18.2 C
New Delhi
Sunday 15 December 2019

Bheto Bangali: Why And How You Identify One

A one-word translation for 'bheto' may be an exercise in futility; phrases like 'rice-influenced' or ‘rice-oriented’ do serve as literal translations while not quite bringing out the rich and diverse connotations of this one-word nomenclature used to describe the typical Bengali mentality, one that transcends diet and encompasses multiple aspects of life

News

Mayawati calls INC bluff on Savarkar

Mayawati said it was duplicitous to curse Savarkar on the one hand and be in a coalition government with a pro-Savarkar party in Maharashtra

Decision to amend Citizenship Act 1,000% honest: PM Modi

'We have brought this law to give citizenship to minorities of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who have endured a lot of persecution'

Nirbhaya case convicts: Why 2 will take longer to die

Further, a source in the jail said while four rapists and killers of Nirbhaya are supposed to hang on one day, they have ordered 10 ropes
Sagnik Chakraborty
Sagnik Chakraborty
A writer, editor, translator and teacher of languages based in Hyderabad, he serves this portal as a contributing editor

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get our latest reports and articles via email

- Advertisement -

Apart from native residents of Bengal and non-resident Bengalis, almost anyone who has lived for some time in a Bengali-speaking town or village is likely to have heard the phrasebheto Bangali’. Used to describe the typical Bengali replete with all their quintessential ‘Bong’ traits, the phrase is derived from ‘bhat’, the Bengali word for ‘boiled rice’, which has been an inalienable part of the staple diet of the ethnic Bengali household of the fertile Gangetic plains since time immemorial.

A one-word translation for ‘bheto‘ may be an exercise in futility; phrases like ‘rice-influenced’ or ‘rice-oriented’ do serve as literal translations while not quite bringing out the rich and diverse connotations of this one-word nomenclature used to describe the typical Bengali mentality, one that transcends diet and encompasses multiple aspects of life. It would be more worthwhile, instead, to force Oxford’s hand in realising a fresh entry in the OED, quite in line with bandobast, jugad et al!

The bheto mentality indicates a strong affinity towards boiled rice, one that borders on romanticism and which in turn extends to characteristics like genteel, culture-loving mellowness, often coupled with a resistance to change. As the Editor-in-Chief of this portal aptly put it:

A bheto Bangali would cherish his machher jhol bhat (boiled white rice with fish curry) — mangsho-bhat (rice with mutton curry) on Sundays — as well as the afternoon siesta that follows. Songs of Rabindranath Tagore or Rabindrasangeet would be a staple part of their entertainment, although reading Rabindranath has in truth become increasingly less frequent over the decades. An aversion to hard physical labour and martial activities or training is taken both as a direct consequence and manifestation of the bheto mentality. It is generally assumed that a person accustomed to a rice-based diet would be physically mellow and keen to compromise. One may find a parallel with the infamous cholchhe cholbe or chalta hai attitude in this.

A typical, sumptuous Bengali meal

Interestingly, the term was coined by Bengalis themselves and is not exactly a pejorative one, let alone a racial slur. Bengalis often use it to bait each other for being too typical, leisure-loving or simply too lazy. However, people outside Bengal and others do not use it as an insult for Bengalis, simply because they are not properly acquainted with the term. In any case, any attempt at stereotyping the Bengali as a mellow culture-loving weakling would be logically a non-starter, given the exceptionally heroic history of Bengal and Bengalis down the centuries. Starting with the Pala Empire in the Late Classical period and right up to the death-defying heroics of the fierce revolutionaries in the colonial period when Bengal was at the forefront of the struggle for freedom from the British, it is not the typical bheto Bangali that one encounters.

This begs the question: Why do we have the term at all?

A brief examination of circumstances, at least those in recent history, offers a possible explanation. The genesis of this term is anyway pretty recent when compared with a cumulative Bengali history of more than 1,200 years. One wonders: Was it possibly to separate the mellower bhadralok middle and upper-middle-class from the fierce rebels in their own midst? The advent of the Bengali bhadralok coincided with the colonial period. Although the death-defying revolutionaries of Agnijug or the ‘Age of Fire’ often came from their own midst, the more traditional members of this class; qualified, educated and economically stable and whose immediate purpose would have been served better by collaborating with rather than rebelling against their colonial masters; have been numerically more prolific than those fierce rebels, who were quite often outcasts in their own families and social milieu.

Aurobindo and Barin Ghosh, Bagha Jatin, Surya Sen, Khudiram Bose or Jatin Das would never be dubbed bheto Bangali by the wildest stretch of the imagination. Nor would Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the mammoth of a social reformer and educator, or the fiery iconoclast Narendranath Dutta, before his reinvention as the saffron revolutionary, Swami Vivekananda. In literature, none would dream of applying the term to Sabyasachi Mallick of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Pather Dabi (The Right of Way). Even someone like Sachis Mallick of Rabindranath’s Chaturanga (Four Chapters), a literary character on a much lower pedestal than the exemplary Sabyasachi in terms of heroism, was anything but a bheto Bangali. In the character construction, Tagore’s deliberate segregation of Sachis and his iconoclast jyathamoshai (father’s elder brother) Jagmohan from the former’s hypochondriac, superstitious, steeped-in-rituals father Harimohan is pretty obvious. And the list goes one.

If anything, the copious instances from real life and literature indicate that we can safely conjecture the origins of the term bheto Bangali as a deliberate attempt to separate the likes of Subhas Chandra Bose and Rashbehari Bose from the standard Bengali gentry and the moderates among the politicians, as well as from their peers and family in everyday life.

Thus spake the Bengali bhadralok in unison to the rebel in their midst, “You carry on, sir. It is too radical an idea or too arduous a quest for bheto Bangali like us.”

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Science & Technology

हैक हुईं अक्टूबर तक 48 सरकारी वेबसाइट्स

वैसे आज की स्थिति तीन साल पहले से बेहतर है; सन 2016 में भारत सरकार द्वारा चलाए जा रहे कम से कम एक वेबसाइट को हर दिन हैक किया जा रहा था
- Advertisement -

Appeal

Dear Sirf News subscriber,

वंदेमातरम्!

We started this media venture with a resolve to offer our readers, listeners and viewers content they were not getting from mainstream media: Truth not coloured by political correctness. We waited for a while as some alternatives arrived. But with dismay, we observed that the wannabe substitutes were merely reacting to the news supplied by conventional journalists; they did not have reporters of their own. As a result, the agenda kept being set by the old guard.

To know first hand what is happening in different parts of the country and the world, we need to have reporters posted in all those locations: at least one in every state of India and 15-20 correspondents to cover the Union ministries, national political parties and institutions; at least one in the capital of every important country. Since mass communication schools teach journalism in a certain way that maintains the status quo, we need to spend on fresh training of our recruits, too.

Other costs involve the salaries of desk staff (from sub-editors up to the chief editor), server fee, agencies' charges and office maintenance.

To protect our independence, we do not seek fund from government or the corporate sector. The choice, therefore, is only you. Please help us stay in the business of serving you unadulterated information and well-informed opinions.

Please click on the button "Support Sirf News" below and donate an amount you can afford. Your contribution will be acknowledged and sincerely appreciated.

जय हिन्द!

Leave a Reply

More Articles Like This

- Advertisement -

For fearless journalism

%d bloggers like this: