Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | November 8, 2008

Bengal’s Miss

Is Sourav Ganguly, a significant part of Bengal’s history? Undoubtedly yes, and to my mind his retirement from sport shall create a big void.

While India’s strength is its multicultural existence, unmatched in the world, I do believe history of each and every province of India is unique in their own way. Having said that, what made India unique was – the entire country’s history is made by the respective regions contributing to make the nation. One may argue about the regional parochialism but one cannot ignore the strength of India which despite its diversity (which few understand) have always remained the way it is. It is not an easy thing for a nation that does not adhere to a single culture / custom but thus far I guess India has been very successful.

Surprisingly, the unification has been seen majorly in politics, sports and also to many criticisms in Indian films. However, post-independence, India always lacked a true leader whom people could idologise, who made the country proud, who represented India, as it should be. People’s disillusionment with politics because of corrupt politicians made cricket the unlikeliest arena where Indians started looking for heroes. Whatever may be the reason, but I cannot ignore the significance of Indian cricket plays in unifying the nation. If you call us unfortunate for that, let it be but then if a sport and its players can manage to handle the expectations of so many people and occasionally give them a reason to celebrate, I commend them. It does not matter always from where happiness comes as long as it comes, especially in a country where it is such a distant dream for many. Sourav Ganguly has long been part of this happiness providing group and a significant part to that.

People loved him and people also indulged in the fashion of hating him but whosoever says Sourav was not a courageous Indian despite his limitation, to my mind he is lying.

In Delhi, I have largely seen hatred towards Sourav and surprisingly most of those accusations were racists in terms of hatred towards him being a Bengali and I had to fight them. At times I wondered why does inept individuals make such racist comments, but then I thought a huge blackened part of Indian history is indulgence in regional racism – a fight that has been at its ugliest in recent times.

I do feel there is a reason for that too. Partly it is economic but to a large extent it is emotional. Regions in India jostle between themselves to “gift” the one hero from their region. Since, there are few at the national level anyway they even take recourse to reality television show to exhibit their regionalism. In this scarcity thus it is evident that childish arguments driven largely by envy follows.

Bengal as a state of India were not immune to that either. On one hand, Bengalis have never really coped with their status of becoming an insignificant state in economics and arts over time where their history showed their one time prominence, on the other hand falling from grace created a schizophrenic feeling among Bengalis that it is not them who created this state for themselves but this was a result of some conspiracy.
Personally, I do feel the people of Bengal are entirely responsible for the state of affairs in Bengal but in India before we attribute the entire responsibility of a problem on people, we must remember a large number of people in India have never really got the opportunity to realize their potential. Their poverty became a tool of many progressive politicians, theoretical research studies, Nobel prizes, literatures, discussions and somewhat deliberately they remained where they were for many generations. However, they were part of Bengal too – who are much more aware than people of other regions of their heritages and struggles.

This perhaps justifies Sourav’s importance in Bengal’s history where the educated urban privileged lots as well as the uneducated deprived lots were united in their knowledge of their virtually lost heritage of gifting the nation leaders. Sourav became a cause, a hope and a true leader.

Without taking away credit from Sourav’s successes, it is actually sad whenever I put myself on the shoes of Bengal. Bengal is like a mother who has seen so many of her son to succeed in every sphere and suddenly there is none. The impoverished nature, huge brain drain because of lack of opportunities did not help either. Thankfully, there was Sourav who captured her imagination, representing the state and the nation admirably.

It was in some way unfortunate that Sourav became a cause for regionalism but I don’t recall he exploited that. India is such a weird country, that Bengal’s madness with Sourav was attributed to Bengal’s parochialism but India could have perhaps adopted greater love for a true leader the way Bengal loved him!

This is wishful thinking, I agree on my part, but to me India has hardly seen leaders like Sourav post-indepedence – one who thrived inside the country and represented the country-admirably. Of course, a collective madness in India shall have its share of meaninglessness. Perhaps a lot of people’s love was because of that and as well as the hatred. I don’t think Sourav bothered about that and that is why he could emerge well when he faced the test.

Bengal’s fall from grace is a story in itself and whenever I see people inside India ridiculing us, I feel pained. I feel inside like the old Bengali proverb, which says, when an elephant is caught in a mud-pit then even frogs dare to kick it. I don’t think most of us would can actually feel the falling from grace since we have hardly seen the pinnacle of glory, but we have inherited that pride (false?) in ourselves and that is what echoed in our voice.

Thankfully, Sourav gave reasons to rejoice and that is why Bengalis became so touchy about him. He was courageous because he accomplished being a leader when other great colleague of his refused to do so time and again, he succeeded despite his limitations and more importantly he fought back always.

Sourav’s toughness to fight back against adversities if translated into every youth of Bengal, I somehow feel the state shall have immense hope for the future. I know many people shall talk of his status of being a rich man’s son but then the humiliation he must faced in the periods between 1991-1996 and later during 2005-2007 cannot be replenished by monetary comfort alone.

Beyond just a cricketer, Sourav to me represented a Bengali whom I admired. He had his held high, he had aura and he excelled in leadership. Of course, he had his inherited limitations but even with them he excelled and that is why he is so special. Cricket became a tool for his success but it is his attitude that after a long time exemplified being a Bengali.

And yes, being a good Bengali (like being a good Maharashtrian, Tamilian, Punjabi and everyone else) doesn’t make him any lesser Indian. In guise of the Bengali spirit, he was of course an Indian.

Most Bengali’s within their hearts want to see more of Sourav from among them in every sphere of lives, not just cricket. It is just that, many of them hardly accept the fact – perhaps the deprived lot shall still accept but the intellectuals would not. There general fascination with a variety subjects and the ghost of history at times acts as cobwebs on the intellectual wishes, but I do wish Sourav’s legacy gets reflected into to-day’s youth. Our generation of Bengali Indians has not seen many whom we can admire, we are lucky to see one at least.

Let’s have our chin up and don’t make him just another chapter in sports.

Sourav Ganguly would be part of Indian cricket history but for Bengal he is part of its social history.

He, through his career (quite unintentionally) has reminded the state how it can still excel in any fields if it regains its confidence. He displayed immense leadership skills in a country which has such a scarcity of leaders who can capture people’s imagination thorough their act. I do think it is a significant contribution on his part.

I wish the youth understands the deeper meaning of the Sourav psyche that lies dormant in all of its people. If we don’t then we need to wait perhaps much longer to have another hero whom we shower our love.

Here is an interesting interview


  1. The best of all articles I have read from ur blog till date! for a moment i was lost in the words.the expressions, the Bengal mentality,the characters,all have been nicely blended.
    But to actually tell u my truth, the shocking truth, i have hated the absolute madness surrounding him for the last few years and i am glad its coming to an end! well, i really still don’t know the reason.The closest i can get to the answer is perhaps my hatred for this so called regionalistic passion. My eyes have bled to see how much the bengalis surrounding me have found more pleasure in the name and acts of an individual instead of the whole team. why? am i not proud to be a bengali? yes, i m not.i am proud to be an indian 1st and last! and for this i still receive some flak now and then. Over the years i have seen people make sourav bigger than sachin, people only craving to watch sourav play and not at all interested in how the team ends up in the match.u call it passion for the son of our own soil, i call it disrespect for the motherland! i know, it applies to all other states in our country and more so in some.I have’nt met any non-bengali frnd who regards himself as great fan of dada. as u rightly said racism has spread in our blood right from the beginning inspite of the so called united and secularist principles of ours. But i don’t want to be in the same league. i don’t hate sourav to the core.but i believe he is certainly not an idol to follow.(and for that i was once told to follow mamata as my idol once! feel the gravity of the situation).

  2. The same people here who once used to cheer Rahul dravid for his brilliant performances in the past , looked to kill him if they get hold of him,a few years back. why? because he has apparently played a part in the omission of saurav? where is the proof? there were other members in the squad too.If they felt something was wrong then they could have acted’nt it? well, there was something wrong.but not with dravid i was the selectors who always seemed to possess this racist passion and roughness for sourav.Once sorav got into a rough patch in his career they got their fodder.But this same dravid who have won us more TOUGH test matches single handedly than anyone else and who inspite of not having more runs than sachin in tests should be regarded our greatest test batsman after gavaskar, seemed to have been disposed off in the memeories of Bengal people long back
    I am sure, people here will rejoice the day when he retires.
    i hav so many more thoughts to share about this sourav-mania but i find it rather non-sense to waste ur ‘comments space hee.its too small for it.I have to do it in a blog some day. Anyway,this whole thing was not meant against u Tanmoydaa but rather a means to vent my feelings towards the whole fraternity ,the raucous created by which has made me simply mad these few yrs.

  3. Thanks Arnab – I agree to most of the things that you have said but the parochialism is not perhaps a good enough reason to hate him.

    Any leader (actually neither you nor I have seen leaders in true sense) is bound to enjoy blind followers but the character that is tested when he or she utilises this adulation.

    I don’t think Sourav flared up the Bengalis and asked them to become parochial!

    I think it is good that Sourav flourished because he could faltered when he knows his love is localised and hatred his sort of universal.

    Anyway- I appreciate your views. Many purists hated his shirt act at Lords because it looked ugly but trust me, I stay away from the nation and you cannot imagine how such an open (but ugly) nationalistic act brings tear to ones eyes.

    Sourav was naturally patriotic, i feel and a true Bengali

  4. I told u, i don’t hate sourav.I only hate the over-dose of emotions my fellow people went through, as a follower of sourav,with a consequent rise of indifference towards any other individual or identity.And that was summed up by that single line of yours-‘..the character that is tested when he or she utilises this adulation.’ I have my doubts whether he thanked us well enough for our adulation.i know, its a serious accusation. More than often he has refused to play for bengal in ranji.not that he did’nt have time,but it did’nt fit his ego to go down the hierarchy after playing in the topmost level.
    When we regard someone as our idol, it becomes his responsibility to keep up that level by his acts.Just as i think a single meeting or a word from Mr. Tata in personal with Ms Banerjee could have worked wonders in the process of solving the whole singur fiasco,the same way, i wanted a word from Sourav towards his fans to stop them from blemishing the name of dravid. until now, u may have realized my respect for dravid. but its not respect for only his identity but respect for a person’s image in general.its very easy to tarnish someone’s character but its more than difficult to accept him back after the truth comes to floor.
    Anyway,the shirt act at lords did’nt seem to me ugly at all.As he told us later it was a reply to flintoff for the same act back in India. And it was realy a great reply.except for the thing that he uttered the F word constantly during those few seconds .that could have been avoided.;)

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