I chose to greet you all with a French term since it seems that Bengalis have become French fanatics these days. Last week I was reading a sports report in Anandabazaar Patrika, our very own Bengali daily, and I was struck by the report on Thierry Daniel Henry, the French footballer. Anandabazaar insists that we call him: 'Aunry' and not ‘Henry’ (the normal way we say it like H-E-N-R-Y). But what I don’t understand is why Frenchisize Bengali? I mean is there any reason to do that? Keeping in mind the fact that people who ‘eat water’ (jol khae) and interact daily with Bengalis and not French, ought to care less about a metamorphosis of their language. But Anandabazaar knows it all, and perhaps thinks that to reach an elite class of Bengali people, they need to experiment with the jargon of the hoi polloi, and when there aren’t any legible ways to do that, why not introduce Spanish, French, Russian etc words in the Bengali daily and voilà—there you have it, a posh Bengali language, oft using foreign phrases (without understanding). But excusez-moi isn’t a French-Bengali combo a little unappetizing to the ears? Well, it may be to you, but not to all. In fact, the intellectual midwifery that is going on in Kolkata thrives in most cases on the use of such baseless superficiality. But if Bengalis need to speak French everyday they should better twist their tongues. I wonder how that auto driver or a cab driver or someone representing the lower middle class would pronounce 'Aunry'. I wish I could ask Anandabazaar the question.
Modernization of a culture and modernization of a language are two different things. If you have a closer look at the Bengali culture in Kolkata you will understand the dichotomy better. A great number of people in Kolkata live on pennies, a chunk of its youth population thinks that shopping malls and not libraries are the ultimate destination of life, a part of its middle class considers more the innovative ways of accruing wealth and turns a blind eye to knowledge. To them a modernization of language would mean nothing, I doubt if they would ever appreciate Anandabazaar’s bold effort of introducing a French word in Bengali lexicon. Then why do it for people who couldn’t care less about your effort and might dismiss it as a misprint? You might say that I am being parochial, but put on your thinking caps and you might also come to the same deduction that Bengalis need a modernization of their lives. They need a clean metropolitan, a less avaricious government, and eradication of signs of poverty much more than a put on superficial language at this moment. Anandabazaar should better try and find novel ways of encouraging the people to be good and responsible citizens and provide more though provoking articles in future instead of transmuting the Bengali language.