Sunday, October 25, 2009


The Bengali penchant for repartee is almost like an affliction. If there is a situational joke to be cracked, the true Bong can NOT resist it. Usually sarcastic, never unfunny and more often than not involving interesting word play and puns, some samples are available here. And here.

Yesterday, I was reminded of some more of these.

In mid-90s Calcutta, there existed a revivalist organisation called Amra Bangali. When I say 'existed', I mean it in a purely circumstantial sense because there was no physical manifestation of this group - except posters and grafitti. They DID nothing to revive Bengali pride except write slogans on walls, exhorting fellow Bongs to do the needful.
Their most common slogan was - "Bangali, Jago!" and this was found across the city in all the wall-space that was not taken up by CPI(M) and Congress. However, laid-back Bengalis took this metaphysical awakening in a literal sense (or pretended to!) and very soon, a repartee was seen scrawled under the original message.
Under "Bangali, Jago", it was written - "Jegechhi, ebar cha dao." ("I am awake. Now get me some tea.")

In a story recounted by Satyajit Ray, he mentions actor Kamu Mukherjee. Kamu was a regular in Ray's cast & crew and a great wit.
In one of the scripting sessions at Ray's Calcutta residence, his wife (Bijoya Ray) served tea and biscuits. The biscuits were a little soggy. Kamu took a bite and asked innocently, "Boudi, biscuitey ki silencer lagiyechho?"

But why was I reminded of them yesterday?

I was alone at home, with my son. We were about to leave and I was getting ready. My son was sitting on the bed and picked up one of my books.
I said, "Why are you holding my book? This is my book. You can't hold it."
My son obediently put it down.
When we left the lift, I instictively held his hand.
He looked at me with a smile and said, "Baba, why you holding my hand? This is my hand. You can't hold it."

You can take a boy out of Calcutta.

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