One: The Background
There was once a riverine nation on the eastern coast of a vast land of far too many realms, small and middling, kingdoms—proud or tired, suzerainties—oppressive or benign, principalities—effervescent or decadent, often at war with each other, for each had time, men and funds to spare at the cost of its hapless, oppressed denizens. Mountains and snow-peaks defined its north (though not in the tongue of its majority, nor in culture); a turbulent bay its east; the ethos changed abruptly to its south (where the dialects became increasingly agglutinative); and its west was blurred in a confusion of customs, cultures and lingos.
Much of it was once covered in lush forests, often secondary, for the land was perpetually underpopulated then, thanks to strange banes called Burdwan fever and chronic colitis, despite its fertility obvious from the lush growths everywhere.We call it a nation for want of a better term but, in reality, there were several separate realms of strange names: Gangaridae (Γανγαρίδαι), Samataṭa (समतट), Rārha (राढ़), Harikela (हरिकेल), Pattikerā (पट्टीकेरा) and many others. It was collectively and variously referred to as Land of Stinking Fish Eaters, Land of the People of Birdlike Speech or Land of the Treacle (गुड़) Mead (as opposed to the one made in the north from honest, forest honey) in ancient Saṁskṛta literature. By some never-defined curse cast, either by Mahavira, unto whom the unruly locals had set their dogs, hissing choo choo (hence the Saṁskṛta word kukkura for a dog), when he came to preach his newfound, atheistic and outré religion, or by some other ascetic of Aryan descent who was likewise rankled by another set of indigènes, it was destined never to stand united for long enough to achieve anything significant.For brief spurts, when the stars were favourable and chances presented themselves, valiant local kings like Śaśāṅka (seventh century) or Divya (the upstart Kaivarta) did bring much of the diverse elements under one notional flag. But so powerful was the curse that they proved to be either too unwise or simply unlucky to hold the Pax Gauḍa (गौड़) or its equivalent for any meaningful length of time.
Eventually it was overrun by monotheistic Islamic conquerers who descended out of nowhere to take over the sleepy nation, fertile and full of skilled craftsmen, unskilled adminstrators, and womenfolk unbeautiful by Arabic or Turkic standards of aesthetics. Even before that, quite a few Sufi dervishes, minstrels and saints had already begun the process of conversion to their energetic faith. But so great was the inertia of culture that, in several centuries, only about a third of the population had converted, and that too with most of the old superstitions, prejudices and customs intact, despite the seeming servility. But decadence had set in after several centuries, during which the elite of the land and their underdogs flourished under a very open regime of overseas trade—not to speak of the local baniya class, and the avarice of distant and infidel foreigners was roused.
The new lot, with their pale skin (often ruddy), curiously coloured eyes and hair, and unctuous, tradesmenlike manners, took over the reins stealthily. So much so and in such small steps that not many noticed. And then they ruled for the better part of two centuries till some of the masses woke up as if from carefree and drunken slumber.
When they finally shook off the foreign oppressors, new ones came to the fore from within their own ranks by a new process of government formation. The process involved exercise of the peoples’ will, in theory, if not in practice. As one local poet (honoured recently by posthumously naming a metro station in the capital city after him, though he had never lived there or known to have used the mass transit facility) had aptly put: “The people were shocked/ When they looked aloft/ To gaze at the throne/ After the king was gone,/ Tho’ his moustache glowed in glory, Oh…”
Right Wing leaders, those who sat to the right of the king (when he was reigning) and enjoyed certain privileged rights, made room for the Left Wingers who were deliberately left behind. The six long decades after the freedom from the foreign rule were equally divided between the two lots—the Left and the Right—but the lot of the people at large remained as it ever was.
This fairy tale begins with the overthrow of both the Right and the Left by the exercise of Feminine Will, backed by unstinting support of a group called (but never defined) the Civil Society...