This stereotype is a painful one. While Bengalis & Marwaris have been here in Bengal for longer than the city of Calcutta itself, both at times fail to appreciate each other. We thought of debunking this age old stereotype via a dozen reasons why Marwaris are an integral part of Bengal.
1. Industrious Entrepreneurs
Native Bongs, though immensely cultured and well-educated considered business trading below their intellectual capability and were (and still are…) more inclined rather towards Arts, Literature and being Bhodrolok. Marwaris, a whole more industrious lot, who could happily travel to distant lands to try their fortune, saw the lucrative port as an excellent opportunity for trade and commerce!! Kolkata being a transit for commodities like Jute, Cotton, Textile, Sugar, Tea, Food Crops, Gold, Spices etc. saw the rise of Marwaris. It became to them what Bombay was to Gujaratis and Parsis……….the rise and rise of entrepreneurship.
Marwaris have for long featured prominently in the Bengali movie Industry. From backing the talented but cash strapped Satyajit Ray to producing hundreds of Bengali movies in the recent times, Marwari producers like R D Banshal & Shrikant Mohta are in essence the main reason why some iconic Bengali films saw the light of day. And who can forget Maganlal Meghraj – the arch enemy of Feluda!
3. Shared History
Marwaris are no recent immigrants, their presence in Bengal date back to the days of Murshidabad, Jagat Seth, British Raj and the Nawabs. They have played important roles in the history of Bengal.
Marwaris are no money-making, mean & shrewd people either. They have a strong sense of family and maintain ties for generations, with traditional values rigorously preserved. They might have their own festivals and rituals, but shall never smirk at yours. Some are in fact common for e.g. Saraswati Puja. This brings them closer to Bongs who are known to celebrate 13 pujas/festivals in 12 months, and shall be more than happy to attend in full force the dandiya nights!
5. Food (How could food not have a mention in Bongland)
Marwaris love their food too and its rich – their dal is cooked with ghee, the masalas in the dal are fried in ghee and more ghee is mixed into the dal before serving. The sizzling pao bhaji is probably an indulgence that none can ignore. While Bongs love their fish and Marwaris love their Dal-Baati-Churma, both after all love Jhalmuri and Chanachur!!
6. Provider and the Consumer
Come Durga Puja or Poila Boishakh and Bongs got to shop! Imagine Kolkata without Vardaan market or AC market.
7. The perfect blend
If Bongs stand for ‘traditional’, Marwaris induce the ‘contemporary’ element in just the right proportions! One can go pandal-hopping in his “goroder punjabi“, but you got to pull out that corduroy jacket to hit the dance floor, right?
Globalisation has taken over and brought the two communities together seamlessly, not existing in separate pockets anymore. It’s no MB Girls vs Patha Bhawan or Burrabazar vs Ballygunge anymore, both study in Hariyana Vidya Mandir and reside side-by side in Salt Lake!!
9. Relics from the past.
Some of the artifacts and architectural designs that symbolize the essence of palatial Kolkata are in fact preserved more in predominantly Marwari populated areas than in others. Jorashanko Thakurbari, Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral home is smack in the middle of Burrabazar! Take a walk down M. G. Road & Burrabazar and look up at the balustrades & pillars, the wide open balconies & intricately carved window dressings to see what we mean
The respective traditional forts. though still mostly held, seem to be weakening, but only for the good. With IT & other industries emerging in India, Bong guns venturing in business set-ups, and Marwari youngsters shedding the Munimji-ki-gaddi image and steering towards more corporate culture (by the way, I always wonder whether Agarwals have lately bought some quota in IIT/IIM), the stereotypes are fast disappearing!!
It’s not just the number of years that they’ve been in Bengal, Marwaris have in true sense embraced Kolkata as their homeland and have contributed to the society. They’ve been actively involved in charity and built schools, hospitals, temples and added to the charm of the city that embraces one & all!
12. Stronghold for heavy weights
Kolkata, as of the 21st century, is now the base for big business empires like Birlas, Goenkas, Poddars, Agarwals just to name a few. No Kolkattan ever shirks from boasting about Lakshmi Mittal being a homebred son of Kolkata. No one who ever heard Russi Mody speak and saw him taking a walk in Alipore will forget the man!
Did we miss some of the points why Marwaris love Kolkata & why Kolkata loves them? Let us know!
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