Why Do I Go Back to India and Bengal?

My mother's kitchen in North Calcutta.
My mother’s kitchen in North Calcutta. I go back to it.

Truly, sincerely, and honest to God, India and Bengal are pilgrimage to me.

I’ve been in USA for thirty years. More than half my life. I live here. I work here. This country has given me a lot. A lot.

Yet, every time I go back to that place, it gives me goosebumps.

I know that place is full of violence, corruption and devilish rulers who have destroyed the country beyond recognition, and gotten rich. But I also know that place is full of love, honesty, and gods and goddesses and angels who you have seen all your life, and discover every single day while you are there.

People — including friends and relatives — often tell me that I am harsh on these two countries I’ve known all my life (India and USA). Some (including closest friends and relatives) have grown this feeling in their hearts that we have left India for selfish gains, which to them was an act of treachery and betrayal. And then they believe in honesty that my crying for my motherland is therefore all phony and elitist, without knowing, touching or living through the reality.

Some others, here in the U.S., often wonder why do I talk about India so much even after being here for so long? Some question my love and passion to live and work here in the U.S. They say, “Make up your mind. You can’t be in both places at the same time. This is your country now. Make the best of it.”

Of course, some of it is true. But some of it is not.

Scottish Church School. My elementary education began here.
Scottish Church School. My elementary education began here.

Considering how much I have learned about India and Bengal, being away from India and Bengal, and how deep and divine that knowledge and insight is, it is purely God’s blessing.

Considering how much I have learned about America and the West, one lesson at a time — over thirty years — is simply mind boggling. Never thought in one life, I could do so much. That is God’s blessing too.

No question about it.

And then, of course, very few want to know what kind of extreme sadness, emotional void and economic suffering my family and I had to go through all these years as immigrants in a distant land with no money, language or relatives — to come to this point that we’re at now.

Nobody cares to know how much my family and I have learned together, in and out of universities, and how deep and enormous that knowledge is.

I am not blaming anybody for their ignorance. I am not pleading to the naysayers and negative thinkers.

My hope and beliefs and optimism are all out there — for those who have an open mind, who want to see us eye to eye, and want to know what we have to say. Anybody: students, teachers, factory workers, human rights activists, home makers…any and all of you. You come to me, and I am here for you. I love you, and I love the place that made me what I am today.

The Joy of a City. Rikshaw-wallas rest and read.
The Joy of a City. Rikshaw-wallas rest and read.

I am not being sentimental. We can love each other, as parents love their children, and sisters love their brothers, and in case of India and Bengal, as teachers love their students — to share knowledge and experience. In case of USA, the detached but very strong common feelings of solidarity across the working-class and rights and justice spectrum. These feelings across the world are so real, and so reassuring!

This brain-mind combination of human emotions and educated reasoning can do miracles. This collective passion for the country and society can save us from doom.

Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for being kind.

I leave for India and Bengal now.

But I shall come back to USA.

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3 thoughts on “Why Do I Go Back to India and Bengal?

  1. Dear Partha,

    I enjoyed your post enormously as I also come from Kolkata, the great City of Culture and is called Capital of Culture. I stayed @ the Dundas Hostel as I studied @ the Goenka College of Commerce, one of the best Commerce Colleges in Kolkata, may even be the very best.

    I have lived in the UK for almost 47 years but still like to visit my home-city Kolkata.

    I look forward to reading your post with great interest when you get back to NY.

    Have a great holiday.

    Bon Voyage

    Warmest regards,

    Maitreyee.
    Co-Producer & Co-Presenter of Surtarang Broadcast.

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