Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Bandhs – Agony or Ecstasy!

September 9: Kolkata witnessed yet another bandh on September 7. We always criticise bandhs but hardly make any effort to protest or stop it. I agree that the Indians’ ability to endure sufferings is legendary and well chronicled in the history books. But this habit of suffering silently is causing severe problems in our democratic system.
Like hartals and chakka jam, bandh is an offshoot of the civil disobedience movement that Gandhi ji had started against the British. Somehow it stuck on even after Independence disrupting social life and causing immense damage to the economy.
Bandhs have even affected International perceptions about India and West Bengal in particular. Needless to say the high incidence of bandhs have dampened West Bengal’s global image scuttling many investment opportunities. The word bandh, meaning shutdown, is among the latest Indian words to be included in one of the editions of dictionary published by Oxford due to its high frequency of usage and everyday reference in English. Even the Supreme Court tried to ban bandhs in 1998.
Bandhs have almost become synonymous with life in Bengal. Have Kolkatans ever thought why the bandhs are always successful in the city compared to the other metros. It is not that the political parties who call bandhs are more violent or always have the government’s tacit support.
I think Kolkatans enjoy bandhs and even look forward to it. Or else, how do you explain the fact that West Bengal has the highest number of bandhs called each year by political parties and organisations of all hues.
Tuesday evening I went to Taj Bengal to see Shabana Azmi’s play Breaking Images (picture: Toni and Raima Sen). The play was fixed up well in advance and much before the bandh was announced. Everybody from the organisers to the cast, the support teams and the guests were left guessing as to what would happen since it was a 24-hour bandh. When the moment of truth came, it was a packed house. The city’s glitterati, industrialists, members of the diplomatic core, artistes, fashion designers and the folks from the film world were all there.
I was talking to the Taj Bengal General Manager, Mr Mohan Chandran, at the cocktails before the play that day and we agreed that is was really amazing to see the turnout on a bandh day.
In fact, I had to postpone my luncheon program with Shabana Azmi and the sponsors of the Education for All project from the 7th to 8th September. On hind thought, it seemed that the bandh day would have had an even better turnout.
I don’t understand that if we can go to see a film, eat in restaurants and watch plays on the bandh day... why can’t we open our offices and work.
Is it not a fact that somehow we want to relax or unwind during bandhs. If the number of people who throng the entertainment centres during bandhs open their offices or attend their workplace, I don’t think the bandhs would enjoy the dubious distinction of being `successful’.
At the end of the day, the public that has the final say in a democracy and must decide whether to enjoy a bandh or end it.
ess bee

1 comment:

  1. Like Durga-Puja, Rosogulla, Trams, Bandhs are also now part of Bengal. 90% of Bandhs are planned strategically providing extra Holidays & extended Weekend.
    Who will risk life and resources when chances of Business is ZERO ? For unfortunate ones who cannot get last minute bookings at nearby holidays spots, resorts, Films, Plexes are best or only alternatives.
    No one seconds bandhs but from school childrens to babus at 'lalbari' all Loves it except Homemakers as for them Bandhs means more hours at Kitchen catering to Taste buds of one n all at family.
    Only after going thru next days Daily we realise the revenue loss, or if some relative is coming to the city we feel the pinch and vow to oppose next bandh come what may. But start searching for entertaiment options as & when a Bandh is announced.
    Need a Bandh to oppose Bandhs.;)