With the displacement of one's familiar cultural space, the yearning to assure ourselves of some certain linguistic heritage is perhaps more strongly felt. This is probably a common cultural experience of most displaced individuals, who would have been otherwise culturally complacent, had they been home. We seem to soak in this bittersweet pleasure of reminiscence, of things we would have otherwise taken for granted, like the bliss of digging into steaming khichuri-telebhaja, or leafing through the latest Hada Bhoda, or tea served in bhaars, or the earthy smell of the first rains lashing the Kolkata concrete.

Dislocation of this sort, frequently results in finding the occasional refuge in a Ghatak film, or a recent issue of Desh. However, the supposed search for ones' roots, the yearning to retain our identities, more often than not, fail to progress beyond this point. Oddly enough, during a visit to my ancestral home in Bangladesh, it was at Dhaka that, perhaps, for the first time, it became clear that our Eastern brethren are, perhaps, more firmly rooted to the Bengali self, much more than we Kolkatans like to believe we are. There is an immense sense of pride which characterises the average Bengali from the east of the barbed wire fence-something which, I somehow felt, we grossly lack. Kolkata, of course has been the proverbial melting pot for generations of visitors who have called it home. Without sounding overtly xenophobic, its probably best to say that the two Bengals grew in different patterns after the partition, gradually coming to embrace modernities, each assimilating changes in its own way.

In time, it seems that the Bengali speaking intellectuals of West Bengal have somehow, become too full of themselves to allow for any real scope for cultivation of the Bengali self. In Kolkata (and the trend spreads fast to the suburbs, too) the average English medium educated youngster is trained to think in English, while Bangla remains a dreaded shadow, a 'second language'. No longer do we think that speaking in Bangla is 'cool', and that the kid with the roughly accented English is a bumpkin of sorts, at best. In a scene like this, one needs to really take a hard look at what goes wrong in the rat race for shipshape executives/MBA/IIT/IAS officers, especially for kids growing up in Bengal. One needs to wrench out the language from the compulsory second language textbook, or the odd oration/song and dance routine during the annual Durga Pujo. In short, it seems that given the present scenario in West Bengal, the language is in desperate need of an image makeover of sorts- a notion that the average greying intellectual, perpetually haunting the Nandan premises, would have strong objections to.

There is today, in West Bengal, a growing disparity between the self-satisfied watery intellectual elite and the state education policy, which is nothing short of torture. In our vanity to retain the supposed purity of Bangla, we risk creating automatons who would never be able to embrace the language with the kind of ease one might slip into English. In their attempts to tame an obsolete syllabus replete with an archaic form of the language, these children never manage to have fun while learning Bangla. But then again, Bangla is only the 'second' language- another paper to be tackled through sample papers, ready-made notes and tutions. The idea of the cultural honchos in West Bengali being the sole heir to the linguistic and cultural heritage of 'Bengal' is a veritable bubble that desperately needs to be imploded.

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