Bengali Intellectuals (aka Aantel’s) are the ‘pride’ of Bengal. It’s time you should know them! With all due respect, to the ‘Intellectual’ Sanctuary, this piece is a half serious dedication to the intellectual milieu of Kolkata.
1.They Are a Rare Species
Lord Brahma added extra kinetic energy to create these unsung heroes. ‘A Bong Intellectual’ is a species born in institutional factories like Calcutta University, Presidency College or Jadavpur University . One would often wonder ‘What immortal hand or eye could frame thy “artful” symmetry?’
2.You Can Spot One From A Mile – That Distinct Beard Is Hard To Miss
To register oneself in the ‘Intellectuals’ society, one needs to overlook the Maya of the inconspicuous “razor.” The unshaven beards, the spectacles of the Stone Age and a half hippie-half bohemian look add to the aura. The outlandish fire in the eyes and the weeping philosopher like expression proves that he is the progeny of Sisyphus. He is the next ‘dari-walla’ Van Gogh or the ‘Johor-coated’ chain smoker Ritwik Ghatak.
3.They Are Arm–Chair Revolutionaries
Any Freudian or Jungian study confirms; mannerisms and gestures are crucial. Bong intellectual culture is proud to have produced a herd of armchair revolutionaries (after all they have read about French Revolution, where Locke, Hobbes gave the current of thought)! Only intellectual dharna please – none of that sweating it out in the heat at Jantar Mantar.
4.Debate Is His Birthright.
Words and words are all they have, to “take your breath away.” Please do not get breathless. They may hold you tight and make you swallow the preaching about life after death or existentialism. All of us know their low tolerance of commonplace discussions. Language is important in discussions. From Derrida to Barthes, even the deconstructionists would prefer to win the KBC so as to accumulate money to land up in the moon to escape. It’s easier to know rocket science than to defeat them in debate.
5.Cigarette Is His Aphrodisiac
Remember, cigarette in their hand is injurious to the environmental peace. Offer him one and as soon as it lights up, he starts a monologue on the state of the nation, degradation of culture, infringement of workers rights, and of-course an eulogy on how these were …Hence the cigarette becomes a stimulant!
6.Style Becomes An Art Form For Them
These ‘agun khor’ intellectuals are often clad in khaddar Punjabi, worn out jeans and a ‘jhola’. Forget the ‘chappals’, our respected Didi has the sole copyright over them. Therefore, floaters have replaced it. With such armour, they have set out to change Kolkata. After all, like holy knights of the crusade they are the sole protectors of Kolkata Renaissance. Don’t get baffled if the next IPTA (Indian Peoples Theatre Association) movement is knocking at the door!
7.Social Activism Is Their Major Concern
Activism is taken very seriously and there is a genuine angst in them for the injustice prevalent in society.Therefore to escape from harsh realities and vent their feelings they take to song, theatre or playing the much beloved piano. Ah! Shame! Vanities of the globe! Were Galileo and Socrates any different ? They are illuminated Kafkaesque (complex) souls.
8. A Che Guevara T-shirt
A spy cam in their room may even reveal Che Guevara posters, Joy Goswami , Joyce, and the whole room – well disorganised, which may make you wonder if the third battle of Panipat was fought here! You can find him at the art ‘melas’, Nandan, Academy, and Coffee House.
9.Communism Is Their Religion
10. The Two Things He Cant Live Without “Adda” And Endless Cups of Tea+Smoke At The Coffee House
But love them or hate them –you definitely can’t ignore them! Like Victoria Memorial, these Bengali Intellectuals form the heritage of this city! And who can ever forget their active participation in any political upheavals or their conspicuous contribution to bong culture?
Lastly, as they say ‘thakche, thakbey’-they are in vogue, they will be!
By Adrita Dey Ghatak