Every community around the world has their own quirks and oddities. And humor aimed at those specific idiosyncrasies can be hilarious. We Indians revel in this same kind of light hearted banter about the myriad communities that decorate our country and we simply love exaggerating those stereotypes and then extracting belly laughs. But then there is the ever argumentative Bengali. We Bongs are a jolly lot. But the following are a few stereotypes we would seriously like to clear up once and for all –
- FISH (TUMHI MACHCHI KHABE?!!?!?) – First of all MACHCHI is not the same as MAACH (Rhymes with Kutch), it is the Bong word for a housefly or Tamil for SAALA. Yes, being a region blessed with bountiful rivers and the Bay of Bengal, we love our marine and riverine delicacies. We would rather stay away from all kinds of meat and survive only on a fish diet. But of course, this is the general norm – NOT AN ABSOLUTE. Some of us abhor fishes and the smell. Some have had too much of it and now want to be weaned off of it. But then again we generally do not complain much about this stereotype – it’s kinda true!
- BONG = = ROSH-O-GOLLA – Alas!!! Rosho-o-golla (Rosh – sugar syrup + O – Bong for And + Golla – orb = ROSHOGOLLA) – a stereotype forever assigned to the glorious Bongs. There was this joke once in Readers Digest about a Bengali Bhodrolok in Simla who met his Punjabi neighbor while she was coming back from the market. And this is what she said – “Beta, I had this nagging feeling that I forgot buying something. But now that I saw you, I know what it was… ROSHOGOLLAAAAAA…. Such is the memory evoked by a Bong face. Interestingly, this spongy, sweet, drippy sweet is not even a Bong creation. It was an import from Orissa and their super cool cooks! Anyone who has ever gone buying sweets in a Calcutta store will know that the roshogolla is but the most commonplace sweet to buy – when in hurry, when you don’t care what you serve or when you are just trying to pass off any kind of ball of sweet. The rest of the shelves are piled high with displays of sheer genius from the Bong sweet maker – Mango-Malai, Chocolate Sondesh, Ghoti-Sondesh etc. and the classics – gurer (jagery) mishti, Rajbhog, Monda, Mihidana etc. So stop roshogolla-fying us Bongs and get your bums to Calcutta to experience the entire gamut of mithais on offer!
- INTELLECTUALS & BORES (ahem ahem!) – Yeah yeah… We know the WHAT BENGAL THINKS TODAY etc etc quote. Yes, we are proud of our higher cranial content and intellectual labels. But then why does this have to mean that we don’t know how to let our hair down or do 10 Jagerbombs in a row or dance like a maniac? We are that concoction of brains and bawali who can sit for hours over a pot of tea or whiskey and wax eloquent about the merits of Freudism and then get up, dress up and rock the hell out of a party! We generally handle it all pretty well!
- SMOKERS & DOPERS & BOOZERS – We are tired of the entire country just parroting these statistics of number of smokers and boxes of whiskey sold in Calcutta and equating all Bongs to either chimneys or downright drunkards. Yeah a lot of us smoke, but that’s par for most major cities of the world. Yeah we Bongs have been enjoying our tipple for the last few generations and the rest of the country isn’t that far left behind either. And the weed, you say? Well, one’s who hasn’t done it, won’t know it… But seriously, just cause someone’s a Bong doesn’t mean they will have a literal bong plastered to their faces all day long or be puffing away while people around her/him (yes, our girls smoke too, you got a problem??) are choking up. Most of us prefer going the non-smoking way these days. And the drink, well we are seldom the one’s wreaking havoc after a few pints, we can hold our liquor can’t we?
- BIG BINDI & KOHL LINED EYES – No dude, she doesn’t need to wear that bindi and kohl just cause she’s a Bong! Our ladies, oh our ladies! They have lovely doe eyes and sprightly faces! But not all of them are diehard fans of kohl lined eyes nor do they buy tons of big-ass bindis every month. It’s a matter of individual taste you see!
- BONG GIRLS – URIBABAAAAA – Hell YEAH! They are opinionated, vociferous in their arguments, not easily cajoled, rarely impressed by your Merc or Rolex and basically independent souls. This stereotype is one that we Bongs seldom are not proud of! Every time a Bong girl is eyed outside Bengal, the initial reaction is generally this – “Bhai, she’s gonna be difficult and TERI KOI NA BAAT MANNE WALI…”. That’s right sir, no bullshit here! The Bong lady is a thing of strength and wonder – her society has for the last 200 years been helping her stand strong on her own two feet, valued her opinion and treated her like the source of power she is (JOY MA TARAAAA!). But she is undoubtedly one of the most passionate, feminine, and reflective versions of the Indian female you will come across. So treat her with respect, debate and discuss stuff with her, regale her with your originality and then maybe she will show you what it is to be held in the warm glow of a Bong woman’s friendship and love!
- MA KALI & KALIGHAT – JOY MA TARA, MA BROMHO-MOYEE! Well she is our goddess of strength. But she is not just ours. She is one of the roops of the all-encompassing SHAKTI. A friend of VAISHNODEVI, a mirror image of MA LAXMI and a sister of PARVATI (as narrated by BABA AMISH!). But please stop equating KOLKATA with a trip to KALIGHAT! Sure, go down to the temple once if you are religiously inclined but do remember that it’s not the only place of worshipping MA TARA (TARA = Bengali and Hindi for STAR, talk about our star goddess!). Go and enjoy the peace at Belur Math, feel the smooth stones and the fervor of prayers at Dakshineshwar. Then you will feel the power of MA KALI coursing through your veins! JOY MA!
- BENGALI-FICATION OF WORDS – No, hell no, not one more! We DO NOT pronounce those words with Os or rounded vowels or liberal doses of spit flying through. We are really good with most Indian languages. We are proud of our diction. And please refrain from trying to talk in Bengali if you can’t put in the minimum effort of learning the lovely language and basic grammar and the correct diction. We are like the French in this aspect – don’t fool around with our language if you ain’t got the love for it. And one more effort of yours at poking fun at the way we speak will find our foot up your…
- THE BABU CULTURE, BONGS = LAZY – No Sir. We are and have always been a pretty hard working lot. We respect the labor and hard toil that goes into the making of a man. But yes, we do love our siestas & our breaks. But please go ahead and live that life before complaining about how all Bongs are lazy shirkers. We realize that all work and no play and rest seldom results in top quality output. Give us our fair share of respites and we will stun you with what we achieve when at work!
- BENGALI == SPENDTHRIFT & CHEAPOS – Now, we know where this comes from. After all our city is almost always at the top of the list of the cheapest metros to stay in. The reason for the near Spartan Bong habits when it comes to money and showing off its glimmer is this simple adage that our city lives by – LOW LIVING, HIGH THINKING. We abhor blatant displays of wealth, but know when to appreciate good taste; we despise those who expect us to worship them by dint of their pocket strength, but never forget sharing our own load when someone needs it; we like our classics and take time to jump on the bandwagon of “ABHI TO YEHI STYLE ME HAI BHAI!”. Basically, we are not cheap, nor is Ebenezer Scrooge of Christmas Carol our idol – we just don’t splurge for the sake of showing off, we do it when we find worth and value!
- DURGA PUJA – Any Bong, all Bongs, and every Bong across the globe feels that tug in autumn to go back to the lap of their mother goddess. And the next time you ask WHAT’S THE BIG HOOPLA ABOUT BEING IN THE CITY DURING THE DURGA PUJA? IS THAT YOUR DIWALI – you Madame/sir are going to be presented with sleeper class (air tickets if the Bong facing you is either super rich or extremely pissed off!) tickets on a train to Calcutta in October. Would anyone let go off of the opportunity to participate in a 5 day long, mammoth sized street festival in their own city that is filled with artistry, colors, food, fun, friends and a little romance on the side? NEVER!
Did we miss a Bengali stereotype you are pissed with? Let us know!
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