Revolution is still a beautiful dream
More than 35 dead and almost 20 burnt bodies discovered near the fated, shut door without a key, leading to the terrace at the staircase of Stephen's Court in Park Street, Calcutta. Here the nights move from the past into the present, as old bars and singing joints hide themselves in old-fashioned retreats with Eric Clapton and Kishore Kumar, while the human procession outside continues non-stop, like a poem with a beginning, but no end. What an incredible tragedy! And how intensely horrible it must be, how painful, how helplessly trapped people would have been? Like a scream suppressed, but returning again, like a scream.
Three decades of CPM-led Left Front, with the CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP tail still tagging along in complete shame and loyalty, and you know as you enter Calcutta and the interiors of rural Bengal, that a flux has captured the consciousness of the masses, that things are changing rapidly in the minds and public perception, that stagnations are transparent and so is the eternal crisis, that anything can happen anytime.
The party of the sarvaharas (poorest of the poor) has relentlessly betrayed them. The communist in the heart of the every romantic Bengali, is crying bloody tears: these are no communists who have wasted three decades, these are bloated caricatures of absolute betrayal of communism. They should stop calling themselves communists.
Bengal is going through a crisis of revelation and self-identity. And it is desperately searching for a moment of redemption, a new politics, a new cultural ethos which also narrates the old narrative, the classical tradition, the revolutionary epic. A new Pather Panchali: the song of the road.
Suddenly, the third eye of Bengal has opened. Like the story of the people trapped in the hell-fire of death, ordained by gigantic, corrupt, totally lethargic and inefficient government machinery, with not an iota of sensitivity, efficiency or vision, parasitic, octopus-like, celebrating the great betrayal of every principle and ideological doctrine of Marxism and communism, arrogant and megalomaniac, bereft of the least dimensions of humanism. The people trapped would know, because this illegal structure is just one of them: Calcutta is bursting out of its seams and a tragedy is a spectacle waiting to happen.
You can see a two-month-old child sleeping on the pavement as you almost crush her to death, tens of thousand living on the streets in sub-human conditions, slums near Sealdah so brazenly poor and ugly, that people who live there, or out on the streets, poverty dripping out of the walls, like humidity and sweat. The city is reeking with despair and damage, even while the administration seems bereft of either theory or praxis.
I enter the most beautiful poetic zones of rural Bengal with its ponds and green expanses and rice fields and the cool wind that blows with women in thin cotton sarees resembling Durga with big red bindis, and I suddenly see that there is also a twilight zone of realism. I realise how exiled people have become. In village after village, poverty is astounding, thousands are jobless, landless in despair, farmers selling potatoes for Rs 1 per kg, later sold by the entrenched mafia of mahajans and traders for Rs 25, below the poverty line expanding. No one is held accountable, corruption is entrenched and systemic, and people have lost all hope. Poor people have been left to die, that is the truth.
And yet, few can whisper against the totalitarian, extra-constitutional power structures of the CPM, though their goonda-lumpen-contractor-promotor base is steadily shifting to a new party of myopia and opportunism: the Trinamool Congress. Led by a self-centric woman whose politics nobody trusts, not even those who will vote for her to teach the CPM a lesson.
What a tragedy! A rainbow city of democracy and revolution, turning into a bottomless pit of deceptive despair. Amid this, the only sign of hope is the resilience of the people, the sense of humour, the nostalgia, the will to hope, and the idea that equality, justice and revolution is still a beautiful dream.
The great churning and protests after the Nandigram massacres and the people's resistance is still etched on the walls like graffiti. Calcutta and Bengal had then suddenly discovered its inherited romance, anti-establishment instinct, intellectual and revolutionary essence. That essence still lingers, like the smell of an old book of hope. Now, the main thing is to open the book and read it out yet again. Aloud, alone, and together. Like the song of the road, resurrected.