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Punorutthan: Reviving the long lost sheen of Bengali

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By Arnab Mitra and Sreyashi Mazumdar

With globalization taking its course, vernacular languages have somewhere down the line been left behind, bearing a laggard status. Despite the end of colonialism, there is a prevalence of neo-colonial essence essentially in the form of globalization with English language holding a special stature.

Picture credit: Madanmohan Samanta

In India, vernacular languages have plummeted, especially when Indians are striving hard to get into the popular culture essentially shaped by a westernized approach. According to a national survey report in 2013, there will be no place for vernacular languages in India within a stint of 50 years.

West Bengal is one of those states which has been beleaguered by the surge of globalization. Bengali language’s preponderance has taken a downward trend owing to the onset of English as a popular and widely accepted language.

In his pursuit to rekindle the prevalence of Bengali in West Bengal, Rajib Gupta, maternal grandson of the legendary musician Pankaj Mullick, and his wife Jhinuk Gupta have been trying to enliven the status of Bengali language through music among the locals of Bengal.

In an encounter with the Gupta duo, NewsGram tried to unravel the duo’s intent behind their novel project ‘Punorutthan’ –an attempt at instilling the language’s lost flavor.

Arnab Mitra: Why did you take the initiative to revive Bengali language and culture?

Rajib Gupta: In the year 1952, five people dedicated their lives to propel Bengali language and culture. And look at us, we Bengalis are neglecting our language, it is like forsaking your own mother. Rabindranath said, “A race cannot move uprooting their roots”.

It is an alarming situation wherein you don’t learn your language properly, and you become a Benglish. I am a music composer and my wife is a singer, so we have gone through situations wherein people found it difficult to apprehend the Bengali language.

Therefore, to save our own culture and language, we took this initiative.

03 Jhinuk & Rajib practising for programme
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Jhinuk Gupta: We run an academy called Pankaj Mullik Music and Art Foundation. I observed that the students found it difficult to understand simple Bengali words and they preferred rewriting it in English. The level of degradation in terms of the language’s popularity made us start off a project like this.

Arnab Mitra: What is your concept behind this project ‘Punorutthan’?

Rajib Gupta: The project is at its initial stage and I am grateful to Dr. Kallol Guha for his huge support. We are planning to make a short film, which will be based on music, and as you know movies always have a wider reach and people can watch them through different mediums. The main theme of this movie is to make people understand the importance of Bengali language.

Jhinuk Gupta: We are working hard to finish our project before Durga Puja. Till now we have composed five songs and have planned to release the film on Panchami.

Arnab Mitra: Do you think that Punorutthan’s attempt at reviving Bengali language will end up garnering positive results?

Rajib Gupta: I can’t give my opinion on this as of now because it all depends on the people of Bengal. But as a Bengali, I think it is my duty to revive the essence of our own language and to rekindle people’s reverence towards it.

Jhinuk Gupta: Punorutthan of Bengali language will only be possible when the Bengalis start to respect their own language and culture.

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Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.