Once upon a time, she was the glory of the crown. The majestic jewel, the lovingly spoilt one. As the days went by, tales of her valor and glory traveled far and wide, wayfarers from the distant lands sang her praises, a curious yet brave bunch amongst them reared a dream, and armed with ambitions, they crossed the 7 oceans and 13 rivers to catch a glimpse of the undeterred beauty. And then, it happened.
The land of Bengal which took great pride in her riches and fortunes gave in to a momentary lapse. A lapse of judgment induced by an exalted sense of superiority with immense faith in destiny, which apparently claimed that she was destined to rule Hindustan forever, and ages after forever. The Great Battle of Plassey proved them wrong, as Mir Jafar turned against his brother in faith, to give away Nawab Sirajuddaulah of Bengal, while Dewan Mohanlal fought swearing by the Khatriyapurana, doing his dharma of protecting his Ruler before the British army.
Bengal is the land of Goddess Durga, it is the land of many pirs and imams who pray five times a day facing the Mecca. This is their holy place, as faith resides deep in their hearts hand in hand with love and devotion to our golden land. It is often said, in the Gita and Quran alike, that God only inflicts so much suffering as what one can bear. And this land has borne, more than others. It has cried tears of humiliation at Plassey, the sons of Durga and the followers of Mohammed alike, suffered centuries of imposed servitude as the British ruled the country headquartered in this state, The Brahmins and the Maulavis standing by each other, starved by the great famines – watching mothers in their black burqas and their red and white sarees beat their chests in sorrow, in unison. When history and nature couldn’t break her spirit, policy tried its hand. The bloodsoaked partition of the state, on the nonexistent lines of religion. And behold! That worked. It created the country of Bangladesh. But it failed to divide the hearts of the dwellers of this land, who were Bengalis by birth, by the soul.
We Bengalis, are different from the rest of the country. We are ruled by our emotions and united by our love for art and culture. We Bengalis, are the most righteous of them all. We ask them questions. We stood firmly behind Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, and Surendranath Roy when they questioned Sati and a ban on widow remarriage when the Vedas were made to play the devil. We lent our ears to Kazi Nazrul Islam, when he revolted against the social ills, christening him the “bidrohi kobi” (the revolutionary poet). We were there when Binay, Badal, Dinesh challenged the British Crown for trying to divide us. We were there when Master Da Surya Sen inspired a generation of teenagers to challenge the powers and break down the Chittagong armory. The Crown divided our land, but they failed to fragment the pieces of our souls.
We are all who listened to the great poet, Tagore. He was taught by his motherland to believe in a soul which stood without traces of fear, he called upon his brothers and sisters to march alone, if no one came along. And we heard. And we believed. And we lived by it.
From housing the glorious erstwhile capital of British India to being called a city which lives in an era behind the country, we saw it all. Today in the year 2017, when the nation faces grave crises in the name of religious divisions, once again Bengal stands at the crossroads of witnessing history. The modern cynic says we won’t escape. The cow politics and the skull cap fanaticism will finally tear us apart. And yet the old and wise, smile. We’ve withstood the Conspiracies of the most dreaded colonizers of the world, the sons and daughters of Bengal have refused to cower under the terror of the known devils and the unknown ones. Distortions of democracy can never shake our roots.
Yes, the old and the wise smile. They smile with the memories of yesteryears on their eyelids, the sound of the counch of an evening puja reverberates on the tall white walls of the old building, slowly diffusing into the call of azaan of the neighborhood mosque. Cause Bengal is not just a State. It is a feeling.
About the Author:
Esha Meher is a post graduate student of the London School of Economics and Political Science. She nurtures a keen interest in feminism and human fights and can be found painting or reading when not engaged in matters of the day.