After conquering various parts of the country, Lord Rama is now waiting on the threshold of Bengal.
His messengers have been sent everywhere — from north to south of this tall state. But they face stiff resistance. And those expressions of resistance are being videographed and spread on the Internet like a virtual wildfire.
Of course this is not what this Ramayana was supposed to be.
This is not what the state of Trinamool or the plight of West Bengal was supposed to be, either.
West Bengal's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is known for her feisty, acerbic style. We don’t know why most women in power are made to look ‘eccentric’ at some point in time. Maybe that tells us a lot about who is telling their story. But digressions apart, to the entire world which watched a chief minister brusquely chasing those chanting 'Jai Shri Ram' on a road, she does come across as an over-the-top woman, who has likely lost it.
But she hasn't.
She has the sharpest arrows in her quiver.
Unlike northern India, Bengal never deified Rama.
According to experts, the Bengali’s tryst with 'Ram-nam' is brief: one, when you are afraid that there might be ghosts around you; two, the Hare Ram, Hare Krishna chant.
As the Ramayana has been told and retold through the ages, Bengalis have a different Ramayana — the Krittivasi Ramayana, which is not a translation of the epic. It’s a retelling of the story in the Bengali mind space, where Lord Rama offers prayers to Goddess Durga just before his big fight with Ravana. So, yes, there are deities stronger than Rama in Bengal’s cultural and mythological space.
The fondness (it’s less of bhakti and more of affection) Bengalis have for Goddess Durga is also well-known.
But no other deity is as close to the meat-eating, strong-tongued Bengali's heart as Goddess Kali.
And Mamata, having the ‘Kalighat’ (the area that houses one of the shakteepithas — Sati’s right toe was believed to have landed here) tag upon her, must invoke a different chant — 'Jai Ma Kali' — to counter 'Jai Shri Ram'.
As the BJP is cornering Mamata by sending her 'Jai Shri Ram' postcards, the political war looks like a religious war — Vaishnavism versus Shaktism.
And in her arsenal, apart from Bengal's great cultural icons, Mamata has Ma Kali to invoke. Only, she doesn’t have to incarnate the firepower of the goddess in her own self when she spots BJP workers spouting 'Jai Shri Ram', only to irk her.
She must maintain her calm and chant back, Jai Ma Kali.
Jai Hind and Jai Bangla (also, interestingly, the Bengali word for conjunctivitis) can be used on more nationalistic occasions — when this religious wave recedes.