I have this f(r)iend who's been chewing my brain for the past 6 months on how people from her native state rule India's socio-cultural conciousness. She's from Bengal & they're a people who're traditionally proud of their heritage. But this particular fiend's pride tends towards conceit, tends to get argumentative & tends to talk more than listen. So I'm adopting another route to conversation. One where she can read but cannot interrupt! This is a point by point dissection of her race-supremacy claims:
Bengalis "RULE" India!
OK... By what Logic? Here's a list of Indian Prime Ministers & Presidents. I don't see even one Bengali in here. So what exactly do you mean by "rule"??
Bengalis have the richest culture!
OK, let's use that logic again. What exactly comprises Culture? I take it to mean a mix of a regions Art, Music, Dance, Literature, Cuisine etc. Superiority in these areas will be taken as an indicator of cultural superiority.
Art: Leading Indian Artists are M.F. Hussain, Tyeb Mehta, Raja Ravi Varma. Theirs are the paintings that command the highest prices in the world art market. Any bong names here?
Music: There's Hindustani & there's Carnatic in Indian Classical Music. No Bangali. Exponents are Pandit Jasraj (Haryanvi), Bhimsen Joshi (Kannadiga), Gangubai Hangal, Shobha Gurtu (both Kannadiga). Then you have Pt. Ravi Shankar (after 3 Kannadigas, a Bong finally!), Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia (UP-ite), Ustad Allah-Rakha, Ustad Zakir Husain, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Bismillah Khan. Any Bengali names there? We'll come to popular, film music as well, but for now I'd like you to retract the statement you made that people from other states of India have contributed very little to India's culture & development!
Dance: Well, India has Kathak, Kuchipudi, Bharat Natyam, Mohini Attam, Odissi, hell it even has Naga! Here's a full list that has Manipuri & Assamese dance forms. But no bong as far as I know. So where does this false sense of superiority stem from? A feeling of inadequacy...?
Literature: Everyone acknowledges Gurudeb's greatness & achievements. But that was over a 100 years back! And if you really wanna go back in History, there hasn't been a greater poet than Ghalib on the subcontinent & may well never be! If you take the current baromater of literary success to be the Man-Booker, then India's winners are from Kashmir, Gujarat & Kerela; Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai & Arundhati Roy. And with the exception of Arundhati Roy, the rest are foreign nationals actually! Only our desperation makes us claim them as our own. So before you start claiming Dr. Amartya Sen as your own think again!
Cuisine: Mughlai anyone? I rest my case here! Though I will acknowledge my preference for Bengali sweets here!
OK! Moving on to more trivial pursuits, Indian Films! Names like Kishoreda & R.D Burman are thrown at me! As I duck for cover I realize that this is History being thrown at me. Again! My favourite singer is Kishore Kumar. My favourite composer is R.D Burman. But I would be the last one to refute the accomplishments of a Rafi or a Shankar-Jaikishan who Kishore & R.D. themselves held in very high regard!
But to counter my friends arguments, I list Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor & Dev Anand, the trio who ruled the film industry of yore. Yes there was a Guru Dutt, but he was actually either Maharashtrian or Kannadiga. Yes, there was a Satyajit Ray, who I think is India's only Oscar winner. But remember Mehboob and K. Asif? Mughal-e-Azam was not made by a bong. Nor were any of India's 3 Oscar nominees for best foreign language film: Mother India, Salaam Bombay or Lagaan.
Today's top stars are Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan (yes, he's a star; he may be a below-par actor, but even if it's bizzare, he is a star.), Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar & Salman Khan. No bong names here! Aishwarya Rai is the country's top heroine not Sushmita Sen. Bipasha and Lara (though YUM!) are still mere starlets!
The leading composer today is A.R. Rahman. The leading singers today are Udit Narayan (a Bihari/Nepali) & Sonu Nigam. And Sunidhi Chouhan! India's leading drummers/percussionists are Trilok Gurtu & Sivamani.
Yes, I will acknowledge the incandescence of artists like Shaan, Kajol, Rani etc. But your argument that your people "rule", holds no water!!!
The Nobel's too establish no superiority. There's an equal number of Bong & Tam winners & a Punj in the list too! Our desperation is at it's height here. We claim Mother Teresa to be an Indian on the basis of her work in India, but we also shamelessly claim two others who have spent an entire lifetime working in the US & the UK!
And now to tackle that History book that was being constantly hurled at me... Historically, India's greatest kings have been Akbar & Ashoka. There's been a Mughal Dynasty & there's been a Bihari Empire (Magadha, Patliputra). There's been the Chola dynasty down south, there's been Hyder Ali & his son Tipu Sultan. There's even been a minisicule Peshwa rule! Bengal's impact on history in comparision has been zilch!
You see little girl, the larger the scheme of things grows, the smaller our local achievements get. Even on the world stage, we are recognized for our achievements in the English Language. And we're all viewed as Indians. So really, drop this racial supremacy attitude. The last person to use it was Hitler!
THERE... THAT FELT GOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!