Fall from the Grace

                                                                                                                             Darjeeling-based BBC correspondent Mark Tully recently said, " Bengalis have still been cashing in on past glories and wallowing in decadence." Many 'true-blue' Bengalis didn't appreciate his comment and they took umbrage at his unflattering observation. Is Tully's observation wide off the mark? It's not. If one (particularly a Bengali) looks back dispassionately, one finds that once great Bengal hasn't produced a truly remarkable personality post independence. Pitted against the luminaries like all-consuming Tagore, Vivekanand, Jagdish Chandra Bose, P C Roy among others, Uttam-Suchitra and to some extent, Saurabh Ganguly appear too pale and non-entities. ' That  a community's groping for heroes and projecting its sports and cinema-personalities as icons, shows its bankruptcy on all fronts and counts,' observed Larry Collins.

Bengal indeed initiated the 'renaissance' but it petered out because of the collective complacency of the nostalgic Bengalis. Yet they still believe what Gopalkrishna Gokhle many moons ago said, " What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow." This ceased to hold water long back. Now Bengalis as a community, indeed looks for an icon to rekindle the cinders of bygone greatness. From socio-cultural perspective, saturation set in rather early among Bengali community. It's a well-known fact that when anything reaches the saturation point, decline follows invariably. And this happens in all spheres as a natural consequence. Once Greeks and Romans thrived and flourished in all aspects, but after that, decline and decadence marred the two great races. Mughals also faced the same fate. Transition comes in the history of all great communities and races. But the problem arises when we remain stuck in the past and refuse even to inch forward. "A community stops growing greats when its references, point toward its once glorious past and the dead heroes', wrote the legendary western sociologist Spangler in his magnum opus, 'Decline of the west.' He further observed that such a community tends to rest on its laurels. This flawed and highly supercilious attitude of ' we've given the mankind so much, we require nothing further' has been the undoing of all great cultures, communities and civilizations.

No one and no community can ever afford to proclaim: I've no more world to conquer. Secondly, the rabidly rigid intolerance to constructive criticism also paves the way for a community's downfall. When Rajiv Gandhi called Calcutta 'a dying city' (mumurshu shahar) and Gavaskar refused to play at Eden garden in 1987 series against Pakistan, Bengalis were livid. They never tried to introspect why their city was called 'a moribund city' or their spectators as 'a pack of wild dogs'. When Roman emperors began to get the candid philosophers beheaded, the empire tumbled. A mature society always takes criticism in its stride. This unfortunately didn't happen in the Bengali community and its 'touch me not' exclusiveness accelerated its fall from the grace.