Return to India—Part II

Return to India—Part II

Toward Calcutta—late July:

A city turbulent, jittery, easily upset. It is twenty years since my last visit, yet the memory of this city is a vivid one. Calcutta is the home of Indian terrorist nationalism, its people quick and volatile, forever dissatisfied and demanding. The thing to find out would be the effect that partition, that deep wound separating Bengal into West and East, India and Pakistan, has had upon its people. Never had the Bengali dreamed he would see his land divided in two, nor had he expected the day to come when 5 million of his fellows would be forced to flee and be shunted like nomads through different parts of India.

Twenty years ago Calcutta was militantly organized behind the ultranationalist leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose and his “Forward Bloc,” its dissatisfactions centering largely around the failure of the Congress movement to move with sufficient rapidity toward independence. The city felt sure of itself in those days. But Bose perished mysteriously while allied to the Japanese. And I knew the controlling forces and passions of the war period were, of course, gone.

Waiting for the Calcutta plane at the Patna airport, I overhear a dialogue of the deaf. An American woman, in her sixties, on a flight to “visit friends” in Singapore, is describing her husband’s wheat farm in Nebraska to my friend S., the bhoodan guide who is seeing me off. Half a mile wide, about ten miles l...

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