The name Presidency College invokes a rather wide array of emotions in me. Even today as I walk through that gate or climb up those stairs, history whispers to me tales from a glorious past, a splendid heritage inspires reverence. I have been lucky to be taught by some of the best teachers at Presidency. That I could ever sit in a classroom, where the likes of Prof. Taraknath Sen and Prof. Bhabatosh Dutta ever taught, overwhelms me.
Yes, I am a very proud Presidencian! Presi was my first citadel of freedom. Be it good or bad, whatever I am today has much to do with those two years I spent there. I also know of another Presidency; a dim and dark dungeon where a girl, about your age was most thoroughly brainwashed. The thought of this Presidency makes me go numb in fear!
Let me share her story with you. Once there was this inexperienced and foolish young girl who wanted to usher in positive changes overnight. Her restlessness made her vulnerable. Thus started a process to indoctrinate her with a dreadful ideology. Her seniors (some of them are now in Police custody) whom she looked up to would give her left radical literature to read. She would be taken to Naxalite congregations. Her faculty for reasoning however had not totally subsided, she could still see through their insincerity, but she would be snubbed off every time she tried to voice her doubts. Her logics would be deemed as ‘inherent reactionary tendencies’.
As it happens, after a point she gave in. She somehow stood convinced and even before she realized it herself; she was editing pamphlets for the PCAPA (People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities). That girl was I. When the chief minister in her imperfect English tries to put it across that frontal organizations of underground groups are active in the elite institutions of the city, she is speaking the truth and I know it from my experience.
Pretty faces pull up the TRP much better than dry statistics. What could have been a fact oriented, hour long panel discussion on the losses and gains of the states over the past one year thus became a platform on national television for the urban kids to ask their CM whatever they wanted to. I am not a fan of Mamata Banerjee myself. Her sudden whims to turn the city into London or to paint it blue are ludicrous, the measures towards the industrialisation of the state taken by her government have not proved to be effective, the transfer of Damayanti Sen was outrageous and her minority appeasement policies are brazen to say the least. But why would the happy go lucky urbanista bother about issues such as these? You all thus chose to pose questions that are more ‘relevant’.
I appreciate that being a woman yourself; you are concerned about women’s issues.
But wouldn’t you too agree that the Park Street rape case is being over-hyped ? (For once be logical and accept that a rape victim who could gather enough courage to talk to media about her plight might as well have taken the necessary medical tests in time so that the rape could be proved, the fact that she didn’t makes it all seem a bit dicey) Needless to say, I don’t condone a rape and I admit that Madan Mitra was callous in what he said. But Kolkata has never been a haven of security, to expect that things will change in a jiffy is perhaps too unrealistic.
Back in November, 2011, a young mother was severely injured and her newborn scalded to death when acid was used instead of antiseptic after labour at a public hospital in the city. I wonder why her case was never taken up by the liberal feminist brigade. Was she not a woman or was her predicament not grave enough to catch the attention of those who walk the slutwalk? (I am pretty sure; most of you who were there at Town Hall that evening were also those who walked the slutwalk a week after).
‘Freedom of Expression’ is the new catch phrase. All talk about it and so did you. But dear Taniya let me tell you that no matter what the theories in your Political Science book suggest, absolute freedom of anything for that matter is a myth. Of course you should have your right to voice your opinions in a democracy, but any freedom comes with responsibility. Language is a much nuanced medium and words if let loose can turn diabolic.
While it might seem that asking a question is a rather innocent act, the way in which a question is posed and its context can be maneuvered for hidden motives. The manner in which the questions were arranged by Mrs. Sagarika Ghosh and her winning grin once Mamata left, gave it all away. Sorry Taniya, the ‘live’ show was most evidently concocted. In your letter you also wrote about brain drain.
I share your sentiments, too little has been done to retain the youths of the state. Be it employment or infrastructure for research, the government has not taken up this matter seriously. In the absence of any better option the state is stuck with a leadership that has proved itself inefficient over and again. Constructive criticism of the government is a must but be careful to not let the bandwagon effect get hold of you.