Our Children Will Live on Boats

Kerala flood 2018 Financial Express
People will live on boats. Very soon. And no such rescue would be necessary.

The only tropical rain forests and pristine nature in the Indian subcontinent are under an unprecedented, catastrophic flood. Most people still do not understand the gravity of the situation: massive man-made climate change, combined with out of control capitalism.

As I said many times, it’s profit before people. This American model that India adopted is great evil: it’s destroying America, and it’s destroying India.

Indian rulers are greedy, corrupt, fanatic, bigots, and have no regard for science. Just the same way Christian fanatics called the Connecticut and Florida school children killed by gun violence sinners, Hindu fanatics in India are calling the Kerala flood victims sinners and beef eaters. It’s not only ridiculous. It’s also cruel.

India’s BJP government also refused to receive foreign aids, adding more suffering to the marooned and hapless people. Their supporters are busy on social media, ridiculing the “Muslims, Christians, and communists of Kerala.”

Weather: Monsoon rain causes flood in Kerala
Of course, thanks to big media and corporate politicians, even today, cricket and Bollywood and such money-driven games are top news. One billion helpless people’s lives are at the brink of extinction. Those who are exposing the truth, and criticizing the greed and profit-only system — the people in power are trashing them.

Prediction is, in one generation, climate catastrophe will practically submerge Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bombay, Goa, Andhra, Orissa, West Bengal, and Bangladesh.

Read this World Economic Forum article: Why India is Most at Risk from Climate Change.

Our children will live on boats, fighting for food and water.

Kerala flood 2018 India Today

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Photo courtesy (only for non-profit, academic use)

  1. Boat rescue — The Financial Express
  2. Rope rescue — First Post
  3. Boat and bananas — India Today

Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1924-2018)

 

 

A Brilliant Leader Who Understood Moderation

My Personal Tribute
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Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born in 1924. So was my father Jitendranath. They were both lifelong RSS and BJP’s political preachers — Vajpayee as a top leader, and my father as a totally un-ambitious foot soldier. They knew each other closely for many years. My father, until his death last year, always spoke affectionately about their years together.

He fondly told his life’s story. “We were walking together, and I said to the other swayamsevaks (volunteers) with us: ‘Look, we’re now walking with the future prime minister of India.’ And the humble man would retort, ‘Come on, Jitendra-ji, what are you talking about?’ In Hindi, आरे भाई जीतेन्द्रजी, यह आप क्या बात कर रहें हैं? And we would laugh together.”

That was a day when it was unthinkable that far right RSS, its first political offshoot Jan Sangh (later renamed as BJP), and their men would ever become the thumping-majority ruling party in India. That the mighty Gandhi-Nehru Dynasty would nearly disappear. But Nostradamus (or Varāhamihira) he was not, my father’s prediction came true. In late 90’s, Vajpayee became India’s prime minister. And far right RSS and BJP were accepted as a normalized voice. People forgot about their dark, dangerous, KKK-like past. And it had a lot to do with Vajpayee, and his reasoned voice of moderation.

Leaders like Vajpayee knew that in India, you can’t run the country, and hold it together, unless you are inclusive and respectful to all religions, castes, and genders. Truly, like my father I’ve seen evolving into a mellowed, moderated voice, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became a sane, kind face — whom the Indian people, regardless of their politics, loved.

The present-day RSS, BJP, and their many powerful, well-funded organizations around India and overseas would not learn from Vajpayee’s moderation, or his personal integrity and sacrifice. Today’s right wing in India is rather strikingly similar to Trump’s right wing here in America. They thrive on violence, bigotry, fear-mongering, and hate. This BJP and its leaders cannot imagine, and would not imagine, how men like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Jitendranath Banerjee lived their lives — totally free of greed, lies, and corruption.

Yes, they were both lifelong believers of Hindu fundamentalism, if not in Hindu supremacy. They were strong, ardent followers of RSS ideologue Guru Golwalkar, who once championed Hitler. Over my 15+ intimate years with RSS, I have seen them very closely: they were fiercely anti-Islam, anti-Christianity, and anti-socialism. In my book “In the Belly of the Beast: Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India — An Insider’s Story” (1998), I have detailed and analyzed their social, political, and economic theories.

Islam, Christianity, and socialism — these have always been the Sangh Family’s (RSS’) three worst evils.

Vajpayee and Jitendranath were both militants in their early years: Vajpayee’s speeches were fiery, extremely eloquent, and often incendiary. He allegedly incited communal riots — in Assam and other places.

My father in his early years was also a top-notch speaker, a grassroots organizer who left his brilliant student career, and left home to preach his socio-political doctrine. He suffered greatly because of his non-completion of education, coupled with wrath he earned from the Gandhi Dynasty and their Congress government. My father was a diehard Hindu KKK, before he came to Bengal, knew my mother, and married into a family that was a symbol of love, kindness, inclusion, and secularism. He slowly but surely, steadily changed.

His early years, in his own words, were full of animosity against personalities like Gandhi and Tagore. His later years were love and respect for the great poet. Bengal’s soil, rain, and love converted him into a moderate man…well, sort of.

And I am being totally open and honest here. This has a lot to do with my tribute for Vajpayee today.

My mother, I, and our family never knew what economic stability was. But, as with most of the former RSS activists who lived for their patriotism, my father never complained about his hardship. Money was never a reason for him to live.

Both spent a few years in jail and exile, after RSS volunteer Nathuram Godse killed Mahatma Gandhi, and the organization was banned. Both lived up to their deep faith and ideology, built around their personal integrity, sacrifice, and honesty.

I have forever quit RSS and their extremist, supremacist, bigoted doctrine (my old friends admonish me that I am the worst-possible fool: had I not quit, I would now have become an elected parliament member in India).

My tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee today is about the man, his mission, and his unflinching faith for what he had believed in. In a way, it’s also a personal tribute to my father. Unlike the hard left and elite center, who would automatically reject the conservatives, I have a lot of respect and acceptance for them.

But my acceptance is only for the moderates like Vajpayee and his school. I would never have anything positive about today’s extremely hateful and violent RSS and BJP leaders and followers who are destroying the social fabric of India.

I truly wish there were more conservative leaders like Vajpayee. Today’s India cries out for them.

I deeply mourn the loss of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

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Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

My Wife Said, “Let’s Have Some Indian Music.”

Ravi ShankarIs that a good title for today’s blog? Well, I believe it is. I’ll tell you why.

So, yesterday, Park Slope Food Coop — a member-run not-for-profit specializing on healthy foods — put her in charge of preparing meals for some of the longtime staff at the coop. Obviously, because of her new reputation with Mukti’s Kitchen, they asked her to cook Indian dishes.

She found a number of volunteers to sous-chef, and I volunteered as one too (!).

It’s a two-day process. The first day, yesterday, five or six coop members helped her to cut vegetables, boil and peel eggs, grind spices, and then cook some of the dishes. The second day, today, they are going to finish it all — to cap with a sumptuous lunch. They’re all looking forward to it.

So, a half hour into the preparation early in the morning, Mukti said, “Why don’t we play some Indian music?” I said to myself, “Why couldn’t I think of it first? It’s natural today.”

On my iPhone, I began playing a Ravi Shankar sitar. He is a legend I spoke and wrote about many times. Here’s a CNN story after his passing. Moni Basu quoted me in it.

Ravi Shankar’s sitar was the first thing that came to my mind. Salute to the great maestro, who along with Ali Akbar Khan had thought about bringing Indian music to America long time ago, back in the sixties, when the Beatles became his fans, and George Harrison took sitar lessons after the phenomenal concert in California.

Then, Nicholas took over. He was one of the sous-chefs.

Nicholas turned on the coop kitchen computer, and put on an incredible sitar off YouTube. I don’t know who the artist was: could be Ravi Shankar, Vilayet Khan, or Budhaditya Mukherjee — one of the new maestros. I am not exactly sure.

But it was absolutely beautiful. I could use other terms to describe it: magical, spiritual, divine. But I would leave it up to you to decide. Meditative and relaxing, for sure. The entire environment in the kitchen lit up. He left the music on for the entire day — it played from 8 A.M. to 1.30 P.M., when we adjourned.

Today, August 14, is the day when I left my beloved India, Bengal and Calcutta — out of emotional and political desperation — to come to USA. It was extremely difficult.

Looking back, I am deeply sad that I could not stay back in a place that I care for so much. Its people, its love, its poetry. Looking back, I am extremely happy that along with my wife, I built a life from zero in an alien land, and gained knowledge, critical thinking, and reputation. (Oh yes, I couldn’t speak a full sentence in English before; now I can — a little bit.)

Both countries have given me so much. I owe so much to both places. In our small ways, we are giving back to both of them.

My wife is giving back through teaching Indian cooking secrets to her American students — literally hundreds of them. I am giving back through teaching my labor union worker students — literally thousands of them. Writing and translating 24/7 about our culture.

Ravi Shankar did it in his magnanimous way. He brought the treasures of the Indian civilization to America. And Americans — like Nicholas — are still in love with it.

We are doing it in our little ways.

I’m glad she was the one who thought of playing Indian music in the kitchen, and we all loved to help her cook Indian food, for the enlightened and embracing American friends.

Today, August 14, is a good day for us — to celebrate.

Sincerely, in love and gratitude,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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MK foods
Courtesy: Mukti’s Kitchen, Brooklyn, New York.

A Clarion Call to Brothers and Sisters

“If My Thought Dreams Could be Seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine” — Bob Dylan, “It’s All Right Ma”, 1965.

Bernie Ocasio Fox
Look at the picture here. This is Fox news. What does it say, and how does it say it?

The way fascist Republicans and Clinton-Lieberman-DNC Democrats have targeted new, young, elected leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is unbelievable! And even though CNN aired the interview with her (click on the link above), in general, corporate media is blasting the Bernie Sanders line of humanism, and without any objective analysis, making Democratic Socialism synonymous with communism.

And U.S. people are falling for that, because to them, anything remotely connected to socialism is “Godless communism.” For decades, since the Era of McCarthyism, American powers and media have successfully made the concept of equality, peace and justice an evil. They have cut off the global knowledge base, and made Americans blind and deaf about what’s going on across the civilized world.

So, what are leaders like Sanders and Alexandria talking about that’s so loathsome and repulsive to some working-class Americans?

(1) That unlike the rest of the developed, capitalist world, USA has an out-of-control wealth and income disparity, and we need to narrow the gap, to make the middle class stronger.

(2) Unlike the rest of the developed, capitalist world, American people pay an obnoxious, outrageous amount of money for health care and education, and we must make them affordable, because health care and education are rights and not privileges.

(3) Unlike the rest of the developed, capitalist world, American corporations have caused havoc to the environment, and we must clamp down on them — fossil fuel corporations in particular — to save the earth from destruction.

(4) Unlike the rest of the developed, capitalist world, USA’s three topmost industries are arms (and gun) industry, drug industry, and sex industry, along with the prison industry, and we must move away from these industries, to bring peace and sanity to ourselves and our children.

Democratic Socialism is not communism. And Fox and other such media are purposefully scaring the American people. Reject their fear mongering and lies.

I have worked for many years, intensely, first with the right wing and then with the left wing. After almost fifty years of activism in the two biggest democratic countries in the world, I am convinced that unless we work together — making a serious effort to bring the 99% together — on a common platform of equality, peace, social justice, environmental justice, and affordable education and health care for all, we can’t save the world from the clutches of neoliberal corporate pushers and Trump-Modi-type fascists.

Americans with intelligence and political acumen must wake up now, and seize the new opportunity, recognizing the groundswell. Stop fascists and neoliberal corporate politicians from destroying this nonviolent revolution that’s sweeping across America.

Intelligent and progressive people in India can follow this new, surging young America, if they want. It’s your call.
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Partha Banerjee
Wikipedia page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partha_Banerjee
Long Island, New York
August 11, 2018.

Remembering Kolkata…Mid-Monsoon

School end monsoon

Last year on this day, my father passed away. He lived a long, fulfilling life.

We were lucky to have been able to be by his bedside, a few days before his final departure. And, even though it was a very difficult time for me and my family, it was also peaceful for two reasons.

Crow on tree
One, it was mid-monsoon in Bengal. Torrential rain, thunderstorm, and then relentless rain all day…the crows getting drenched perched on that big Ficus tree right in front of our house…the streets are making noise with the pattering of the rain, wheeling of the rubber tires of Calcutta taxis…and the indescribable sound people make with their feet when they walk across rain-soaked alleys…occasionally leaping over the puddles…

Monsoon evening

And then, after a hard burst of rain, the sky gets crystal clear. The trees show their real lush green foliage. Pollution disappears. That’s how it has always been. That’s how it will always be.

Green Kolkata
And the second reason, of course, is that we could make it on time. Being in America, ten thousand miles away from there, we always had anxieties that when the time finally comes for him to go, we wouldn’t be there. This apprehension exacerbated after my wife could not arrive before the death of her parents. The news came too suddenly.

I have written about my father’s death, and I have written about our immigrant life in America — its isolation and melancholy — many times. I am linking up some of the articles I wrote on those subjects. You can click on the links, and read. I don’t wish to test your patience.

Window

Here I’m including a few photos we took on our trip last year. It’s a different type of a story. Or, it could be the same story, told in a different way.

You decide. I am a little out of it today.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Monsoon

Bus stand