Wednesday, January 25, 2023
HomeOpinionMamata Banerjee is poetry-bombing the Modi government, for better or verse

Mamata Banerjee is poetry-bombing the Modi government, for better or verse

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We cannot underestimate Didi. While we listen to her attempts at poetry, she muscles her way into becoming face of opposition in 2019.

Some Indians might take on the BJP in court, Parliament or newspaper editorials. But Bengal has Mamata Banerjee: poet, politician and painter. She has decided to unleash the most potent weapon a Bengali has – ‘kaalchaar’ aka the supposed Bengali upper hand in education, culture and the arts.

Didi has decided to poetry-bomb the Modi government. In an effort to show that she is serious about not just being a regional leader, the poems come in Hindi, Bengali and English. Surely other languages will follow soon.

Mamata’s poem Parichay (Identity) hit social media on 6 August, in her distinctive Bidhrohi Kobi or Revolutionary Poet rapid-fire staccato.

Do you listen to Mann ki Baat?

Do you write against the ruler?

Does your phone have Aadhaar?

Are you a member of the ‘Pay-B-Team’?

Have you registered all documents?

Are you against the oppressor?

Then there’s no place for you

Then you are an extremist.

This is poetry ripped from the headlines. It practically bleeds TRPs. Last I checked, it had 7.2k likes in Bangla, 4.6k in English and 2.1k in Hindi.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi’s 2019 choice between Mamata & Mayawati depends on who is his mother’s friend

Before the BJP had the time to recover from the attack of Versosauraus Didi, she hit them with another poem called Untouchable.

Accepted the invitation of St Stephen’s College?

Not allowed friend.

See the class struggle.

Want to protest for Indian citizens in Assam?

You are anti-national.

Fortunately you were born in West Bengal,

Otherwise you would have been called


Fair enough, friends

Fine touch,

You are untouchable.

Actually, in Bengali it has even more punch, some of which is lost in translation. Here’s my humble attempt to correct it:

Accepted the invitation of St Stephen’s College?

No, that is closed to you.

There you are not elite, you are elaichi.

Indian citizens in Assam? All off the list.

Want to protest for Indian citizens in Assam?

You are anti-national.

Where will you go?

Go digital.

ATM (or is it A-team) is marching ahead

Write your name on the Aadhaar card.

The country is marching ahead.

As is the RSS.

Want bread?

Go to a shopping mall, you will find some.

Not elite, just elaichi. That is just the vintage garam masala Mamata we all clove.

We in Bengal, have been exposed to Mamata Banerjee the poet for a while. Mamata aficionados will remember her Epang Opang Jhopang nonsense rhyme. Or this gem:

Your name? Hello hi

Father’s name? See you bye

Mother’s name? Hi-fi

Sister’s name? Sweetie pie.

Sadly, a proper critical review of her oeuvre is lacking. Among the few who have dared to review her, one brave soul wrote that Bengal has a long poetic tradition of rhyming poetry, which requires some degree of vakrata or indirectness but should balance ornamentation with meaning (arthaguna).

“Unfortunately Banerjee’s poetry fails on all counts – the ornamentation/rhyme is poor, and fails the test of vakrata as well… some poems have a bit of a spark but they are soon extinguished in purple verbiage.”

But this is not about vakrata. These are not times for Tagoresque subtleties. It’s about making a point and underlining it, twice. Didi wields her poem like a battering ram. American politician Mario Cuomo famously said you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose. He obviously never met Mamata Banerjee. She’s taken on Narendra Modi on demonetisation in verse where she predicted the government would soon get “three talaqs” from those it had rendered destitute. And before you make snide remarks about minority appeasement, she also has the Goddess Lakshmi in that poem. And a white lotus. Even her poetry is all-faith, all-inclusive.

Also, she’s no Tagore-come-lately. In the days of the Singur agitation, she poured her anguish on a poem, which she wrote while sitting on a fast in Kolkata because Bengalis are better at spinning verse than charkhas.

She wrote: “Do not weep beautiful mother Singur, we salute you, you are blessed by the blood of the movement”. Her poem about the Delhi gangrape victim was a bestseller at the Kolkata Book Fair. She has at least 75 books to her credit, several of them are her collected poems, and an honorary D. Litt from Calcutta University.

Also read: NRC will lead to ‘bloodbath’- Mamata Banerjee stoking communal fire or voicing public insecurity?

There are no reports yet that Mamata’s poems have been gobbled up by industrialists for astronomical sums like her paintings. Nor have intellectuals in Bengal found flashes of Rabindranath in them yet like the way they saw some glimpses of Tagore and ‘unique’ energy in her paintings.

But we cannot underestimate Didi. She is our Renaissance politician. Don’t mistake a lack of syntax for a lack of political acumen. While we listen open-mouthed to her attempts at poetry, she muscles her way into becoming the face of the opposition, one stanza at a time, Saradha scandal or no Saradha scandal.

“Ms Banerjee alone has the same skill sets as Mr Modi at the hustings: tenacity, the ability to connect with people, and a Teflon-like quality that ensures that nothing negative sticks to her,” writes Smita Gupta in The Hindu. And if Modi has acronyms, Didi has pithy verse. As she predicts, in rhyme of course, “Du hazaar unish, BJP finish (2019, BJP fin)”.

Time will tell. But this much we know. One ‘Kalaignar’, the politician who was also an artiste, has exited the stage. But another rises, like the sun, in the east, promising a future that’s both better and verse.

 Sandip Roy is a journalist, commentator and author.

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  1. Mamata Is copying from someone else.. She is can’t speak Hindi nor English nor in proper Bengali ..

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