Bong in Delhi

Bong in Delhi

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I first arrived in Delhi many decades ago, a shy geek from Kolkata, overwhelmed by the glamorous capital city and clueless about its denizens and language.  I had come on a vacation with friends and ended up joining an elite and snobbish institution of learning in the University.

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At that time, my knowledge of Hindi was limited to adding ‘Hai’ after Bengali sentences like ‘tumi kothai jata Hai’, ‘aami bhat khata Hai’ like the stereo type Bengali in Bollywood.  Since then, I have learnt both the Rashtra bhasha and Delhi’s local language, Punjabi after many trials and travails of which I have written earlier.  But the College I went to had people from all over the country and communication was only in English except with the autowalas and mess staff; which need not help me learn much Hindi.

 

However, I was very surprised to find that the hostel I was allotted was called Mukherjee East.  Initially, I thought that I would find a large number of people of my own Surname out there and they had kindly allotted me a hostel specially designated for Mukherjees from East, but was soon disabused from this notion.  I discovered that it was actually named after one of the earlier Principals who had the same Surname.

 

We also went to see Films in an area adjoining the University which was called Mukherjee Nagar.  This too did not contain any Mukherjees but was named after the Founding Father of the Right Wing Hindu Political Party which at that time nobody back home had even heard of.  I later discovered many landmarks in Delhi are named after this venerated namesake.  A major thorough fare was called S P Mukherjee Marg and we knew this as the place where we went to procure contraband intoxicants.

 

 

Later on I went to an Institute of higher learning whose Director and most of the Faculty were Bengalis and included a native of my City who later went on to become a Nobel Lauriat.  The story went that there were so many bongs in that Institute that even the gong went ‘bong bong’.

 

Both in my College and the University, there was a large population of Bengali Students who had migrated to escape the pathetic educational environment back home in those trouble times.  Moreover, the Faculty had even larger proportion of Bengalis as academics was an occupation that had a great charm for my brethren.  Therefore, I was in an atmosphere where people with my surname were looked up to, even if stereo typed.

 

As a case in point, when there was a student agitation going on, one of the leaders saw my name and immediately decided that as a man from Kolkata, I would have firsthand experience and I was given an immediate organizational responsibility.   Then again, when a football team was chosen, I was immediately selected as I came from a Soccer crazy City.  Also, the literary, music, arts clubs would include me as a Member presuming my interest on the basis of my ethnicity.  I was also called for auditions for the amateur theatricals on the same grounds.  But all that changed when I left the cocoon of the University.

 

It so happened that my first job was with the Government owned company in Delhi itself and I was the first Bengali they had seen.

 

In the first day itself, I was greeted with the joke of three thieves, Mukherjee, Banerjee and Chaterjee and how thieves should not have the honorific ji to their surname and would henceforth be called Mukher, Baner and Chater.  The first time I heard it the joke was funny.  But I heard it four times in an hour itself.  By the end of the first day, I was sick of it.  This seemed to be the only reference to my surname that my colleagues could think of.  I was also clubbed by the local Punjabi populace in the all-encompassing generic term of Madrassi.  I was often offered Dosas for breakfast by well-meaning but ill-informed neighbors.

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Over time, television, internet and social media has remove this insularity by a great degree and today, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a number of greetings from my North Indian colleagues on the occasion of the Bengali New Year.

 

 

16 Comments

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your input “Bong in Delhi ” also reliving the environment in DU of the 70s where I used to be a visitor now and then to Ramjas , KM (Kirori Mal ) Hindu , Colleges and their Hostels where some of my chums had gained admission . I remember there was once a heavy storm in the DU Campus in the year ’74 or ’75 and Mauricenagar included which happenned just a day before I landed on one of my visits. . There was a Chaiwala very popular with a good Chai Shack at the Maurice Nagar crossing with his Chai flavour which indeed ws Class. . The storm affected the Shack too. I once paid a visit to the International hostel in DU Campus where one of my school time chums named Sudhakar was stayi g doing his MBA and Wow ! what a Hostel it was to standards as at that time — days of simplicity coparatively. The ISBT had just comeup and I remember envying those of my schoolmates of St Joseph’s Academy Dehradun who had gained admission to DU (mind it ! just DU) and used to shuttle through Delhi’s ISBT which in itself was the latest and prestigious Landmark newly built. Senior diplomats like Mr Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty IFS and Mr Navtej Sarna IFS (now retireds ) would love to go down memory lane too.
    Now waiting for The Memories –Novella ,the book coming from Mr Somya Mukherjee to be delivered to Doon . His command over the Englisg language and his ability to play the magic wand with words from the English Dictionary is superb
    Though not as lucky to gain an admission to BCom (Hons ) in the major Colleges of DU though managed to see my name in the List of names granted admission to the BA ,History Hons Course in the just established Shri Venkateswara College Dhaula Kuan where too.I visited with my dear parents that time ,I finally decided to pursue Commerce in the local.DAV PG College DDun under Garhwal University,thereafter joining a Delhi based office viz HQ in New Delhi – Oriental Insurance ” of which Mr Soumya Mukherjee today is thr Honourable GM.
    My wife and daughter being alumnuses of DU too I am sure Novella and Bong in Doon shall be a hit at my book shelf.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ♡ Masterpiece recalling golden memories and experiences with beautiful images of Delhi 🍀💐💐💐🎯 💙 🧡 💚 !.

    ♡ Marvelous journey from Mukherjee East (Hostel) to Mukherjee Nagar with passing references to Maukherjee Marg (intoxicants) and a Nobel Lauriat 🍀💐💐💐.

    ♡ I admire your reference to Madrassi as “Me Too” (while I was serving in Surat in early 1980s) !.

    ♡ I used to admire about their GK & IQ levels, since I could not convince them that Hyderabad is different from Chennai !

    Best wishes, 💥
    CA K Ravi Shankar

    Liked by 1 person

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