That Hate Killing in Kansas

hatecrimes

Wow!!

I never realized the extent of hate, ignorance and illiteracy in this “best country in the world” until I posted that NYT article on how a white man shot and killed an Indian engineer in a Kansas pub, shouting racist words, and how another white man took a bullet trying to save him.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the Hindu student from India, told his wife America was the best country to live in. He was killed by a racist in America. The man said he wanted to drive out all Middle-Eastern men. Of course, geography and history are not two subjects racists in America like or care about. Or, religion. Or, the world.

I forgot to change the privacy setting from public to friends, and boy oh boy, hate is spilling over the toilet seat. I mean, Trump has given a new meaning to America and the world.

This is what I wrote on Facebook.

Indian idiots (especially Modi fanatics) who voted for Trump will downplay this incident. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Trump’s racism and hate have brought out the worst in America, and all immigrants — Muslim or not — are paying a heavy price.

An Indian engineer (a Hindu) was killed in Kansas City last night by a white racist, perhaps a supporter of Trump.

Silver lining of the story: another white man tried to save the victim, and took a bullet to his chest. That’s the side of America I want to know, and live for.

Here’s the original New York Times story with a short video. The link is at https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/100000004952609/kansas-shooting-survivor-were-all-humans.html?smid=fb-share

I want to thank Ian, the white American man, who said, “We are all humans.” That is the United States of America I know.

Not Trump’s hateful, racist America.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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American Media’s Trump Profits Soar

So, American media is having a field day, just by selling Trump and his craziness.

New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and all. “Right wing” Fox is losing business: their sex is now equaled by liberal media’s sex. Even after the relentless, false Hillary projections, (and WMD), educated people still take the Times seriously. Devoutly.

I mean, think about it. Fascist Trump is deporting poor immigrants. That’s big news. Yet, Obama deported the largest number of poor immigrants in his eight years: highest number in American history. Was that news? No!

Okay. Trump put Goldman Sachs in his cabinet. Big news (how can someone who campaigned to help America’s workers do such hypocrisy?). Yet, Obama put Goldman Sachs in his cabinet: one of his first appointments.

Banks exploded with profit in Obama’s eight years. You and I? 0.1% interest: lowest in modern world’s history. Not news.

Of course, I’m not comparing Trump with Obama. It’s not about the individuals. It’s their policies. One politics is crazy, out of control white supremacist fascism. The other, DNC politics of secretly occupying the world and enslaving its 99%.

(Bernie Sanders is ridiculed by U.S. media from Day 1. Others like him are branded socialists and radicals and un-American. Not “winnable.”)

Media knows that Trump’s insanity, and worldwide ridicule, sell like hot sex, and DNC’s eating the pie from underneath without disturbing the top crust doesn’t. A media-illiterate nation easily falls for media’s well-crafted business of profit and deception.

Had American mainstream media and their powers really cared about us the 99%, had they really cared about labor unions, women’s rights, or the environment, they would challenge both parties and their anti-people, pro-1% politics. Gloria Steinems would march *before* the elections, and not *after.*

If Trump tones down his fascism, which I doubt he will, “liberal” media would be extremely unhappy.

Now, that is the real story.

Sincerely,
Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York

Picturesque India, Beautiful Bengal

Dear HumanityCollege.org friends:

I’m posting some more photos from my recent India travel. This series of photos: I call it REAL INDIA. It’s about the ordinary, hardworking people, workers, and small businesses — people who are being destroyed by the cruel economic and political measures imposed by the ruling class of India and its corporate partners.

Writing about the trip and sharing pictures truly help a lot to get over the sadness of the departure. India and Bengal and Kolkata are always on my mind. I live here in USA, and work with mainstream America. But I also live in India, and identify myself very closely with her. This is my dual existence, and I have written a lot about this first-generation immigrant life.

Thank you for your friendship and support.

Sincerely

Partha
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A small business in our neighborhood. He is having a hard time making ends meet. He said his sales are down by at least 25 to 30 percent, because of the demonetization.

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A local barber comes to our apartment, and shaves my father, who is 93. Bansi, the barber, does not have a business of his own. And chances are, with the financial situation, he will never have one.

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A village woman in the Khoai area in Shantiniketan in Birbhum district. She makes all the jewelry using fruits and seeds. The colors she uses are also natural. How long can she survive, with the Chinese and American imports?

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A local flower shop. People are religious, and most have a small seat for gods and goddesses at their homes. Massive, large-scale flower markets are replacing traditional small businesses.

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Pakora, a popular snack. The coal oven also serves local laborers and poor residents to warm themselves in the cold months of December and January.

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Colored powder or Abir in Kalighat, famous and sacred Kali temple area in Kolkata. Again, mass imports of Abir from outside Bengal and India are destroying local shop owners, mostly women.

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Kolkata Book Fair, a major source of income for city’s small and mid-size booksellers and publishers. Here, the little magazine corner is being squeezed every year, driving them out of business, one year at a time. Who is going to save them?

 

Pictures From My India Trip

Dear Friends and HumanityCollege.org supporters and sympathizers:

Happy New Year (in February!).

🙂

I just came back from a trip to India, and brought some fascinating pictures back with me. I’m sharing them with you.

India is a beautiful country, and my city Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) is a fascinating city. It’s progressive, it’s vibrant, it’s warm, it’s inclusive and secular, and its’ friendly.

On this trip, we had a gathering of family members and friends to celebrate our daughter’s wedding. About two hundred people came to the reception held on January 21. Our daughter and son in-law also brought a few of their American and Indian-American friends along with them. They loved it too.

“Kolkata changed my perception of India,” one of them said later.

Enjoy the photos. Any questions or comments, please write.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York
ashirvad-1
The blessings of Ashirvad ceremony happened here in Brooklyn, New York. Here, the Hindu priest is performing the ritual with the father of the bride.

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I am standing on the sidewalk shopping complex at Kolkata’s popular Gariahat area. Thanks to Indian prime minister Modi’s scandalous demonetization, the bustling market is barren. Small businessmen and businesswomen are suffering badly.

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Our old, mezzanine apartment in North Kolkata. This is where I grew up. A very precious, scared place for me and my family. I am glad we still have this place with us.

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My father, 93, loved the company of our daughter’s friends visiting Kolkata from USA. He is fluent in English. Therefore, conversation was not a problem. You just have to speak loud…a lot loud 🙂

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Our old, North Kolkata home. We lived for twenty-five years on the mezzanine floor, before I came to USA as a foreign graduate student. This place is haunting for me, with memories.

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And finally, who could resist the temptation of Bengali and Indian food? All the guests were amazed. They all want to go back 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Om Puri, Actor Who Shook Bollywood and Promoted India-Pakistan Peace

I’m not a great film follower but this is something I felt compelled to write yesterday. Published in the Aman ki Asha website and crossposted here. The legendary Indian actor leaves a legacy of humanistic and compassionate values and peace aspirations Legendary actor Om Puri’s untimely death has saddened film and peace lovers not only […]

via Salute to a stellar actor and courageous humanist: Farewell Om Puri (October 18, 1950 – Jan. 6, 2017) — Journeys to democracy

An Indian Wedding in New York

A few weeks ago, my daughter got married here in New York.

It was a beautiful, happy occasion, where hundreds of friends and family members showed up, and celebrated. As my wife of the now-renowned Mukti’s Kitchen says, no Indian celebration is complete without food, friendship, and fun. And we had lots and lots of it.

Lots and lots of fun, food, and friends — both from our Bengali side, and our son in-law’s Punjabi side.

The ceremonies went for three days at our home in Brooklyn, capped off by the actual wedding and dinner on Long Island. And on the groom’s side, they had more than three days of fun-filled celebration. Between the two families of us, it was practically a two-week festivity. Friends and relatives came to New York from various parts of America. Some came from Canada and U.K. And my brother in-law, well-known artist Susanta Chakraborty came all the way from Calcutta. It was his first-ever visit to USA. He was the only person from India — from the bride’s side — who could attend the wedding.

Music, flowers, and wonderful Indian, Bengali and Punjabi attires worn by children, women and men made the wedding special.

But truly, our daughter’s wedding was special not just because we could spend our hard-earned money to make it as luxurious as possible. It was special because it was an example of race, religion, age and gender equality — our way.

We made it a point that even though it was a Hindu wedding, all our Muslim, Christian, Jew, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, gay, lesbian, capitalist, communist, socialist, atheist, black, white, brown and everyone else you can think of came and blessed the couple. The fact that everybody who participated with love had such a wonderful time was the true reason it was so special.

The entire ceremony was proof that true inclusiveness for a good cause is still very much possible. You need to show people that everyone is equally precious, and they reciprocate with heartfelt emotions. That is the true spirit of the Indian society.

I am sharing a few photos here, arranged choronologically. All photos were taken by Jose Tan.

Hope you have a wonderful 2017.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

bhangra-at-sangeetPhoto 1.Bhangra dance at the Sangeet ceremony.

artist-mama-blessesPhoto 2.Ashirvaad or blessing ceremony at our Brooklyn home. Artist Susanta Chakraborty, who visited from India, is blessing the bride, in presence of friends and relatives.

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Photo 3. — Bride arrives at the wedding hall, carried on a decorated wooden platform by three brothers. She circles the groom seven times, counted by the father of the bride.

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Photo 4. — Father gives away his daughter to the groom, through a religious ceremony called Sampradaan, presided over by the Hindu priest Jagat Jiban Sanyal. Parents of bride and groom sit on both sides. Friends and family members watch.

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Photo 5. — The newly-wed couple.

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For 2017: A Small Gift to You

aro-ektu-bosho-partha-banerjee-tagore-songsThis is a small gift to you, with a New Year wish.

Every year, especially since I came to America in 1985 as a foreign student, I tried my best to focus on one thing: one goal. Nobody taught me to do it; I did it on my own.

Setting a year-by-year goal for myself has greatly helped me to accomplish meaningful, positive things in my life — achievements that otherwise would be simply out of my reach, given what incredibly humble social and economic background I rose from.

Some years, I couldn’t quite accomplish it in spite of trying hard; some other years, I reached the self-targeted milestone ahead of time. It is a reward that has no capitalist price tag: it is truly a spiritual experience.

Meeting the goal within a stipulated time-frame lifts your spirits, and it gives you confidence that even though you rose from dust, and even though it’s a miracle that you’re still alive and healthy and physically active and mentally alert, you know deep inside that you have lived your life the best possible, honest way, and you have shown to the world that if someone like you with no money, no family pedigree, no political connection, and no genius-like talents can accomplish so much, anybody can do it.

What you need is a strong desire to go forward, an unwavering willingness to overcome obstacles, and a never-ending belief in yourself. You know that your parents, your ancestors, your teachers, your loved ones, and your real friends and well wishers have their blessings and support for you.

All you need is make short-term, mid-term, and long-term, pragmatic plans. Think about your one, single goal, and the schedule you’re planning for it. Is it doable? What are the costs? Time costs? Money costs? Energy costs? Resource costs? Emotional costs?

Let me say this to you: If I can do it, brothers and sisters, you can do it too.

Look up. Live straight and tall. Don’t nay-sayers and critics and frogs-in-the-well pull you down: their attacks and insults and hurts have no impact on you. None.

Your life is your life, and your desire to live your life your way is only yours. Nobody can take that positivity away from you.

I wish you all a very happy, peaceful, and prosperous 2017. If you believe in God, may God bless you. If you don’t, let your divine soul guide you.

Sincerely writing,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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What Is Christmas For Me?

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Christmas always brings a special meaning to me.

Not for religious reasons. Even though I went through a Christian missionary school in Calcutta, and they made us read the Bible. We had to take tests on the Old and New Testaments. I actually liked them, even though the Bengali translation was horrible.

Much later, I had a very rare opportunity to visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, and to see the Church of the Nativity gave me goosebumps.

In fact, I have always been a follower of Jesus Christ and his lifelong work for equality, peace, and justice. In fact, Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, Buddha and Krishna — five major religious icons I know of — have all preached socialism and no war, their way. Truly. They are progressive path breakers and torch bearers in human civilization.

But from an Indian and Bengali point of view, Christmas also is synonymous with two hundred years of forced occupation, tyranny, violence, and economic and social plunder of the subcontinent, that took my country away from me, and made me a victim of Western powers’ total takeover of a place that I have considered my motherland. British and Western occupiers raped and pillaged and robbed a very prosperous and peaceful India, and in two centuries, transformed it into a land of poverty, hunger, violence, hate, and mistrust.

Now, what the British and Dutch and French and Portuguese aggressors couldn’t do in two hundred years, American rapists and rulers have done in twenty years: they have colonized the minds of young India. But America and CIA and IMF and World Bank couldn’t do it, without the long, violent destruction by the British.

Yet, they did it in the name of spreading Christianity.

The Bible came to India, and so came the Western seeds of individualism, greed, destruction of our history, and breaking down of the society.

Jesus Christ didn’t live long enough to see this horror. He couldn’t have imagined it.

Merry Christmas only means so much to me.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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India’s Money Terror: We Have No Money

an-assam-gal-and-meFinal Episode (Real Life).
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So, in a week or so, my wife is leaving for India, and then, I’m going to join her in another couple of weeks.

Every year, whenever we get a chance, we return to India, and particularly Calcutta, places that are so near and dear to us. It doesn’t matter that we’ve spent thirty years in America, and have become mainstream Americans in every possible way. Returning to India is always exciting.

This time, however, there is a problem. We have no money.

The Indian government, in its most egregious, unconstitutional, immoral, cruel and inhumane way, has scrapped the currency overnight, putting 500 million-plus people in complete jeopardy. Media are painting a rosy picture of this so-called demonetization and digital India, because they are all sold-out to big corporations and their bribed politicians. Most Indians do not have a bank account, most places do not have a bank, and only 2% Indians have heard of a credit card. Demonetization is a historic crime on India.

So, why are we, privileged Americans bothered with it, with our wallet full of money and credit cards and online banking?

Here is why. We want to go to our neighborhood green market for vegetables and fish and groceries and flowers and fruits: we can’t do it, as we don’t have cash, and the village farmers and city grocers don’t have cash. We want to savor the sweets and samosas we grew up with. But we won’t have cash to get them. Many — countless — small places across the country are doing no business at all.

We will have managed to get the new 2000-rupee notes, but guess what, auto rickshaws, minibuses, electric trams and taxis won’t accept them. Calcutta subway (metro) does not accept credit card to sell daily tokens, or do they? Street-side vendors on Gariahat Road and at Ballygunge Station are practically empty. Soon, they will fold their shops that their refugee parents started at the time of the partition. That history will be forever gone.

The coveted Calcutta Book Fair that we religiously attend will have a sad and depressed look: people can’t buy and sell books from most places at the fair; heck, people who attend only for fish rolls can’t even buy fish rolls.

Yes, we could buy expensive saris and suits and jewelry and electronic devices at South City Mall, using our VISA, but guess what, we never go there for shopping. The only time we went was when we bought gifts for our daughter’s wedding.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg: situation in villages and small towns is horrendous and terrifying, and media — either Indian media or New York Times and CNN — won’t report. I keep calling it Journalism of Exclusion.

So, yes, excited that we’re going back to a place that is like ants licking up Rosgollah from a Bengali’s sweaty cheeks, but that’s about it.

Never did we think we would return to our own place, a beloved place which is now completely destroyed by the new fascists in power.

Never did we think we would return to our own place, where nobody asks any questions, and everybody stands in a long line, to comply with the government and their corporations and media, to give up their OWN money.

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(Photo: Parichay Dey, during our Assam reserve forest tour, Kaziranga National Park.)

India’s Money Terrorism: Lakshmi’s Mom

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A Real-Life Story — Part 2 

_________

It was December 1, 2016.

The cool weather has slowly set in, with the usual fog and really, more smog, due to the clay ovens still used in numerous households, and wood chip urns millions of slum- and street dwellers and roadside eateries use in Calcutta.

Add to it the city’s archaic and dilapidated state and private buses and trucks that run mostly on leaded petrol and diesel, accompanied by an enormous number of private cars, auto rickshaws, and motorbikes. And the countless, underground battery recycling places, where boys of twelve or thirteen years of age use sulphuric acid to clean the used electrodes.

We call them underground, but they are truly not. Nothing is underground in India — good, bad, ugly or evil. It is perhaps the most transparent country in the world.

December and January evenings, in cities such as Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Benares, Agra, Bhopal and Bangalore, you cannot breathe outside of your home: the air is so thick with pollution that you can vomit, faint, or go blind. Your lungs burn. Especially if you’re from outside. Indians and Bengalis do not vomit, faint, or go blind. They die slowly of cancer or diabetes or heart problems. Like my mother, who died of cancer at the age of forty-two.

Well, this is not my memoir, and definitely this story is not about my mother. This is today’s story.

On December 1, 2016, at seven in the morning, the middle-aged maid named Lakshmi’s mom showed up at the Mitra residence. Everyone calls her Lakshmi’s mom, as nobody ever asked what her own name was. She has been working in this household for the past fifteen years. When she started, she was a married woman with a working husband and two little children named Kartick, and of course, Lakshmi. Her husband Jibon worked in a lathe factory.

After fifteen years of working as a daily maid with this family, she is still married, but Jibon lost his job when he lost two fingers under the lathe machine at the shop, which went out of business, and Jibon got zero compensation. He now stays home, and cooks and cleans. He has developed asthma. They live in a slum just outside of Calcutta. Needless to say none of them has any medical insurance. They can’t afford it.

Lakshmi was married and sent off to a village in the state of Orissa, but came home one year after, abused by her husband and in-laws. She stayed for a couple of years with her mom and helped out, but she was very beautiful and soon fell prey to a Calcutta thug’s lust. What happened then to her, nobody really knows. Sujata, Deb’s wife, came to know, but she would not tell anyone except for Deb. They gave Lakshmi’s mom two thousand rupees. Neither the Mitra family, nor Lakshmi’s mom, talks about Lakshmi ever since.

Kartick is now eighteen years old, and works part time at the basement storage of a wholesale clothes store near the Sealdah rail station. He makes 2000 rupees a month, at 25 rupees an hour — way below the living wage. But his employer is a Hindi-speaking man from the state of Bihar, and prefers his country people over Bengalis. He often cheats Kartick, miscalculating his hours, a phenomenon we call wage theft here in America. Kartick, however, never heard of this political term. He did not go to school after seventh grade, and he is slow in arithmetic. In fact, he is a slow kid. It’s real easy to cheat him.

Today is the first day of the month, and Lakshmi’s mom is expecting her monthly salary from Deb and Sujata, after work. It’s Sujata, a primary school teacher, who normally pays her. Fifteen years ago, when Lakshmi’s mom began working at this family, her pay was 125 rupees a month. Now it is 600 rupees.

Deb’s father Hari Sadhan grumbles: he calls it “daytime dacoity,” which in America is known as high-noon robbery.

“Six hundred taka (rupees) for the cleaning maid? Bouma (daughter in-law), what age are we living in? Do you know my father made eight rupees a month?”

Sujata smiles. She knows it’s meaningless to explain inflation to an 80-year-old, who rose from a very humble beginning. She knows silence is often the soothing layer of ointment on soreness.

But kind and patient Sujata is, today she cannot pay even that 600 to Lakshmi’s mom. Since the scrapping of 500 and 1000-rupee notes on November 8 by prime minister Modi, banks and ATMs ran out of cash. The 100-rupee notes are scant, and people are holding them very carefully like their sick children. And they are running out fast.

Sujata now only has seven 100-rupee notes and two 2000-rupee, newly floated notes. She doesn’t want to part with all the 100s.

She pulls Lakshmi’s mom on one side and whispers, as if she committed a crime, “Lakshmi’s mom, I can’t pay you in full, okay? I have no money. Take two hundred now, and I will pay you two hundred more next week.”

Lakshmi’s mom didn’t know about prime minister Modi and his demonetization speech that made rupee bills useless like scrap paper. She only knew she had to buy food, oil, coal, and asthma medicine for her crippled husband.

She was speechless, and then she was angry. She broke down in tears.

(To be continued)