My father had been looking forward to living a retired life in Calcutta for years. While my mother had panic attacks at the idea of my father driving her up the wall because he would be jobless, my father imagined sitting at home, reading, meeting friends, wasting time and having his beloved Calcutta’s sluggish chaos and chatter all around him. On May 13, my father announced to my mother that he was ready to sell their Calcutta home and go anywhere she wanted to, preferably in the direction of Goa where he could lie on the beach and get drunk while loudly bemoaning the murder of his beloved West Bengal by that woman. That woman being Mamata Banerjee, known to India as “Didi”, leader of the once-breakaway political party Trinamool Congress and the one who has dislodged the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), from power after 34 years. My father belongs to that set of people who cannot believe that Bengal made such an effort to exercise its democratic muscle — some parts of the state saw up to 92% coming out to vote — only to bring to power a “screaming idiot”. While people prance about on tv, screaming for joy and suggesting Writer’s Building’s brick red façade be painted green (Trinamool’s colour), my father is getting panic attacks at the idea of Bengal being run the way the railway ministry is at present (very badly, by all accounts). It isn’t that my father is wholly supportive of the Left. Despite being a staunch supporter of the Left in ideology, he does admit that in practice, the Left led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has made “a few mistakes and some tactical blunders”, but to surrender the entire state to Banerjee is, to my father, a sign that Bengal has finally lost its mind. Equally tragically, the Left is dead in Bengal. I’m not sure which is the more bitter pill to swallow.
A couple of days ago, he sent me a scan of a funeral invite. Us gluttonous Bengalis being what we are, the end of mourning is marked by a feast-like meal. Presumably as the gathering burps, they wish the departed soul well while the departed soul feels all bonds of attachment snap at the sight of how joyously the near and dear are tucking into food, instead of mourning. This is an invite to such a meal — it’s called shraddha — and the dearly departed is the CPI(M). It was sent to my father by a grown man with a responsible job and what-not, whose email is breakingheart@#^*$.com. I just want to know whether he got this email when the first girl that he offered a sandesh to rejected him or when Trinamool won the elections, but my father refuses to ask him.
I can’t translate everything from the invite (contrary to what my wordy posts may imply, I do have some work to do) but for those who can read Bengali, some of it is quite hilarious. For example, the directions provided to reach the venue of the shraddha:
Take the 1977 DN Left Front Express and get down at Platform no. 34.
Take the 2011 UP Ma-Maati-Manush Express and get down at Lalbari Station.
1977 – the year that the Left came to power in Bengal.
DN – Railway code for “down”.
34 – the number of years CPI(M) ruled in Bengal.
Ma-Maati-Manush – Trinamool Congress’ slogan, which translates to Mother, Land and Man.
Lalbari – Writer’s Building, secretariat building for the government of West Bengal.
The invite tells us that the Left was struck by illness and forced into the intensive care unit in May 2009 (during the general elections). Specialists were brought in but the Left suffered three strokes (losses at three levels of local government) and went into coma. The patient was kept alive with the ventilator. While on the ventilator, the patient tried desperately to stage a recovery (the government lowered the price of rice, worked to improve the condition of minorities and asked for the electorate’s forgiveness for past mistakes) but to no avail. Without making even a peep, at age 34, the Left left Bengal forever.
According to the invite, the shraddha is being financed by American money, partly because of the loans under which the state is reeling and also because some of Bengal labours under the illusion that America (by which I mean the CIA, naturally) paid Mamata Banerjee to weaken the Left stronghold in Bengal (as a doddery old gent in Tollygunge told me, “If they could finance bin Laden, then why not Mamata?”). The food is being supplied by Ma Maati Manush Caterers and the menu is made up of specialties from Left strongholds that voted for Trinamool Congress and I think my favourite is the Nano Ice Cream from Singur, the district where Tata Motors had wanted to set up a factory to make their über cheap car, the Nano. The Left government was quite kicked about the boost it would give to Bengal’s image except controversy followed about how the land had been acquired and soon enough Mamata was there, screaming herself hoarse as she accused the government of swindling the farmers. Then the Naxalites came in and it was soon an utter and unholy mess.
Mamata Banerjee is being sworn in today.
My father is looking for cheap property in Goa.