What’s Eating Bengali Bhodrolok? Their “Obhimaan”


What’s Eating Bengali Bhodrolok? Their “Obhimaan”

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

Alot has been said about “nyakami” that sets a Bongshell apart from the hoi-polloi. In fact, a bongshell minus nyakami is like Chinese minus soy sauce. But little has been said about a trait unique to the Bengali Bhodrolok that can turn even the fiercest women into soggy, blabbering wimps.

Imagine you are a “femmelutionary”, chanting cholbo naa, korbo naa, basically a hurricane in a Byloom sari. You say “vagina” loudly just to see your friends squirm. Your sarcasm can fell even the strongest. But then you have the misfortune of falling in love with the Bangali boy with nicotine-stained teeth and brooding eyes, the one who can snatch the role of Byomkesh Bakshi, from right under Abir Chatterjee’s nose.

You finally feel understood, loved, and feted. He writes the most beautiful letters that make you asthmatic and your knees arthritic. Well-read, he quotes from Nietzsche and Amartya Sen in the same breath. Oh, that breath that smells of tea and countless cigarettes! He’s quick to catch if you’re feeling low, when your tone is a bit mellow, if there’s a teardrop about to well up at the corner of your left eye. Where was he my entire life, you sigh!

However, love is all about discovering that his quirks, his “so cool” persona that initially turned you to mush is exactly what will drive you up the wall after some time.

The silent brooding guy, lost in his thoughts, made you hone your frenzied attempts to catch his eye. You had to work really hard on your wit to make his ears perk up and his lips twitch with mirth. My god, it felt like an Oscar moment! Only, in your case, you’d be grabbing the salt shaker soiled by many hands that had just finished a fish chop with kasundi.

Obhimaan is the prerogative of the sensitive lover who’s most sensitive to his own feelings. Like the human soul, it can’t be seen or touched but can only be felt.

You didn’t mind that your conversations were mostly one-sided. After all, thoughtful guys weigh every emotion, word, and the effect it will have on world peace before letting them form into comprehensible sentences. Like the time when you invited him over for breakfast and wanted to know if he’d like to have luchi or kochuri. By the time he could finally decide, scientists had found the cure for netas blaming rape on the victims, and Donald Trump had been swept away in glacial melt.

Of course you didn’t mind. You love him as he is. But over time, you find that staying in love with a Bhodrolok is an acquired taste capable of colouring the rest of your life immensely bland.

The first time he went silent, you thought he was just being himself. But he would turn his head like the kid possessed in Exorcist every time you attempted to make conversation with him. Maybe he needs space, you told yourself and left him alone. That didn’t work at all, obviously. You could literally feel the anger radiate from his drooped shoulders and sorrow dripping from his eyes. You now start panicking.

So you ask him if anything’s wrong. Silence. Then you ask him what he’s thinking. He mumbles “keechhoo naa” (it’s nothing). You believe him because in the past you’ve been with plenty of men capable of thinking nothing.

But days have turned into a week and his “keechhoo naa” is turning you into an emotional wreck. So you pester him, then beg for forgiveness even though you have no fucking idea why he’s mad. Eleven days and two hours later, he starts looking in your direction. On Friday the 13th he starts mumbling. After 15 days he finally tells you how much you hurt him when you walked ahead with your friends at the book fair without casting a second glance at him.

Ordinary mortals sulk. Since the Bangali guy is a cultured, creative, sensitive sophisticate, his sulkathon is like a Stephen King novel that makes your heart twist itself into knots, the pit of your stomach feels hollow and your eyes begin looking haunted. And during this ordeal he doesn’t utter a single word, choosing to only sip on numerous cups of ada chaa. Ultimately a kind of silent sulk that is powerful enough to extract a confession even from the deadliest terrorist. No wonder only in Bangla do you have phrases like “bangla paanch” and “haandi mookh” to describe the sulking face that develops jowls, looks heavy, and sighs intermittently because you have given them “so maach koshto”.

If there’s anything scarier than a Bongshell’s “nyakami”, it’s the Bhodrolok’s “obhimaan”.

But then you have the misfortune of falling in love with the Bangali boy with nicotine-stained teeth and brooding eyes.

Obhimaan is the prerogative of the sensitive lover who’s most sensitive to his own feelings. Like the human soul, it can’t be seen or touched but can only be felt. It manifests itself as disappointment when someone close to you falls short of the high standards you set for them. It can appear anytime, anywhere without any warning and can be triggered off by any damn thing. A smile directed at his friend who he thinks is an asshole. Forgetting to laugh at his joke. Refusing to acknowledge that Fellini is one of the greatest filmmakers. For not adding enough ada in his chaa.

A bhodrolok man can convey 50 degrees of hurt with just his eyes, the one that has seen unimaginable human suffering and will make you suffer for it. His sigh is heavier than a boulder that proceeds to place itself on your heart. His slow gait feels like the screeching sound of chalk on the board.

He will continue to ignore your eyebrows that have rearranged themselves into a question mark, jerk your hands off his shoulder. When you wail, “What did I do? Tell me, pleeeeeeese!” he will hiss at you like Sridevi in Nagin.

At the end of the silent treatment you are scarred forever. Nope, you just cannot ignore his sulkathons and walk into the sunset screaming “Fuck it!” Instead, you become extra caring, extra loving, extra cautious, and extra everything that you cannot recognise yourself anymore. You start walking on tiptoes around him and your friends ask if you’ve joined ballet classes.

And then one weekend when you have nothing much to do because he’s upset that the people in Venezuela are not getting enough to eat, you chance upon the pics of your non-Bong ex gazing adoringly at his bike. How blissfully happy the two of you were before you decided that it’s important to have conversations in a relationship. He was just happy guzzling beer and gazing at you. So what if he had the EQ of a wall. At least he didn’t leave you emotionally drained, forever on tenterhooks, and bracing yourself for yet another rerun of his bouts of hurt!

Maybe the term “ultra-sensitive” is meant for condoms and not human beings. Maybe thoughtful and meaningful are better off in books. Dark and brooding is definitely more enticing on the other side of the fence.

Then steely determination sets in.

Nope, you will love the Bangali boy as he is. So what if he’s Sulk Smitha. You are certainly not like other women who fall in love with one man and then proceed to work on him to make him into one they’ll actually like.

Or are you?