America’s New War, and Our New Year.

air-force-usa-bombing
Trump’s new war on Syria is immoral and illegal.

USA is not the world’s police, and nobody attacked USA. Trump wants to distract people from his imminent filthy problems, and that’s why the new war. And even if the bombing stops, that is no reason to believe U.S. has the right to invade and bomb other countries, whenever they like. They have been doing it for ages, since WWII — on various excuses. It’s outrageous. And as always, they have U.K. and France on their side. ONLY THEM.
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With that strong note of resistance, I’m writing about something totally different.
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April 14, and sometimes April 15 — based on the lunar calendar — is New Year’s Day in many parts of India — in various, spectacular forms. I am not an expert, but I know it’s celebrated in Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Punjab — under various names. We Bengalis call it Pahela Baisakh (the first day of Baisakh). Baisakh is the first summer month.

Our Old World New Year’s Day used to be celebrated with much fanfare — some places with flying kites, wearing new ethnic dresses (saris and kurtas in West Bengal and Bangladesh), fantastic masks and colorful costumes, AND social and religious gatherings around small sweet and samosa shops, garment tailoring shops, hair styling saloons, Indian-Chinese restaurants…or tiny goldsmith garages — you can imagine the rest…in a hugely crowded city like Calcutta, or Dhaka. People laugh unnecessarily this day, and they do it a lot. Believe it or not, they also hug each other.

Music and poetry is big — last time I checked — in both Bengals. In Bangladesh, the precious, silvery Hilsa (“Ilish”) fish features any menus, in major delight of the revelers.
Hilsa

These are places where new accounts would be officially inaugurated with sweets and fruits (ras gollas, mangoes and bananas in particular), and old accounts would be closed: all borrowed money paid up and off today (hopefully). Of course, thanks to corporate capitalism Wall Street and Wal-Mart style, they drove most small shops out of business, and those still in business would be out of business very soon. And India doesn’t have banks in most places, but its government has forced everybody to go plastic instead of cash, and it has caused havoc, beyond belief. But that’s another story.

Haalkhata

Of course in the Western world, thanks to what I call “Journalism of Exclusion,”
hardly anybody knows what we the “under-civilized” do, eat, wear, worship, or celebrate. We never existed in human civilization, and we still don’t, unless we are rich, white’ish, snob’ish, and famous — enough to donate enough to big politics, media, or both. Indian civilization to American media means new Wal-Marts, multiplexes, Pizza Huts, KFC’s, Coke, and fancy cars. Well, I believe a vast majority of Indians today think that way too.

(Human rights for the untouchables, the 24/7 rapes and murders of young women and girls, Hindu fanatics killing Muslims in India, and Muslim fanatics killing Hindus in other places — really, these are not fun stories for media or the mass: so, why bother? They tell us to be happy, and never question.)

But this Old World, forgotten civilization with its “Journalism of Exclusion” celebrations of its New Year’s Day — in some disorganized, unrehearsed, sometimes hilariously chaotic ways, keeps celebrating its history, language and cultural traditions — with absolute disregard and disrespect for the corporate media’s lack of inclusion. In fact, the people — more than one-sixth of human population — all know very well that an American-variety corporate capitalism and its sold-out politicians and media are slowly but surely crushing them to death. Some know it directly — for example the small sweet shop that ran its business for four generations, and now is about to be extinct because a big chain Reliance supermarket is selling fancier cakes and chocolates that younger people like a lot (and nobody questions what kind of sugar or preservatives were used, or how some child slaves harvested the chocolate — it’s not a part of human consciousness anymore).

But, still, ordinary people — with or without the knowledge of this new, crushing-them-to-death global corporate economy — keep celebrating their colorful, musical, food-and fun-filled social and religious celebration of their own New Year’s Day, the way many generations before them did it.

A story that I told you just now — would NOT be featured on tomorrow’s CNN, NBC, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal.

We don’t wish a Happy New Year, in case you want to know. It’s Naba Barsha in Bengal, Baisakhi in Punjab, Bisuba in Orissa, Bihu in Assam, and so on. We refuse to be a part of a media-dictated global cultural conformity.

I don’t know about you, but I am very, enormously happy to be that way.

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Bangladesh celebrates New Year

What Is Media? Really, Do You Know?

International Politics

Do you really know what media is, or how it works? Do you know media’s politics?

Here is my two cents. I have actually studied media ethics, and even got some acclaim, when I studied journalism at the well-known Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. I’d like to share my observations with you.

Media — like New York Times, CNN, Fox, BBC, Times of India, etc. — do not work for us the ordinary people. They work for, and owned by, the 1%. Murdoch, Ambani, or Disney. Or, by special interests. And they are almost always dictated by the policies of the corporations that advertise in them. Media can never go against the will of their owners, or advertisers. Outside of the small world of alternative, not-for-profit media, there is no such thing as free press.

American media, Indian media, or British media — are not free.

How do big media treat us, or rather, use us? We the 99% are their market to sell their news, and make maximum profit, and political power. News is not neutral, objective, or balanced. In fact, news is not even news. It’s an item to sell on this market, just like a car, potato chips, pizza, or say, guns or grenades. Or, private prisons. You add your list of items to buy, sell, and make profit from.

Media houses and corporations have no reason to work for us, even though there are many dedicated, honest, often risk-taking journalists working for them. But these journalists do not decide what news is, or how it is printed, aired, or broadcast. It’s the owners and their fat-cat editors who decide it. They decide what is news, and what is not. They decide how to twist and manipulate news. They decide what is first-page news, or to be aired first. They decide who is an expert, and who is not. They decide which issue to prioritize, and which issue to exclude or undermine. And we follow them, often blindly, even though privately many of us talk about how dishonest media channels are, or joke about a newspaper’s self-professed honesty.

Big media make Trump, Obama, Clinton, Blair, Queen Elizabeth, the British princes, or India’s Modi. Basically, big media always give coverage to the big parties, and their big-named leaders, who are often corrupt and extremely rich, in varying degrees. Personally corrupt, or politically corrupt. Or, as in case of Trump, both.

Leaders like Bernie Sanders are always undermined by big media: we the people do not get to hear their POV. Big media make Iraq war, Kashmir war, North Korean war…or many other wars American powers have always been involved with — for ages. Big media demonize Cuba, Palestine, Vietnam, or using a most recent example, undocumented immigrants. Big media create friends and enemies, angels or villains. Media make us forget, with their propaganda, that before Saddam Hussain was demonized, the U.S. government loved him, and gave him national honors when he visited this country.

No Lies Radio

How do media do it? They do it by journalism of inclusion (i.e., what gets in), and they do it by what I call “Journalism of Exclusion.” That is, what gets out. That is, not covering, de-prioritizing, or lying or gravely distorting about news that matter to us. Like, a union strike: why do workers strike? What are the circumstances, when workers brave the harsh winter, lack of pay, lack of health care, lack of family life, and lack of a normal life? How much does the company’s CEO make, and how much do the workers make? Why would the rich CEO and his people cut benefits and wages for the workers? Think of the ongoing Charter-Spectrum strike here in New York. The workers are striking for nine months already! Where is the media coverage?

Big media let big banks and Wall Street CEO’s off the hook, and legitimize government bailouts of the extreme rich. Our pension cut is not important news for them, and police killings of the poor is trivial news. They don’t report clearly how much the cricket players, baseball or golf players make, or film stars make, and do not report their tax evasions. They do not tell us how toxic junk foods or many prescription drugs are. Most people have no idea what they eating, drinking, or using as medications.

Big media, corporate media perpetuate an impression that this is a functioning democracy, that this is the best working system in the world, and that there are no other alternatives. It’s a political game, and it’s also a game of monopoly.

Most people do not understand their politics, or their game of profit.

I hope you use your real-life experience and intelligence to observe and analyze media.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Acknowledgement:

Cartoon from International Politics, and No Lies Radio. Used for one-time, not-for-profit purpose.

The Cricket-ball Tampering Scandal

cricket ball

Australian captain Smith’s Ball Tampering: Cricket scandal and corruption.

So, they tampered with the ball, made it more effective (using illegal means), and got caught by camera. Then, Smith and some other players were punished by their cricket board, and banished for a year or so from playing cricket.

Yet, it is so commonplace occurrence in India and Pakistan!

Why India or Pakistan is so corrupt, and Australia or New Zealand is not? Aussie and NZ people and press and governments expose the perpetrators, and bring them to justice. In India and Pakistan, they worship the corrupt as gods, hide the scandals, and pretend they are all as clean as angels. They even give them national awards. The most corrupt are the richest. Nothing — no consequences — ever happen to the rich and celebrity in India, and this complete lack of accountability has made these countries so corrupt.

Here’s a SHORT list of stories — written by other journalists and bloggers — where India and Pakistan cricket players and officials have been caught of cheating on or off the ground. Just click on the links below.

And there are many, many stories that I did not have time to include. It’s a dark, shameful history.

Sincerely,
Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York

_____________________________

[India’s star player and captain] Dhoni guilty of corrupt conduct, claims lawyer in Mudgal case

 

FIR against MS Dhoni’s wife Sakshi in multi-crore fraud case: Reports

 

Corruption in Cricket Exposes India’s Larger Failings

 

Most damning incidents of match-fixing in past 15 years

 

[Former Sri Lanka captain] Arjuna Ranatunga says India vs Sri Lanka World Cup final was fixed, wants probe

 

Was the World Cup semi-final fixed [in 2015]?

 

Just not cricket? A history of cheating claims against Pakistan

 

SACHIN TENDULKAR: FACE OF CORRUPTION IN INDIA

 

[There are many more…]

Bridge Collapse in Florida: A Third World Catastrophe

FIU bridge collapse gdb voanewsPhoto courtesy (for one-time, academic, not-for-profit use): VOANews.

Media here in the U.S. are playing their familiar role again. They are making tons of money by showing and reshowing the catastrophic bridge collapse at Florida International University. The deaths, and the destruction. Discussion on the various engineering stuff. “Why and how” the tragedy happened.

There is familiar competition among all the big media corporations: who can show more graphic pictures, who can bring in a new scoop.  How many people died, and who they are. Who can show how the cars and people are crushed beneath the huge, broken structure.

In the middle of all this, just the same-old way big media does it, there is complete silence as to the root cause of this kind of a “Third World” disaster in the so-called First World America. And that root cause is: a profit-first system that puts money first before the lives of ordinary people. And this is the latest example of that extremist, profit-before-people economic and political system.

Yes, this is an extremely unethical, extremist, profiteering system.

The “Accelerated Construction”: everybody is now talking about it. I am not an engineer, and therefore, I can’t comment on the technology aspect of it. But this is all I know. The Accelerated Construction was implemented by the authorities (likely private enterprises, I heard, bypassing the state transportation department) who decided to rush in the parts of the bridge, and put them together in a way that made sure no traffic was disrupted underneath the construction.

What does it really mean? It means no business — i.e., money making and profit — would be disrupted. They did not test the construction for its safety — the traditional way they would wait for a substantial amount of time for safety checks — before they opened it up for business. What does it really mean? It means they did not care about the lives and safety of the ordinary people who would be possible victims if such a disaster struck.

And the disaster struck. This is purely Third World catastrophe.

And now, words leaked out that engineers spotted cracks two days before the tragedy, but nothing was done to stop the traffic and pedestrians from using that bridge and the busy highway underneath it. Again, it shows how inhumane this American profit-before-people system has become.

A few years ago, in Calcutta, a similar disaster took place. Here’s a picture of that.

Calcutta Flyover Collapse India TodayPhoto courtesy (for one-time, academic, not-for-profit use): India Today.

Very similar situation. Very similar unethical construction. It’s not the first bridge Calcutta engineers put together, in case you didn’t know. The city has dozens of such bridges (some gigantic), and no others ever fell apart. This was an act of dishonest perpetrators, who are still at large. Nobody, other than some small potatoes, was ever brought to justice.

We see such extremist act of dishonesty and money-driven, greed-driven tragedies in places like India all the time. But here in USA — the self-styled “best country in the world” — we do not see such horrific disasters that happen purely because of inefficiency and dishonest, misplaced politics and economics.

In the middle of their round the clock reporting of the catastrophe, American media would completely bypass the root cause of it: extremist capitalism that puts profit before people. And soon, the place will be cleaned up, and everybody will forget about it.

Just the same way they forgot all about it in Calcutta.

Sincerely Yours,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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My New Book — Music Box and Moonshine

Flipping through

Music Box and Moonshine is my translation of 18 Bengali short stories — by famous authors from India and Bangladesh. Some of these authors are legendary and world famous — such as Rabindranath Tagore, Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Syed Mujtaba Ali, and Sunil Ganguly.

The book got launched — in fact, this month, at the famous Calcutta Book Fair. My wife represented me at the ceremony, and brought back a few copies. I was very happy to see the high-quality production. Moreover, Times of India did a wonderful story on me and some of my peer writers, writing and publishing from abroad.

Bina Biswas at Rubric Publishing in New Delhi was in charge of the entire publication process. She found the best-quality paper, two great artists — one doing the cover, and the other the inside illustrations (one for each of the 18 stories), and she made sure the printing and editing were flawless. She knew of my requirements for quality.

I’d also want to share this experience with you. A colleague named Tania at work here in New York this morning saw the book, and was very impressed. She asked, “So Partha, tell me, what is the meaning of the title?” It was a very reasonable question. I paused, and replied, “Music Box stands for poetry and musicality, and Moonshine stands for humanity.” Honestly, I did not think about the instant answer: it just came out of my mouth. And yes, that is the theme of the book, indeed.

I am so happy that this book got out, after a wait for nearly ten years. I have been translating Bengali short stories, poetry, and songs for many years. For this book, however, we did not want to make it too big; therefore, we took out a few other stories — stories I plan to include later. I plan to publish at least one more volume, if not more, of this series. There are so many great writers who adorned the ocean of Bengali literature with their pearls: how can I exclude them?

Some Bengali writers

I hope the book finds some commercial success — both in India and here in America. It’s now available at Amazon.in (click on this link), and will soon be available globally at Amazon.com .

Happily, I start reading events soon: March 9 is the first event here in New York. If you want to help us out by organizing reading, please let us know.

I deeply care for the subject of the book, and I worked passionately for it. I have a feeling once you pick up a copy of the book, you won’t be able to put it down.

Thank you for taking the time to read a small sample of the vast, endless treasures of Bangla literature.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

MBMS 1

A Cloud-Capped Star Sets

meghe-dhaaka-taaraSuddenly, a very happy day turned out to be not so happy.

It was my wife’s birthday yesterday, and she was celebrating a special birthday in Kolkata with her friends and family (we don’t call it extended family there — it’s just family). She doesn’t get such an opportunity: here in New York, it is a year-after-year routine visit to a restaurant of her choice between the small few of us, followed by watching a movie, only to rush back home in a terribly cold weather. Not much fun. Back there, it‘s always different. Her aunt cooked tons of food, and friends fed her with the ceremonial “payesh,” or rice pudding Bengali style.

Then, on the same day, I got the news of Supriya Chowdhury’s death. Or, Supriya Devi, as she was later known.

Even though it may seem far too sentimental and detached: like, why would I even care about the death of a film star I never knew, and only admired her acting on the silver screen? There is a reason. The two most important movies Supriya acted were “The Cloud-Capped Star” (Bengali: Meghe Dhaka Tara), and “E-Flat” (Bengali: Komol Gandhar), both directed by legendary filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak.

Note: If you want to know the riches of Bengali and Indian non-Bollywood (i.e., junk) movies, watch them. I can send you a list of such movies. They are subtitled.

These two movies, like some other movies by Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Buddhadev Dasgupta, and such directors (Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta, Girish Kasaravalli, M. S. Sathyu are just a few others) made me what I am today — psychologically and intellectually. It made me what I am today — a progressive, democratic, socialist who believes in equality of all kinds.

The open, liberal, and progressive, intellectual Bengali consciousness I slowly got transformed to, from a closed-minded fanaticism and patriarchy that I originally had inherited — was possible because of honestly, Bengali literature, poetry, music, and yes, movies. Coupled with reading some history.

Supriya Chowdhury’s acting in Ritwik Ghatak’s movies made me appreciate the history of a bloody and traumatic British partition and its aftermath on our society, economics, and politics. It made me realize what we had lost as a nation, and what we did not gain. How the British stole our treasures, and transferred power to the rich feudals.

If Ritwik Ghatak was the writer of this script, Supriya was the personified conveyer of the message.

A picture tells a thousand words. Sure. A dark-skinned (and therefore not pretty by Indian and Bengali standards), tall, strong actress whose eyes and lips oozed sensuality (and therefore not acceptable within the prejudice of Bengali and Indian mediocrity) blew me away.

She made me a man, from a child.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

Supriya Chowdhury

A Real-Life American Experience

Ape

Here’s a real-life story from today’s America, the so-called “best country in the world.” A country that created fancy and fascination especially in India. Everybody in today’s India wants to get a piece of the dollar dream. Indian parents teach their children how to realize their dream to get to the dreamland.

But people like me who live and work here, and have been doing so for many years — with eyes open, have a different experience about the ground reality in USA. This is one such experience.

So, a young couple returning from India — two days ago, on Tuesday. Their plane landed at JFK airport here in New York. They had booked their tickets long ago to fly from NY to Jackson, Mississippi via New Orleans. They live and work in Jackson. But because there is extreme and unusual cold in those areas, they shut down the airports. Their scheduled flight was canceled.

Okay, fine, it happens. Airport and airline authorities told them … one, two, three-hour delays … before the next flight back home. Okay, fine, it happens.

Then, they said there would be no available flights until Saturday, and authorities and corporations would take no responsibility for their three extra days of stay or food or transportation in NYC, where they don’t know anybody. They were not the only ones: there were a few other people who got this news, including old men and women. Authorities said they had no legal obligations for their three unplanned days in New York City, because inclement weather-related airport shutdowns precluded them from paying any compensations!

So, after spending sixteen or eighteen hours at the airport, sleepless, exhausted and jet lagged, they eventually got in touch with me: the young woman’s father — an old friend — called me from Kolkata. I brought them over to my humble place in Brooklyn. At that point, the couple had already in transit all the way from India, for over fifty hours.

I reserve the urge to express my personal opinions on this story. You decide what’s going on here in USA. This won’t be news in New York Times or CNN. They have other more important things to talk about. This is small.

We, small people, don’t feature. Not in this “best country in the world.”

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

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Occupy

Trump and His “Shithole”

Donald Trump, Narendra Modi

#MeShitholeToo!

What would I do if Trump calls my beloved country India “shithole?” Or, for that matter, Bangladesh or Pakistan — two other countries I dearly identify with?

Yesterday, at a dinner, Amy Goodman — famed journalist at Pacifica Radio and DemocracyNow! first told me that Trump said Africa, El Salvador and Haiti were “shithole countries.” Then, I saw it in Washington Post and NYTimes. At an immigration meeting with senators at the Oval Office, Trump asked why the United States would accept immigrants from “shithole countries,” rather than people from Norway.

Clearly, a racist, if not white supremacist, statement. Historic too!

I was greatly disturbed, and thought, well if that is the case, then it makes him the first officially recognized racist president in modern history. I posted a status update on Facebook, and then quickly deleted it because I didn’t want to make his supporters explode, and hurt me. I thought, I’d rather go low key: why irk these people?

Plus, I thought, isn’t it a provocation by elite media and their elite personalities who single out Trump’s hateful one-liners and Tweets, and sell bigger on knee jerk reactions, yet keep giving him passes on the more deadly economic, environmental, and war policies?

Sure, Trump’s shithole remark is obscene and racist (and now he denies it and his supporters defend it), but don’t the elite and the illiterate bigots alike use such words all the time, and that’s why the country is so hateful in the first place?

Are most Americans sane and civilized? What is your experience at workplace, at family gatherings, at bars, and at baseball games? Racism and bigotry can be seen everyday, everywhere.

What about the all-pervasive Islamophobia? What about the anti-immigrant hate? What about the nonstop police brutality on blacks? What about the union bashing and corporate giveaways? What about force-feeding extremely unhygienic and toxic food and drinks to the ordinary Americans? What about the nonstop war across the globe — on supremacist doctrines?

Elite, liberal media and their Oprahs and Maddows and Steinems will cash in on such prized, racist statements, but will otherwise actively support a war, violence, bigotry, and class-warfare-based system.

Trump and his hate and bigotry did not evolve in a vacuum.

At the same dinner meeting with Amy Goodman, we made acquaintance with a young guy named Jordan from Ohio. He told us a story from his life’s experience. In the suburb of a big city in Ohio, the town was expanding its games and sports facilities for the youth, but it wouldn’t include basketball in the expansion. At public meetings, some of the town executives and citizens would ask, “Why bring in basketball? Why bring in the thugs?”

The above story exemplifies the deeply-ingrained mindset of the average American people. It is this mindset that helped elect a racist man like Trump to be the president of the United States — a country that was built on the broken backs of immigrants and slaves. White supremacists have hate and disdain for the “others,” — i.e., people who are not white and of European, “Aryan” descent. The extremist types are KKK and such groups, and we know what they stand for. Many Trump supporters belong to them.

So, to answer the first question I began this article with: how would I feel if Trump calls my country of birth India, or Bangladesh or Pakistan — shithole countries?

I know how I would react. But I also how most other Indians would react.

A large majority today would react in one of these ways.

(1) India is no shithole, but Pakistan is. All those Islamic terrorists!

(2) Bangladesh is major shithole: it’s Muslim and f… poor.

(3) Africa is shithole. And so is Haiti. Salvador…we don’t care.

(4) Blacks are thugs. We Indians don’t like blacks.

(5) Trump is right.

People across India and across the world either participate in racist discussions, or stay silent when such hate happens. It’s my lifelong observation. I’ve seen similar mindset among many ordinary Americans too. Very few people challenge it. Very few.

And knowing India and America — the two countries I’ve lived in all my life, I know that’s the reason America has now elected Trump — a racist man — to be its president. I know that’s why India has now elected Modi to be its prime minister, a man who is a lifelong, indoctrinated member of RSS the Hindu supremacist organization — an organization whose follower Godse killed Mahatma Gandhi. Modi and some of his closest associates have been implicated in major anti-Muslim, anti-“low caste” violence and bloodshed.

And that’s why Trump and Modi are two closest allies in this global politics of hate.

Shithole, indeed, and it stinks!

Sensibly writing,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

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Suchitra Mitra, A Legend

Suchitra Mitra

(Photo used only for non-profit, academic, informative use.)

A few years ago on January 4 — I think five or six years ago — I remember I walked into my college office early in the morning, turned on the computer, and went on to browse my routine newspapers. There was a news: Suchitra Mitra passed away.

For those who do not know, Suchitra Mitra was a legendary singer in Kolkata (Calcutta), who specialized in the songs of Rabindranath Tagore. She had a golden voice. Her enunciation was deep, meaningful, and flawless. Her dexterity in Tagore music was exemplary. She taught hundreds of students, and inspired millions more. She epitomized Tagore and his mastery of words, and inculcated it in the minds of us the intellectually disadvantaged youth.

For those who do not know, Rabindranath Tagore was a poet, philosopher, songwriter, novelist, and educationist. He got the first Nobel Prize ever in Asia — in any subjects. Tagore is an institution in the two Bengals and India.

For the musically oriented Bengalis such as myself, I grew up listening to diverse varieties of Indian and Bengali music. Classical Indian and Bengali, pre-Tagore oldies, devotional songs — Baul, Kirtan, and other genres, post-Tagore modern and contemporary, and also trashy and fantastic movie songs alike. But Tagore songs have always remained very special to us. And some Tagore exponents have remained in our hearts as our gurus, mentors, and teachers. As if they brought to us the Tagore whom we did not have an opportunity to see.

Suchitra Mitra was one such singer. Even my father, who had a Hindu fundamentalist upbringing and never understood Tagore that much (and regretted it in his later years), enjoyed listening to Suchitra Mitra. But he only liked her Tagore singing, and not her progressive political affiliation.

Suchitra Mitra was a lifelong believer in socialism. In her early years, she was a political activist, and in her later years, acted in a couple of socially-conscious movies. Her acting was wonderful. She was also a writer and poet.

Even though I have been at a number of Suchitra Mitra’s live performances over my years in Kolkata, I had only one chance to meet and talk to her. Students of the music school Rabi Tirtha (the Tagore Pilgrimage) that she founded gave her a lifetime achievement award, and I had a precious opportunity to be present on the occasion. She was gracious to grant me an informal conversation.

At the end of the conversation, I touched the feet of the legend. I was talking to her, and saying to myself, “Look Partha, you’re talking to someone who went to Tagore’s university, and spent her whole life mastering Tagore’s music. You’re talking to a legend who had once stopped a Hindu-Muslim communal riot by singing Tagore’s music of peace — in front thousands of arms-wielding people, about to kill each other.”

Suchitra Mitra also graciously gave me an autograph on that day.

I said to myself, “Partha, you are truly blessed.”

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

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New York Fire Kills the Poor…Again!

Fire on 8th Street blog 1
Too many tragedies for the poor. Endless tragedies.

Exactly four years ago, I woke up at 5.30 in the morning here in Brooklyn, and found out that a house in our backyard was on fire.

My wife and I ran out to discover a lot of fire trucks, police officers in patrol cars, ambulances, and a whole host of media with their big cameras.

I took pictures and videos of the house in blaze, victims being carried out on stretchers, and firefighters throwing burning beds and furniture through the third-floor window on to the street. We learned that three young women — poor and unfortunate — were burned alive in that ill-fated house.

From our rear window on the third flood, we could see the charcoal-black building for years after. I walked past the abandoned house many times after.

Today, in the Bronx — another similar neighborhood in New York City — a similar house fire killed twelve people including two children. Poor and unfortunate, they fell victims to a continuously apathetic and inefficient system that does not care much for the poor and hapless people in this so-called “Best Country in the World.”

The poor and hapless die here in America all the time. Nobody knows. Nobody cares. The president, the governor, the mayor, the city council members…and of course, the privatized, profit-only economic and political system…

On December 20, 2013, I actually had a chance to talk to the media about this never-ending saga of the poor being victims of poverty, illiteracy, carelessness, and a ruthless, pro-1% administration. I told them that the city and country must work to stop these tragedies. Educate the people. Find ways to plug safety violations. Ask the landlords to make sure their tenants are safe. City council members must work for the people, rather than showing their faces once in four years at the time of the elections.

Nobody did nothing. This mighty city and this mighty country went on, rewarding the rich, and punishing the poor. Republicans or Democrats.

At that time, it was an aftermath of a ruthless, pro-rich Bloomberg government and his corporations and media. Now, it is a so-called pro-people De Blasio government, that has not done much at all to save these extremely vulnerable people from death.

The cycle goes on.

There will be a lot of talks, and there will be lot of finger-pointing after this massive, new tragedy. But I am afraid no substantive change will be made.

I hope I am proven wrong.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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