Sometimes when I read Bengali, it brings a smile to my face. After reading English everywhere, and hindi occasionally, surrounded by Gujarati and Marathi and splattering of Tamil and Telegu, Bengali suddenly brings to me the sweetness of the language, and the inherent poeticness of it.
The few times when I talk pure Bengali with my family, some words come up for which I cannot find a substitute in another language. Some others come up that seem archaic in Hindi, yet so commonplace in Bengali. The best part of course, is when I go to read something online in a Bengali newspaper. Sure the English version is what I read, but the reporting style still remains different. A slice of reporting from an era gone by where headlines were important and somehow, lyrical.
As I browsed and happened upon a Bengali site, I took the unusual step and opened it in office. Somehow Bengalis are unable to separate the poets out of them, and that in itself brings out a beauty in the language, something I have not noticed on others. Melodrama is part of the Bengali life, and everything has to be more serious and have higher emphasis than ever. And what better way to convey that than by grandiose language?
So going to a Durga Puja site, the captions are not something as simplistic as ‘Devi ka Visarjan’ or ‘Immersion of the Goddess’, but a phrase: Shoonya se Shoonya: puja ke kolahal mein mila hua hai nishabd, ekaki’. And the beauty of the caption is not just the caption, not the short one-liner, not the ‘antel pana’ as a Bengali would call it, but the normalcy of it all. That this is acceptable normal behavior. To write anything less would be pitiful, an unusual occurrence and of course, a sad lack of communication talent in the people who handle the page.
Is it a wonder then, that so many Bengalis have emerged as authors known for their descriptive proses? Not to me. The Bengali language itself apart from being sweet to hear, is sweetly handled. The directness of English or the technicality of Hindi may be missing from it, but it is a delight to read and hear and I feel bad for those who cannot savour its sweetness.
*antlami (आँत्लामी)/ antel-pana is the over-zealous behavior as witnessed by scholars or teachers or even, say, geeks. But then antels are ‘poets’ of a sort. If you can imagine the behavior of a kurta pajama clad man with a jhola for a bag, and thick glasses and plastered hair, talking lyrically or talking extremely seriously on economics/ world crisis/ politics/ global warming/ etc., you have identified an antel (आँतेल).