Bengal renaissance with Didi’s rhymes

Disruption is always fun. But what is funner – and a whole lot funnier – is when you upend a whole enterprise that leaves worthies in shock and ghastily aghast. The Paschimbanga Bangla Academy a.k.a. Bangla Academy, the official regulatory body of the Bengali language in West Bengal, gives out the Rabindra Puraskar, the highest literary award in the state, every year. This time, it also awarded a new eponymous prize that will be given out every three years to persons showing a ‘relentless literary pursuit’ while working in professions other than literature. This year’s award went to Mamata Banerjee for her 2020 ‘Kabita Bithan’ (Poetry Collection). Every poet in West Bengal (read: every Bengali) barring Banerjee fans are raging in rhyme.

Banerjee, in her own words, has the knack of ‘suddenly briefing anyone while on a treadmill’ poetic lines. Two past winners of other Bangla Academy awards have returned their prizes in protest. Apparently, Didi’s verse-tile doodles – reminiscent in some quarters of James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness writing style in Finnegan’s Wake – is demeaning for them and Bengali literature. Well, that’s culture for you. One Bengali’s lit is another’s misfit. But could this be the beginning of the end of the Bengali’s self-appointed supremacy as India’s cultural didi and dada? Remember, the lady also paints.

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