“For time and again outsiders have remarked on the brightness of the Bengali; they have discovered that it can be highly unpleasant to get in the way of his regional and national aspirations. The Bengali is by no means lacking in self-confidence, he upholds a perfectly handsome image of himself. Twice within the past few years, social scientists have set out to discover just what the cosmopolitan peoples of Calcutta think of each other and a synopsis of the two samples have come to some fascinating conclusions. The Bengali, it seems, regards the Bihari above all else as shabby. He looks down upon Assamese as provincial, the Oriya as cowardly and backward, and Muslim (for this exclusively Hindu sampling) as cruel and quarrelsome. The Marwari is business minded, selfish, opportunist, greedy and narrow-minded in that order. The Nepali comes out very well as courageous and dutiful and the South Indian is presentably gentle and progressive. The Bengali sees himself more than anything as a gentle fellow but after that he is a literary chap, he is hospitable, he is peace loving and he is patriotic.


Curiously, no one else regards him as any of those things. Canvass all other sub-species of the race in Calcutta, and you find that they all think of Bengali first and foremost as a man with inbred craving for an office job, in administration if possible; after that they see him as cowardly, jealous and selfish and quarrelsome. It is widely rumoured that when a businessman I Bombay, Madras or Delhi is told by his employer that he and his family must spend their next few years at the Calcutta office, there are groans in the household at the news, not merely because Calcutta is physically a trying place to live in. it is mostly because they don’t much want to get mixed up with the cocky Bengali on his home ground.”




Geoffery Moorhouse
First published by Wiedenfeld and Nicolson 1971