which hasn’t come to anything so far, but then Prero’s coming to town soon, I’m sure we’ll work something out then. Also, in other news, the blog’s dying!!! All of you who so wanted in, people, WRITE! I know it’s the holiday season, but that isn’t excusing you from the drill. So, get cracking.

Right, now since I do not believe even ONE of you will actually respond to this desperate request, I shall take it upon myself to toil for the noble cause. Or whatever.***

This is something that was sparked off by an article I read in an ancient edition of the Robibasorio (Sunday Special) of the Ananda Bazaar Patrika. It’s too ancient to be in the online archives, so don’t bother looking it up. It was titled ‘Dada go!’, or something similar. Now, being a quintessential Bong that I am (NOT, claims lots of people I know. Heretic dogs!:P), this racial/ethnic obsession with extended families – all very fascinating in terms of population-control, of course – but it’s so deep rooted in the Bengali psyche that’s it’s occasionally slightly alarming. I have been frigidly and loudly ticked off in public for calling a woman a year older than me by her name. By herself. That was one of the better incidents. So this is a slightly personal issue.

First, let’s us look at our case history. We shall look at popular literature to support our theory. Oh, Literature! That mirror of this our evolving society! Literature, where everything except names and dates are true. And all such glorious certificates of credibility from assorted sources.
Oops! Forgot about my widening readership. Right, so those of you who don’t know what I’m on about:

– noun. lit. elder/older male sibling/cousin. Shortened to ‘da’, personalized by adding at the end of proper noun. E.g. Mithunda.

1. General term of address employed by Bengali men and women for yelling at random men of all ages for poking them with the butt of their umbrellas on a crowded bus.
2. Also, form of address used by young women with oily braids and red ribbons in them for the young masculine objects of their affection who return the compliment by whispering searing dialogues from latest (Mithunda?) Bollywood flicks to said young women in roach-infested cheap movie theatres. In short, if she calls you brother, you can start licking those stray Salmanesque locks into shape. The local heyaar cutting selun (barbershops. Contextual meaning: handy roadside mirrors for quick peek) is third from down left.

– noun. Lit. elder/older female sibling/cousin. Shortened to ‘di’, personalized by adding at the end of proper noun. E.g. Mamatadi.
1. Term employed by bus conductors when asking for tickets of young to middle-aged women. After which they are relegated to ‘maasima’.
2. NOT to be employed if you a fancy a chick. If a hot babe calls you dada and you, unaware of subtle cultural nuances, call her didi, expect a woman scorned. In other words, flee country.

Okay, now that we are clear on this. Let us to be continuing. (Ha ha, always knew it! Microsoft sucks! That last sentence is NOT underlined in green!)

So, offhand, how many ‘dadas’ can you name from popular Bengali lit? okay, okay, Feluda not allowed! And don’t scream so hard!

Hmmm, so…

1. Feluda. Created by Satyajit Ray. The home-grown wildly popular mid-twentieth century Bengali detective, an open admirer of Holmes and attributes loosely based thereon. Sidenote: the otherwise excellent series is noted for it’s almost complete lack of women. And therefore smartly sidesteps the accusations of misogyny.

2. Ghanada – *deep breath* Premendra Mitra. Brilliant satire. Ostensibly of the milder ‘parar dada’ figure every locality was familiar with, the resident storyteller, but also of the society these so-called anecdote-relaters lived within.

3. Tenida – Narayan Gangopadhay. Another extremely popular depiction of the local airhead bigmouth with a heart of gold, humoured and followed by his three younger sidekicks. Hilarious. Chiefly for kids (wait, ‘young adults’), but entertaining read for any age, though the laughs get a little monotonous after a certain age.

4. Brojoda – if you though the satire in Ghanada was obscure, try this. I’ll quote just one example (also quoted in said article).

This was the post-Independence age of fiery denouncement of all things British. Brojoda recounts his antics under the last years of the raj – a British boxer had come to India, claiming the ‘world-best’ type status. India is his last stop, and he wants to assume the title of Sher-e-Hind (the Tiger of India – erudite readers, please do not start a debate over the Hind-India thing). Now, in the bubbling spirit of nationalism (again, above-alluded-to readers, pray desist!), Brojoda thinks this is a national insult, and challenges the poor Brit to a match and defeats him. As victor, he is entitled to a trophy and a kiss from the viceroy/governor’s wife. B’da accepts the trophy, but averts his face from the lady’s lips, proclaiming proudly, “Sorry madam, no can do. That’s foreign goods, we’re good swadeshis.”

And then there are the lesser big brothers. Rijuda, for instance. But they don’t count all that much. Of course, till a while back, the crazy dada-didi labellers that we Bongs are, we had Souravda in the house, but he seems to have left the building for good this time. And that is what got me thinking.

I mean, look, despite being part of this large siblinghood, we actually don’t have too many dadas even in lit, do we? And just one precious Didi guarding the fortress for decades. So clearly, something’s gone wrong somewhere. The traditional centre cannot hold, ‘westernised’ codes of address is set loose upon the Bong.

We try to retain the old habits. I address the white haired guy at the ticket counter at the metro as dada, the designer-Bengaliness of ‘reality shows’ manufactured on the regional small screen oozes dada and didi – everybody says it to everybody else. And of course, the R.D. is Panchamda to those four generations down and from the other end of the country. Still, the insecurity peeps through. Did people swamp insignificant streets and hold up traffic because it was unfair to drop Souravda when he had actually started performing, somewhat? No. Of course not. We fought to preserve our Last Hero. A whiny, whimpering-for-a-while-now hero, but a Hero nonetheless. It was a moment of ethnic crisis, the storming our last bastion of cultural herohood, and we responded the way we do best. Organising a bandh.

I’m deeply hurt at the way the un-naturalised Bongs and the rest of the country ridiculed and condemned our move. Darlings, aren’t we also, after all, members of a larger siblinghood? ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters”, remember? How then could you misunderstand us so gleefully? What happened to our exalted Indian family-values? *sniff*

Oh well. The ‘parar rock’ and in north Calcutta, the external courtyard, which housed the Ghanadas and Tenidas of yore are slowly being swallowed up by widening roads and multi-storeyed buildings, and there is the general insistence that the famous sloth of the Bengalis is a thing of the past (my foot! I am living proof, I am!). So perhaps the Dada/Didi image needs a makeover too. What will the new heroes of the 21st century Bengal need?

1. They will refuse to address/ be addressed by the flutter of their hearts as dadas. Reeks of incest, man. We’re a globalised community in an increasingly rightist country, whatever will people say.

2. They will be able to sophisticatedly swoon over every old Rituporno flick and intelligently trash his every new.

3. They will be able to detect straight away the obscure Hollywood number that ‘inspired’ the latest Bollywood offering and compare Billy Crystal favourably to Saif Ali Khan to make their point.

4. Swoon over aluposto and mishti doi and mispronounce them both with atrocious accents.

5. Admit to the spiritual cleansing sessions with Robindroshongeet and scented candles in between roughing up the kid for falling grades, overwork, dealing with the secret-believer-in-traditional- gender roles husband, bitching the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law out over the phone to fellow sufferers and being the ultimate knowledge base about STD.

So, here’s to the new age culture hero and heroine, to the revamped siblinghood of Bengalis! Bring on the trumpets!

***sheepish addenda: I see the worthy fellow-bloggers haven't been awl that you-know-what after all...

Cross-posted in my own blog, whatever things.


At Friday, December 23, 2005 2:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

height of psuedo - aatlamo

At Friday, December 23, 2005 3:28:00 AM, Blogger Prerona said...

Great post Rimi. As you said template ta kichhu kora hochhe na -last few weeks was a mad mad rush. However - soon dekha hobe - amra theek korbo tokhun template ta ke.

nice post. my favourite is XYZ-Da to refer to seniors at work and mashi and mesho for ur friends parents :)

At Friday, December 23, 2005 9:35:00 PM, Blogger Rimi said...

anon--tumi ki baba eta amar lekha-ke bolle? *smiles indulgently*

prero--thank you, thank you! and yes, definitely dekha hobe!

At Wednesday, December 28, 2005 4:08:00 AM, Blogger Bonatellis said...

wrt the reference to "parar rock", i strongly believe - and this is an original quote :) - that:

"you can take a Bengali out of a parar rock, but you can't take the rockbaaji out of him" ....

At Monday, January 02, 2006 3:53:00 AM, Blogger Pip Squeak said...

maybe feluda was a lecher.... taht's why there are no women... in the 1970's Ray would have been taken to court for sure...... Samit Basu certainly managed to get away with it in his latest book.....

Ghanada was still palatable. tenida was a bigmouth as you said, adn a loser. words cannot justify his tryst with loserhood.....

At Tuesday, January 03, 2006 6:56:00 AM, Blogger panu said...

Spectacularly thought out... you did not miss any major 'Da's... including adden-da... lol

you could have elaborated on the rock-da s... would make an interesting new thing...


The one and only...

P.S. Still guessing, or given up??

At Tuesday, January 03, 2006 11:44:00 PM, Blogger erebus said...

Somebody gifted me with a Tenida omnibus on my poite.... read the shortest story there once... something about tenida taking the piss out of a woman without knowing that her husband had died.... How that qualifies as good reading, or fun or appropriate I will never know. Felt like something they would show on DD bangla when they have 10 minutes to fill between programmes late at night.
Sorry... no offence... but didn't get it...
Feluda is a different matter though... persoanlly liked the "kakababu" books as well

At Sunday, January 08, 2006 1:07:00 PM, Anonymous yourfan2 said...

who wrote brojoda?

At Monday, January 09, 2006 11:03:00 PM, Blogger Ashmi said...

a typical JU student , i believe...i had many of them there and they were and still are so much a pure bengali at heart...its amazing!...i liked this post of yours...its very different and as you say me being a bengali like it more :-)


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