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I've been reading the rot people have been talking about West Bengal's name change to Paschimbanga and it's time to set the record straight.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2011 22:25 IST
Manas Chakravarty
Manas Chakravarty
Hindustan Times

I've been reading the rot people have been talking about West Bengal's name change to Paschimbanga and it's time to set the record straight. There's no such thing as Paschimbanga. Just as there never was any person called Rabindranath Tagore, nor anyone called Mamata Banerjee and it certainly isn't Manas Chakravarty who's writing this column.

Nope, these names are mere masks we Bongs put on when dealing with non-Bongs. The new name is actually Poshchimbongo, rhyming with Congo. The best way for non-Bongs to pronounce it is to pop a rossogolla into their mouths. The name of the bhodrolok who won the Nobel for literature is Robindronath Thakur, often called simply Robi Thakur. Poshchimbongo's chief minister is Mawmota, while yours truly in real life - and here I'm laying bare my soul - is Manosh Chawkroborty.

The problem is the Bengali language lacks one of the most basic sounds, that of the short 'a'. So words like 'curd', 'murder', 'hurt' are impossible to pronounce.

Curd becomes 'card' and Ashok becomes Awshok. If we want to say, 'He's a man', we say 'He's ay man'. The hip-hop phrase, 'He's da man' for a real cool guy was undoubtedly coined by a Bong. We also lack the letters 'v', 'w' and 'y', often say 'sh' instead of 's', while getting our tongues around 'z' is an ordeal. The results have spawned many Bong jokes, my favourite being: 'What do you call a Bengali wedding? A bedding'. In fact, we changed the name West Bengal simply because we couldn't pronounce West, instead calling it Oashte Bengal. These limitations have shaped Bong temperament, our culture and our entire outlook on life.

For example, the reason why the political right hasn't done well in Poshchimbongo is because we have enormous trouble pronouncing the Sangh parivar. It's tortured out of recognition to become the Shongho poribar. Just think what happens to swayamsevak with the 's' becoming 'sh', the 'w' non-existent, the 'a' becoming an 'o' and the 'v' transformed into a 'b'. Who in his right mind would ever listen to a shoiongshebok? I remember Mamata rushing to Atal Bihari Vajpayee on one occasion, shouting "Awtol-jee", "Awtol-jee", while Vajpayee looked hither and thither trying to find out who on earth "Awtol" was.

Our history too has been shaped by language. While we had no problems with Gandhi, both Mohandas and Karamchand were a challenge. Jawaharlal was a real tongue-twister, becoming Jawoahawrlal, and Bengal turned to communism in despair. Another reason why Bengal is different from the national mainstream is our inability to sing 'Jana Gana Mana'- we sing 'Jawno Gawno Mawno' instead. But Sonia and Rahul are fine, although Manmohan is dicey.

We all know the Bong who works is a work of fiction. You see, 'work' becomes 'oaark' in Bong. Obviously 'oaark' is not the same thing as 'work'. But we are certainly not lazy, only lajee.

Bengali does, however, have one thing in common with English - inanimate objects have no gender. So a Bong has no idea whether a bus is male or female and consequently hasn't a clue whether, in Hindi, 'bus chal raha hai' or 'chal rahi hai'. The upshot is that while we may mangle the English language, when it comes to Hindi we hack it into little pieces and fry it in boiling oil. That is why one of my dreams is to hear Pronob-da make the Budget speech in Hindi.

And phor all those non-Bongs who oaant to make phaan of aas, I oarn them: Beoare, oaat Poshchimbongo shays today, India uill shay tomorrow.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Sep 03, 2011 22:22 IST