Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Bong

There are two kinds of Bengalis that we know. Probashi or Expatriate Bangalees, a fairly large and diverse group and Bengalees who are from Kolkata. This group is incorrectly known as Bongs, as they are merely a subset. However, this is the only group which matters.

Gokhale said of them, long years ago, "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow." To which Rene Descartes responded, "I think (today), therefore I am (Bengali)." Like all other Nobel Prize Winners, Oscar Awardees and most successful Indian cricket captains, Rene Descartes was also a Bong (this fact is not known outside of Kolkata).

Physical Description:
The Bong has a large head, glasses, glistening hair and dark skin. Older Bongs develop an ample stomach to balance their large heads. This happens by the age of 25. They smell of Keo Karpin. The average life expectancy is 65 years. What is even more impressive is what they do in those years. Outside Kolkata, regardless of weather, sex or age, Bongs can be seen in their Monkey Caps. This is a must-have accessory as well as a sign to recognise other Bongs.

Early Years:
While most Bongs are born with innate talents in singing, dancing, painting, film-making, cooking or embroidery, their creative talents are honed even before they can start speaking. Frequent meets are organised between infants and their successful ancestors and other relatives. MA degrees (preferably from Cambridge, or at least from Presidency or Jadobpoor) are displayed over the cots. The infant is exposed to the best of Bengali thought - Marx, Bentham, Kalidash, Tolstoy, Chekov.
This increases the size of their heads and the height of their ambitions. Similar examples, though rare, can be found in European tradition as well, as in the case of Mozart.

In India, however, Bongs have the sole preserve on such activity during infancy. Soon, when they grow up a little, their characters are further honed in the best of schools. Here, I am not referring to the St. Xavier's, La Marts, Don Bosco's et al. They are important in the nurture a Bong child goes through. What is even more important are the schools the Bong child passes through before school and after school.

Many a Bong child wakes up at five o'clock in the morning to attend swimming classes. After one hour of swimming, he attends tennis coaching before rushing off to one of the first heaven schools mentioned above. School finishes by three or so, from where, he scoots along to Singing/ Instrumental Music/ Dance Classes, followed by tuition (in at least three of all five subjects). He rounds off the day with coaching on either Debating or Quizzing.

Many a Bong mom, after the mandatory afternoon nap, will carry the child along through this day, feeling equally energised with uncommon zeal. This behaviour is again not restricted to Bongs. It is also seen within kangaroos in Australia, who rush along from one clump to another bush.

Growing up:
Soon the Bong attains adolescence, doesn't find friends of his age (since everyone is competing for the Nobel Prize or the Indian captaincy) and finds intimacy in conversation in his/her parents or the poems of T.S. Eliot and Pablo Neruda. When school ends, they move on to the good colleges - St. Xavier's, Presidency or IIT Kharagpur. The best of them, though, move straight to Joo (Jadobpoor). However, in recent years, Dilli (Stephen's obviously), is becoming the preferred destination for some escapists.

In colleges, they decorate their rooms with books or portraits of Robi Thakur (Tagore). On the opposite wall, they will have posters of Che/Maradona and Enrique Iglesias, thus expressing solidarity with Latin American culture. All of them share equal interest in the Bong-Rock (Bhumi, Chondrobindu, Cactus,Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple).

Later Years:
Bongs mature early. Critics have said that they grow old early, but that is nothing but old hat. Years of toil and Eliot would obviously bestow wisdom. The reason they look older is because the sole purpose of a Bong's life is to win the Nobel Prize or the Oscars (and in recent years, captain the Indian team). With great responsibility comes great age.

Add to it, the chlorine in the swimming pools and you know why Bongs grey prematurely. As far as their mission in life is concerned, they have been very successful at it. Every Indian Nobel Prize winner has been Bong. So have the Oscar Awardees. And most succesful Cricket Captain.
And Bipasha Basu.

Once Bongs have kids though, their mission on life changes. The only raision d'etre for them is making sure that their progeny achieves the heights that they could (orcouldn't). Hence, parent Bongs are mostly found outside of schools, colleges and tuition classes.

Diet is as important as Robindro Shongeet. There's nothing that a Bong can't eat. However, they prefer protein over other food groups. The largest source of protein for them is fish, then meat, and then mishti (sweets) made from milk. More than fish itself, it is the knowledge of fish which is coveted and enjoyed. Carbohydrates are tolerated if they are deep-fried in oil or if it is an accompaniment to fish.

Luchis (somewhat like a Puri), Telebhajas (pakoras) and Phuchkas (Paani Puri) are the favoured source of carbohydrates. The young Bengali though, invariably, always lives on a diet of Farex, Lactogen and Waterbury's Compound followed by Horlicks in later years.

Mating and procreation:
A few Bong end up being in relationships, which lead to love marriage.
This is sometimes shown in movies and song. However, most do not have any such social malignancy and end up marrying the woman of their mother's dreams or men of their father's choosing. This results in mixing the right genes for the next cycle of Bongs. Love marriage, by its very nature, is random. It sometimes results is tragedy, like marrying into another country (like India).Hence, it is avoided, wherever possible.

Social Life:
Adda, Robindro Shongeet and Cha. Repeat. Do note that the young Bong doesn't have a social life (at least not till he wins the Nobel or gets a Government job).

While you may find a Bong in other places (like occasionally in offices), the best time to observe a Bong is in his natural habitat -the best of colleges, the best of schools, the best of coffee houses. It is here that he will tell you about Balzac while she will recite poetry with gay abandon.

To mix in with the Bong, apply Keo Karpin to your hair and carry a jhola.
Hopefully, they won't notice your small head. Do not worry about not knowing the language, as the Bong likes being heard.

Famous Bongs:
Many famous Bongs have been referred to in this extract. Hence, this section is used to debunk that big myth about Bongs. People believe that Bong men can't be hunky. If so, then what about Abhishek Bachchan (via mother,) Saif Ali Khan (via mother), John Abraham (via girlfriend), Hritik Roshan (via grandmother). Which only goes to prove that Bongs are good guys, despite their love of cracking jokes about every other community but completely lacking the ability to laugh at themselves!