When I told friends I was going to Malda, you should have seen the horror written all over their faces.
“What? To that Bangladeshi-ridden terrorist place…where bombs and fake notes and country-manufactured pistols are made?
What on earth do you want to go to places like that for? Why can’t you go to Goa?
Aren’t you too old for that sort of thing?
Isn’t it near the Bangladesh border from where so many come in to create a security problem?”
Yes to all of that.
Precisely the reasons why I came back to Malda after a break of 5 days away from my last trip to it.
I wanted to know what the ‘locals’ who were part of the area from when it was the Kingdom of Gour were doing? (Google Gour + Malda + Bengal and learn what your school history books omitted on purpose. You will be pleasantly surprised)
Were the locals resigned to their fate?
Or did their faith from the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who was and still is worshiped here from way back when lead them to change the fate that the Anti-India media and the anti-Hindu paid propagandists seem to think is their lot?
So, on National Youth Day, January 12, which is also the birthday of Swami Vivekananda according to the Christian Gregorian calendar, I happily agreed to join a march through the streets of Malda in what was obviously attended with great enthusiasm by… Malda’s young!
2500 of them.
Yes, on a cold, windy holiday 2500 had come to celebrate the birth of a man who first led a resurgent India in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago more than a hundred years ago.
Each school headed by their marching band. And, as I see today all over Bengal, the girls are fearless and take the lead!
Do look at the first few photos!
Leading the procession was a small pickup with a massive photo of the Great Youth Icon and another with students dressed as the Swami and as Sister Nivedita.
At the head of the massive march were those I call the foot soldiers of Vivekananda i.e. the sanyasins of the Ramakrishna Order
And the DM of Malda, Mr. K. Bhattacharya, the ADM and the local MLA.
We marched accompanied by the thunder of the drums, by the clang of cymbals, by enthusiastic chants of Jai upon Jai swamiji! We marched past markets, mosques, and negotiated small lanes. Greeted everywhere by curious yet friendly bystanders!
The head of the local Ramakrishna Mission in Malda, Swami Tyagarupananda garlanded a statue of Vivekananda in the town square to the chants of Jai Jai Jai.
I found it amazing that a couple of kilometers of marching, chanting and singing did not kill the student’s enthusiasm…nor did it have any effect on this typical Bengali lady’s loud blowing of the conch
Or did they know in advance what I did not.
That after the march, each one of the 2500 strong participants would get a nice packed snack to celebrate the birthday of a modern day Saint who has brought Bengal and India together.
Now, tell me… is this the Malda you read of? Or is this what the future can hold if we march together?