Dhaka is now the hub for Bengali language, says Amitav Ghosh
In Kolkata, to be part of an interactive session with his fans, the 2018 Jnanpith Award winner author talked about political absurdity and how environmental issues are sidelined globally and how Bengali in Kolkata is heavily influenced by Hindi
Kolkata: In his latest book The Great Derangement, Climate Change and the Unthinkable, the Jnanpith Award 2018 winner, author Amitav Ghosh talks about the absurdity of politics globally where subjects like religion, language, ethnicity, casteism are given manifold importance but issues related to environment don’t get the limelight or the importance.
Generation of the deranged?
Keeping in sync with the core issue highlighted in the book, Ghosh, during an interactive session organised at a Kolkata bookstore said, “Our future generation will call us deranged.”
During his session, the author stressed up on the need to awaken the collective conscious of the society so that a collective action can be taken to avert the inevitable doom. “Cities like Delhi or Bangalore have been worst hit by water scarcity. It eventually is leading to disruptions in the social structure or weakened social fabric. Needless to say, it is unfolding disasters. I get really frightened when I see rain bombs or cyclones devastating human civilisation. For example the rain bombs hitting Mumbai or Chennai. If such a calamity strikes Kolkata then we are finished. We all know, Kolkata is a low lying area,” said Ghosh.
Wrath of the nature
Speaking about environmental refugees, who are quite common these days, he mentioned, “It’s a phenomenon that we are witnessing not just across our nation but globally. So we need to think seriously about environment now.”
In his novels like The Hungry Tide or Sea of Poppies, nature comes alive in such a way that it can’t be ignored.
Environment and Bengali Literature
Meandering to pre-modern Bengali Literature, the writer talked about Manasamongol Kabya and Padma Puran. “If one reads carefully one would see how natural phenomena like cyclones, storms, tsunamis etc have been brought alive in these literary works. Pre-modern Bengali literary works were enmeshed with environment,” he said.
However, the much popular author, disappointed his Bengali fans when he said that he had no plans of penning a book in Bengali. He pointed out that, “The Hungry Tide has been translated into Bangla and it’s quite popular with the readers.” Four of Ghosh’s books have been translated into Bengali.
Newage Bengali influenced by Hindi
However, while answering one of the questions posed by a reader, Ghosh said, “I read Bengali books all the time. But I cannot recall names of young Bengali writers. However, I am well aware of the literary works of Sunil Gangopadhyay, Mahashweta Devi but that generation is gone. I grew up reading them. They were my close friends. I had a very long engagement with them.”
He however maintained that Bangladesh, at present is the citadel of Bengali literature. The author said, “It will be a mistake if we think that the mantle of Bengali culture is still here in Kolkata. I don’t think so. On the contrary, it is Bangladesh, where a lot of Bengali writing is happening. The leadership and stewardship of ‘Bangalee Sanskriti’ is in Dhaka. Very recently a scholar of Bangla sent me an article which was very interesting. Bengali in Kolkata is heavily influenced by Hindi. The fundamental Bengali language is now in Bangladesh.”
Greed puts us at the mercy of nature
Bringing him back to issues of environment was a question propped by eNewsroom, concerning his view on the rise of the Far Right and their environment policies India and outside, like the present fascist regime of Brazil. Ghosh answered, “Yes it’s devastating. They are destroying the Amazon, which is not only arrests the carbon emission of Brazil but of the entire world. Similarly the palm oil cultivation in Indonesia is causing negative environmental impacts like water and air pollution, which in turn are harmful to human health. The cultivation is causing severe damage to the landscape of Sumatra and Borneo leading to soil erosion and polluting of rivers. Here in India we have cut down on mangroves of the Sunderbans so cyclones and tsunamis are bound to happen. We have to succumb to our greed and be at a mercy of nature.”