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Calcutta Diary

April 6, 1974 Calcutta Diary A M THE glory lies in the size of the grab. And there is a certain catholicity in taste; discrimination of any sort is frowned upon, our leaders cringe for money before each and all, before big and small countries alike. The hoity- toity days of the late 1950s are gone. Then, it was only the Americans who mattered. There lias been a secular growth of learning since. Beggars are not supposed to be choosers; our leaders cannot any longer be accused of choosing. In other seasons

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M ONE rages, helplessly, against the dying of the day. Buddhadeva Base could not make it. During the past few years, he had been scrounging for money, some extra money which would see his household through while he resumed his magnificent opus on the Mahabharata, The annotation of the epic was turning out to be the quintessence of his creative genius. The once- and-past enfant terrible of Bengali literature had entered the zone of tranquillity : yesterday's stormy petrel was almost unrecognisable. These pieces on the Mahabharata were poetry and philosophy rolled in one; their chiselled prose had a severe beauty; their canvas bore witness to an overwhelming imagination.

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M THE winter is ended, the season of discontent has however only begun. Nearly everyone, it seems, is walking away from his job and is out in the streets agitating for higher wages: railway guards, power men, engineers, doctors, teachers, municipal employees. The inert middle class has suddenly discovered the need for organised action to protect their living standards. The once-snooty attitude toward the wretched labouring sections who resort to strikes every now and then is gone. Inflation, evidently, is a great leveller.

Calcutta Diary

March 9, 1974 during the summer months and before the presidential election in August, is strong despite the expulsion of the notorious Chimanbhai Patel. The people of Gujarat, despite the unsubstantiated charge of Jan Sangh conspiracies, seem determined to deliver the Congress party a massive defeat. So far, a localised political formation, cutting across the familiar party labels, has not taken shape. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Calcutta Diary

March 2, 1974 Calcutta Diary A M TRUE, there is nothing explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, nor in the statutes in force in the country. But a parliamentary system sustains itself largely by a set of conventions. When these are flouted, something dies. It is the death of the system's moral code. Once this code is dead, there is little left to hold on to.

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M A BUNCHING of arrivals, which a renaissance is, implies a bunching of departures, when it is time for it to peter out The longish innings enjoyed by the Bengalis is drawing to a close. There is a lot of self-pity in the air, self-pity soaked in the mish-mash of nostalgia, nostalgia that only confirms the fact that this is the season of epilogues. The Bengali' renaissance, helped by the British in the nineteenth century, lasted as long as it could. What once ensued has to be ended. It is ending, with a series of mono- tonic departures.

Calcutta Diary

February 2, 1974 IT is, the doctors would say, perversity of the worst sort, but nothing can be done; there it is: a vast ground- swell of vicarious pleasure now that the Congress has got such a drubbing in Maharashtra. The emaciated middle class in West Bengal, a pang of nostalgia in its heart, also scans the news about the turmoil in Gujarat, much in the mood of a down-and-out middle- aged school teacher as he reads in the papers dizzy stories about the successes of a former student of his. It is an odd combination of emotions: a mute confession of one's own impotence; a touch of regret and envy that the discomfiture is being inflicted on the ruling party a thousand miles away, and not here; at the same time though, there is also an outlet of the pent-up venom; at long last, somebody has shown the guts to teach those rascals up there a proper lesson.

Calcutta Diary

January 12, 1974 cuts, clearly indicate a developing swing against the Congress Patty. Forecasts at the moment are suggesting only a marginal majority which could be easily eroded through factionalism and political horse-trading. The Congress Party continues to talk of 275 seats because it refuses to accept its growing urban isolation and the sizeable defection of the Muslim vote. And we have yet to see what happens to those who have been denied Congress tickets.

Calcutta Diary

January 12, 1974 The people do not ask for much, but they are sick and tired of invocations about commitment to the nation's welfare from the friends of smugglers, blackmarketeers, profiteers, fixers, gangsters and the scum of the earth. If this is the way to survive, then the people too will take this path

Calcutta Diary

January 12, 1974 Calcutta Diary A M FIVE-YEAR plans are beautiful, lofty things; five-year plans have been debased beyond measure Whence does all this fury come, this ersatz fury over an ersatz issue? Who goes there, friend or foe, halt and be counted. If you are a purveyor of the four and a half per cent rate of growth, you are mine sworn enemy, a reactionary and a wretch, Jet perdition overwhelm you. If, on the contrary, you wave the flag of a five and a half per cent rate of growth, a kiss on either cheek and maybe a Tad- ma Vibhusana for you. The falsity which defines New Delhi's character leads to issues being formulated in such absurd terms with ponderous tracts being written on their basis.

Calcutta Diary

AS economic distress spreads, people in all walks of life discover their own escape-hatches from reality. There are only a few suicides, but frustration drills other exits. Once the obvious solutions to life's umpteen problems fail, attention is diverted to the lure of faith-cure. Obscurantism displaces coherence in thought. Individuals begin to look for a sudden, magical turn in their personal affairs. Social solutions, they conclude, are not available; so they scrounge around for improvised modalities.

Calcutta Diary

December 8, 1973 Calcutta Diary A M EVERYTHING seems to be fine and excellent in this country, says Comrade Brezhnev, and Comrade Brezhnev is an honourable man. In the course of the bare five nights he stayed here, he had no chance of seeing any bit of the country apart from banquet rooms and conference halls and the Red Fort; so what, Comrade Brezhnev is an honourable man, and everything is fine and excellent in this country. You and I, who are citizens of this country, who love this country, who take pride in its people, may be still slaves of the philosophy of logical positivism. You and I may consider this to be the worst year since Independence; we may feel that, with the rate of economic growth dwindling down to zero, income inequalities getting aggravated, and the authorities practically washing their hands off any responsibility to provide even minimum relief to the poorest and most wretched sections, a total economic collapse cannot be averted for long; the number of registered unemployed may reach frightening proportions; hopelessness and frustrations may be writ large across the faces of people in different walks of life; despite the new harvest, newspapers may continue to carry stories of deaths from starvation, or, if you are mindful of your official connections, malnutrition. But Comrade Brezhnev says everything is fine and excellent in this country, and Comrade Brezhnev is an honourable man.

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