Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Last Communist of Bengal

By: Pritam Bhattacharya

As political communism seems to bid farewell in Bengal after thirty odd years, the batting has little to say except the tenacity of being at the crease for such a long time and it spurs me to write this post, a complementary to The Last Imperialist of Bengal. If political communism’s comeback in other climes and times are an indicator, Bengal might be bidding farewell to Communism and comeback may be very very far away, for good for for worse.

Who was/is the last Communist of Bengal ?

I think the answer is this, paraphrasing Nietzsche : The Last Christian died on the Cross.

The Last Communist of Bengal is a poet and writer who was out and out a Bengali and aristocrat (I mean this in the Burkian sense – through a habit of mind and not in the sense of অভিজাত as understood by semi and para-literate media hordes of Contemporary Bengal) and I would say : Mr. Asoke Mitra.

Why ?

1. He has been one of the rarest men of Bengal who sensed and articulated the loss of Civilization and High Mental Life in Bengal – echoing his own Bengali essay Calcutta 1969. He had an excellent, self-forged and elegant prose style in Bengali (I read almost none of his works in English – I admit). I think two hundred years hence and with the hope that in this period, Bengal will not be completely savage as far as mental life is concerned, a future historian would have sufficient distance and the freedom of judgement, cleansed of all contemporary incentives or disincentives, very few of the communist era will even merit mention. Mr. Mitra, I judge will be remembered.

2. He carried, cultured and respected the vanishing traces of Bengal’s Rennessaiance although not tempted not too infrequently and occassionally succumbing to the fashionable hubris of his time. We can readily pardon him for that because time itself was like this.

3. He is the only, yes only individual who has something else to say to those people who have little interest as how many processions, gherao, lock-out happened where and by whom and how many people beated, collared and hollared this and that. He has a long literary work documenting the decades of fifty and beyond.

4. He has been a lover of Calcutta where he came very young and the remnants of high mental life (his essay on Buddhadeb Basu should have been taught to party workers/cadres and leaders more as a primer to teach the art of as how to disagree yet to show respect where it is due) attracted him. He has described this elegantly and in parts, poetically. Here in last thirty years of political communism, he has no comrade near him. He shines in a singular aristocracy.

And now, I am going to discover a connection between the Last Imperialist of Bengal and her Last Communist – a connection which tells me something very deep about Bengal’s historical duty to Civilization.

Nirad C , the last Imperialist of Bengal declares from Oxford, in 1990s, Calcutta in the writhing agony of a Cadre State (a form of state where citizen = cadre) – ‘In matter of High Culture, there is no other community in India who can even match, let overtake Bengalis. In the last days of my Life, I find no hesitation in telling this.

Asoke Mitra, the last Communist of Bengal, in protest against imposition of Hindi as a national language and reflecting on Bangladesh’s autonomy on the language which is our common heirloom.

The Last Imperialist and Last Communist of Bengal joins in a common plane and I would like to call this plane a community’s siganture tone, its most encrypted code, its inner drive : Cultural Destiny of Bengal is different from her political destiny.

As an era bids adieu in Bengal, I remain in great anxiety in grappling with this Destiny.

This blog has been contributed by Priram Bhattacharya. He runs his translation and communications company Wordsmith Communication and is a regular blogger anfd writes on his blog Wordsmith of Bengal.


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