A fresh book on the stands draws the attention of its readers to the third largest ethno-linguistic group in the world. “A quarter of a billion strong and growing,” the Bengali community has produced three Nobel laureates, world class scientists and an unending stream of writers and philosophers.
The book titled “The Bengalis” is authored by Sudeep Chakravarti, a former finalist for the Crossword Award in 2009 and winner of the Asian Publishing Awards 2014.
Published by Aleph Book Company, the first look at this title reveals a classic Bengali image on its cover. The cover shows an old house, painted in red, with numerous posters and flags of election campaigns all around, has a young boy playing football. Right from its first glance, the book is all things Bengali and, for the reader, it will come across as a valuable tool in understanding everything about the community.
Wit and elegance are perfectly matched along with research to make this offering a real page-turner. Whereas the author looks at the roots of Bengali racism and discrimination of the Bengali cultural elite, he also does not shy away from counting the many positive aspects, like its rich cultural heritage, in the insightful book.
For author Chakravarti though, growing up as a Bengali was like a series of expectations, a continuous examination of beliefs in the middle of grand histories, grand tragedies and grand expectations.
“Since the age of seven or so, in a relatively privileged home in Kolkata, that eternal citadel of Bengali lore, about a year before a movement for being Bengali birthed an entire country, Bangladesh, I became fully aware of the cardinal truth that a lesser people might call unfettered delusion – there are Bengalis, and there is the world. (A corollary quickly followed – there is Kolkata, and there is the world),” he mentions in the book, aptly cutting a large story short.
Apart from this, Chakravarti also answers some significant questions in the book: Why didn’t anything seem to work in Kolkata? Why were there so many poor in our city, and wherever we went outside the city? Why were cinema halls closed down so often? Why were red flags everywhere?
All in all, the book at hand is one that requires careful attention if you wish to delve deep into the way the Bengali community has been shaped and how it thinks, works and thrives so well even in today’s times. For casual readers too, the book opens many interesting facets and can be finished in about three-four sittings.