The Parivartan of club culture in Bengal

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January 31st, 2013 Namrata Acharya

While owning a car can be in the wishlist of most middle-class individuals, traveling in public transport comes with some sops too, especially if you are one of those loquacious creatures, who find observing silence for more than a minute at a stretch, quite discomforting.

In Kolkata, you will find many such human beings. These people are born to talk, spread their inexhaustible words of wisdom to the world, and chatter with absolute strangers for hours. I have been to Delhi and Mumbai, but by far, I feel Kolkata seems to have highest concentration of such verbose people.

Then, there are some organised forms of such chatterboxes, popularly known as Para Club (local clubs). When I was a kid, these entities didn’t seem to enjoy much respect among conservatives. They were perceived as a notorious lot, who engaged in Bomabazi (bombing the neighbourhood clubs), had some Dadas (or macho men) in the frontline, and were at their best during Durga Puja, for extorting donations, or what can be best expressed only with the word “Chanda”.

On the positive side, such clubs concatenated our old tradition of Durga Puja with the present times. Again, like the headmen of villages, they could be approached anytime, for even personal problems. So, be it a case of domestic violence or medical emergency or even a case of eve teasing, you had a whole troop of men in support of your cause. Probably this was the reason that Kolkata was seen as safe place for woman and elderly. Kolkata was unlike any other metro city, one of which had a reputation of nursing the most selfish, money-minded people, in the country. Now, that is not my personal opinion. I have grown up hearing this. Leave aside, the large number of Bengalis who have migrated to Delhi for a better life, and more money.

However, in the last decade, the Para culture seems to have changed a lot in Kolkata. Like in any other city, if someone has snatched your purse at night, there would be barely any help from strangers. Durga Puja is tinged with, rather soaked in commercialisation. There are enough corporate sponsors to fund lavish set-up. These days, to donate for Durga Puja, sometimes you need to walk up to the organisers.

Probably, with a motive to resuscitate the waning clubs of Kolkata, our chief minister Mamata Banerjee decided to give one lakh rupees to each of them. But then, how can money change the social matrix, the thinking, or reverse a societal change?  Probably, today’s youth is more interested in studying for some competitive exam at home, rather than engaging themselves in a heated discussion over politics. Our 24-hour news channels and some firebrand news presenters serve the later purpose well.

Moreover, over the years, clubs have become symbols of political outfits. Though they were always associated with one party or another, never before have they received such backing in the form of monetary help from the state government.

And all these thoughts stem from eavesdropping a casual conversation in a train, where a group of women had a good time mocking the policies of state, like  distributing funds to clubs when the government is literally out with a begging bowl for funds. Certainly, times have changed. Bengal finance is the topic discussion in the Chatter Box group like never before!

Sadly, the changed government has failed to see this change.

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