Obama vs. Romney: Seriously, What the Heck is Going On?

One face or two faces? That is the question.

Over the last few weeks, I asked some hard questions I thought we should all ask Romney, Ryan and the Republicans. I did the same with Obama and the Democrats.

Because the so-called mainstream media is not asking them, I thought the onus is on us.

Even though it’s an American election where U.S. citizens vote to elect their president this November, actually it’s an election that has serious impact for the entire world. In a way, it’s a global election. Therefore, politically enlightened people from all over the world need to understand the various aspects of the election as clearly as possible. For the entire world, the stake is too high.

I was happy to see the level of reaction to my posts. A surprisingly high number of readers of this blog — now from near and far corners of the world — read the questions I asked to the Democratic and Republican candidates. Some wrote their comments directly on the blog, and some others sent me their feedback personally. Some of these friends had a strong disagreement with my position on Obama; they were also unhappy to see how a super-excited 2008 me turned into a less than enthusiastic 2012 me. These friends challenged my political acumen when I asked some critical questions to the Obama campaign. When I said I was not feeling excited at all for Obama, they warned me not to pop their excitement balloon. They said my wet blanket to douse their party bonfire might hurt Obama’s chances.

I felt delighted — by the thought that my little, no-name blog had so much power!

Of course, this is almost an academic discussion. Neither Romney nor Obama is going to read my blog, let alone answer my questions. But this is all I can do. I have said it many times before: other than my writing that I use to make my readers, friends and sympathizers think, I have no power. I have no money, no pedigree, no political connection and no real hope for publishing my thoughts for a wide mainstream audience. Therefore, this is really the extent of my political activism. This is the best use of my experience, analysis and energy.

Ronald Reagan pushed french fries and ketchup for vegetable for school lunch programs. Did McDonald’s serve?

I try to make people think. I try to challenge their minds. This is my only non-violent weapon.

Now, for the sake of time, let’s select only a few issues that are critically important both for an U.S. and global audiences. Food, clothes and shelter: these three have always, historically, been the most primary for the ordinary people across the world. In today’s globally-connected society, some other issues have become critical: I could perhaps select war and violence, energy, environment, education and health for the list. Then, we could perhaps include the subject of labor, immigration and society. I’m sure you quickly see a few other issues that you would want to include in your first list. I am sure I myself would later reflect on it and include a few more that I might have missed this time around.

But at least for the time being, not to make this post unnecessarily long, let’s put together our first list of issues and compare the two big parties and their two big candidates on these issues. It might help us to understand the nature of the electioneering process as it is heating up here in the U.S., and determine objectively what exactly is going on. Often, these critical issues do not surface our way — the ordinary, powerless people’s way — in the 24/7 conversation on big media done by their big experts. I call it Journalism of Exclusion.

Therefore, again, the onus is on us to do it. We must do it. Questioning is democracy. Analyzing is too.

So far, we have identified the following issues to be critical to compare the positions of Obama and Romney and their two big parties.

(1) Food

(2) Clothes

(3) Shelter

(4) War and violence

(5) Energy

(6) Environment

(7) Education

(8) Health

(9) Labor

(10) Immigration

(11) Society

Of course, the all-encompassing, all-pervasive, overarching factor would be economics and money. Given its overlapping nature, I decided not to itemize economics as a separate point. The discussion of money would feature quite prominently when we take up these points — one point at a time. Foreign policy would be another such aspect: it’s going to be interwoven in the discussion of all the other points — one way or the other. And obviously, jobs, wages and unemployment would be another — if not the most important — all-pervasive subject. It brings us to the question of poverty, exploitation and injustice.

Millions of Americans seriously believe even in 2012 that global warming is a hoax and even if it’s true, God who created this earth in seven days will take care of all the problems. Can we include this topic in the presidential debate?

But in this intricately-connected world society of the new millennium, where political boundaries have become almost meaningless, especially when we consider how economics and money (and work) can move from one part of the globe to the opposite part — with a speed of light, and considering how the people in power are using the global connectedness to their advantage, I believe that perhaps we could add one more item on our list. And that item would be:

(12) Globalization.

There! I believe we have come up with a good list, at least for the time being. Now let’s see if we can briefly discuss and compare the positions of the two candidates and their parties on these issues. I’ll try to do it as simply as possible, without making it sound too academic. I’ll try to do it with a language most of us — including myself — would understand. You tell me, please, if this language works for you.

If we think carefully, there is practically no way we can discuss one of the above twelve topics exclusively: they are all overlapping. What role does food and water play in today’s politics? Food prices, food quality, water sources, water quality — and the politics of U.S. government and its two big parties — one that media hardly talks about? Coca Cola’s capturing of natural water displacing millions of poor people from their land (and putting a famous movie celebrity as their PR)? U.S. seed company Monsanto’s forced replacement of Indian farmers’ traditional seed banks with their one-crop, genetically engineered seeds forcing those farmers to go bankrupt and commit suicides in hundreds of thousands every year? McDonald’s food colonization with substandard, unhygienic food that caused obesity and serious harmful effects in the U.S. and throughout the world?

What about the foreign policy around the clothes we wear — where and how are they made? How many of us know how Wal-Mart manufactures its imported textiles from China and Bangladesh, Disney manufactures its fancy DisneyWorld costumes from Haiti or Dominican Republic, driving poor laborers like slaves and depriving child workers of their childhood and education? What about those cool i-Phones manufactured at China’s Foxconn where a large number of desperate, young Chinese workers have killed themselves — because of the horrendously oppressive work conditions and toxic environment?

Where is the discussion either at the huge, confetti-covered RNC or DNC? Is there going to be any discussion at the presidential debates? Will New York Times, NPR, PBS or CNN talk about them between now and November?

Anybody want to talk to Obama or Romney about Orwell and Newspeak?

Now, let’s see. war and violence are two subjects where the two parties’ positions are different, they say. Okay, it is true that Romney, Ryan and Rush Limbaugh’s Republican Party openly talk about a new, imminent war on Iran (or Syria, or Yemen…it doesn’t matter); on the other hand, Obama and Hillary Clinton talk about how they have finished the Iraq war and how they’re going to withdraw from Afghanistan in two years. And then of course comes Joe Biden and gives a war-drumbeat speech at DNC…as if John McCain or Joe Lieberman (remember him?) was speaking. And there is rousing chants all around at the convention…USA…USA…USA…

But let’s see: was there any reason for U.S. to be in Iraq in the first place after six or seven years of destroying an ancient civilization, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and looting their oil, gold and other treasures? It’s almost like the British colony withdrawing from India after total plundering, brutalizing and partitioning a once-prosperous civilization, putting their handpicked, subservient, “Gandhian” feudals in power. The aggressors were going to leave sooner or later anyways: there was no more reason either for the British to stay in India or for the U.S. to stay in Iraq. Where is that perspective?

Can we talk about it in a straightforward way? Oh yes, can we also include the politics Israel has always played and has been playing in this incredible mess? Isn’t Iran or Syria or Egypt or Libya or Saudi cards used in the same game?

And then come Obama’s hit list and the drones and the relentless bombing…the war is over?

And then comes Julian Assange and Wikileaks and Bradley Manning…didn’t they say whistle blowing was actually patriotic?

Would New York Times, NPR, PBS or CNN talk about them? Would anyone throw these questions — this straightforward way — in the presidential debate?

We’ll now talk about globalization, immigration, labor and the economy — and their interconnectedness. We need to know how these two parties and their candidates are different on these issues.

I hope you come back to participate in that discussion. I need you in that discussion.

(To be continued…)

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Who will talk about the globally-imposed cultural conformity? Mr. Obama? Mr. Romney? Mr. Limbaugh?

Death Is A Very Special Experience

-1-

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.

-2-

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

Andy Griffith: A Sheriff Without A Gun

The Happy Family

-One-

I normally do not get emotional about a movie icon.

But this Fourth of July, I can’t keep emotions totally out of my system. Because I’m writing about an icon who I thought was somebody I could remember for the rest of my life. This is someone who makes me happy every time I think about him and watch his shows. He gives me reasons to believe in sanity, moderation, common-sense life and human compassion. He gives me reasons to love and keep faith in love.

I am writing about Andy Griffith. I’m trying make a connection between him, Middle America and yes, the Fourth of July.

Of course, it’s not just about Andy Griffith as a person; rather, it’s about a way of life he iconized through mass media. This is a value system he established even deeper in American soil. That is critically important to remember today because today’s America and American media do not talk about the way of life Andy Griffith, his shows and his friends, colleagues and co-actors talked about. This America and this media today have made a 180 degree turn from the philosophies that his prime time shows in the sixties popularized: philosophies that took deep roots in Mid-America and its moderate, loving and caring, smiling, ordinary, working men, women and children.

They were the philosophies of non-violence, social togetherness, inclusion, equality, modern outlooks and a greed-free lifestyle. Those were the American values that made America an exemplary nation throughout the world. Those were the values that brought millions of immigrants like me to this country — with high hopes and optimism.

Andy Griffith, a small-town Southern sheriff named Andy Taylor, never carried a gun. But he carried those eternal American values we terribly miss now.

Those are the American values we want to remember on this Fourth of July.

-Two-

Of course, he is not the only one who preached and practiced and popularized sanity, society and peace on media and entertainment. Around the same time — in the sixties — icons such as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Robeson or the Beatles were more or less doing the same in the Western world. It was a tumultuous time. The glorious civil rights movement on one hand and a few years later, the valiant mass resistance against the Vietnam war shook America to the core. Countless artists, poets, singers, filmmakers, actors and actresses joined in on the peace movement globally and the civil rights movement within America. Brutally violent rulers across the world and brutally repressive rulers across the U.S. were struggling to put down the civil disobedience tempest. American young generation was waking up to fresh air of new realities. They were embracing the concepts of peace, justice and equality. The Berlin Wall of color, race and religion was crumbling.

Fishing for Family, Fun and Friendship

Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Robeson or the Beatles’ styles were, however, different from Andy Griffith’s. The simple sheriff in the Southern small-town of Mayberry did not join in on a civil rights protest march or gave a speech about the futility of war. He wasn’t even remotely interested about politics, although he had to run for elections every few years to keep his paid position as the sheriff. He also took sides on local mayoral candidates, and once opposed his own Aunt Bee who stood for mayor, causing serious domestic strife. But he was largely a non-political man: his job was to run the small town of Mayberry as smoothly as possible, with help from his laughably inefficient deputy and a group of awkward country simpletons (or even a town alcoholic he was rehabilitating).

Doing this, however, a widower with a small boy Opie, he wouldn’t have no lack of time to engage in several affairs (one affair at a time) with local belles, go fishing regularly with the son, organize and sing in the church choir, or occasionally visit for dinner Mount Pilot, the nearest big town seven miles away. Sheriff Andy Taylor refuses to leave his birthplace Mayberry even when an old-time, high-school sweetheart attempts to lure him away to Chicago. No he wouldn’t leave: he loves his relaxed lifestyle and rural lads and lasses.

-Three-

That is his real America. Here, a group of Italian farmer immigrants with no English-speaking skills gets a hostile bunch of “mainstream” Americans — to the point of being driven away. An innocent man for absolutely no valid reason is suddenly ostracized by the entire town because the people with their superstition think he is jinx. The old barber Floyd spreads rumors about anything and it catches on like wildfire. Local ruffians engaged in illegal trading threat the weakling deputy. Sinister outsiders stash drug money in the barber shop. A bank is going to get robbed by armed robbers faking a film shooting. A dangerously violent criminal jailbreaks and hides in Mayberry, stealing the deputy’s gun.

The “Innocent” Barber!

And in all instances, it falls on the shoulders of Sheriff Taylor to interfere, mitigate and resolve the issue. And he does it with the use of his head — a head of a genius strategist and game maker — with absolutely no intention to use his gun. I take it back: he never had a gun (not even at his North Carolina home). He always thought problems could be handled nonviolently if he’d acted with determination and had the support and confidence of the society. And he did enjoy the support and confidence of the society.

In fact, he had had a society and they all cared for one another.

Sadly, that sane and moderate America is taken away from us. Extreme inequality, war, violence, hate, bigotry and economic exploitation have pervaded this land once again.

-Four-

Sheriff Andy Taylor would never spare opportunities to sit down with his motherless child for his homework, sort out the small boy’s small but significant problems growing up, go fishing with him whistling away, talk to his school teacher Helen Crump who would later be his girlfriend, and attend church meetings and evening dinners religiously with Aunt Bee and son Opie, with frequent presence of childhood friend Deputy Bernie Fife who as a concerned family friend would also attempt to educate the boy, however inadequately. Andy would not miss an opportunity to play his guitar sitting out on the front porch, with Bee, Opie, Ms. Crump, Fife and sometimes Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou joining in. The country music would be slow and soothing, with soft and subtle strumming of the nylon guitar. The full moon would look down upon these simple, honest creatures; its soft and subtle silvery light would flood the Mid-American little town Mayberry — as if it had brought the divine blessings from the Almighty who is sending down his message of togetherness, love, compassion and peace.

Opie, Ron Howard, is now a big-time filmmaker; he is, I guess, my generation. A celebrity in his own right now, does he remember those soft, love-laced days from the sixties? I do. I wish I had an opportunity to go fishing with Sheriff Taylor. Only once…that’s all.

I wanted to play a small part in Andy Griffith’s message of love, social togetherness and nonviolence. I wanted to be a small part in the Grand-Ole American message of hope, togetherness and nonviolence.

Mr. Sheriff, I’m going to miss you. I’m going to miss the Middle American values you lived and died for.

This Fourth of July, I swear to God, Middle America is going to miss you too.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Pa, Can We Go Fishin’ Tomorrow Again?

T = mc2 . Einstein. That’s My Life.

(You can call it Part 2. I urge that you read both Part 1 and Part 2 together.)

The Time of Life Clock. Simple Description.

Recap from Part 1 of this post.

I came up with a plan and figured that T = mc2 perhaps could be one simplistic way to summarize my life – life of an ordinary, no-name, no-pedigree, mediocre, half-poor, half-educated, brown person who spent the first quarter of his life in India and the second quarter in America. I thought I could use my basic arithmetic and algebra skills (practically no math learned past high school) and come to a final tally of my life’s income and expenses, and profits and losses.

So, I thought, this could be the simple formula to summarize my life:

T = mc2

Where T is total time of life, m is total involved money (used, gained or lost), and c2 (or c x c) is the product of two major costs I had to incur over all these years — both in India and America.

Therefore, to put it in words, it is:

Time of life = Money involved x Cost1 x Cost2 .

[That’s Equation One]

Now, the question is, how do you break down the equation and show it part by part?

Here’s an attempt to do it.

First, let’s talk about the costs. In today’s market-maniac world, that’s perhaps essential: to know the costs to live.

Okay. Let’s see.

Cost1 or C1 is a product of all these factors, and I’m putting them together as they should be.

C1 = Earning Education x Earning Experience x Building a new life in an old land and in a new land x Winning Relationship x Building Family x Making Friends x Winning Praises and Rewards x Accomplishments x Achievements x Finding Coworkers x Keeping Supporters x Sustaining Sympathizers x Creativity x Activism x Critical thinking x Organizing x Making people think differently

[That’s Equation Two]

In short, C1 is the total product of all the good things that you earn, gain, develop, nurture and refine — because you want to do it.

In short, C1 is the total product of positive things I built in life — things that made me nice, happy and smile.

My Dr. Jekyll

Cost2 or C2 on the other hand is the total product of almost the opposite things you find in C1. Here they are.

C2 = Spending experience* x Spending education* x Loss of lives that directly impacted me x Loss of hopes x Sacrifices I was forced to make because of leaving behind my family, friends and society x Loss of friends x Lost and betrayed relationships x Insults x Injuries x Loss of stability x Stress x Anxiety x Fear x Physical and Emotional Abuse x cheating by establishments

[That’s Equation Three]


In short, C2 is the total product of negative things impacted my life — things that made me ugly, crabby and sad. The Mr. Hyde in me — that I often talk about.

(But look at the elements with an asterisk *  — i.e., spending experience and education — these are not necessarily negative. We might say these are “necessary evils.” You must spend some to gain some.)

I hate him. But he is so real!

Now, for the math buffs out there, you might immediately find a fallacy in Equation Two and Three. The fallacy is, things that I built (or won) and things that I lost (or destroyed) are really inversely proportional to each other. In other words, spending experience (from C2) is really inversely proportional to earning experience (from C1 ).

Like, spending experience = 1/earning experience.

Another example would be, losing friends or family members is inversely proportional to making friends and building family. A third example would be rewards and praises: are they just the opposite of insults and abuses?

Like, rewards and praises = 1/insults and abuses.

So, in other words, people might say, it’s total fallacy, because C1 essentially crosses C2 out, and therefore, we end up with a cliché or conundrum, which is T = m. Time of life = Money in life.

You might say, what new did you teach us? We always knew that “Time IS Money!”

You made a good point. But unfortunately, you are wrong.

[You, at this point perhaps a little irked]: Show me I am wrong. I’ve been very patient so far.

Yes, that you have, indeed. Thank you.

Well, wait a minute then. Let me explain.

See, you need to find the end result of those multiplication products. I’ll give you an example. In my life…in anybody’s life…spending education cannot be exactly inversely proportional to earning education; do we use all the education we gain, ever? Of course, we might say, we never really “spend” education — that is one treasure in life that we can never run out of how much ever we use it. But that’s too much philosophy. My philosophy here in these formulas is much simpler: this is a philosophy you can touch, taste and smell. It’s real. There is nothing abstract about it.

Similarly, you see, earned rewards, praises, promotions and compliments are not exactly the same amount you lose by being insulted, injured, or physically and mentally abused. Again, you need to see the end result of the product: do you have more insults and abuses than rewards and compliments? Or, do you have more on the plus side of the equation? You find out. You are the ultimate judge.

I won’t take too much of your time. You’ve been very patient.

Therefore, at the end of the day, it all boils down to this.

T or total time of my life = Total Money involved in my life X Total product of Cost1 elements X Total product of Cost2 elements.

I think it is a very fair, balanced, realistic and simple formula to summarize my life. I really do.

I would ask you to test this formula in your life’s situation. See if it works for you too. If it does, then it’s a universal formula – irrespective of man’s economic or social class, caste, race, nationality, religion, lifestyle choice or color.

I have every reason to believe my formula would prove to be universal.

I’ll let you decide on the other, possible mathematical and scientific aspects of the formula.

Remember, T sits on the left hand side of the equation. Time of life is the most important determinant here. All the other aspects of life – including the so-called all-important money in today’s world – sit on the right hand side (the variable side).

T is the absolute truth here. Whatever way you come up with your own measurement of T for your own life, it’s going to be an absolute truth – for you.

Everything else is there to help calculate our total time of life.

That’s the ultimate message here. From me.

I hope I came across nice, simple and clear with that message.

Thanks for brainstorming with me. It’s been fun.

Thank you, Sir Albert. You’ve been quite an inspiration. You brought out a mini-Einstein in me. That’s incredible, given where I was and where I am now!

Wow! So gratified!

___________________

Post Script. — I also doubled checked on the qualitative applicability of the equation by trying its various possible forms. Like, if Time = Money X Costs, then Costs = Time/Money. Also, Money = Time/Costs. Think about it: all the various possible forms actually work quite well.

___________________

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

People have had other concepts of time-money relationship. I think my formula is unique and much easier to understand.

My Very Special Birthday Wish

A Reason to Celebrate: My New Tagore Album. Please visit, listen and download (click on the picture).

Today I’m writing to celebrate my birthday. But today is not my birthday. It’s tomorrow.

I’m writing today because tomorrow I won’t have any free time. Birthdays here in the U.S. do not wait for a free day (or a day when you can make yourself free), and just like some other days I love to celebrate — such as Durga Puja or Tagore Jubilee — they often fall on a busy day in the middle of the week, and I cannot celebrate them the way I want to.

That’s not what I call a free country. (But that’s a different story.)

I also want to celebrate those days I love to celebrate with a lot of people and family and friends, and that don’t ever happen either.

(But that’s a different story too.)

I really love to celebrate my birthday. I’ve always loved to do it. I’ve done it in our small, limited-means way both in Calcutta, Kolkata — where I spent the first half of my life when Ma cooked some of the best Indian-Bengali dishes you could ever get anywhere in the world (ask any of my old friends); and then here in the U.S. — where I spent the second half and where my wife cooked some of the best Indian and Bengali dishes you can ever get anywhere in the world. Believe me: I’m not making it up.

So, great food is not a priority no more on my wish list. I’ve been blessed with great food — homemade and heartfelt — all my life. I seek something else. My mind asks for something more. It’s a spiritual yearning.

Perhaps, my very special birthday wish this year is: would you be mine? (Now, I know that’s cheesy 🙂

This is a very special note at this very special time. I want to smile. I want to chime.

Would you remember today to smile and chime? Mr. Bright? Ms. Bright? (That’s also perhaps again not so cheesy, right? 🙂

I need to see a lot of smile. I need to hear a lot of laughs. I want to hear a lot of songs. Happiness has been in seriously short supply. Seriously. Recently, it’s reached a critically low level.

Yeah, that’s it!

My family and friends — especially those who I know deeply care for me — often tell me these days that I have changed slowly but surely from a sprity, forthrighty, frothy, fizzy, frolicky, fun person always with a big smile and grin and loud laugh and sense of humor to a rather sad, glum and grumpy old man. Now, that’s major bad news. I want to change it.

This is a major tipping point.

So, on this very special day (like, starting from tomorrow), I want to remember the good things that happened to my life and be happy thinking about how lucky I am that those good things indeed, actually happened to me — things that do not happen to most people I know (and I know a heck of a lot of people — like, thousands, literally). I’ve sort of decided to come to a resolution that I shall, in my mind, focus on those positives and ignore, delete and de-focus the negatives.

Now, I know it’s easier said than done.

I also know it sounds like one of those Deepak Chopra books — comics that people actually buy and read and make-believe they are happy now. But Deepak Chopra or not, I know I ain’t got no more choice. Or, it’s gonna be fast and painful death for me. I don’t want to die fast and painful. More importantly, I don’t want to die and be remembered a sad and glum and grumpy man. Oh, no no no, man! Because, I am not a sad and glum and grumpy man. I never was. I never will be.

I’ve actually thought about it long and hard: what is it that pulls me down and makes me sad and angry?

I could perhaps post a long laundry list of those things in layman’s terms — events, experiences and feelings all of which happen to be true and raw and depressing and dirty — that could pull any human being with a heart and brain down. Like, deaths of loved ones — and way too many of them too untimely. Like, leaving India practically for good — out of compulsion. Like, being born too poor and seeing too much poverty and starvation too up close. Like, going through a hell of a lot of physical and mental injury and insult. Like, extreme verbal and physical abuse…like, sexual abuse. Like, hiding them all…way too many of them…and pretending they didn’t happen.

Then, there is more. Like, being forced to go through a social, educational, economic and political system that absolutely, totally, unquestionably cheated you. Like, not being able to use your delightful, lovable, warm personality and sprite, blotting-paper-like desire to learn and respect for your teachers, God-given talents, knowledge, experience, analysis and proven leadership to put to use to change the society and system in a significant way…and at the same time helplessly witnessing one of the darkest and dumbest and most exploitative and violent chapters in human history unfolding in your own life…one event at a time…like a bad, obnoxious movie…acted, directed, produced and promoted by some of the most corrupt and inefficient-yet-arrogant crooks in human history. Compared to them, yes, Caligula or Nero or Kissinger or Cheney is like child’s play.

I’ve come to a major resolution. I can never be president of the United States. Heck, I know I can never even be the chief minister of West Bengal. Only people with tons of money, a Bush-like one-of-a-kind predecessor, a major-media-sponsored genocide or a despondent-hopeless-pathetic regime and equally hopeless electorate could make you a president of the U.S. or a chief minister of West Bengal. I’ve therefore given up on those secretest desires.

That’s sarcasm, as you can see.

My parents-in-law became destitute refugees, overnight. Thanks, Gandhi.

But truly and cross-my-heartly, I’ve resigned to believe a few other not-so-idiosyncratic thoughts. Like, the two Golden Bengals will never be reunited and Bengalis will forever be blasted and looked-down-upon by the West and East alike as a failed race (and nobody will read the history book and know either the Pala Dynasty, Sri Chaitanya’s Bhakti movement, Raja Ram Mohan Ray, Derozio, Vidyasagar, Lalan, Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita, Tagore…and of course, on the flip side of history, the British barbarism). Nobody would ever know how prosperous Bengal was where after the Battle of Plassey, Lord Clive and his women looted so much gold and jewelry that they went absolutely wild berserk. (Read about Clive’s atrocities here.)

I’ve resigned to believe that at the London Olympics of summer, 2012, there will be no demand from the millions of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants-turned-British citizens for an official apology and reparation for the British Raj’s two centuries of occupation, brutality, mass-killing and mass-looting. I’ve resigned to believe that in India, the same illiterate and feudal-chauvinists who were responsible for a bloody partition, riots, refugees and famines will keep in power for many years to come. I have resigned to believe that very few people even in the so-called enlightened West would ever care to know exactly how many hundreds of thousands of Bengali women were raped and killed by the Kissinger-backed Pakistani army in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

I have resigned to believe that people who I thought would care would not care. I have a number of examples of that disillusionment. Obama has been the latest example on that list.

My Alma-Mater Speaks Loudly.

I have resigned to believe that Tagore’s Nobel Prize, stolen from his own Vishva Bharati University’s national museum, would never be found. I know the British monarchy would never return Koh-I-Noor and numerous other treasures they looted from India. I now know the British government would never tell us how Subhas Bose — whom Gandhi sabotaged — perished in exile. (Am I digressing too much?)

Okay then. I’ve come to realize that nobody in the elite academia in the “free-thinking” West — especially those in the seat of power — would ever care to learn or promote philosophers and intellectuals outside of what Harvard, Columbia or University of Chicago asks of them to freely think. They would not want to know Tagore. They would not know Bengal Renaissance. They would refuse to know or teach anything majorly un-Euro-American.

I know for the fact that none of the above would ever read my blog.

So, as you can see, I have my reasons to slowly but surely transform from sprity, fun, frolicky to sad and glum and grumpy. But at this rather critical juncture of my life, I refuse to be a victim of their doing and die and be remembered a sad, glum and grumpy, bitter man. I shall not give in to their grand plan: destroy the thinking mind, dumb-down the non-thinking others, keep the trouble makers on the edge, and kill all the smiles.

No, I won’t die their prescribed death.

I want to celebrate this birthday. I want to celebrate it with a smile. I shall live on the many positives that happened to me.

I hope you do too.

Smile with me.

Let’s celebrate life. Let’s celebrate it together.

That is my very special birthday wish today…and tomorrow.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Another Reason to Celebrate: Teaching American Labor Rights!

Nightmare on Boyhood Street

A special note: I’d like to take a moment to thank all the readers especially those who read it from places I otherwise have no way to reach. It is a matter of great comfort that this post was read in countries — other than India, USA, Canada and U.K. — such as Austria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Spain and Thailand (and some more). I believe the cruelty and violence I described in this blog is global, and there is enough reason to believe that we are trying to find solidarity here — to stop this brutality. Thank you, readers. I hope you take a moment to share it with others. -Partha

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Nightmare on Boyhood Street

Today, I remember a day from my school life. I was thirteen at that time – an eighth grader. It was Calcutta, India. It was perhaps a late summer day.

Calcutta’s name has now changed to Kolkata. Bombay has changed to Mumbai. Madras is now Chennai. A lot has changed in India since then…a lot…especially with the invasion of new shopping malls, MTV, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut.

Has child abuse changed in India? If your answer is yes, show me how. Give me some examples. If your answer is no, tell me why not.

Here is a real story from a real life.


Bang, bang, bang…

Punch, punch…

Whack, whack, blow…

Slap, slap, kick, thud…

A stout, muscular man in his forties held a young boy by the hair. He held him down with one hand. With his other hand, he beat up the boy mercilessly. He beat him up continuously. He punched him on his head and upper body. He slapped him fiercely, repeatedly, on his tender cheeks. He pulled his hair so hard that the boy was almost airborne. He pulled his earlobes so strongly that they were blood red. The slaps made reddish pink finger marks on his cheeks.

Along with the beating, the man groaned, ground his teeth, and grunted, “Huh, huh, huh…”

The boy took the abuse…the horrible beating. But he did not fight back. And he did not cry out, or ask for mercy. He did not ask him to stop. He did not show any visible sign of pain.

That made the man even angrier. He became more violent. He forced the boy to sit in an animal position, with his palms and knees touching the floor. The man then climbed up on him, and started to hit his back with his bent elbow. He also kicked him…or did he?

The violence went on for nearly ten, fifteen, twenty minutes…maybe, half an hour. The man lost his sense of time. The boy did too. He was nearly unconscious at this point.

The entire episode happened in a classroom. It happened in front of some forty or fifty frozen, traumatized, eighth-grade students. They watched it with horror;  some covered their faces. A few of them fell sick. Another boy urinated in his pants. One of their teachers was doing this to one of their classmates: they couldn’t believe their eyes! But none of them stood up or said a word against the barbarism. They watched it in complete silence…for the entire time.

Ashu Kar, a teacher in our famous, 150-year-old, missionary Scottish Church Collegiate School, was famous for his bad temper. There were a few other teachers who were even more notorious than him. They were never known for their quality of teaching or love for the students; they were only known for their dexterity to mercilessly, violently beat the kids.

But luckily, these men would not teach us, some of the best students. Back then, Scottish had merit-based promotion; they would always place us in Section A because we topped in the final exam. The abusive teachers would not take our classes. We were privileged to get some of the phenomenal educators of Calcutta whose presence in the classroom was like a gentle breeze coming off the ocean. Shyamadas Mukherjee of Mathematics, Bijan Goswami and Amiya Roy of Bengali, Rev. Santosh Biswas and Sudhendu Deuri of English, Nitya Sengupta of Chemistry, and Tarun Datta of Biology. Then, there was our famous headmaster A. R. Roy, known for his personality and poise. They were great teachers. We learned from them as eagerly and as fast as blotting paper would soak up water or ink – through every possible capillary of our young, inquisitive minds. We’d look forward to their classes.

The horrible hangmen would get the poor, “backward” students in Section C, D or E. We’d often hear horror stories from them. Even in elementary school, in fourth grade, there was severe student abuse. And I’m not even talking about the verbal abuse that was commonplace: teachers would make personal, intrusive, insulting, snide, negative remarks, constantly on a daily basis, to students that did not do well in tests or failed to turn in the homework; particularly, students who came from underprivileged families. Indian boys and girls were used to verbal abuse. At home, they got it from their fathers, uncles or neighbors. At school, they got it from teachers. The verbal insult and undermining would dash their self-esteem once and for all.

Now I’m talking about the more serious, inhumane, physical abuse. We the “good” boys from Section A came to know about them in middle school, since maybe, when we were in sixth or seventh grade.

Police beating a child

There were two men named Mr. Jana and Mr. Dafadar who took Section E classes only: boys who did the poorest in last year’s finals. They brought in class their own special teaching methods and tools. Every day, they’d enter the classroom, and before doing anything else, call out some students they decided the worst backbenchers. They’d line them up outside the classroom facing against the wall, with their arms all the way up, the length of the arm touching the wall, as if cops doing a shakedown on them. I’m convinced these teachers were cops or military men before they became teachers; they did it to their sixth, seventh or eighth-grade students exactly the way cops did it to suspected, frisked criminals. Or, in case of today’s India or USA, anyone the cops or military might suspect to be trouble makers.

Jana and Dafadar – I don’t remember which one was more dangerous – would then return to classroom, take attendance for the remaining students, give them some meaningless work to do – maybe, a bunch of arithmetic or English grammar problems from the textbook without showing them how to do it, and return to their “favorite” students waiting outside. Now, they’d stick out their personal, two-feet-long, wooden ruler scale or a long, bent cane, and spank the students real hard until they all cried out in pain. Some diehards would not budge; some of the kids were so used to it that they’d look the other way, and chuckle while the bad cops kept beating the others. If they’re lucky, they’re spared. If Jana and Dafadar caught them chuckling, they’d have some more special treat that day.

Some E or D students regularly cut classes. They also nicknamed the abusive teachers: Jana and Dafadar were called Jharudar or something, meaning the sweeper; alternately, it could mean the one who beats badly.

That was them. Then there was our Ashu Kar. In between, there were some more child molesters – big or small.

Why do people get so violent? Why are some people so cruel? What pleasure do some big, powerful men get out of beating young boys or girls who can’t resist or fight back?

Sigh…tears…sigh…tears…sigh…

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Owner beating child worker at a textile factory

Kolkata Makes Love to Me…It’s Pure Bliss

That’s when I fell in love with her…Oh God…was it sweet!

[I dedicate this post to the legendary liberation struggle of Bangladesh and the unsung, victorious freedom fighters.]

 

I wrote: “Kolkata makes loves to me. Oh God, how can I thank you for bringing me back to her?”

(In case you don’t know, Kolkata is Calcutta — the media-distorted British-raped “City of Joy.” We’ll slowly talk about the violence and abuse.)

Obviously, Calcuttans — of my type — were fascinated with my fascination. Praises poured in. Enchanting…I said to myself…not just the idea of making love to her…but also the idea that other beautiful people like me loved the idea of making love to her…and that too, without ever getting out of your mind…and your dreams!

Inspired by admiration and adulation from fellow-lovers, I went on and wrote:

“Food, music, film, dance, fun, literature, politics, science, arts and what not…in spite of all the problems and stupid politicians and promoters today, it’s just incredible. And I’m not even talking about her GLORIOUS history.”

Again, confetti and claps…a whole bunch of them. This lovemaking is sure catching on…and catching on fire. I knew it would!

The mezzanine room mother left behind…

And then, a sister, who left Bombay and Delhi to live in this much-maligned city, wrote:

(By the way, this travelogue is not about comparing anything with anything…in case you think I’m being biased against your place. I may be biased for my place, but I’m definitely not biased against yours. Or, for that matter, against my second first city New York.)

“For me, Kolkata is like my mother, whom, despite all her weaknesses and ailments I love and care for….no matter where I stay, live or what I do, the umbilical connect will always be there.”

Now, that’s also very true. She pulled my ear — just like one of the many middle-school teachers who did it to me many times over many years — and put it in perspective. Of course, she is right! And I am right too! Now, how can I resolve this dilemma?

Is Kolkata my mother…or is she “Je t’aime mon amie?”…Like…“ami tomay eto bhalobashi, sakhi…”

(By this time, other Calcuttans — probably a few of my detractors included — started throwing confetti and claps the sister’s way. Hey, I thought, I need to do something to fix it — now — or she’s gonna steal the show. And yet, I cannot ever lie. This is way too delicate and honest to be cunning and dishonest about.)

Then, I came up with this brilliant reflection. I wrote:

“So wonderful, sister.” [Note: while doing an important debate, in front of an eager audience, you always want to compliment the opposition — that’s a little political trick I learned years ago…here in Calcutta; your sentimental (Calcuttan-type) detractors now pay attention to you too. Who knows: you now might get a few flying kisses.]

So, I wrote:

“Bengal is my mother. Bangladesh is my mother. It doesn’t matter where I live now. I’ve written about it in the memoir I’m putting together. My mother is an important part of it. Kolkata, on one hand, I feel more like, was my mother when I was little, and on the other hand, it became like my first girlfriend when I became a teenager. It took on various forms and shapes at different stages of my life.”

[Fantastic! Ain’t it? What a brilliant observation…and that too…one hundred and ten percent genuine…like Tagore…cross my heart.]

The legendary Kolkata Book Fair is coming up…and I shall be there…

To draw in accolades from supporters and opposition alike, I explained:

“So, when I say Kolkata makes love to me, I think about the teeanger-time Kolkata when my senses started to bloom like a bunch of tuberose, with its radiating beauty and fragrance. It comes back every time I return here. That’s an incredible feeling: it wraps me around and won’t let me go.”

[By this time, I observed I managed to steal the limelight away from the opposition…and into my direction. I knew I was on a roll.]

Charged and cheered up, I announced:

“…and then I go back to my old mezzanine flat in old North Calcutta where my mother first walked me to school, and where I returned one day in second grade with lit-up eyes to tell Ma I stood first in class, and she was waiting for me standing in that little two-feet wide balcony — I feel like I’ve come back to my mother again. This is indescribable. This is pure spiritual experience.”

End of debate. Humble, sweet victory…and I knew it. My opposition said something good too in her closing remarks:

“Yes…Kolkata, Bengal, Bangladesh – same speak. Just as the love for one’s mother is unconditional, so too, my love for the place…I accept her as she is….she beckons; she attends to you with all the love and care possible, in the humblest of ways…and when it’s time to bid her goodbye, her memories persist and fill the air with a scent that keep your senses going till the very end….I can identify with your feelings – it’s about a strong sense of belonging..indescribable, indeed!”

In a debate, and that too of this sort, you don’t want to show your emotions too much — in front of the audience. So, I didn’t do it. Did I weep and tremble later? Well…that’s a secret I would not divulge here. You can privately call me to find out.

The tiny balcony where she once stood to receive me.

I can only say to you this much: this is the city and this is the joy…for me (as opposed to some junk Kiplingers or later rapists).

Come along with me to know more about the smiles and tears and fights and fears and poetry and prose and jasmine, tuberose…that Kolkata is to offer to the entire world…even today…even after so much violence and hurt!

Kolkata makes love to me. It’s pure bliss. It’s spiritual. It’s like taking a long, relaxing dip in Mother Ganges. You emerge clean.

Take a long, relaxing dip in Kolkata.

Sincerely Yours,

Partha Banerjee

(Living in Kolkata now)

My own city of joy…you wouldn’t believe how sensual and romantic it is!

Rivertalk: the Way Women Touch me

Two Rivers: Bhagirathi and Jamuna

I’m going to continue talking about the women in my life.

On this post, I’m going to talk about the way women touch me…have touched me. This is the third episode: I named it Rivertalk.

If you’re interested about the first two episodes — Foretalk and Flowertalk — just click on these links. You’ll get a more comprehensive picture of my relationship with my women in my life. I hope to write a couple of more episodes in the coming days. I hope that you come back to read more. In fact, I implore that you do.

Bhagirathi, Jamuna and Saraswati are three major rivers in the Hindu holy land that descended from the Himalayas, flew through the North Indian heartland, met at a confluence called Prayag near the bustling city of Allahabad, and then flew their own separate ways all the way through Bihar, West Bengal, Bangladesh and Assam before dissolving into the Bay of Bengal. Incidentally, Saraswati is now non-existent: there are underground traces of that once-mighty river at the Lord Krishna-glorified Prayag confluence. Bhagirathi is also known as the mighty, holy river Ganga or Ganges. The Hindu pilgrimage of Varanasi or Benaras is of course famous for its temples and picturesque steps on its riverbanks.

Bhagirathi, Jamuna and Saraswati, in my present story, are three women who worked as domestic helpers at my Calcutta household for eons. In Bengal and in India, domestic helpers are often part of the family; for pittance, they work for the family almost for their entire lives, and practically consider the employer family as their own. I don’t know how they actually do it, considering they have their own families to take care of, and often those families are so poor and helpless that these women’s paltry wages are their only source of income. Often, they are refugees of war, partition and communal riots or other such disasters: in India and Bengal, we don’t have any lack of them.

Plus, they do manual labor for both families, killing themselves. Yet, they never forget to smile, never forget to greet you, and never ask for more than what they’re given. More often than not, they are grossly underpaid and grossly overworked.

Bengal and India’s urban middle-class households — all one billion of them — are run on their shoulders and by their overworked palms. Bhagirathi and Jamuna, as you can see in the picture above, are still working for my family back there in Calcutta. As you can see, Jamuna the woman doing dishes on the dingy kitchen floor now has a granddaughter who is happily accompanying her grandma to our place. There is every likelihood that in course of time, she will take her grandma’s place in our family.

They are somewhat lucky, in spite of their lifelong misfortune, that they’re working for us — an employer family with some humanity and kindness. In times of emergencies and major disasters, we try to do our best to help them. There are many other — in fact, numerous — maids who are not so lucky: poor young girls have a high risk of being sexually violated (at least constantly looked down upon as sexual objects), and young boy servants have even a greater risk of being verbally and physically abused. In the event of any possible theft in the family — small or big — the young boy servant would take the initial brutal beating, both by members of the household and also by the police. In India, it’s commonplace. Nobody even talks about it.

In case of our Bhagirathi and our Jamuna, they flow relentlessly, smoothly, and without saying a word. They wake up at the crack of dawn, walk in the dark over to our house, and start doing their chores without waiting for any instructions. Jamuna does the dishes piled up from the night before; Bhagirathi makes tea, goes to the local market to do daily groceries and pick up the rationed milk bottles. Then, she starts cooking. Jamuna meanwhile sweeps and mops the living room and bedroom floors.

They leave when they’re finished with their morning chores, return to their own families, and perhaps replicate all of the above — of course, in a scaled-down way for they simply could not afford it like we do. Then they come back again to do an afternoon and evening version of the morning routine, only to leave at eight or nine at night, after we’re finished with our dinner and ready to go to bed with our favorite novel or music. Facebook enthusiasts would lift their legs on the chair against the computer table while the boy or the maid keeps sweeping the floor underneath. The fun online discussions and chats would not disturb the worlds of either parties.

Saraswati worked with us for a few years when my mother died. It was a time when our home was more disorganized than a refugee colony. We didn’t know who’d cook, who’d clean, and whether or not there would be food on the table the way it did uninterrupted when my mother was around. It was a very difficult time — both physically and emotionally. Saraswati came to help us at that time; we also had a young boy named Kanai who was a skilled cook at the age of thirteen. He came from some drought-stricken village in south Bengal, and we became good friends. Saraswati, meanwhile, disappeared just like the once-active river. One could find her trace only deep underground — if you know how to dig deep into your memory.

Surprisingly, these domestic helpers somehow always had a lot of affection for me. For that reason only, I can never forget them. I’ll come back and talk about them a bit more. I hope you come back too.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Meet Your Own Renaissance Man

Here He Comes! That's Him, That's Him!

Ahem. Announcement. Loudspeaker. Drumroll. Would you please meet your own Renaissance Man?

Would you please consider standing up and greet your one and only Renaissance Man…like…the only one you’ve known in your personal, private world? That’s the purpose of the words “your” and “own.”

Is it too much of an expectation from him? Is it too much of a demand? At least…a dream…maybe?

I know other than you, nobody knows him. He is not big. He is not tall. He is not rich. He is not famous. He’s not white. He’s not black. He can’t run fast. He can’t shoot guns. He can’t climb mountains…he can’t move mountains…he can’t even climb a tree. He’s not an agile swimmer; he can barely float. He’s not a heavyweight lifter; his knees gave out because of a series of cricket and soccer-football injuries. His left ear has been ringing bad in winter since seventh grade when a North Calcutta thug punched him hard. His rib cage aches from time to time even since in eighth grade a school teacher beat him up black and blue.

He does not come from a prosperous family; he doesn’t have any pedigree. He doesn’t belong to the elite class so that people truly hate him. He doesn’t even belong to the proletariat class so that people truly empathize him. He is not widely traveled. He has not read all the books an averagely intelligent person should read…not even all the available English translations of famous writers…not even enough English literature in English. He’s not a polyglot; he’s only managed to speak, read and write a couple of simple dialects. He is not even that fluent in languages he’s picked up. In fact, if you make him angry or nervous, he starts fumbling and mumbling even speaking the handful of new words he painstakingly learned. You can hear him stammer…that is…if you can get close to him. But It’s difficult to get close to him because he’s often rude and arrogant and defensive and egotistical and unyielding. He is not an easy man. Common perception is that he’s a difficult man.

But he still believes he is your personal, one-and-only Renaissance Man. Therefore, would you please rise up and delight him with a standing ovation? Here he comes…confetti, claps, table thumping and loud cheers…major jostling for a close-up look…media frenzy…paparazzi shots…black limousine…red carpet…limelight…flashlight…floodlight…fill-in light…deep focus…soft silhouettes, pretty, young, tall female companions in sexy evening dresses…

Well…um…actually…they’re not there with him…yet. But you’re a sensitive, imaginative person, aren’t you? You can imagine it all! Can’t you?

Please do. It’s big fun that way…to imagine…paint a mental picture!

Now, why in the world does he consider himself to be a Renaissance Man? I mean, given what we just heard about him and drew a mental picture, what makes him think that he belongs to that rare, elite, powerful group of people with dexterity in diverse arrays of life?

Well, the last time I heard, the only reason is that some of his friends and family members pumped his balloon too much, and ballooned his bubble. Just the same way they ballooned the stock market bubble before it all crashed. I’m now very apprehensive and worried that this man’s ballooned bubble is ’bout to bust…before we can believe him.

We also heard that one of his friends actually called him a Renaissance Man in front of him. A facebook friend (can you believe…a facebook friend…ha!) called him a role model. I heard another person wrote on his wall that she got the ability to see through the woods because of his writing, and his analysis. That person since left his facebook…for some unknown reasons. However, stupid and naîve he is, it was enough for him to believe that he was indeed one. I mean, how can you take your friends…real or virtual-world friends…so seriously…however smart or honest those friend are? I mean, don’t you think you need to look in the mirror yourself first before you start believing in yourself?

I always check in the mirror. If I know I’m short, I wouldn’t think I could do things a tall man can do. If I see myself to be a poor and powerless man, I would never dream of going beyond the box, cross the line, come too close to the elite and powerful, and consider myself (even remotely) to be one of their own. Like they say in old Indian-colonial-British English, I am a burnt cow. I’ve seen the fire way too many times. I am a dreading cow. I cower.

Enough digression already. Are you still reading?

I actually had a chance to speak with this man. I have to be honest. Remember, this blog I promised would be all about honesty and heartfelt feelings…without hiding a thing? So, this is what I found out…and I must say this guy has reasons to believe his friend was right. In all fairness, at least he deserves to dream that he could be one…one of those days.

Now, crossing over the elitism gap…well, that’s a story we’ll leave up to the political movers and shakers…and social scientists.

I sat down with him with my note pad, and here’s my scribbles. We spoke for about ten or fifteen short minutes.

Did I say I was impressed? I didn’t? Well…I did…sort of…in my confusing-confounding way.

Listen…you read to read twice what I wrote, okay? Yes. Let me confess: I was impressed with what he had to say about himself, his life, his work, and his mission. In fact, it was in plain English even I could understand.

I’d strongly ask you to have a talk with him — one on one — maybe, over a cup of Darjeeling tea. You’ll find out.

He has reasons to believe he is one of a kind. Grab him…come close to him. He’ll be yours. He’s ready to be yours.

Meet and greet your own Renaissance Man.

Would you?

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Talk Over a Cup of Tea

Troy Davis and Life’s Fleeting Emotions

"The Message of Justice Weeps in Solitude." -- Tagore

Troy Davis is now dead. In my layman’s language, the mighty, glorified American justice system refused to revoke his death penalty, and last night around eleven, in an American prison, he was straddled on a chair and given a lethal injection. Troy died ten minutes later.

Just before his death, from his death bed, he gave a final statement proclaiming his innocence once again. He said he did not commit the crime. He implored us to “look deeper” into it.

Even though I did not know Troy, a black man in Georgia who was convicted of killing a police officer in 1989, only four years after I came to America as a foreign graduate student, over the years I’ve heard about him and the alleged flay of justice he went through for twenty years, and wondered about the mighty and glorified American justice system. I read about the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King when I was in India. I remember I read in our Bangla newspaper about his assassination in Memphis when I was in elementary school. I heard about the assassination of John and Bobby Kennedy. I read about slavery in America, and how black men and women were subjected to racism, bigotry, exploitation and violent repression. Much later, I read about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.

I sort of always wanted to believe that America had changed for the better. I sort of wanted to believe the U.S. justice system was actually mighty and worth glorifying.

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"They call in marcenaries, and scream, 'kill, kill, kill.'" - Tagore

Since yesterday, I put a status update on my Facebook page, and changed it three times. I did not know of any other way to show my fleeting emotions. First, when I came to know that he was likely to die in a matter of a few hours, I wrote:

“Abolish the Death Penalty Today! It’s barbaric and primitive. Want proof? U.S. India, China and Saudi Arabia still have it. The entire Europe, South America, Australia and Canada banned it.”

I posted a number of links to prove my point: (1) U.S. India, China and Saudi Arabia still have it. The entire Europe, South America, Australia and Canada banned it (why was it banned?); (2) how fanatics and fundamentalists across religions use similar logic to support the death penalty; (3) in a high number of cases, how DNA fingerprinting exonerated convicted, death-row inmates. I put link to a TV news story I did about ten years ago for ABC TV.

At 6 P.M., when it was all news that they were going to kill Troy at 7 P.M., I updated my status:

“At 7 P.M., America will execute Troy Davis. I’ll observe a moment of silence.”

I was feeling very tired just by imagining what Troy was going through at that time. I was internalizing the feeling of sadness, hoplessness, frustration about the mighty, glorified U.S. justice system, and a bone-chilling feeling of death — as if Lord Yama the god of death was knocking at his doorstep, to fetch him. I could not take it anymore. I went to sleep.

At 8 P.M., I woke up and realized that he was still alive; I read that they had delayed the execution because of an appeal to a superior court. But because I never believed in miracles…my life has been so mundanely lacking miracles…deep inside I knew the end of Troy Davis’ life was near. But I was hoping to believe in miracles, only for his sake and for the sake of his family.

But I was feeling very tired and exhausted again just to think about the roller coaster emotions they were all going through. I was imagining the pounding hearts of the hundreds of thousands of supporters and activists who were rallying in Georgia, in Washington, D.C., and in other parts of America; in fact, people against the primitive and barbaric death penalty were rallying and protesting all across the world. In the name of Troy Davis, a black Amercan man in Deep South, the world’s conscience was coming together.

It was too much for my emotional, impractical, old-fashioned heart to beat normally. I went to sleep again.

I woke up at 6 A.M. this morning. I knew it was all over.

I did a final update on my Facebook status:

“A primitive, barbaric system put Troy Davis to death. I hang my head in shame. This is a dark day for America.” 

Repeat statement: Troy Davis is now dead. In my layman’s language, an American court refused to revoke his death penalty, and last night around eleven, in an American prison, he was straddled on a chair and given a lethal injection. Troy died ten minutes later.

I just gave you a synopsis of my fleeting emotions surrounding Troy’s death. My fleeting emotions will not let me remember for too long this alleged flay of justice by the mighty, glorified American justice system.

But right now, as of this moment, this is my life’s status update. This is my life’s raw, real emotion. My life spoke for a poor victim of a primitive, barbaric system — in real, raw terms.

For you, Brother Troy.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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