Sunday, May 15, 2011

Not gushing over Mamata Banerjee - not yet!

Not everyone in West Bengal is thrilled that Mamata Banerjee has emerged as the Red Dragon slayer. Some of us find her hugely annoying and pretty much worthless when you consider that she did sweet f-all as Union Railways Minister. However, I'm really really glad that the Left was humiliated, and I'm willing to keep my cynicism in check and give her a chance to prove my misgivings wrong. I re-read an article I'd written in 2007 for Hardnews post Nandigram, and felt a little better about Mamatadi thereafter. 2007 article pasted below:

The shocking Nandigram massacre triggered memories of Arindam (name changed), a dreamy-eyed member of the All Bengal Students Association (ABSA). Arindam and his gang burst into a terrifically boring lecture on Old English poetry and demanded 10 minutes. The professor wearily consented and Arindam took centre-stage in an officious manner. He informed us in thunderous tones that ABSA had not been responsible for the soda-bottle bombs a few days earlier and really, people should stop giving them a bad name because they were working for the people, see? His fiery speech woke me up; it was more riveting than the professor’s lacklustre recitation of Beowulf. Truth is, at that exact moment in time, I’d have even found Chairman Mao’s ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend’ speech way more inspirational than ‘Grendel gongan, Godes yrre bær’ (yup, those are real Old English words, not gobbledegook). And my god, Arindam’s passion almost wiped the ‘Yeah, right!’ smirk off my face. Fascinated, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Mid-way through his oration, he caught my gaze and looked deep into my eyes. A cynic and an idealist had made a connection.

To the amusement of my filthy capitalist pig friends and the absolute horror of his red cronies, Arindam developed a crush on me. Sadly, it was a case of unrequited love. While I truly admired his passion for Lenin, I personally preferred Lennon, so it could never be. But we exchanged smiles and pleasantries when we chanced upon each other in college. The connection ended when he invited me out for a dirty weekend with the most original pick-up line I’ve heard yet: ‘Come with me to the village to educate the peasants.’ A soda-bottle bomb went off in my head when he said ‘educate the peasants’. Sorry, I don’t do brain-washes. I’m not that kind of girl.

Which brings me back to Nandigram. At the risk of annoying People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), I have to say this: I would have more respect for the CPM if they did elitist things like pheasant shooting instead of peasant shooting. Ironically, it took a Mamta Bannerji, a non-commie at that, to protect the people from the people’s party. For shame!

I’m no Luddite, but while Special Economic Zones (SEZs) may be great way to develop industry and accelerate India’s economic growth, they should not be implemented until the government comes up with a solid plan to minimise the inevitable human after-shocks. And an equally strong plan to drastically increase productivity in the leftover arable land. I’m terribly worried that with so much agricultural land going away, we’ll have nothing to eat! As a precautionary measure, I’ve decided to uproot my decorative potted ferns and replace them with wheat. And I guess I’ll have to germinate kidney beans on cotton wool like they taught us in junior biology class, for protein.

Till then, I think we should come up with other ways to develop the economy. After the success of the hurly-burly Arun-Liz wedding celebrations in Rajasthan, wedding tourism would be a good idea. We can even create a special package for Big Brother contestant Jade Goody in an honest to goodness slum, she really deserves it. Sure, an influx of wedding tourists may cause traffic jams and odd protests from the odd person or two, but I’m fairly certain that no human being will be harmed in the process. I’m not too sure about the pheasants though; I leave it to animal rights groups to save them from the big fat Indian wedding tandoor.


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