Kamalakanta and the Politicians by Kumud Biswas SignUp

Kamalakanta and the Politicians
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Towards the close of the 19th century the English educated Indians were getting organized politically and in 1885 the first political party, the Indian National Congress, was born. It was 9 years old when in 1894 Bankimchandra died. There is nothing to show that he had any relationship with this organization or wrote anything about it. Nor have I come across anything he wrote about politicians as a ‘species’. But his opium-addict creation, Kamalakanta, being requested by the editor of Bangadarshan, wrote something about politics. He did it very reluctantly somewhat under duress, only to ensure that the source of supply of his opium doesn’t dry up.

Without mincing words he called the politicians mongrels! Was it a criticism of the contemporary politicians and their party? Was this also Bankim’s view? Instead of being beggars meekly begging for small pittances from the foreign rulers did he expect the politicians of his day to be militants like the Santans of his Anandamath

Had Bankim been alive today what would he write about the thieving politicians of our time? Did he visualize them to be like the Santans who sacrificed everything for the service of their motherland? 

Here follows in my free translation Kamalakanta’s amusing letter to the editor.    

The Second Letter


With due respect I acknowledge the receipt of the opium. You have sent a lot of it, my respected sir. I would pray at your feet for more.

But I fail to understand why of all people you have ordered Kamalakanta to do such a difficult task. You have written that under Act IX at present there will be less of politics and hence I should give a discourse on the subject. What wrong have I done to deserve such a punishment – I have to produce brick-bats in the form of political dissertations to rain on your readers’ heads? I am a small fry of a Brahmin – why have you ordered me to write on politics? Kamalakanta is not a selfish creature, except some opium I have no need of anything else in this world. Why are you putting this political pressure on me? I am neither a king nor a courtly crony, nor am I a swindler or a beggar or an editor. You have read my Daptar, have you found anything in it that shows I am an idiot? Then why do you ask me to write on politics? I have flattered you for opium – there is no doubt about it. But how could you conclude from this that I have become that kind of a selfish flatterer who can write on politics? Fie on your editorship, fie on your charity to me! You have failed to understand that Kamalakanta is a man of high ideal, a poet and not a mean creature like a politician.

After receiving your orders my spirit was very much deflated. Sitting on the branch of a fallen tree I was wondering about this lack of understanding of the editor of Bangadarshan. Having nothing else to do I gulped a lump of opium. In my front was the house of Shibu the oil-man (Kolu) – two to three bulls tied to a post in the compound were munching oil-cake mixed straw from an earthen vat with their eyes half-closed in great pleasure. Seeing that there was no politics here I somewhat got over the agitation of my mind. I felt very happy indeed! From this vat the bulls were getting pure pleasure unadulterated by politics. I also got great pleasure from the opium I had taken and began to think about men’s infatuation with politics. A song from the play Vidyasundar came to my mind –

The dumb wants to talk
The lame wants to walk
You also want some wit in your head ……

We want politics – every day of every week. But such a wish, like the wish of the dumb to talk, of the lame to walk, of the blind to see etc. is ridiculously meaningless – it can never be realized. So, all my friends who deal in politics know it from Kamalakanta Chakraborty – even a petty peon has a father-in-law, but the nation which loses its freedom to as few as 17 horsemen has no politics. Like some shiftless beggars their politics is of door to door begging. The tree that bears fruits of other kinds of politics has no chance of taking roots in this country.

When I was thus thinking I found that Shibu’s ten year old grandson came out of the house with a plateful of rice and started eating sitting in the compound. From a distance a mongrel saw this. In greed it restlessly shifted its positions and postures and its lolling tongue came out of its watering mouth. Its starving belly had caved in. The boy’s plate was full as if with a heap of white flowers. Waiting and waiting the dog began to yawn. The dose of opium had given me a divine power of vision and I saw that here there was politics. This dog was an expert politician. To attract the boy’s attention it adopted various ruses – now it approached the boy, now it receded and ultimately sat near him spreading its paws. Seeing the lean hungry dog gasping with an open mouth the oil-man’s son became kind and gave it a well-cleaned fish bone. Mad with joy the mongrel ate it with great relish. This proved to be an appetizer – now it desired more. And like a politician it kept on wagging its tail and looking at the boy’s face. It however observed that the boy was now absorbed in eating the rice mixed with delicious items like molasses and tamarind and was paying no attention. Like an expert politician it adopted a ‘bold move’ and moved closer and yawned. This also failed to produce the desired result. It began to make some indistinct sound – probably trying to say that its hunger had not been fully satisfied. This time the boy looked up and as there was no more fish gave some rice. It gave the dog great pleasure, as great as the pleasure the king of gods gets from his heavenly drinks or Cardinal Wolsey got from wearing the cardinal’s cap. At that very moment the oil-man’s wife came out of the house and found the mongrel relishing its meal. With her eyes red in anger she threw brickbats at the dog with great force. Sustaining injuries the dog with its tail between its hind legs squeaking and squealing in pain fled away in great speed.

Here something else also came to my notice. A big wandering bull was eating straw from the vat of the compound. Being afraid of its big and sharp horns the oil-man’s bulls had left the vat and were helplessly staring at the stranger. After chasing the dog when she saw this the oil-man’s wife became greatly enraged. Waving a bamboo club she ran at the bull which in its turn waved its big sharp horns and stood its ground. Fearing a counter attack from a powerful adversary the lady retired to her own house. The big bull left in style only after finishing the vat clean at great leisure.

This was also politics. Two types of politics I found – one was in the style of Bismarck and the other was in the style of Wolsey and our Muchiram – the bull’s style and the dog’s style.  

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Comments on this Blog

Comment Dear Dipankar, I miss you at boloji very much. For about 2 months I myself was absent - my dentist had almost killed me. That you are otherwise busy I knew - and some of my friends also know you and are your admirers.
You are absolutely correct about the politicians. Politics is all about power which eventually corrupts perhaps everybody. Thank you for reading and commenting. Please do write for boloji - perhaps the only place where serious things are published and please forget about the readership -  write only to please yourself as I do.

10/05/2011 07:02 AM

Comment Kumud-babu:

Thank you for drawing my attention to this enjoyable piece.

Frankly, I understand little of politics. However, I can see the scorn Bankimchandra reserved for politicians. Personally, I do not feel much respect for the political class either, or political strategies for that matter. On the other hand, I also realize, somewhat grudgingly, that politicians are a necessary evil to keep a country running. And politicians will always use the weapons they have learnt to use. To quote from Bernard Shaw"s Arms and the Man, "attack when you are strong and keep out of harm's way when you are weak"! The dog and the bull Kamalakanta describes symbolize this basic fact about politicians.

In contemporary India too, we see the dog and bull act being played almost everyday. Whenever a politician is charged with corruption, the first reaction is that of the bull. And then, if the bull realizes it cannot get away with bullying, it transforms into the fawning dog.

This is life. This is what life was during Bankim's (or, for that matter, Aristotle's) days, it is life today, it will be life in the future. And helpless Kamalakantas will drown themselves in opium to avoid the pain of watching the dirt pile up!

You have done a good job. I have become somewhat unproductive these days. Partly because of the pressure of other work, but partly also because I am no longer too enthusiastic. I don't think I have the ability to attract readers. On the other hand, I have to congratulate the editor of boloji for the tremendous work he has put in. Thanks to his efforts, his e-zine is one of the brightest stars in the parts of the cyber world I have visited till date.

Best regards.

Dipankar Dasgupta
10/05/2011 05:09 AM

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