What the hell is wrong with Mamata Banerjee? First she calls for a 48 hour Bandh and then postpones it (at least she has not cancelled it) taking into account the entreaties of her Christian brothers !
Postponing a bandh? What kind of lunacy is that? Don’t people understand that the bandh needed to be on 21st (Thursday), 22nd (Friday) so that with the weekend (23rd and 24th) and Christmas (25th) we would have a really really long weekend ? Why is noone thinking about the people who made advance plans based on the prospect of this “Bandh Break” —who will compensate them for their loss? [Left: Picture (from Times of India) of protesting Trinamool hunks]
The situation can only be salvaged if the strike be postponed to 26th and 27th which in hindsight may be even better because then Kolkatans, in addition to having five uninterrupted days of leisure, will also be able to watch comeback kid Dada bat in South Africa for the Boxing Day Test.
Here’s my point. I just love Bandhs. Maybe because that is because I grew up among them during the high-noon of the great Jyoti Basu empire and the ascent of his arch nemesis Mamata: both of whom sought to win over the hearts of the people by stopping all work.
I recollect fondly those days. The streets would be empty, bereft of the bustle of traffic. With no cars around, the roads would be converted into temporary cricket pitches with us neighbourhood boy playing BBC or Big Bandh Cricket. The smell of home-cooked food would waft through the corridors. Relatives who lived nearby would walk over for some tea and chanachoor. And then there would be the evening news where one party would congratulate the people for “spontaneously supporting the bandh call” (despite the fact that there were some lathi-and-stone-wielding “dada”s standing at road crossings just in case there were slippages in spontaneity ) and the other party would congratulate the people for “rejecting the bandh call”. Spontaneously that is.
And as night fell and we were tucked into bed, we prayed to Mamata-didi and Jyoti-dadu for the next bandh to come as soon as possible.
After all, what’s more fun than pressing the Pause button on work?
Of course even then, there were a handful of people (mostly the daddy/grand-daddy generation) who would go on and on about how bad these bandhs were for the economy of the state, how these bandhs hastened the flight of industrial capital from Bengal and how people who needed urgent medical care were severely inconvenienced but really who cared for sick people and sick states? Not us. As long as we got bat on ball, the world was fine. And shame on WTO and the Congress government while we are at it.
Though while we did not know it then, I can safely say today that it was the Bandh culture that gave Sourav Ganguly vital time away from his student life to practice those sublime off-side shots. As a matter of fact if we had more such strikes and Ganguly was able to devote more time to his cricket, then perhaps he would have been a fielder like Kaif and as severe on the short ball as Gilchrist.
And then once I joined Jadavpur University, I learnt more about the intellectual underpinnings of the Bandh from the true Bandh gurus also known as the Bandhopadhyay-s (Bandh=strike Upadhyay= teacher). They made me understand why a class boycott (co-incidentally just before a class test) would reduce the oppression on farmers in Guatemala and how a half-day strike and petition to the Vice Chancellor on Sourav Ganguly’s unfair exclusion from the team in Toronto would change the parochial policies of the Board.
When I asked them why we needed to stop those willing to attend classes from doing what they wanted to do, they explained to me that there are some inherently “selfish” students who come to college to study only.
Which is a big crime.
How can you be a student and not be affected by the suffering of the multitude, they asked? And how can you express that angst without gheraoing the Vice-Chancellor or doing a sit-in in front of the gates? As a matter of fact, it is the solemn duty of selfless students like us to show these inward-looking geeks the path to revolution and self-sacrifice by stopping them from getting education—-which we all know is the tool of the imperialist.
Though initially I found this a bit tough to understand, the more I contemplated their astute logic while standing in the serpentine queue to see “Disclosure” along with many other protesting, bleeding-heart, selfless “Har-tal Pe Tal Mila” revolutionaries, the more convinced I became.
But that was long ago. After Jadavpur, I came to US. I got fat. I got a PhD. My life changed in oh-so-many ways. But scarcely do my eyes close than memories of those glorious days of supine struggle sweep over me like the water from a clogged cistern: the tranquillity, the one-drop-one-hand catches, the silence and most importantly the warm, fuzzy, exalted feel-good that comes from wasting your time for the benefit of others.
Bandh hain Mataram !