This is an appeal from an outsider to one of the leading states in India- Bengal
No matter where you live or what you think about West Bengal or its Elections, the conclusion of today’s message has meaning for us all. It’s a choice that anyone, anywhere, can and must make for themselves.
You were everything a probashi kid dreamt of and more. There I was, 19 years old and unleashed in Salt Lake, Kolkata, the heart of Bengal consumerism-finally made the pilgrimage to Dakshineswar and Nicco Park.
Between trips to the Nicco park and Dakshineswar Kali Temple my hostel friends and I would play pranks in Institute lobby. For dinner we had Burger and large cans of Beer. At night in our hostel room we’d watch in awe at the Kolkata night sky busy with incoming flights.
And then there was Nicco Park and Aquatica itself. You’ve been there. You know what it means to a child. I won’t even attempt to put the magical experience into words.
That trip strengthened my relationship with Kolkata that had long ago started with my love for Satyajit Ray’s Apu of Apu’r Sansar , Nontey Pontey Cartoons or be it the Dakshineswar or Kalighat’s mesmerizing Saturday mornings. And while it might not be a popular visiting site in the present day, I have no problem admitting that I love Bengal. Always have and probably always will.
I love you, Paschim Banga , for your grand traditions, your voracious appetite for Ilish and Chingri, your big trucks, your big hearts, and your even bigger personalities. I love you for your sports dynasties and legends, your bizarre obsession with football and your iconic academic and financial institutions. And who doesn’t love Kolkata during the Pujas, weekends in Mandarmani, the coasts of Shankarpur, the Rocky Mountains of Kalimpong and Darjeeling, the greens of Nandigram, the fresh country air of the Sunderbans, and the small town pride all over the country.
But most of all I love Bengal for the Bangalis; which is why your infighting bothers me so much. As an outsider (probashi) that watches you every day, I fear that your greatness is at risk due to petty disagreements and massive misunderstandings. In fact, it is your dogged loyalty, one of your strongest attributes that might also be your undoing. Darn it West Bengal you mean a lot to me. And I don’t want to see you go out like this. You are not a collection of people defined by percentage points. You’re not a 1 percent, 99 percent, 46 percent, or even 110 percent (no matter how often your sports superstars claim to give that much effort). You’re not “red states” or “green states”. You’re not defined by being a donkey or an elephant. Quit labeling yourself, it means nothing.
Here’s what you really are, even if so many people around the country will only begrudgingly admit it. You are a great state full of even greater individuals that simply all want a better life. In fact, we all do, every person in every country of the world.
But here’s the problem.
Everyday we teach our children that bullying is wrong. Don’t be mean, don’t pick on other kids, don’t tell lies or spread gossip, don’t belittle or ostracize others. But then what do the so-called leaders of Bengal do? They bully each other and anyone that disagrees with them, which sets a terrible example.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, if left to the people of Bengal, and not to the political parties, it wouldn’t be that way.
What real Bangalis do is add value, solve problems, and help one another. Just look at the response to Nirbhaya (Delhi) and Abhaya (Kolkata) yes I prefer to call her that. Case closed? The people along the country united during those rough times, and were on the streets –a tremendous moral support for the familyof the deceased. No one cared who the other person was voting for. Instead, it was all about lending a helping hand and working together. That’s the India (and Indians) that I know.
If only the so-called “guys in charge” could see this, understand this, and learn from this. If only they would realize that it’s time to put aside political differences and to help one another. The game of political division has gone too far. Sometimes, as I watch as an outsider, I wonder if it can ever be fixed.
But in the end, I believe it can.
And it starts with adding value.
If you add value to the world and help solve one another’s problems, you can build a great business and even rebuild a great country. There’s virtually no limit to the positive results you can achieve when you make service to others your overriding priority.
To the people of India and West Bengal specially, realize that you are an individual and family member first, an Indian second, and somewhere way down the line you can feel free to call yourself a Democrat or Republican (or other). Never forget that order of importance.
Whatever happens today, I can guarantee you one thing- Tommorrow the sun will rise in the East, you will wake up and your dream of a better future for you and your family will not have changed.
There will be a newly elected or re-elected Chief Minister of the West Bengal, but there will be only one ruler of your Dream – and that is you.
What you do with your dream is up to you and YOU alone. No Minister controls whether you get out of bed early to get a head start on the work day or whether you sleep in and fall behind your competitors. No political party dictates whether you work four hours a week or sixty-four. Those choices are yours, and yours alone.
You cannot allow external factors to change your internal vision. You can still make your life into anything you want it to be.
Choose to come together and add value, rather than tearing your country apart.
No one sets limits on how much value you can add to the world. No one but you. For you are the Commander-in-Chief of your Dream.
And that is what I love about Bengal.
A Probashi Bangali (An Outsider)