A fishy Bengal election

Let’s start with a world view.

That an ultra-left authoritarian and an ultra right-populist merges in terms of actions.

There is a rise and more rise of these far rights and lefts that are erecting borders because they believe outsiders are taking away the jobs of locals. They are wrong. It is technology at play creating entirely different kind of new jobs.

Now the Bengal assembly elections.

For one far-left party, the formulae has already worked twice. Give out the fishes to the masses for free instead of giving them a fishing rod to fish for themselves. Those “free” fishes are actually my taxes. The encroached sidewalks and stalled metro rail projects depict that free for everyone. Someone needs to tell them the Frankenstein story.

Forcing private hospitals and schools into ever-changing policies are only driving them away. How about exit your government-run businesses like fishing corporation and use that money to build more schools and hospitals?

For the other far-right party in the centre, it was about successfully selling a populist dream twice over of a fishing rod to everyone, but those never came. Last we heard that we have to wait till we create swadeshi companies to start manufacturing desi fishing rods.

Someone needs to tell them that fishes don’t see the origin of the rod but the quality of the rod to get hooked.

The fishing rods never came. But what thought came from the mai baaps were directions on what to eat, which gender can wear tattered jeans, which sexual preferences can’t marry, what books to read and what mediums to watch.

In between there is a communist party, ruled the state for decades with high intellectual and education only to oversee the dramatic fall of the state from the top. But their belief stays intact that its government’s core competency to catch fishes and distribute. So the fishes left for better shores, and so did our daughters and sons with huge success.

Oh, there is another grand old family party, busy figuring out why do we even need either fishing rods or the fishes when the family owners are blissfully swimming the deep sees.

Call it the burden of legacy where unlearning is more difficult than new learnings. Some people tried to tell them that. No one has heard of them much since.

All these parties talk big about nation-building amidst this fishy democracy.

Yet in my mind the day we stop honking, stop jumping queues, stop manspreading, stop spitting, stop littering, stop practising any forms of discrimination and stop destroying trees, we will get started with nation-building.

So I stand at the crossroads.

I see one road with people with free fishes but still anger in their eyes for me as a symbol of inequality.

I look at the other road with people looking at me why their money couldn’t buy them cultures and mannerisms. Well, simple, because it comes from within.

The other 2 roads aren’t visible beyond their dead ends.

Now I see the convergence point of the first two roads. Personally, a disdain for me to be an atheist as if I am the sinner!

The politics of appeasement for a minority religious vote bank for long meant the counter-pressure valve had to release one day. And it did release.

But now this religious polarization has come home to roost in the form of another division. Division by language.

The Bangla language sure needs to be nurtured and has been under pressure for quite some time.

But in a state which has been the most welcoming place to every language and cultures from the rest of India, it feels like reversing this proud tradition. You don’t preserve a language by driving away other languages.

I sure stay puzzled personally as to how people as 4th generation settlers still don’t speak the Bangla language properly and feel a compulsion to erect walls to stay outside the mainstream.

These walls are erected not just in personal homes, but even in prestigious clubs, NGOs and housing societies. To preserve their “own identities”.

But I say this, that this is their personal choice and they are perfectly welcome that way. I have some of my best friends in them and I will not leave them.

Diversity of language and culture brings in the true joys and learnings of community living. Imagine a place where everyone looks and speaks like me. I don’t want to stay there.

Instead, let’s pave the way for more fishing rods. Here are 3 simple hows.

Cities are the engines of growth.

Kolkata has dramatically transformed its modern infrastructures in the last 12 years.

Yet it carries a staggering heritage where Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Armenian, French made it their home and English their 2nd capital after London. Along with many from different parts of Asia.

We can have one of the best city centres of the world by the riverfront to Park Street, with those magnificent heritage buildings, Eden gardens, Victoria, planetarium, museum, tramways, underground metros. Just pedestrians and cycles with cultural hubs. Locals will come. Tourists will come. Jobs will come.

On the other side just put in a deep-sea cable landing station which will directly connect up Kolkata to the developed eastern and western world. Creating a home for multiple data centers and cloud solutions resulting in an explosion of employment for the very high human capital we possess. Paving for job explosion in Analytics, Finance, cybersecurity and create an international banking hub.

Helping the 7 NE states and A&N islands too. Creating millions of ancillary jobs too.

People will have fishing rods to fish for themselves.

To end, I still stand at the crossroad but will vote. Maybe a NOTA win will pave the way for a fresh start with technology, heritage and culture coming together to not just bring more fishing rods but herald an election process based on structured thinking, fraternity and civility.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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