Calcutta Diary, Pages 6, 7, 8

Panchanantala Slum in Kolkata
For those who have interest in what I have to say, I am posting my diary I took during my recent visit to India. Hope you read.

I am now back in New York.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

_______

Does the Global Community Care?

CALCUTTA DIARY, 2016. Page 6. — How extremely difficult life is, here for the ordinary people! If we didn’t rise from the dust, we wouldn’t know.

The elite neither know, nor do they care. Some curse the poor, and some look the other way, passing the doomed slums in their Honda, Toyota and Tata Sumo.

In a mega city like Calcutta, with its ten million-plus people, to one from this place who went through their struggles — the extreme hopelessness and colossal status quo on one hand, and fighting spirit and inspiring dreams on the other — it seems an impossible battle to even sustain, let alone prosper. An explosive population has added to the already compounded problems, but both the ruling class and the ruled are now indifferent about it. More people added, more poverty and problems? No problem. Add more malls and flyovers for the affluent, and the poor will find ways anyhow, by opening makeshift tea shops and noodle joints under the next banyan tree on the street.

The way people are battling for themselves and their children, especially the way women are struggling both inside and outside of their homes, I wish the global community came and saw it.

To the global community, it is a city of doom that Mother Teresa once tried to save. Yet, we the informed Calcuttans all know that her missionary, its hard work to save a small fraction of Calcutta’s poor, was a baby-making machine, where the products would be baptized and turned over to the childless West.

Who is thinking about the absolutely impossible lives of Calcutta, India, or Bangladesh? I can write posts every single day, but other than some curious likes and comments, what difference does it make?

 ___
Howrah Bridge Ganges
A VISITING IMMIGRANT FROM AMERICA.
CALCUTTA DIARY, 2016. Page 7. — I can take full responsibility when I say that almost all the immigrants from America or Europe or other places who visit Calcutta come mainly to escape a very difficult, if not inhumane, corporate work environment for a couple of weeks.
They come to see their old parents or ailing siblings, and they come to find a breath of fresh air, to unchoke themselves. A Bengali movie or theater, a precious visit to the annual book fair, a two-day trip to Darjeeling or Puri or Benaras, or a very precious, rare visit during the Durga Puja time frees them up temporarily from their immigrant life, which is full of stress and anxiety.
Coming to Calcutta works as therapy, even though they curse the pollution and chaos and long lines at government offices and banks, and curse the government for not controlling the street dogs barking late at night, or a ear-splitting bomb that somebody decided to explode at midnight because they thought it was fun.
And of course, there are some immigrants who visit to check up on the charity they began in a nearby village, philanthropy they created in the name of their deceased mother or wife. A few have built a temple or a mosque. I have every respect for all of them.
But an immigrant who is a lifelong activist, and has been in the thick of political and cultural movements, is perhaps a very rare, crazy find. He is always looking for activity of his like, but not finding it, because being away for years, and having experienced a more polished and structured, modern variety of activism, where time is much more precious than money, he is at a loss as to where to put his energy, and where to be warmly received and used in an honest, time-efficient way.
He knows he is able to accomplish a lot, selflessly, within his short stay, but he leaves disappointed that another expensive visit from abroad ended up in near futility.
God drove him out of his country, and God has made sure his love, passion, talents and ideas remain ignored forever.
___

scottish_church_collegiate_school

How to Get Sick During Your Short Stay.

CALCUTTA DIARY, 2016, Page 8. — It is extremely frustrating, for one thing. You only have a few days before you go back, and you are down with a fever, cold, and a terrible cough that wakes you up periodically at night. Y

ou know you have a lot to do — in my case, promote my memoir across the literary and media circles in this city — but you are stuck at home. Friends ask you to attend their winter picnic and you have not been to such a picnic for decades and this was your chance. And now you are stuck. You thought of meeting as many family members as possible. You can’t do it. The fairs and music conferences are happening too.

How do you take it? You resign. In my case, a three-day sickness brings back a lot of memories, the foremost being of my mother washing my hair at noon, and then cooking an easy-to-digest vegetable and boneless fish soup. (Shingi fish, was four rupees then as opposed to four hundred rupees now). She would gently blow on it to make it a tolerable warm. My father would put his palm on my forehead to check the temperature before he left home for work; he would do the same thing as soon as he returned in the evening. The lazy hours between twelve and four, I would sleep a little, read a little if I felt like it, and just lay on the bed listening to passing-by blanket makers with their bow stringing, the man who buys old books, notebooks and newspapers, the dove and pigeon pack making slow and monotonous tu-u-tu and trrrrr, two crows and a lonely kite, a team of chirping chorais (city finch) quarreling, and an occasional conversation next door down on the second or first floor about how the old man their next door was taken to the hospital the previous morning. The broken-up conversation with broken details. It fades away as the woman retires from the verandah into the interior.

A sickness, however annoying, suddenly shuttles me back fifty years ago. My father is still alive. In this same-old city of Calcutta.

###

pb-twilight

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