Before, I start; let me tell you who are Probashi or Pravasi Bengalis? They are the ones whose roots are from Kolkata or places in West Bengal but for various reasons, they relocate to other parts of the country or globe. This gives an emergence to intermingling of cultures.
Born in a Bong family in Delhi/NCR, I was raised amidst Baniyas (a north Indian community known for minting money), Punjabis and a gamut of other communities (mallus to be precise). The growing up years were beautiful and very much camouflaged. By camouflage, I mean, my culture easily got under wraps of other communities. I would say ‘auntyji namaste’ and join Kirtans with mother. I would speak Bangla at home, English at school (courtesy – convent education) and Hindi with friends in Kaloni (read colony). Somewhere in the middle, my mother tongue got religiously butchered. I would mix and match things and give birth to things like, “Ma aami thoke gechi.” (Mother, I am tired – actually, it should be – Ma, aami klanto hoye gechi). But, I must confess, my Non Bong friends have been the most loving people to have come to my life.
My blossoming years involved ardently attending a gamut of North Indian weddings and savor Baraat, loud DJ and an animated kin. I still attend them and I am often found peeping at someone else’s plate in the food section and seen sighing, “Oh! Where was the Manchurian?” Or some other dish. I trip through the lanes of food section in a wedding. On one hand, I am balancing my platter and on the other, managing the saree so that the attention remains intact.
The women especially are in a marathon to spearhead and treat it as a gateway to Bollywood. Over the years, Bong weddings have gone the North way. Women do not prefer the traditional Benarasi sari anymore but rather a tube light integrated saree along with Chura (bangles worn by Punjabi brides and newly married women). Bong nuptial knots mostly go to oblivion and gets in unison with North. So, you are nowhere a complete bong nor do you pay full justice to the North Indians. You are a Khichudi.
While my partial life has gone is explaining the peculiar sound we make during our weddings, the rest has gone in teaching people how to pronounce my name correct. Just the other day, while voting during MLC elections, I realized my name was written as Bibishri. This wasn’t the first time, I came across this. Since birth, I wonder the number of versions I have seen. So, here are some of the diverse versions of my name – Debashri:
My noble friend Shuborno became Shaparna, Shuporna and almost a female to the election commission. These days, he is proving himself with a ‘moustached’ picture of himself (because his robust built up also doesn’t do enough).
While, we bongs are busy gelling with other communities, we never skip Durga Puja. You see, it is mandatory. No matter, the gen X is aloof of Tagore but is seen dancing at top Hindi numbers. An unusual merge of language is seen where I saw a kid speaking to his mother, “Mummy, dekho to amar tika ta feliye geche.” (Mother, see if the mark on forehead got scattered.)
Though, there are always exceptional people. With a major flow of Bongs flying from Bengal to other cities, at many places, roots are still respected and followed. A large number of Durga Pujas are taking place in different parts of Delhi/NCR so it is giving birth to Durga samitees, committees and more. Lot of cultural activities take place such as dance dramatics, Rabindra sangeet and a chunk of Bengali festivals. Wherever Bongs go, they leave their mark, they leave their essence of intellect, wit, and talents. Somehow, we remarkably amalgamate ourselves with diverse cultures across the world and tie knots of unity.