New Realizations, Returning from India

My new-found profession :-)
My new-found profession. Shaving father at home 🙂

HOLDING ON TO NEW REALIZATIONS as much as possible, before they slip out into oblivion.

One of the biggest differences between living in USA and living in India is the presence/lack of personal, real-life conversation and this virtual conversation on social media. No matter how powerful your writing is and how real your feelings are, you simply cannot touch family and friends on Facebook and Twitter, or email or blog your smiles or tears.

Powerful USA, a country that takes pride in its individualistic lifestyle and keeps breaking down the real society in the name of democracy or freedom (which is so fake and superficial), has now colonized the privileged class in India, but it still has a very long way to go before it can take over the vast majority of poor Indians — Bengalis, Punjabis, Marathis, Tamils, Hindus, Muslims, atheists or tribals — and their life of togetherness.

And because I belong to that class, I feel so good to be in that environment of togetherness. It exudes love, care and respect, and you can feel it and touch it and smell it and eat it and drink it, in spite of the lovelessness and lack of care and disrespect and hurt that slowly sink in and destroy hope for humanity. It is not easy to describe it, and because my first language is not English, I have a hard time describe it, although I try.

I am writing my Bengali memoir now, and all of the above feelings come through, perhaps better illustrated there (and I’m looking for translators). But I translate my feelings constantly in English for the educated and privileged audience, who “matter more” with their economic, social and political powers.

I never use sexy language, and refuse to be a part of the corporate-media-driven, fake sensationalism and narcissism. I never “like” a post without reading it first. I never comment without thinking twice about it and its consequence.

I use social media in USA because there is no real-life society, except for my relatively small labor union and activism circles. If I had a real society like the one I just came back from, I would refuse Facebook altogether.

People tell me that I have made a difference in their lives and thinking process through my work, writing and teaching, and that’s blessing from some God I truly don’t know. But please know that this virtual medium is only stop gap for me.

I would rather be out there with you, holding your hand, looking in your eyes, and smiling together. Sharing together, knowing we’re actually listening. That is life. Do not destroy it, India. Do not destroy it, Bengal, Punjab. Do not let them destroy the society, America.

Individualism-only is not freedom or democracy. A real society is.

Hold on to it.

Sincerely Yours,

Partha

Back in Brooklyn, New York

My wife Mukti and me, along with cousins, having a fabulous lunch in the village of Rajpur, West Bengal.
My wife Mukti and me, along with cousins, having a fabulous lunch in the village of Rajpur, West Bengal. Aunt sitting in the corner, making sure we eat well.

Hindu Indian In Taxi With Muslim Pakistanis: Yesterday’s Experience

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I could not find a better title for this.

Sometimes, it is hard to draw readers’ attention in this instant soundbyte world. This crazy time does not give us space to think. We do not reflect. We do not share. We do not care.

Well, yesterday’s difficult experience turned into one that raised my hope one more time that even in this crazy, carnal, careless world, maybe, after all, we can still live together in a spirit of brotherhood and harmony. Yes, sisterhood too.

But this little experience was about brothers. So, for now, I’m going to focus on brothers.

Pakistani Muslim brothers rescuing an Indian [American] Hindu brother in distress.

January 23, 2014. I wrote on my Facebook status update:

“AN EXPERIENCE, JUST NOW. — NYC subway stalled because of power failure. No announcement. Nothing for 25 minutes. Hundreds of passengers shivering in dangerous cold. Mothers and small children too. It’s 10 F (-12 C). Some of us finally got out and waited for taxi. Expensive. But no taxi either. We started walking briskly, saving us from freezing. Wading through mountains of snow. A Pakistani brother called his friend 10 miles away. They came and rescued us. Dropped me off near home. I’m going to write more about it. There’s more. Precious. Memorable. I got out of the car, and said “Allah Hafez.” Amen. I’m a Hindu. But does it matter?”

What I did not write in that small, Facebook status update box is the following.

1. Indians in India, and Pakistanis in Pakistan, thanks to their rulers’ purposeful hate and belligerence for decades, aided by foreign powers, would probably never share a taxi. I’m of course talking about the vast majority. Some nuts are still there who trust each other.

2. Hindus anywhere, and Muslims anywhere, thanks [etc.], would probably never come out to help each other especially in times of need. Again, with few exceptions. Bangladesh and West Bengal, two places I know well, were different with a lot of interfaith mingling. The situation is much worse now.

3. In this extremely alienated, fragmented society called USA, outside of big, metropolitan cities such as New York, it would be impossible to find such help from complete strangers. People do not want to take chances, and I’m not talking about women and children. Even men — strong and able men — have a lot of fear about strangers. Everyone you don’t know is a stranger. To me, that’s…strange!

4. And of course, after that G-Train experience I wrote about (read here) in this blog, last night’s experience reaffirmed how badly the U.S. infrastructure has become, thanks to the Wall Street looting and government’s ignoring the ordinary people and their problems.

I want to thank you, brother (you said your name was Mohammed Ashraf?). Wherever you and your friends are, THANK YOU.

Gratefully Yours,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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He is not Mohammed Ashraf, brother who rescued me last night. But look at him: is he a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, atheist? What do you think?

This Week, I’m Coming to India, With Mixed Emotions

Violence. Rage. Out of Control.
Violence. Rage. Out of Control.

Honestly, given how perennially poor, powerless and pedigree-less I have always been, I could be killed any time, many times.

And nobody would even notice.

Yet, India trips over the years — short or long — have always been exciting, no matter what.

Last year, around this time, I wrote about my then-imminent trip to India. Here I go again — go again — one more time. Here I write again — write again — one more time.

Last year, I quoted some Facebook comments I received from friends, in response to my trip announcement (read the blog: click on the link). This year, I do the same. Similar, I mean. Well…the format is similar, but the subject of the discussion is definitely not.

You’ll find out.

So, I posted on my Facebook wall this time:

THIS WEEK, I AM LEAVING FOR INDIA, my homeland, where men violate women, rich oppress poor, “high caste” beat up “low caste”…and guess what…powerful men and women of ALL societies exploit the powerless…AND MAKE MONEY. YET, you can’t call killers killers, liars liars and crooks crooks: media, police, politicians and social bosses will tell you what and how much you can say or do. They call it the largest secular democracy in the world!! Wish me well.

Oh boy…oh boy…did I open up a Pandora’s Box!

Responses came like a burst-open Hoover Dam. Or, keeping India in mind, like the Hoodroo Waterfalls in monsoon.

Some comments were quite mild. Like this one:

“I wish you didn’t make such an observation, Dada.” (Dada means big brother in Bengali).

My Motherland! All My Life!
My Motherland! All My Life!

Another innocuous one:

“All said and done India is our motherland…”

Of course! Who would disagree? So, I replied:

“If it’s our motherland, than treat the land as your mother.” (Like, don’t rape and kill and steal and soil and spoil and hit and hurt…the current India way!)

So far so good. People even started “like”ing the conversation.

Then, this.

“This expresn hurts us as we r livng in our mtherland u r nt. Don’t nacket our mother.”

Okay. Still okay with it. (Even though it hurts just a little…perhaps…whenever I see the you don’t live here snide. So, what if I don’t live there physically? I know about India inside out…believe me…I can teach you about India five times over…however “politically incorrect” that teaching might be — see below for clarification. And guess what: I’ve actually lived there for three decades — and that is where half of my heart still is. Does it make it a half-hearted passion? You decide. I don’t care.)

Then…a more “politically correct” comment.

“This is what Uma Narayan [author] calls “Death by Culture.” Your remark is so incorrect and the way you have stated your opinion is so problematic that it requires far more than a facebook reply. It would benefit you to actually educated yourself on gender-based violence, particularly in the post-colonial context.” (No edits done here.)

Well, first of all, I don’t even understand half of it: I’m not that politically educated…at least my language I never claim to be politically correct. And I don’t mind being a little more educated even though I’ve been getting education for half a century now, but some more wouldn’t hurt.

And I also got a long note:

“Exploitation is everywhere, the core countries exploit the peripheral states, the haves exploit the have nts, whites beat up blacks, police interrogate anybody wth a beard and a surname calld khan, presidnts have their underwear testd to cnfirm adultery,…ethnic groups clash, a schizophrenic runs amok and guns dwn schlchldren, the entire world is dark and brutal..lets nt singl out india nly..yes it has many negative aspects…bt its healthier if we see the general dgeneratn of nations as a whole..cultural imperialism has taken its toll on india and such countries. Advertisements, baywatch, sex n the city, these cmodify wmen..we have 2 indias..one whch thrives ôn the MTV inputs and the other an impoverishd india..there is hybridisatn of idntities coupld wth illiteracy whch makes india what u branded it nw..lets nt only thnk frm a macro level.”

[Did not change the typos or abbreviations at all: who knows I might be even more politically incorrect doing it.]

They Just Torched Their Village! Commonplace!
They Just Torched Their Village! Commonplace!

So, I tried to explain my status update (not sure why I have to do it every time — to my “friends…I mean, don’t they know me?)

I wrote:

“Indian govt, police and military kill innocent people (mostly inside the country). U.S. govt, police and military kill innocent people in faraway lands (and also in the country). Indian politicians and corporations have some of the most corrupt elements in the world. So do American politicians and corporations. But they tell me not to get into it. My friends and family warn me not to get into it. My fellow Indians hate me for saying unpleasant things about India. My fellow Americans get very unhappy when I say unpopular things about America. And I really should follow their advice and shut up, given how powerless and pedigree-less I am.”

I also wrote:

USA and Western corporate capitalist powers, with help from IMF and World Bank, have completely colonized India and such countries; most people do not understand the nature of this massive, unbelievable neocolonization mainly because media do not talk about it and it is not bloody on the outside. Nobody understands what Monsanto does, what Wal-Mart, Disney, Coke, McDonald’s, GE, Exxon, Goldman Sachs or HSBC does. The death and destruction is perhaps the biggest in human history; yet we have so little talk about it especially outside the election cycles. India is perhaps the biggest victim. The social, economic and political problems that are imploding the country are all connected to this neocolonizing powers and their paid puppets, politicians and police in India. I’m going to talk about it at every opportunity I get while I’m there. I’ve written about it for years. You can look up one such article at https://onefinalblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/new-imf-terror-in-india-can-kill-my-family/

[And I didn’t even mention the Delhi gang rape preceded and followed by thousands of such horrific acts of violence on our sisters and daughters. I didn’t even mention the gruesome one-in-every-thirty-minute Monsanto farmer suicide, the still-born babies from that 1984 Union Carbide gas chamber killing, the 1984 Sikh genocide by Congress Party killers, the 2002 Gujarat carnage of Muslims, or the continuous barbaric attacks on poor, “low castes” and “untouchables.” I did not mention the unthinkable extent of female infanticide, bride burning and dowry deaths, or acid attacks on women, and zero justice for government and corporation-sponsored thugs and mafia that now rule India. I did not mention countless other such things — old and new.]

Psalm for the Rich. Alms for the Poor. India. Always.
Psalm for the Rich. Alms for the Poor. India. Always.

I AM poor, powerless and pedigree-less. I do not get quoted in news media. I do not feature in high-echelon accolades. I do not go to elite literary or musical conferences that New York Times reports. I do not have a car or even a family-owned house in India. I do not have followers. I do not have fans. Killing someone like me…is so easy in a place like India…or anywhere. My good friends, family and well wishers are often deeply worried about my well being. I’m not making it up.

I am scared to death too: for me, for my family, for my extended family living in India.

Yet, I got this last piece for now — another piece of wisdom from [I suppose] a more educated and politically correct person:

“Why do you think if a person isn’t making knee-jerk remarks that they are not as enraged or aware as you? Frankly, I find 90% of your remarks to be incorrect/inaccurate in some way or another. I hope you start to analyze the issues in a better way.”

And she even got rave reviews for her remarks:

“I ditto […]. I fnd u too exhibitionist. Anyway gdluck.”

I think she means well. I’ll take it. Thank you.

Not all the responses were critical. Some were reassuring. I’d pay more attention to them (life would become a little less complex that way…I suppose. But who knows if I’m making a politically incorrect, illiterate comment here!)

Violent Protest Must Be Punished!
Violent Protests Must Be Punished!

One friend cheered me up:

“The exploitation on women is universal, I suppose. The form of exploitation can be different from one to another. But still what you said about INDIA is also true.”

A young writer friend wrote:

“Welcome to our Shonar Bangla.” (Shonar Bangla is Tagore’s term for Golden Bengal — the old-glory, prosperous, pre-occupation, pre-colonization, pre-partitioned, pre-looted Bengal where lives and education and businesses and cultures and music and art and poetry and spirituality and such precious things flourished for centuries. Of course, nobody — not even Bengalis — cares to know.)

Even though Bengal is not golden anymore — thanks to a two century-long brutal, violent, plundering colonization and raping of the land followed by half a century of brutal, violent, plundering and raping of the land by a new class of “Independent India” rulers — I’ll take that “Shonar Bangla” omment with a cheerful heart too. It means something. It helps sustain a dream — to rise again, to prosperity and freedom to learn, think and analyze.

That is a dream I come back to every year. I hope those of you who do not like me and hate me and wish me go away do not kill me while I’m there. Even though Indian-Bengali poet D. L. Ray had said: “I wish to be reborn here and I wish to die here too…” honestly, that is not my wish right now.

I want to return. I wish to return — to you.

I am leaving for India again — with mixed emotions. I am excited, and I am nervous. I want to meet friends. And I am also apprehensive about meeting friends: who knows how they are going to talk and treat.

But it’s my mother’s land. I must come back to her.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Mother's Land of Poverty and Pain. I Must Love Her.
Mother’s Land of Poverty and Pain. I Must Love Her.

How to Stop the Rape Epidemic in India — Part 2: Shameful Saga

Even after this episode of horror! Even after December 16, 2012.
Even after this episode of horror! Even after December 16, 2012.

Part 1: Pledge to My Sisters. Look up https://onefinalblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/how-to-stop-the-rape-epidemic-in-india-part-one-pledge/

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Part Two: the Shameful Saga

To understand the enormity of the problem and why we must address it as a plague, small pox or cholera-like epidemic, let us revisit the shameful, horrific situation of rape and violence on women in India.

I am quoting the following numbers from Outlook India magazine, their date of publication January 14, 2013. Their web link is here. The information below shows how all-pervasive the epidemic has become over the years — encompassing all races, castes, religions, geographical areas, economic classes or ages. Just like any other epidemic, rape and violence on women in India have now impacted them ALL.
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20 Horrific, Landmark Cases Up To December 2012

•1973: Aruna Shaunbag: A junior nurse at King Edward Memorial hospital in Mumbai, tied with a dog chain, assaulted and raped by a ward boy. She lost her eyesight and has been in a vegetative state since. Supreme Court turns down mercy killing.

•1978: Geeta and Sanjay Chopra were kidnapped for ransom in Delhi in the infamous “Ranga-Billa” kidnapping case. The culprits raped Geeta before killing them both.

•1982: Tulasa Thapa, a 12-year-old Nepali girl, was repeatedly raped before being sold into prostitution. Ten months later, she was brought to JJ Hospital in Mumbai where she died of brain tuberculosis and three sexually transmitted diseases.

•1990: A 14-year-old school girl was raped at her residence in Calcutta and killed by a security guard. Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in August 2004, the country’s first hanging since 1995. [Note: India uses capital punishment sporadically. Now, facing public anger over the Delhi rape case, both the ruling Congress Party and main opposition BJP are trying to amend the constitution so that rapists are also subjected to the death penalty. There is hardly any discussion now about the various aspects of the punishment.]

•1996: A 16-year-old girl was sexually harassed and assaulted continuously for 40 days by 42 men in Kerala. In 2000, a special court sentenced 35 persons to rigorous imprisonment but the Kerala High Court acquitted them in 2005. [Note: Kerala is a southern Indian province where education rate is very high, many people are Christian, and the society is by and large matriarchal — extremely rare in India.]

•1996: 25-year-old law student Priyadarshini Mattoo was found raped and murdered at her house in Delhi. Ten years later, the Delhi High Court found Santosh Kumar Singh guilty. [Note: it shows even in the very few cases where there is an ultimate criminal conviction, the law and justice system drags on forever. On the other hand, in case of foreign nationals’ rape cases — now more frequently than ever before — justice is served promptly.]

•1999: The estranged wife of an Indian Forest Service officer, Anjana Mishra’s car was stopped at a desolate place on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. She was gangraped in front of the friend she was traveling with.

•2002: A fourth-year medical student was gangraped at knifepoint on the terrace of the Khooni Darwaza monument situated on the busy Bahadurshah Zafar Marg in Delhi.

•2003: Shari S. Nair, a teenaged girl hailing from Kottayam, Kerala, was sexually abused after being promised roles in TV serials. Shari later died after giving birth to a daughter.

•2004: 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama was tortured and allegedly executed by personnel of the paramilitary force of 17 Assam Rifles stationed in Manipur, after being picked up from her house. (Below is a picture of the historic “Manorama” protest by Indian women in the nude — just to put it in perspective.)

Shame on us. Salutation to them.
Shame on us. Salutation to them.

•2005: 28-year-old Imrana was raped by her father-in-law in Uttar Pradesh. The village elders and Sharia courts nullified her marriage saying her husband was now her son.

•2005: A Delhi University student was gangraped by four men inside a car for several hours and dumped in south Delhi, unconscious and without clothes.

•2009: Two young women were raped and murdered in Jammu under mysterious circumstances, allegedly by CRPF (military) personnel. One of them was two months pregnant at the time.

•2010: A 30-year-old tech employee was raped by five men near her home in south Delhi. The woman was pulled into a mini truck, raped repeatedly and thrown out two hours later.

•2011: A nine-year-old mentally disabled girl was raped on a Mumbai train in front of five other passengers. The child could not scream or shout or speak because she was disabled.

•Feb 2012: A 37-year-old woman was gangraped in a car on Calcutta’s Park Street after coming out of a bar. Mamata Banerjee (Bengal’s current chief minister) had said the case was cooked up to embarrass her government.

•Dec 2012: An eighteen-month-old baby, the daughter of pavement dwellers, was found by her mother one morning covered in blood. Doctors said she had been raped and tortured.

•Dec 2012: A two-year-old was raped, allegedly by her maternal uncle, and thrown into a thorny bush in Baroda, Gujarat. She died after being taken to the hospital.

•Dec 26, 2012: A 20-year-old woman was allegedly gangraped by 10 people on the banks of Manimuktha river in Tamil Nadu, according to police.

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Violence - Violence = 0. But who listens!
Violence – Violence = 0. But who listens!

EVEN AFTER the December 16 Delhi gang rape tragedy that has rocked India, the country has not seen any respite in the number and frequency of rape and violence on women. The following news from India’s NDTV tells the story. Link to news here.

Amid nationwide furor over the gang-rape and murder of a paramedic student in Delhi, five fresh cases of crime against women were reported on Wednesday in neighboring Punjab, prompting the state police to constitute specialized investigation teams. [Note: this is how the news was reported — focusing on the state of Punjab.]

A six-year-old girl from Singhpura Munnan village in Moga district was raped, Senior SP (Moga) S S Grewal said. The accused Soni Singh took the victim to his place about 20 days back and raped her, Grewal said, adding that Singh had confessed to the crime about which police came to know only on Monday. The accused has been arrested, the SSP said. Medical examination of the girl confirmed rape.

In a separate case, an eight-year-old girl of a migrant labourer was allegedly raped and killed by a 25-year-old youth at Simbli village in Hoshiarpur district. Mehtiana police booked a youth, Sanjay Kumar, of district Purnia (Bihar). The accused is at large.
Both, Kumar and the victim’s family, were living at a farmhouse in Simbli village. On Wednesday, the girl’s body was found in nearby fields.

In the third incident, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by three persons at Talwandi Kalan village on the outskirts of Ludhiana city. Police Commissioner Ishwar Singh said that all the accused, aged between 28 to 30 have been arrested.

In another crime against women, three villagers were on Wednesday booked on the charge of teasing and beating up a woman of the same village. The accused Ladoo, Sonu and Kaka, all residents of Bassi Mustafa village were booked. The girl alleged in her complaint that while she along with her sister was returning home from work, the accused first teased her and then later thrashed her up.

In another case, police on Tuesday booked ten persons in connection with the alleged abduction of two sisters at Jalala village of Hoshiarpur district. The accused went to the victim’s home on the night of December 29 and allegedly kidnapped them, police said.

(Please continue on to Part 3: Proactive and Reactive Measure. Click here.)

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The Land of Tagore and Gandhi!
The Land of Tagore and Gandhi!

This Is Brooklyn, New York. Not Your United States!

Courtesy: http://warincontext.org

These days, I am trying to keep my patience and save my energy as much as possible.

I keep telling my students, colleagues, family and friends that one of the biggest challenges in life has become how to keep calm in the face of the numerous reasons you could otherwise be angry. I keep telling them that this is one of the top lessons we need to teach our young generation and children — i.e., those who still want to learn from oldies like us and have some faith and confidence in our wisdom. Honestly, we the older generation is leaving behind a horribly messed-up world for them; its up to them to decide whether they want to clean it up or destroy it even further. If they want to clean it up — and I hope they do — they need to learn how to stay calm, composed and focused in spite of the many provocations and turmoils caused by the people in power. They need to learn how to be stoic, and sift through small, mundane things to deal with the real important ones.

Now, what the heck does it have to do with the title of this post: This is Brooklyn, New York. [This is] Not your United States? What does it really mean? I mean, look at the sentences: on the surface, together, don’t even make any sense!

It has a little, real-life story behind it — as a vast majority of my blogs have had some kind of real-life connection. What happened was that this morning, I went to do some small groceries at a locally-owned store here in Brooklyn. I picked up some fruits and vegetables and stood in the line that had perhaps three or four people in front of me, and no one behind. It is a small store and there is not much space to move around near the cashier’s check-out machine. This is a store run by a Hispanic owner; most workers, if not all, are also Latino women and men.

So, waiting in the line, I saw an old white woman pushing her cart full of stuff she bought and she was tentatively looking at me as if she was trying to find out if she could get in front of me, or behind, in the line. I would have no problems letting her come in front of me especially when I was the last person in the line; in fact, my deep-rooted Indian courtesy for older people often makes me do such little acts of benevolence. So, I said, “Would you like to come in here?” Or, maybe, I thought, she was trying to sneak by me into the isle for milk and dairy products.

And then the old woman said something that was quite out of the blue. She yelled at me, really yelled at me on top of her voice, “This is United States. We don’t do it around here. In the United States, we do not come that way. This is United States…here…”

Oh my Gosh, why did I even bother to be nice and polite to her, I thought! I was so taken aback (a mild way) that I even told the cashier girl about my feelings. Of course, she didn’t want to comment: after all, she wouldn’t want to remark on another customer’s behavior. Maybe, she was all too familiar with such incidents happening regularly in her workplace.

Courtesy: http://diversenyc.blogspot.com

Obviously, this was an old woman who was probably quite a bit on the crazy side and didn’t know what she was talking about; it’s likely she was upset at something else and took it out on me at her first opportunity. It could be she thought she had reached that age where she thought she had the right to yell at anyone she met. Or, it could be that she thought I didn’t know the rules of “her” United States: obviously, with a brown skin, mustache and beard, and with a “non-mainstream” look, I definitely did not fit her traditional concept of someone who belonged in “her” United States, and she thought she could tell me that she was not happy that “we” invaded “her” United States.

I know I’m making a big deal out of it. Sure, I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, so to speak. But I am doing it for a reason. I know that living in Brooklyn, New York, this is not a totally extraordinary incident; in fact, I have had such experiences — more memorable in nature — over the past few years. (No, I’m not talking about the post-9/11 anti-immigrant hate crimes and violence that I wrote about on this blog before; I’m only talking about small, personal, hard-to-deal-with experiences here in New York City, the so-called paradise of diversity and tolerance).

I know such things happen in life, and it was not in any way that bad or hurting. Living in a mega-city like New York, Calcutta or London has its pluses and minuses. We need to know how to deal with it and ignore the insignificant. But the incident still troubled me a little. I would not remember this morning’s experience for too long; but I would want to remember it for at least twenty-four hours before it slipped into oblivion.

I would not even want to say too much on it. But I would want to remind ourselves and our young generation about the absolute necessity to stay calm in the face of provocations — big or small.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Courtesy: http://www.nickloper.com

Obama and the Huge Hurricane

Note: This is my last blog post before the November 6 elections.

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Hurricane Sandy just left us.

The superstorm left behind a huge trail of devastation. Here in New York, millions of people are without power. Many homes and neighborhoods are flooded. Many people are spending nights in local shelters. Some forty people have perished in the storm.

I want to say a word of prayer for all those who suffered.

New York’s mayor Bloomberg graciously toured the devastated areas in his God’ly helicopter. On the other hand, New Jersey’s governor and some other city mayors and elected council members worked with affected people and brave rescue workers, standing in knee-deep water, shoulder to shoulder. Thousands of construction workers, electrical workers, plumbers, pipe fitters, sanitation workers, subway workers, glass workers, carpenters, health care workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers, firefighters, National Guard volunteers, and numerous other professionals are working 24/7 to pull America out of this incredible mess.

I want to say a word of prayer for these brave souls too. These workers are our unsung heroes.

I wish Barack Obama left all his campaign stops over the next few days, and did just the same, round the clock. But who am I to say it? He has his privileged, elite professional aides to direct him. (I was happy to see he spent some time on the ground to help the victims; I wish he did much more. That is the real campaign: campaign to work for the poor and vulnerable.)

In just a week, United States of America is going to elect its president. Chances are, Barack Obama will be unseated by Mitt Romney. I had predicted this outcome — however sad and unfortunate and undesirable — in early August through an article on this blog. You can read it here.

Some of my friends — a large majority of them Democrats — got upset at my prediction and sent me messages expressing their disapproval and anger. Some of them un-friended me from their Facebook. I am deeply sorry that I made them so unhappy. As someone who worked very hard and with high energy and hopes for Obama’s victory in 2008, a looming Obama defeat in 2012, and that too, at the hands of Mitt Romney — someone most Americans never heard of and a super-rich, elitist politician even his Republican Party was not excited about just three months ago — was not something I had envisioned. But it is now a real possibility.

The entire scenario has made me extremely tired. I don’t want to write much more. In fact, I expressed my terrible frustration in a post I called My Last Letter to President Obama. You can read that here too.

In this post, I’m only quoting a few messages myself and some of my friends have wrote on my Facebook page over the past couple of days — since Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard. I hope some people notice and think about it. I have no money, no media power, and no pedigree. Even though some of my friends blame me (at least partially) for my so-called “anti-Obama” blogs for an Obama defeat next week, I really I have no such power to make or break anything — especially something of this grand magnitude.

Republicans on women and government

I still want Obama to win over Romney. I shall never vote for Romney and Ryan.

You can be upset with me, but honestly, your blame is misplaced. You should have been upset with Obama, his administration and the Democratic Party that simply failed to deliver. Plus, you have the right-wing media such as Fox TV or Rush Limbaugh radio show who slandered Obama and punched him below the belt; on the other hand, the so-called liberal media neither exposed the real criminals behind the economic crisis on one hand (because of their own ties with some of them) nor did they chastise the Obama government on their terribly wrong moves and horrible choices of top executives who failed the ordinary, working Americans the second time over.

The American voters who were raped by the Bush administration for eight years were raped all over again by these sinister people and their policies over the past four years. And knowingly or not, Obama did not do much to stop them. Republicans took advantage of it.

Then came Obama’s disastrous first debate that tipped the election — so far on Obama’s side — to Romney’s favor. Obama squandered a golden opportunity the Mother Jones “47-percent” undercover exposé landed on his lap.

I wrote a number of articles to show how we expected Obama to work differently — away from the elite-iron-walled Democratic mode, and drastically away from the Republican path. I am citing one of those posts here too, in case you are interested to read.

So, here’ the final few passages from my Facebook page — in the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. Hope you read them once and perhaps, if you please, read them twice.

I wrote as my status update during and post-Hurricane Sandy:

1. WE ARE OKAY here in mid-Brooklyn. Thank God. New Jersey, Manhattan and Long Island were not so lucky. Many of my labor union colleagues and immigrant friends are having a hard time right now. This unprecedented late-October mega-storm off the Atlantic Ocean is big-time proof of drastic climate change and global warming. ALSO, I keep wondering how Americans still can’t see the important role of the government especially at such difficult times. Just think if there were no FEMA, OSHA or EPA (and private companies ran their jobs!). Government, in restraint, is a friend and not a foe. Ronald Reagan was wrong.

Beware of the Bain’s!

2. IF I WERE OBAMA. – I would just show the enormous, massive work American workers are doing right now to pull the country out of this huge environmental calamity. I would show the important role the [restrained] government is playing with help from FEMA, EPA or OSHA. I would just show the president providing leadership to the rescue operation. Not like Bloomberg flying on a helicopter, but standing in knee-deep water, shoulder to shoulder with the ordinary, suffering men and women. There would be no need for any more campaign blitz. (But who am I? They have all the power, and I don’t. They have their media and machinery and money, and they must be more intelligent than I am.)

3. MY FIVE POINTS FOR REAL CHANGE. — (1) A pro-working people coalition of moderate left and right that believes in true equal opportunity (class, race and gender-wise) for upward social mobility, (2) A Keynesian economic system that rewards labor, helps the poor, and regulates-restricts corporations (including war and prison corporations), (3) Refrain from too much power for the government ensuring rights, justice, liberty and freedom, (4) Find alternative environment, energy and peace policies, and (5) Do not promote or sustain a global, violent hegemonic power and economic aggression. For whatever its worth, this must be the future education for our children. It’s a start.

Hurricane Sandy in Cuba

4. HURRICANE IN NEW YORK. — It was a new experience for us here in Brooklyn to go through this big storm. We survived, except for some power cuts, broken trees and small house damage. Yet, can’t help thinking how people all over the world — in Bangladesh, Orissa, Cuba, Haiti, Indonesia, etc. deal with it ALL THE TIME, and we take their lifelong suffering for granted. Maybe, we need to wake up. Or, will we, ever? I doubt it.

5. THIS ELECTION AND MY PREDICTION. — Who cares if predictions I made over two months ago turned out to be correct? Nobody is going to give me any money, fame or award (and some people are pretty upset at me, as if I am partially responsible for the outcome). Plus, I’d be terrified, petrified myself that fascists, racists and bigots came back to power, that Obama squandered an historic opportunity, and that the world is back on the doom and destruction track again. Don’t blame me. Blame them!

Think about it.

Sorry about the somewhat incoherent way to put it all together. But I hope you can find the underlying messages I tried to send across. I hope we can engage in an honest and sincere, urgently necessary conversation — NOW and also after the November 6 elections.

I still hope Obama wins and Romney loses. Just because I would NEVER want racists, sexists, war mongers, supremacists and bigots come back to power.

But our conversation and grassroots bridge-building will go on, regardless of the election outcome.

Sincerely writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Obama didn’t deliver. But Republicans didn’t want him to deliver, either!

My Last Letter To President Obama

NOTE: I wrote this article using my own time and resources. This is purely my personal opinion.

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I hope you read it. It might help you.

October 12, 2012
New York

Dear President Obama:

This is my last letter to you. I don’t know if you have time to read it. But I hope you do.

I’m not going to say anything revealing to you; I’m going to say things that many of us tried to say to you over these four years since we worked hard with huge excitement, energy and enthusiasm for your victory in 2008. We were euphoric when you became the president of the United States. I played my small part to celebrate: I wrote a number of articles and spoke at a number of seminars, conferences and meetings to congratulate you, and explain to my audiences the significance of your election. An entire generation of young people shared my excitement; for me, I shared the ultimate vindication of my black brothers and sisters.

Guess what, I still have the Obama-2008 bumber sticker stuck on my old American car.

We all thought you were going to use your enormously powerful position to drive this country and virtually the entire world back to the direction of the ordinary working people and families, promote economic equality, hold the corporate criminals accountable and bring them to justice. We thought your leadership would stop global warfare and bloodshed, and bring some peace to mankind especially after the horrors of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft.

I am very sorry and dejected to tell you that you have not fulfilled our hopes, dreams and aspirations. You have let us down.

Two months ago, I posted an article on this blog where I had predicted you were going to lose in this November’s election. I analyzed some issues I thought were responsible for your likely loss. Some of my Democratic friends were angry reading it; they thought I was playing the role of a party pooper. Some of them unfriended me from their Facebook.

Yet, at the same time, I challenged the Romney-Ryan ticket with maximum force. I posed some questions to your Republican opponents — questions I thought media should have asked them but never did. Please visit the questions here if you are interested to know.

Of course, at that time very few people thought you could lose; and I wrote the article even before that scandalous and racist “47 percent” Romney speech Mother Jones magazine broke: speech at a $50,000 per plate fundraising dinner Romney had in Florida ($50,000 is the average annual income for an American family; in many Third World countries, it’s the annual income for an entire city, perhaps). When that exposé came out, hardly anybody thought you could ever lose; in fact, even diehard Republicans thought Romney threw the elections straight in your lap; the Florida speech was so devastatingly damaging for him and the Republican Party. But who knows, maybe, that episode had made you overconfident, and you took the first presidential debate casually with no preparation whatsoever; your election prospects since then took a nose dive. Boy, how quickly things turn!

You took that debate with your now-familiar demeanor: you took your audience — your supporters and sympathizers and onlookers across the country — for granted. That non-performance in the debate was really symptomatic of your four years of non-performance. That abject failure to rise up and overpower your fierce, well-oiled opponents and their media with measured documents and reasons was symptomatic of your four years of abject failure to rise up and do the right thing at the most critical moment.

You’re going to be paying a hefty price for that non-performance. And you’re going to drag us all down with you, by your non-performance and lackluster presidency. Your elite circle of advisors — dubious and ill-reputed political insiders who are really part of the now-infamous 1 percent, exposed because of Occupy Wall Street’s resistance and challenge — have ill-advised you. You believed in them, and took us for granted. Your drones killed many innocent people overseas; your political actions killed hopes and dreams of many here in the U.S.

I can never vote for racists and bigots.

President Obama, let me be clear. I would be very sad and disheartened if you get a shock defeat in this election. I would get a chill in my bones if someone like Romney whose racism and hypocrisy is now exposed becomes the president of America. I know he’s going to start another devastating war in Iran: the war industries and Karl Rove are working hard for his victory. I would be frozen to death if a social and economic extremist like Ryan with his Tea Party Glenn Beck doctrine becomes the vice president of this country. I know he is going to kill off the last remnant of the New Deal, including Medicare and Social Security as well as collective bargaining and such precious rights of the working people of America. His party will probably overturn Roe v Wade too, destroying women’s precious reproductive rights. Corporate America, NRA and Koch Brothers as well as organized bigoted groups are working hard for his victory.

Even though I have serious, major issues with your presidency and every single day, I feel cheated by the promises you and your administration didn’t keep, just because I NEVER want a racist and a bigot become the world’s top leaders, I would want you to win.

The only problem is that deep inside, I feel you are not going to win. And you can blame nobody other than yourself for this looming, historic defeat. Your likely loss would be the final letdown of the billions of people — particularly the young generation here in America and peace and democracy soldiers all across the world — who believed so much in your message of hope. They believed in YOU!

You let them all down. How terrible this letdown has been!

Sincerely Writing,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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How My Father Taught Me Patriotism

In the Twilight Zone…

“All can be sacrificed for ideology, but ideology can never be sacrificed.” — My father Jitendra Nath Banerjee, quoted from my book In the Belly of the Beast: Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India. Ajanta Books International, New Delhi, 1998.

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This is a very personal story.

Today, I want to tell you how my father taught me patriotism. I want to tell you how he taught me how to love your own country — selflessly.

Today is 15th of August: India’s Independence Day. This is a special moment to remember some of the lessons my father left with me — with much hope and expectation.

He taught me that patriotism is not just about the so-called Independence Day. He never had any special emotions on the 15th of August. I have followed some of his lessons, and also carefully, selectively rejected some others. But I have accepted his seminal lesson that these specially designated days have no special meaning. I have never found any special reasons to celebrate either 15th of August for India, or the 4th of July here in America. I always found them to be all about hype for the “haves” (or those who believe they will soon be have’s), and nothing about the “have-nots.” And no, I am not a communist. I never was. My father was staunchly anti-communist.

Even though I am now primarily an American citizen and secondarily an Indian overseas citizen, and even though I have been living in the U.S. for twenty-five years with a rarely-found high and honest, sincere involvement with the American society, economics and politics, deep inside, I feel very strongly about India, the country where I spent over twenty-five years of my life — a place where I was born, grew up and first learned how to live and love.

India is the land and Bengal is the special land where my senses developed and matured: senses to appreciate art, literature, music, poetry and politics. My Calcutta school teachers gave me my first history and geography lessons. I developed my first people skills and public oration in Calcutta. My first falling in love and first hurting in love were in Bengal.

My First Love: Art, Literature and Music.

My mother and my grandmother, two women who left deep impressions on me, lived and died there. They did not know any other places. In its fullest sense, therefore, I can call India and Bengal my motherland. I owe a lot to those places. At the same time, I have a special sense of righteousness and wrongfulness for those places.

My father who is now eighty-eight years old and in poor health, wanted to instill some of his hard-earned values in me. One of the values he inculcated on me was his love and pride for his motherland. India was not just a geographical mass of land for him. It was his entire existence: his way of life. It’s a belief system.

Today, a socioeconomic devastation is engulfing India like wildfire. In spite of the unbelievable material progress for the top one percent of India’s people, and some trickle-down progress for the next five to ten percent of India’s upper middle class — thanks to a globalized economy India adopted post-Soviet era — India’s vast eighty percent poor who live in both rural and urban areas, keep sliding fast into a quicksand of poverty and hopelessness. Nowhere in the history of India, the rich-poor disparity and income inequality have been so extremely wide.

Corruption is the Most Profitable Industry in India.

But the most catastrophic devastation has taken place in India’s social, moral and ethical values. In just two decades, India has transformed from a country of collective care and compassion to a country of extreme individualism, a disintegrating society and horrific corruption.

My father was a poor man compared to today’s standards. But he didn’t have to be this way. He was born in a more-or-less well-to-do family where his father migrated from poet’s Bengal to pious Benaras and married a woman from a rich family. He had bought a big house in an uppity neighborhood in Benaras, and when he died, his family was doing well where his widow — my father’s mother — as well as my uncles and aunts didn’t have to worry about their economic well being.

But my father chose to sacrifice it all. At a young age, a bright student, he became involved with an ultranationalist organization and gave up his college education and essentially, his career, to work full-time as a grassroots activist for the group. He lived from village to village, small town to small town all over North India, and put his organizational priorities much above his personal priorities. In fact, he never had a personal priority of his own. I have never seen him buying a shirt for himself or spending any money on himself. He spent his paltry factory-staff salary for us and some other poor relatives. My mother saved a few rupees here and there to help her mother and fatherless siblings who were miserably poor and often starved.

Gandhi was assassinated immediately after India’s 1947 independence from the British and a violent, bloody partition of the country in three, arbitrary pieces, uprooting millions of Bengalis and Punjabis. My father’s organization RSS was implicated in the assassination and later exonerated by India’s court. However, Indian government in the interim put all the top activists in jail, and my father spent a few years in free India’s jail. When he came out, his leaders sent him away to Bengal to work for its political wing — a party which is now India’s biggest opposition party. In Calcutta, he met my mother, a beautiful woman from a very poor Brahmin family, and they got married. I was born two years later.

My first lesson in patriotism was through the Hindu right wing organization’s paramilitary exercises on one hand as well as its patriotic songs many of which included Tagore and D. L. Ray’s nationalistic songs; yet at home, my father and my mother both taught me how to love the language of Bengali with its vast art, music and literature. Father taught me about Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and ancient Hindu scriptures in Bengali, Hindi and Sanskrit; my mother’s family and my maternal uncles and aunts all taught me more Bengali-liberalism-oriented people patriotism. There was a subtle balance between my mother’s version of patriotism and my father’s: there was never any serious conflict. I was never force-fed.

But the most important patriotism that my father taught me was about a deep pride for the heritage, history and traditions of the ancient land of Bharatvarsha (the Land of King Bharat) and its continuous stream of legendary personalities and their contributions in every possible aspect of life — for thousands of years. The pride gave me a strong, moral and spiritual backbone to stand on. We had no money and we had absolutely no pedigree; in fact, both my father and myself were subjects of many major and minor humiliations and ridicules by “friends,” “relatives” and neighbors alike — because of our economic status. But they could never unnerve my father’s steel-strong resolve and confidence; they could also never humiliate my mother because of her golden-glow character and modest-but-strong poise.

My father taught me that patriotism was never about material richness or personal prosperity.

My first lesson in patriotism. Left it. It wasn’t me.

I always knew that patriotism was about the people, and mainly about the suffering people — irrespective of their caste. My father and his organization were quite extreme on their rejection of internationalism; the organization was, I repeat, staunchly anti-socialist and pro-Hindu. They had deep anathema for Christian missionaries, Muslims and communists.But their love for their Hindu-heartland country, complete dedication, selfless sacrifice and absolute renunciation of greed — for all intensive purposes like those of saints and yogis — were exemplary. I grew up in that tradition. I am very happy that I did.

One result: money and material could never lure me. Ever. (People say that’s an excuse for my inability to be a rich immigrant here in the U.S.)

Yet, I have seen some others in the same organization — ones who used and exploited my father and dedicated, selfless activists like him. But to me, my father has always been a symbol of moral uprightness, honesty, integrity and selfless devotion for the country. I have rejected their religious dogma-based politics once and for all, and left the organization long ago — once and for all. But I can never forget either the love and affection I received from those numerous ex-colleagues I worked with, nor their complete dedication for the cause. I have used those attributes in a different way: in my grassroots and advocacy work here in America.

India is going downhill. The old-wine-in-new-bottle rulers have destroyed the country’s people-oriented society and economy and replaced it with a trickle-down, profit-oriented system, with active support from IMF, World Bank and multinational corporations. India has now the highest level of corruption both at government and private institutions; corrupt and unethical practices have become so rampant that nobody considers them unusual or extraordinary anymore.

The Revolutionary Monk…an Electrifying Inspiration!

There is a new kind of internationalism in vogue — a globally connected class of rulers with money, military and media. This class has brought the land of Sri Chaitanya, Tagore, Gandhi, Vivekananda, Ambedkar, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Mirabai and Vidyasagar to the brink of doom. History and heritage conversations are now outdated; pride in the ancient land’s thousands of years of glory is now ridiculed by the country’s new elite and their young, modern, “global” followers.

To be rich is now independent India’s only purpose to live. It does not matter how you become rich. The society and the vast eighty percent poor, who keep languishing in total hopelessness and despair, do not matter. In fact, you use and exploit them — mercilessly. Ayn Rand must be laughing her heads off, down there!

My father, on the other hand, taught me how to reject individualistic, selfish prosperity and greed — in his own way. Much later, I heard a Bengali song composed by a rural, wandering poet named Mukunda Das. I cite it here. If there is one lesson of patriotism I learned from my father, I’d cite this song.

“hasite khelite asi ni e jagate
karite habe moder mayer’i sadhana”

Mukunda Das, the rural bard of Bengal.

We did not come to this world only to play and have fun
The call of the day is to invoke and worship the Mother.

Old-fashioned patriotism? Too nationalistic? Too sentimental?

I’d rather be old-fashioned, nationalistic and sentimental patriot with zero selfishness and zero greed, than a so-called modern, global and pragmatic materialist who lives for himself or herself only. I never wanted that kind of life. My father never lived that kind of life. My mother never did, either.

That’s my patriotism. I am happy with it — whether I am in USA or India.

I hope you think about it too.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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President Obama: Gun Kills. Gun Kills Everywhere. Wake Up!

Connecticut Mother grieves. Gun and violence took away her child.
Connecticut Mother grieves. Gun and violence took away her child.

December 14, 2012. — Another scary, sad and traumatic day with a new gun rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, USA. At least 18 children were killed by gunman in an elementary school. I wrote on my Facebook page: This is not a civilized country. And God does not save the innocent.
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August 6, 2012. — Another scary, sad and traumatic day with a new gun rampage in Wisconsin, USA. This time, a number of innocent Sikhs fell victims to this hate. I pray for the victims’ families and express outrage.
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“The NRA is an organization that is adamant about no controls on weapons, in spite of the fact that we have federal laws that say you cannot sell guns to minors, to people with psychiatric problems or drug problems, or convicted felons. And yet they pressure Congress and the White House, and they’ve been doing it for decades, to not fund enforcement of those laws.”

— Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York. Quoted from The Hill, July 23, 2012.

_______________________________________________

I hope you forgive me for being so undiplomatic today. But first, I want to say a prayer for the victims and their families and loved ones in Colorado.

Also, I remember Trayvon Martin. A few weeks ago, I wrote: “Trayvon Martin Would Still Be Alive If Zimmerman Had No Gun. Simple.” I hope you read it too.

Now, after today’s gun horror in Aurora, where a mass killer killed and hurt a large number of innocent people, President Obama said that the tragedy serves as a reminder that “life is very fragile.”

“Our time here is limited and it is precious.  And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives.  Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another,” he said.

I am very happy to know that President Obama still did not lose his poise and eloquence even after this gruesome mass killing that shook the entire world. Really, he should not because he is the president of USA; a president must keep his poise and emotional balance even under extreme circumstances.

I congratulate him for his calm.

However, I am not a U.S. president and I have no power to change the way things happen here in America or anywhere else in the world. I cannot change the way Obama sends drones to drop bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan — bombings that have killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children. I have no power to change Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy in Iran, Egypt or Syria and new war drumbeats in the Middle East — just the same way I could not do anything to change the policies of Bush and Cheney that started this millennium’s first genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan. I could not do anything to stop New York Times and other powerful media from publishing bogus reports on Saddam Hussain’s so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction — reports that helped validate the genocide and eventual rat-trapping and killing of the tyrant despot. Similar fate happened to Osama Bin Laden, and I had to no power to know what exactly happened to him during that military raid in Abbottabad.

Of course, I am not comparing terrorists in other countries with mass killers here in America. I have no power to make such a comparison either. These are apples and oranges that could not be compared.

I am a powerless man with no money, no media, no military and no mass support. I am a powerless man who can only imagine what went on with those fear-stricken people in that Colorado movie theater today. I can imagine their scared-to-death, white faces before their death. I can only imagine what those poor victims thought just before the mass killer who armed himself with guns and explosives and ammunition mowed them down — one after the other.

I can imagine placing myself in that crowd of horrified, screaming victims of gun violence. I can imagine placing my family and my children there too. I can imagine the hit and the hurt and splattering blood when a bunch of ultra-modern, powerful, lethal bullets pierced through my heart and blanketed my world with one final darkness. In the final moments, I can imagine I was praying to God that my wife and children be left safe. I was only wanting that they be left alone.

In those final moments before my deaths, I imagine I was praying to God that this be the last gun barbarism, ever.

President Obama, contrary to some of his predecessors, always says something that somehow resonates and stays back with you. In fact, he said this today (and so, yes, a very powerful man that he is, his thoughts were not much different from those of me, a very powerless man):

Upon learning the Colorado gun violence news, the president said he thought of his own two daughters.

“My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day? Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children,” he said. “But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.”

[Mr. President, I would include some little facts here — facts of lives of very powerful people and their families — like the presence of secret service and combing operations and VIP security and bomb-sniffing dogs and all other such paraphernalia, but I won’t. Because I want to give you the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe you’re being honest about your wife and daughters.]

Congratulations again, President Obama. That’s exactly the type of words that won the hearts of millions of poor and powerless people like me four years ago, around this time. I am not sure what’s going to happen this November; however, if somebody asked me to vote for your calm, poise and eloquence today, you got my vote, Mr. President, one more time.

But I would positively vote for you if you thought about not just Sasha, Malia and Michelle and my children here in America, but the millions of children who’re losing their parents and siblings and uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces every single day — because of bullets shooting out of mighty guns and tanks and bombs dropping out of the wide-open holes of those drones.

I would definitely vote for you today if you stopped that violence once and for all. Those children are hurting too. They’re hurting and bleeding and crying and writhing in pain. I can  imagine that as well.

With your very sharp mind, critical thinking and eloquence — totally unlike your predecessors — couldn’t you imagine that, Mr. President?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not ever going to take away the grim, dark reality in Colorado today. I am praying for the victims and their families and loved ones. I am shaking in fear. I am not being able to sleep tonight: just the same way I could not sleep when Columbine, Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech happened. I could not sleep when Trayvon Martin was killed this February. I am bleeding deep inside. I am imagining over and over, again and again, myself and my family and children in the middle of that barrage of bullets in that movie theater today.

But President Obama, you have not done anything to stop this gun barbarism here in America, either! In fact, you refused to do anything about it.

With your indifference, gun lobbies and gun markets and NRA’s have flourished even more in these four years. All of these powerful people and organizations are now likely working for your defeat this November. So, wake up!

With your indifference and support from your own administration and political allies for gun lobbies, gun violence has spiraled out of control. So, wake up, would you?

Gun has no place in a civilized society. In no other place in the world — First World or Third World — free guns have taken so many innocent lives.

No other country in the world — First World or Third World — media and movies and video games have glorified violence, killing and guns and bombs. Don’t you get it: this violent mindset is a direct result of that glorification! Would you please wake up?

President Obama, think about your powerful children and family, and think about our powerless children and families. And think about those millions of hapless children and families all over the world.

Stop this violence now! Stop this barbarism!

That’s all I wanted to pass on tonight. I hope you take it seriously.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Death Is A Very Special Experience

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Have you seen death closely? I have. In fact, I’ve seen death up close too many times.

I have written about death on this blog. I’ve written about my mother’s death in India, when I lived there. I’ve written about my dear uncle Buddha’s death, a few years later, when I was still there. Then, I wrote about my childhood friend Subrato’s death in Calcutta; at that time, after already being in the U.S. for fifteen years, I switched my career from science to humanities, and was studying journalism at Columbia University here in New York.

I wrote about other deaths too — both on this blog and elsewhere. Death is not a new experience for me.

I’ve written about Lord Yama, the God of Death. I’ve talked about him: how he visited us like an unwanted guest — like a distant village uncle who would show his face every now and then, inviting himself to a family that does not want to see him at all. Then, he’d invite himself over and over again, knowing his vulnerable, fearful host family that didn’t know how to say no in his face. He would come, he would stay, and then he would leave whenever he liked.

When you see death so many times, and when you see so many untimely deaths, you stop thinking of death as a rare or special experience; you don’t care about the spirituality aspect of it. Seeing Lord Yama frequently is neither pleasant nor religious. In fact, you pray to your other gods to remove this horrific curse. It’s too traumatic. In fact, after seeing a number of untimely deaths, even the pain doesn’t affect you too much. At that point, you don’t hurt anymore. You desensitize.

Then, there are deaths that still come as a rare and special experience. It brings your soft feelings back. It brings your human senses back. The experience is sad, but wonderful. It touches your soul.

In an immigrant’s life — and I’ve written about how we new immigrants live on two, opposite sides of the world exactly at the same time — many precious experiences bypass and elude you. Leaving your familiar, home country behind, you don’t get to see your nephews or nieces growing up. You don’t get to see them going to middle school and high school, and then to college. You don’t get to see them getting married.

You don’t experience any of the little joys and sorrows of the people that you left behind. You don’t participate in the social and cultural events that were once so near and dear to you. You don’t go to those temples or join in those exciting political rallies anymore. You don’t get to chat with your school buddies anymore; you miss their reunions every single year. You don’t get to eat the Hilsa fish at family gatherings in the monsoon months or play chess, carrom or badminton at fun picnics in early January. You don’t get to see the cricket or football games you once craved to see.

You don’t get to sing with them the songs you so much loved to sing.

And you don’t get to be present at the death bed of someone who loved you so much.

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My wife lost both her parents when we were here in America. She could not be with them when they wanted to see her one last time. She was making the last-minute preparation to fly to Calcutta to see her father; just the night before her departure, news came that he’d passed away. She left the next day, only to be held up by British Airways in London for three days for some strange reasons; they did not or could not make any alternate arrangement for her to reach Calcutta right away. She did not get a chance to see him or perform his last rites at the funeral. It left a permanent scar on her.

The same thing happened when her mother died four years later: she could not arrive on time to see her alive. She passed away quite suddenly. But at least at this time, we made arrangements with those relatives to preserve her body; my wife was able to touch her mother one last time and was able to be a part of the rites at the funeral by the Holy Ganges.

It’s painful and traumatic, but nothing unique for new immigrants like us. At least, unlike many other immigrants who could never return to their home countries because of problems with money or documents, we could fly back and spend a little, precious time with the family. I have seen too many times an immigrant from Bangladesh, Punjab or Pakistan weeping inconsolably with their friends trying to calm them down: they just got news that a parent or a brother or sister died and they could not afford to go back at all. The feeling of helplessness tore them apart.

I know that’s been our fate all along since we decided to migrate out of India. I know I’m going to go through exactly the same experience my wife went through, when time comes to say goodbye to my father. He is now eighty-eight years old, and is not doing well at all. Last week, I got news from my sister that he fell on the floor, hurt his feet badly, and also had a deep cut on his forehead.

I know his time is coming to an end. I know when it’s all over, it’s very likely I won’t be able to be on his side.

Gutubaba loved children.

-3-

When our rabbit died this Sunday at 10 P.M., we were all by his side. This little creature — we called him Gutke or the little brat (rough translation from Bengali) was with us since the tragedies of September Eleventh; he was a rescued bunny. We called him by many other names, such as Gutubaba, Gersh, etc. etc. My sister during her visit from India called him Gutu Kumar. I even gave him a proper name in case we ever decided to send him to a rabbit reform school: the name was Lal Mohan (borrowing the immortal character from Satyajit Ray’s detective stories), even though the little brat never managed to go to school. Ah well, if one decides to remain a lifelong illiterate, what can you do?

The Irish-American lady here in Brooklyn who gave him to us said he was then about a year old back then; therefore, going by her, Gutubaba was about twelve years old when he died; calculating that into human age, he was a very, very old man — of 120.

Now, because most people don’t keep a rabbit for a pet, even here in New York City where almost every other American man and woman have a dog or cat (I once had a bird in Calcutta), they don’t realize how beautiful, happy and loving these rabbits can be. I don’t know about the emotions and intelligence of the typical snow-white rabbits with ruby-red eyes that we used to see back in Calcutta (the ones that never lived long), our Gutubaba was exceptional. Before him, we had another, kind-of pedigree bunny named Chicory, but she only lived for eight years; we loved her too, but never quite formed the bonding we developed with this little street rascal.

When he was young, we had to put up a makeshift wooden door at the bottom of our staircase; still, at every possible and impossible opportunity, he would sneak in and hop up the stairs to go up to the second or even the third floor of our house, and would not ever want to come down. We always had to lure him out of the places he’d hide — mostly from under the bed — by using his favorite cereal, crackers, raisins or grapes. He would always be outside of his cage except for the few times he went back for food or water; and believe it or not, he was almost potty-trained. Well, sort of.

Gutubaba loved children. All our friends — American, Bengali, Indian and all whoever came to our place with their kids — would be amazed to see how friendly he was; in his younger years, he would jump over from the floor onto the couch and sit there for hours, with children and adults alike. He would watch TV with us (sometimes facing away from the TV if it’s a movie that we saw many times before), and listen to Tagore songs with much respect and attention.

The End Came Fast.

Then he got old and slowed down — quite rapidly. He could not move around; we removed the makeshift wooden door from the bottom of the stairwell because he could never go back up. He got arthritis on both front legs, and then he got cataract on his eyes. He gradually stopped eating. Still, he would respond whenever there was smell of freshly made tea because he knew there would be cracker pieces for him, or occasionally, a piece of raisin. The children in our home were extremely attached to him and his love; this brat would lick his favorite children and not stop.

On Sunday, July 15, Gutke breathed his last. We were all present by his side. He started taking very fast breaths, and then he slowed down. He went back to his favorite cage and stayed there one last time. We carefully took him out and lay him on our living room carpet. We rubbed our fingers slowly and softly on his head and his salt-and-pepper fur, and called out his name over and over again. He took a few last sips of water — as if water from the Holy Ganges.

He opened his mouth and took in a few last gasps of air. Then, he stopped breathing.

Gutubaba left us — in peace.

My wife wept inconsolably. She said she had not seen death so up close in her life.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York