Mamata gets a poetic earful

This was one cultural extravaganza that didn't go quite as planned for the Chief Minister.

The information and culture department, along with West Bengal Sanskritik Manch and Kolkata Municipal Corporation, had organised the event to celebrate Bhasa Divas at Deshapriya Park today.

On the elaborate stage sat Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with her culture-conscious brigade, including painters, singers and poets. The regulars — Mahasweta Devi, Suvaprasanna, Joy Goswami, Pratul Mukhopadhyay, Sanjeeb Chatterjee, Nirmala Mitra, Dwijen Mukherjee — were present. And predictably, the cabinet ministers who are known for their acerbic tongue were absent.

However, the show soon deviated from the script when singer Pratul Mukhopadhyay set aside his usual 'Ami banglar gaan gai' and belted out 'Ekhon theke projara shob moyna tota, shikhkuk tara notun joban...' The song was about a tyrant king who wanted his subjects to be like parrots. Some of the subjects who did not give in were killed.

As if this was not enough, Sanjeeb Chattopadhyay recited 'Dictator tumi shabdhan, manushke jara dash korte chan tara shabdhan...'. The poem was a warning to a dictator who wanted to make his subjects slaves.

The CM was by now visibly disturbed. She had stopped tapping her feet to the rhythm, and did not clap any more. When she got up to see off Mahasweta Devi, people wondered if she had left.

Mamata did not leave, though she remained unusually subdued. The CM — who usually speaks at length on occasions like these to bash up the Centre, Opposition and media houses — wrapped up her speech within four minutes.

She recalled the sacrifice of the martyrs for the honour and prestige of the Bengali language.

"We should respect all languages. We love English but Bengali is our mother tongue," she asserted.

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