How Many Ways Have You Been Cheated In Your Life?

But they said life would be good in America!

Related post: please visit Ever Lived on Two Sides of the Globe…Exactly at the Same Time? (Click on this line)

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“Oh God,” some of you — my friends, sympathizers and global readers — might grunt. “This guy is again writing a depressing note.” Some of you might say, “Doesn’t he get it? Nobody wants to read his depressing notes anymore!”

Honestly, I can’t blame you if you felt that way. Because, feeling cheated all my life is definitely not a happy feeling. It does make me depressed. It would make you depressed too if you thought about it, and asked yourself the question, and challenged yourself to come up with the most honest, no-inhibition, straightforward answer. (Perhaps that’s why many of you do not want to talk about it.)

But I say: have courage and try it, my friends, sympathizers and global readers. Answer my question in the most mano-to-mano, womano-to-womano way (and in all other possible variations). Then come back to me and tell me if you still think I am the only person feeling cheated all my life and feeling depressed because of feeling cheated.

I would most sincerely — “cross my heart and so help me God” way — use all your honest feedback once you told me about the results of your soul searching.

But let me first tell you in a few minutes what the results of my soul searching have been.

Now, as soon as the word “cheated” gets in the mix of any conversation, the automatic knee-jerk reaction is “Cheated? So, are you talking about infidelity? Like, the husband cheating on the wife, wife cheating on the husband ( and all other possible variations)?” And then the automatic response would be, “Ah well, that’s too personal. I’m not gonna tell you about my personal life — for you to put out there for the rest of the world to see.” The response would be, “No Sir, I’m not gonna. It’s my personal life and it’s my privacy.” And who doesn’t know that America is too big on privacy? India, my other country, is also coming up fast and getting bigger on privacy. India’s elite and aspiring-elite upper middle class are getting bigger day by day on privacy — on an American mental Viagra.

No, I’m not talking about this cheating.

But, please, rest easy. My question “How many ways have you been cheated in your life?” has nothing to do with your marital relationship or love life. So, don’t worry. I am never going to pry upon your private life. You can pump in more Viagra to get your privacy even bigger. I won’t bother you.

My question is about your non-private life: life’s other aspects that not only you, but all your immediate family members, friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, students, teachers, well-wishers, cursors, haters, bashers, blasters and such people can see. You might think they are not able to note and judge these elements of your life, but believe me, they can. They do. They are. So, don’t fool yourself believing that nobody knows. It’s obvious. It’s apparent. It’s transparent. It’s vivid. It’s not private at all. It’s already out there for the entire world to see.

Embarrassed? Confused? Don’t be. Take my example. It’s going to be much easier for you to understand the question.

So, the first cheat is that the leaders of my two countries — USA and India — kept telling me that if I worked hard and lived my life honestly and had a lofty goal to be somewhere, I would be somewhere. Just because I was born poor would not make me die poor: the leaders said I would be somebody. To support their claim, they gave me some evidence where a very poor man through hard work and honest living with a lofty goal actually became rich and famous. No, I’m not talking about the lottery winners. I’m talking about their examples where in America, Roger Sherman, who helped to write the American Constitution, was a cobbler; in India, a very poor low-caste woman recently became the principal of a college, and so on. Then, you have Barack Obama, et al…

Problem is, it doesn’t happen that way. People who show you those examples never tell you that they are exceptions and statistically insignificant. What is statistically insignificant? Simply put, if in a population of any random sampling, more than 95 percent of the people have one kind of trend and less than 5 percent have another kind of trend, then the trend that only happens in less than 5 percent of the population is statistically insignificant. That means, that trend is an exception: an aberration. You can’t say that trend is something that is legit or valid for the general population.

In this aspect of life, which I’d call social mobility or upward social movement, those people whom the leaders of my two countries tout as valid examples of upward social movement are too few and far between. Their numbers are so small that statistically they are absolutely insignificant. But neither the leaders nor their mouthpiece media would tell you the real story. The real story is that in this social and economic system — one that America practiced especially since Ronald Reagan and is now devoutly picked up by India and its neoliberal, IMF-sold leaders — if you are born poor, it’s very likely that you’d die poor. Or, if you’re born unknown with no pedigree or uppity country-club-type connections, you’d die more or less the same way.

That is reality. I am a living example of that reality. And I worked very hard in my life, lived honestly, and that too, with a lofty goal. I’ll tell you — kind of hesitantly — what some of those things are I’ve done in my one hard-working, honest and lofty-goal life. I must. Otherwise, you would not believe me at all.

But before that, let me show you a graph on upward social mobility — country by country. It’s important to put it here because I know some of my readers from various parts of the world are quite erudite and are not going to accept my argument unless supported by serious research. So, here we go.

India does not even feature in this graph. It’s pathetic there.

The graph from the now-world-renowned book The Spirit Level shows that among all the developed and prosperous, capitalist countries, USA has the worst upward social mobility especially when graphed against income inequality (i.e., rich-poor divide) of those countries. In other words, USA has the highest income inequality (which means, the rich-poor divide is the widest) and it’s upward social mobility for the poor and middle class is practically non-existent. In India, it’s even worse: the one or two percent rich are extreme, filthy rich, while at the same time, the poor are miserably, haplessly poor. Recent IMF policies imposed by India’s ruling class are making the economic and social misery even more desperate. I wrote about it before (you can look it up here).

But our leaders and media and their advertisements always create this impression that even if you’re born poor, in this system, you can definitely be somewhere in one life.

Problem is, they’re lying. In this system — one that I’ve lived half of my life in each of these two countries working very hard, with a honest lifestyle and lofty goal — I will never be able to be somewhere. In short, the so-called American Dream propagandized in America and now in India is a myth.

In his new book The Price of Inequality, Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has also said the same thing. He said, the American dream is an illusion. He said, if you’re born poor in American, the “overwhelming possibility” is that you’ll stay poor. If you want to read more on it, visit this link. It has a video of the Stiglitz interview too.

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/american-dream-myth-joseph-stiglitz-price-inequality-124338674.html

Okay. Now, some other friends, sympathizers and global readers might now get restless and ask me not to get too bogged down with hard research and statistics. They might say, well, what is YOUR personal experience to support that you’ve been cheated all your life? What is the real-life hard evidence?

So, here we go. Off of books and papers and research data. On with personal life — of this no-name, no-pedigree, born-poor, die-poor’s experience.

I was the first biology professor in a Sundarbans Delta college. I began the department there. They loved me.

When I quit my more or less lucrative, totally stable and highly respectable job of a biology professor in India (I wrote about that place also in this blog — click here if  you’re interested to know), and later forced my wife to do the same — only to come to America, the U.S. university that responded positively to my application to be an M.Sc. student in biology, never told me about the short-term and long-term consequences to immigrate into America. They never told me about the social and economic shocks my wife and I were going to be in. Two highly respectable, young biology professors surrounded by friends, family, familiar society and a large number of admiring students and colleagues, suddenly became extremely impoverished, culture-shocked foreign students the American society (especially outside of the university campus) was unwilling to accept as one of their own. They never told us that we’d have to live with their initially-offered $380 per month to survive (in a few months, graciously, they raised my graduate student assistantship to $420 of which I would pay 10 percent as income tax — percent-wise not much different from what Romney and Ryan paid last year). Two immediate consequences (other than feeling like Neil Armstrong when he first landed on the moon — perhaps even more alienated and blue than he was): (1) we could not return to India in nine years — we had no money to pay for the airfare and other expenses; and (2) because of the shocking, sudden departure of my wife from her parents who were never ready to see their only child leave forever, her parents lost their health quickly and did not live long — and my wife the only child so close to her parents could not go to see them one last time before their death.

Okay, enough sentimental stuff. Some of you — my friends, sympathizers and esteemed global readers might say (and I’m sure authorities of that university that took me in as a foreign student would say the same, even more emphatically): well, nobody forced you to come to USA; you came on your own. Why didn’t you do your own research and find out about the consequences? Plus, aren’t you happy that you did migrate? Aren’t you grateful that because of that decision, in spite of the initial culture shocks and economic hardship for yourself and your family, you did well, got two masters degrees (one in journalism from the coveted, Ivy League Columbia University) and one Ph.D. from reputed American institutions, became so proficient in English that you now effortlessly teach your American students (and write reasonably well in two languages), brought up your children in a developed education system, and earned a lot of respect from your friends, relatives and colleagues — both in India and here in America?

I can’t deny the above. But the feeling that I was a victim of brain drain, lack of comprehensive information and shortchanging my talents, experiences and energy for slave labor (and they wouldn’t let my wife — a foreign student’s spouse — work at all), sacrificing a number of very important years of my life — is simply overwhelming. Sure, both my wife and I came a long way and perhaps improved a little bit on the economic front too (never to be rich — always stayed in the middle of the money graph). But the price we had to pay  was unbelievably enormous. And to see my wife’s parents die so soon because of the departure (other than the many emotional distresses, extreme alienation and being forced to be away from our familiar world in India) was brutal.

And then, there were SO many deaths of people we knew so well and loved so much! Almost felt some of those deaths we could perhaps prevent if we didn’t leave India!

(to be continued…)

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Couldn’t do anything for them either! That’s another lifelong pain deep inside.

So Many I Knew Left So Early…Why…Why?

Ma Ganga…Save Us from Doom and Destruction.

You could read this as a depressing note. I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

Because this note is about death (yes, again I’m writing about death — as if I can’t let go of it, ever). And death is never fun and writing about death is never fun either. It’s especially depressing if it’s about premature death. It’s about people I knew — so many of them — who died early; and they didn’t have to. They could’ve easily lived, and I could’ve easily been with them for some more years, and I didn’t have to feel so miserable that they didn’t live, and that I didn’t have the simple, ordinary pleasure of a simple, ordinary man to spend time with them and see them growing old, and grow old with some others who I wanted to grow old with.

But this is also a note to let my steam go, as if in a psychological therapy session. If you read it that way, it may not sound nearly as depressing.

In this little note of reflection, I’m trying to find reasons why they had to die so early and why I didn’t get the simple privilege of life to spend a little more time with them. Obviously, as you can see, I am hurting. And I don’t want to hurt so much.

You could call this a philosophical reflection. After all, discussing death is often philosophical. Talking about death with a heavy heart must always have an element of philosophy. An afterthought of dying early, prematurely, when these men and women were in the middle of us…with a full life that there was supposed to be…a life that was taken away from them…and a life that was taken away from us — must be philosophical analysis. If not a scholarly analysis, then at least it’s some emotion-framed rambling that may or may not make sense to others. But for someone like me who cannot simply either forget these deaths or brush them aside as harsh but unavoidable reality — this discussion is important.

Like they say in compassionate, educated discourses, it’s critical to close the chapter. Without closing these chapters, life hurts more and life hurts always. And you can’t hurt incessantly. You must move on. I have hurt incessantly, and I want to move on.

I could’ve titled this note “Why So Many I Knew Left So Early” instead of the title I chose — that would’ve been simpler, more prosaic and less emotional. People always charge me that I charge with emotion too much and it affects them negatively. They tell me I need to be more progressive and objective and less sentimental and old-fashioned. (In fact, they tell me that I should not dwell on the subject of death so much.)

But my dilemma about the title was that if I chose “Why So Many I Knew Left So Early!” as the title, it might have sounded as if I was merely complaining about these deaths. Or, come to think of it, it may have read (without the note of exclamation at the end) as if I was actually narrating the reasons about the deaths with absolutely confirmation that I indeed knew the reasons behind these early deaths. Choosing the title would always be quite difficult for such a note — a note that most people would not want to read more than once and if they read it at all, it would be quick and cursory only because the readers simply could not not avoid the urge to know what I had to say (thank you, brothers and sisters from all over the world).

No-name bloggers like with no pedigree or media or publishing house sponsorship have even more difficulty to choose the title of the blog and its length or format because there is always fear that these global, friendly readers might get turned off by depressing subjects and lengthy discussions, and may not return (and I want you all to return, believe me!).

Crossing Life’s Bridge into Neverland…Perhaps.

Then, I couldn’t simply be disingenuous about what I had to say about these deaths. I neither knew the real reasons they had to leave so early, nor did I mean to complain-only about these untimely deaths. Of course, I knew why they died if you asked me the physical reasons behind them — like, my mother’s ovarian cancer when she was forty-two, or my childhood friend Subroto’s untreated clinical depression and his suicide at the age of forty-six just a few days after his father’s death, my brother in-law Ashim’s death at forty when a drunk driver hit his bicycle on the morning of Holi a few years ago, my big-brother-like maternal uncle Buddha’s death at the age of thirty-five when someone shot him in the head and left his body on his office floor, death of my wife’s most jovial uncle at the age of fifty or so when he had his early-morning breakfast and left for his neighborhood tea shop only to be electrocuted of live wire submerged in waterlogged street, my mother’s closest sister who loved me just like her own child died of meningitis when she was perhaps thirty or so leaving behind three little children, or my mother’s oldest brother Biswanath who out of poverty had a severe, untreated anxiety disorder only to die of a cerebral aneurism when he was in his forties and had to leave four young children behind, etc. I always knew the physical facts behind the deaths. I also saw some of them dying close up — like my mother and my uncle Biswanath; I remember seeing this uncle in his death bed at the Calcutta Medical College hospital emergency ward, breathing his last out of a bunch of tubes.

I could’ve seen them growing old and dying at a mature, normal age. That did not happen.

Or, two of my Scottish classmates Anjan and Nikhil — whom I met through Subroto — died so suddenly when Anjan, then a newly-graduated doctor, fell on the street one fine morning and died of a massive stroke. Nikhil was killed with his whole family — his parents, wife and child — when he was driving back to Calcutta from Delhi and an out-of-control supply truck crushed the entire family to death.

Then I can think of some other deaths that I never thought would affect me at all because they were neither my friends nor relatives; they were only people I knew from a distance. But looking back, they all touched me deeply one way or the other. Like, the death of a young, happy boy Suranjan whom I saw the day before his last, who was playing basketball in our Scottish Church School’s courtyard when a mismanaged, poorly-built chunk of cement that held the basketball basket fell on him and one other kid to kill them instantly. Or, the other young man from Buddha’s alley whose name I cannot remember now — whom I saw acting in an amateur play with Buddha who a phenomenal actor and director, just days before his death; one morning, on his way to work, he fell off an overcrowded no-door Calcutta bus pedestal and got run over by the dilapidated, double-decker bus. He was the only earning member of his large family with a number of unmarried sisters. We were in college at that time and had enough courage and desire to go see the remnants of his body and blood strewn on Beadon Street.

All of it is real. I did not make anything up.

Or, like, when I was five or six years old, a young man Ranjit, I think sixteen or seventeen  years of age, who happened to be the elder brother of a boy I used to play alley football and cricket with, hanged himself to death (or did he take poison?). I was the only child then: my sister wasn’t born yet. My parents were so concerned that the incident next door might hit me hard — they did not let me see the dead body laying on a wooden cot before the funeral procession. I remember I only heard some subdued wailing of Ranjit’s poor mother. Or maybe, I’m only imagining. I was too small. That I think was my very first encounter with untimely, shocking death.

Why did Ranjit kill himself? I don’t know. Maybe, he failed in love? Maybe, he failed in his high school exam and could not find a way out of their poverty; I knew for the fact that they were extremely poor. His younger brother Rabin who played ball with us, I remember, would always be overly cautious that the ball we played with would be lost and then he’d have to come up with the money-share for the lost, thirty-paisa ball. Therefore, every time he bowled in a game of cricket, he would yell, “I’m not responsible if the ball’s lost!”

I still remember that so vividly!

In a few years, when I was a high school student and doing well in my exams and all, I saw Rabin working as a part-time usher at our local, North Calcutta theater halls where my parents would take me for a weekday evening, discount show of Satyajit Ray or Charlie Chaplin.

Rabin never finished school.

Ranjit killed himself. Many years later, Ganesh, another friend from the same North Calcutta alley who set up a small grocery shop in our Calcutta neighborhood to make ends meet, only never to be able to make ends meet, killed himself. On top of their humiliating poverty, he also had to come up with expenses for his old parents’ health care, costs that recently went completely out of control in post-socialism India. I was not in Calcutta when Ganesh died; I was already in the U.S. studying journalism at Columbia University (and already considering myself to be a part of the elite U.S. media). It was incidentally about the same time when Subroto stood in front of a speedy commuter train only to be cut up in half.

Ganesh, Subroto and I played and gossiped together back in those romantic Calcutta days. We could grow old together. That didn’t happen either.

Didn’t I say I must tell these stories to close some chapters?

Help me do it.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Yama, our Hindu God of death.

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.

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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

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?

Late Breaking News!! IMF Just “Bought” A New India President!!

The Three New Stooges!

Allegedly, an unprincipled, corrupt political system with an unprincipled, corrupt media just elected an IMF-nominated and Corporate-America-backed career-partisan politician as the new president of India — a man who as the longtime finance minister has brought the country’s economy to the brink of doom. 

I hope you read this little blog and the accompanying blog on IMF and Wall Street’s global politics and terrorism, and share them with your friends, family and colleagues. Thank you for your time for reading and sharing.

__________________________

Background:

The Indian president has always been a nameplate: a rubber stamp for the prime minister. But there’s a strong possibility that Pranab Mukherjee’s (the person in the middle — see photo with Sonia Gandhi) incumbency will change this because (1) he is the current finance minister of India and ALSO the current IMF director of India (very few know this); (2) in all likelihood, through putting him as the next India president, IMF will perpetuate its economic status quo that began during Rajiv Gandhi and his then-finance minister Manmohan Singh (India’s current prime minister: the bearded man on the left); (3) media do not mention, let alone discuss in-depth, the role of IMF and its Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) that turned a once-egalitarian (egalitarian compared to what it is now) economy upside down — both in India and elsewhere such as Argentina, Greece, Italy and Spain; (4) Sonia Gandhi, India’s de facto queen mother, is completely unchallenged by India’s so-called democratic political hegemony and media establishment when in actuality, she’s been a part of the country’s catastrophic and historic corruption, inflation and violence; and (5) Sonia Gandhi is obviously transferring power from now-prime minister Manmohan Singh so that she can put her son Rahul Gandhi, a political neophyte just like his father Rajiv Gandhi, as the next prime minister in 2014 (or 2019), and that her handpicked president Mukherjee can expedite that process. Of course, this is all assumption based on the current scenario. It might change as the political landscape of India is changing fast.

Foreground:

Fascists and bigots are now supporting a new, scary, global economic fascism!

India’s far right Shiv Sena, a Hindu outfit originally created in the 80’s allegedly to violently break down a legendary textile workers’ strike in Bombay, just threw their support behind Sonia Gandhi’s handpicked presidential candidate. Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray said: “Islamic terrorism is growing and Hindu terrorism is the only way to counter it. We need suicide bomb squads to protect India and Hindus.”

Indian media that often brandishes secularism, does not say a word. The liberal pundits and political parties do not cry foul either.

International Monetary Fascism — also known as IMF — is playing their scary, scandalous game to take India over. It’s the beginning of a long, dark era of recolonization.

History Repeats Itself!

Lord Clive’s East India Company, with sabotage from a bunch of their paid spies and operatives, took India over in 1757. Then they ruled, looted and destroyed the country for the next two centuries before they broke the country in three pieces, created famines, killed millions, and made millions more permanently destitute. Now, two hundred and fifty years later, their new reincarnate IMF,  World Bank, the global corporate puppeteers and their notorious intelligence agencies, with help from their Indian operatives, are going to take over the country of 1.2 billion people — eighty percent of them haplessly poor — for the next number of centuries.

The Barbaric, British Partition of India, 1947.

Sounds too much of an exaggeration? Okay, quiz me on it. I’d love to take up on your challenge.

IMF is almost there to put its own man Pranab Mukherjee — the current finance minister of India and ALSO the country’s official IMF director (never disclosed by media)– as the next president of India. The “democratic” process is almost complete. Billions of dollars have changed hands underground to bring necessary votes to the table. Those few still bargaining for a better deal will be dealt with — in cash or kind. Media will be euphoric, vindicating Indian democracy.

You can quote me: you shall see eulogies in New York Times soon. I’ll come back and tell you when it happens.

New IMF “Renaissance” in Italy. They Got Spain Too!

The new colonists have just recently put their own men on top of two other major democracies Spain and Italy. India — the largest democracy in the world today — is their latest kill.

And the entire takeover is happening in broad daylight — in a nonviolent, bloodless, even invisible coup!

It might sound like I’m staging a major drama and scaring off people on unfounded allegations. First of all, I am a small, powerless Indian-American man sitting in New York — 10,000 miles away from New Delhi.  Secondly, I have no political or monetary stake here: I do not belong to any of the political or non-political parties that are busy playing the game. Plus, I can’t do much damage to anybody — let alone the mighty IMF or Sonia Gandhi family — by writing a small, no-name blog.

Don’t worry: I cannot upstage anybody’s game.

But I still want to write and talk about it because I am convinced this is exactly what is happening, and I just cannot be silent about it. I may be poor and powerless, but they could not YET take away my education, analysis and conscience, and my decades of grassroots political experience, both in India and America.

I believe what is happening in India right now is absolutely horrendous and this silent, bloodless coup can bring India to at least another century of miserable slavery. I know this takeover will kill countless poor people and families in the subcontinent.

I told you before that IMF’s New Terror in India is Going to Kill My Family. I’m telling you again: it’s going to be a genocide where hundreds of thousands of innocent and poor people will lose their lives and dignity. Women will lose their honor. Children will die of new starvation. Workers — men, women and children — will be thrown into even more brutal subjugation and violence.

A horrendous inflation and price rise for oil and essential commodities — we see it happening right now — will devastate millions of poor and middle-class Indian people.

I said it before, and I’m saying it again. You decide.

I’m inviting you to read the other recent posts I wrote here on my blog — on this subject. Please let me know what you think. Please let me know if there’s anything we can do to stop the International Monetary Fascists before they reoccupy India with their invisible and media-overlooked weapons of mass destruction (you can call it WMD or SAP): (1) permanent economic policy change by opening the floodgate to multinational, corporate investment, (2) drastic devaluation of Indian currency, (3) total privatization and deregulation of India’s economy, (4) destruction of India’s social welfare system, (5) obliteration of the nationalized banks and financial systems, (6) repression of labor union and workers’ rights, and (7) drastic cuts in taxes for the rich.

This is IMF’s new “Shock and Awe.”

I am NOT crying wolf. I am warning you about the violent, grotesque wolf that is about to start mass killing. I told you this before and I’m telling you this again, now.

The New IMF Terrorism in India Can Kill My Family. Read it here. Click on this link. Let me know what you think. Let others know about it too. Please.

Let’s do something about it. Can we do anything about it?

If you decide not to, let me tell you: YOU ARE NEXT!

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Horrible, Old Wine in a Horrible, New Bottle!

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.

One Last Tagore Birthday Before My Death

Satyajit Ray, an agnostic, thought Tagore was like a God.

It took me a long time to decide on the title. I thought about it and thought it over.

I read it once. I read it twice. I paused and read it again. Finally, I decided. This is it. This is the title.

No, I don’t want to make it sound corny. That’s not the purpose. I truly feel that it could be one last time I get to live on the 25th of Baisakh — Tagore’s birthday — which normally falls on the 8th of May. This year, it’s the poet’s one hundred fifty-first birth anniversary. This year, just like any other year, much fanfare is happening in West Bengal and Bangladesh, various Bengali neighborhoods of India, as well as cities across the world wherever there is a community of Bengali people — big or small.

There will be Tagore’s songs. There will be Tagore’s plays. There will be Tagore’s poetry. There will be Tagore’s dances. There will be talks about the poet-philosopher’s poetry and philosophy. More resourceful Bengali communities in places such as Calcutta (Kolkata) and Dhaka and London and Toronto will put out special literary publications to observe the special day. Some will try experimental music — using Tagore’s songs. Some will stage Tagore’s famous plays — Post Office, Land of Cards or Red Oleanders from a new, refreshing point of view. Some will perhaps have an exhibition of Tagore’s paintings.

I know here in New York, a group of Bengali musicians and artists is putting together an audio book of Tagore’s short stories — the Man from Kabul, Return of the Little Boy, the Postmaster — with help from young-generation, college-age Bengali-American boys and girls. Kudos to them.

I have no doubt there’s going to be countless other events, programs and performances all over the world to celebrate this occasion. Especially, Tagore’s 150th birthday was particularly celebratory; it is likely this year many places are perhaps completing their year-long observance with special wrap-up celebrations.

Tagore Dance Drama in U.K.

I could not be a part of any of the numerous gatherings — either in America or Bengal. I am not a part of any of the numerous Bengali clubs, societies and organizations — either in America or Bengal. I do not live in India anymore. I live in a Brooklyn neighborhood where there is a small smattering of immigrants from West Bengal; I know once they had an association that held Durga Puja and therefore, perhaps, Tagore Jubilee as well. But I know the group slowly dwindled, some old inhabitants left this unsung corner of New York City and some others went back to India. In any case, we never hear from them.

There is a large Bangladeshi community within walking distance of where we live in Brooklyn. In fact, working as an immigrant rights activist especially among the South Asians, once I had made an estimate that only this community counted about 30,000 people. It is a large community that has associations from many known and unknown districts of Bangladesh; they frequently host their picnics, street fairs and Eid dinners. But I am not sure if they ever hosted any Tagore birthday celebration. I learned from various friends that most of them came from conservative-Muslim areas in Bangladesh where “Hindu-liberal” Rabindranath Tagore was not such a household name. That is not to say all conservative Muslims are anti-Tagore or anti-Hindu.

In some other West Bengali and Bangladeshi communities in New York and New Jersey, there will be programs and performances. But these days, after working with and for especially the Bangladeshi community, it has dawned to me that inviting someone like me who is not from political Bangladesh is not a priority. After living in New York City for so many years, my family and I have accepted the fact that in spite of our desire to belong with a larger, undivided Bengali diaspora, we are not, in any real sense, part of either a “mainstream immigrant” Bangladesh or West Bengal. (Apologies for using an oxymoron.)

Chances are, we will not know if there were Tagore celebrations in New York or New Jersey where my long, post-9/11 activist experience once had an estimate of some two hundred thousand Bengalis — over eighty percent of whom were from Bangladesh. Practically all the weekend Bengali-language parochial schools and practically all of the two dozens of weekly Bengali-language newspapers and magazines operating and publishing out of New York are Bangladeshi.

The Land of Bengal: a Glorious History of a Thousand Years.

For a long time, my family and I were actively involved with one of the weekend schools where I taught advanced-level Bengali to just-graduated students, and my family members participated in their cultural programs. For a number of years, especially after 9/11, as an important part of my immigrant rights activism, I wrote columns in a number of Bengali weekly newspapers and magazines — Thikana, Ekhon Samoy, Bangalee, Sangbad, Porshee.

With the schools and publications alike, I always did what I always do: educate the community about the difference between culture and kitsch, and speak and write about human rights and justice. When I worked professionally for two immigrant advocacy organizations — one in Jackson Heights, New York City and the other in New Jersey, I also worked with Bangladeshi immigrant families who bore the brunt of a terribly unjust and primitive immigration system here in the U.S. Among other activities, I worked with a few men and women who were in prison for a long time for minor immigration violations; I also worked with some others who were spared from prison detention or deportation because of our work.

I have many friends and acquaintances. I built precious connections with journalists, activists, writers, singers, playwrights and music teachers. I always felt proud to have thought I was a member of the larger immigrant Bengal and immigrant South Asia.

Tagore Festival Toronto

Yet, there is a strange disjunct — an insurmountable wall — between me and my family and the societies both in the Bangladeshi and West Bengali community. West Bengali immigrants do not know us well: we live in a not-affluent area in Brooklyn mostly inhabited by African-Americans, Jewish people, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. Bangladeshi immigrants do not think we are one of them because we came from India — a country they do not know anymore. The conservative-Muslim Bangladeshis (the variety I mentioned above) do not like or understand a liberal-progressive, one-nation Bengal that Tagore and his predecessors from Bengal Renaissance envisioned. The young-generation, liberal-educated Bangladeshis do not know the common history and heritage of two Bengals shared over one thousand years before the British cut the land of Bengal in halves, erecting insurmountable, blood-soaked borders.

Yet, a very large section of Bangladeshi Bengalis (it’s a very strange term, in my opinion) — most are Muslims — are moderate in their religious and social views, avid music, theater and literature lovers, and are the biggest consumers of music and movies from Calcutta and West Bengal — even today. Strangely, however, some of them have a general apathy, indifference, ignorance and often anathema about political West Bengal and India. When they find out I am from India and not from Dhaka, Sylhet or Chittagong, they talk to me differently. Again, I’m not generalizing. How can I, when I have so many special friends from Dhaka, Sylhet or Chittagong?

New York’s Bengali paper Thikana published a nice review of my Tagore album. I keep working with them.

There are quite a few other Bengali immigrants both from Bangladesh and West Bengal — highly educated, scholarly and erudite — who are satisfied with the small society they have and therefore do not feel any particular urge to invite outsiders like us. New Jersey or Long Island — where most of these more affluent, educated West Bengalis live — is like a group of islands only connected by long-distance, car-driven highways, creating more distances between people. We do not have the time or desire to go out of New York City to see either a Durga Puja or a Tagore performance, and return more depressed that we never felt truly welcome.

All of the above — the entire, personal, true story I told here — is a slow but sure recipé for death. If I was not a high-energy, activist, never-say-die-type personality who would go out of his way to find new friends, colleagues and communities and stay involved with newer and ever-challenging, creative activities — immigrant movement or labor education or Brooklyn For Peace or Durga Puja or Bengali New Year celebration (or even the Tagore-150 we organized in Manhattan last year with help from New Yorker) — death would have come much faster. In my twenty-five-plus years of living in the U.S., I have seen a number of people — a few of them being highly talented but decidedly loners — falling victims of this extreme alienation followed by depression, dark diseases and death. I always, always carry that fear deep inside that one day, I’m going to be a victim of a similar alienation and die untimely.

My new Tagore album: maybe you’ll like the songs — I hope you do

Every year, therefore, at this time when the rest of the world is celebrating the life and work of this incredible genius named Rabindranath Tagore, the question comes to my mind: am I going to live one more year to see the next Tagore birthday celebration? Which song would be the last Tagore song I hear before I die? Which Tagore poem would be the last one I read? Which short story would I translate the last before I perish — and perish prematurely?

I hope I didn’t make you too sad or perturbed and I certainly hope I didn’t make it sound too corny, as if I was trying to draw your sympathy — sympathy for a forlorn soul.

If you feel that way, I am sorry. I do not have anything to offer you to compensate for it — other than the two dozens of Tagore songs I recorded. I also have a few translations of these songs as well as translations of a few Tagore short stories.

I also have a YouTube of one of my talks on culture and Tagore — a talk I gave recently at an Indian university. And if I may say it, I have recently managed to compile a whole host of my essays on Tagore in relation to cultural erosion and globalized kitsch. I’m actually in the middle of writing a book on the above.

I hope you receive these gifts I leave for you, and forgive me for my personal, not-so-cheerful rambling.

Celebrate Tagore. He showed us an educated, modern, progressive way to live. He was not a perfect man. In fact, he had many flaws. I do not consider him a God. I consider him a very important, humanist philosopher-poet teacher who taught us human spirituality, universality and peace.

Tagore taught us the message of emancipation: in Bengali, the word is Mukti. It means inner freedom: liberation of the soul. Nandini showed us the way in Red Oleanders.

If this is the last Tagore birthday before my death, I want to remember him that way.

I hope you get to know him.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

Land of Cards

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!

Trayvon Would Still Be Alive…If Zimmerman Had No Gun. Simple.

Scared? You should be.

Trayvon Martin would still be alive today if his killer Zimmerman had no gun. It’s simple. As simple as the bullet that killed the poor kid.

As Bill Cosby said just a few days ago, and I am paraphrasing: “It’s not about race. It’s about guns.” That is where the debate and action should be.

I know what I’m talking about. It’s very real for me.

My uncle Buddha — my mom’s youngest brother who was like a big brother to me — was shot and killed by a gun.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time and words on this subject. I don’t have to. It’s pretty easy to get.

Did you read the paper, watch the TV, or follow the news on the radio? In the last few weeks, almost every single day, some people — innocent people including children — got killed here in America because of guns. Somebody found a gun. Somebody bought a gun from Wal-Mart or some place like that. They brought the gun to school. They brought the gun to their workplace. They brought the gun to a shopping mall. Then, they shot and killed people. They blew skulls out. They destroyed lives. They destroyed hopes and dreams.

Let there be no illusion. Let there be no confusion.

Guns kill. Guns kill the innocent. Guns kill children. Guns can kill my children. Guns can kill your children.

I’m not here to scare you for no reason. Guns are scary. Let’s be afraid of guns. Let’s be afraid of people and groups behind the scene.

Let’s be afraid of people who’re pushing guns. Just the same way we should be afraid of people who push drugs. Or, those who push pornography. All three forms of vicious killers — guns, drugs and pornography — are abundant now in America. They are beyond control.

They can all kill us. They can all kill our children. Some do it slow. Some do it fast. But, they all kill.

Guns kill fast.

Does the above sound like a sermon? So be it. I have no other way to put it. I don’t have to spend a lot of time and words on this subject. I don’t want to. It’s pretty easy to get. (Even though watching American media, you wouldn’t get it. They don’t mention guns much, if at all.)

Killed by Legislation and Profit.

The so-called Stand Your Ground law in Florida and other states here in America is stupid, primitive and motivated by profit. (Update: even the Norway mass-killer claimed self-defense — the theme for Stand Your Ground law). Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York, in his new crusade against the gun violence and gun lobby and National Rifle Association, used a lot of good logic against the powerful NRA. But he did not mention the gun industries’ motivation of profit and the big Wall Street people and politicians behind passing the law. The same Bloomberg is using his NYPD to arrest peaceful Occupy Wall Street protesters every single day. (and I have yet to see a major coverage in major media).

Without mentioning the drive for profit, and that too at the expense of hundreds of innocent lives, the big Bloomberg talk against NRA is meaningless.

If you talk about NRA, you talk about the gun industry. You talk about the war industry. You talk about the pervasive culture of violence — promoted by media and TV and Hollywood. They promoted it in USA. They promoted it all across the world. Guns and bombs and grenades and mines and remote-control explosives and computerized drones are big business.

Let’s face it: you cannot talk about one element and exclude the others. They are all connected to each other.

I have no sympathy for the culture of violence. I know Obama frequently talks about Gandhi and his so-called non-violence. Good. But Obama never speaks against the all-powerful NRA. He’s afraid to upset them and lose the Southern conservative votes (and Northern gun owners). Neither does Clinton — either the man or the woman. Republicans and conservatives and American feudals and cave men and women tout the Second Amendment to tout their God-given right to carry a weapon. Good. At least we know they are primitive. But Democrats — the so-called civilized, modern people also never take on NRA and the gun lobby. I believe they are either hypocrites or stupid. I don’t care. Either one is bad.

Guns kill. Every single recent, blood-curdling episode — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, San Francisco, Trayvon Martin, the Colorado Congress woman, Ohio, Pennsylvania…just name it. Guns were the single-most important factor in the killings. Yes, baseball bats can kill too. Yes, knives, swords, poison, drugs and pornography have killed thousands of men, women and children over the couple of thousands of years of recorded human history. But never, ever one single weapon of destruction has been able to destroy lives so fast, so massively and enormously — before the gun was invented and marketed.

You think. You decide. You act.

In 2009, guns took the lives of 31,347 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. This is U.S. government’s data.

Think about Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, San Francisco, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Trayvon Martin. It’s simple logic. Had the killers carried a baseball bat or knife or sword or poison or drugs or pornography, would they be able to kill so fast and so massively? If the guns and ammunition were not so easily available, would the killers be able to use them so easily?

Think about how these innocent young men, women and children would still be alive. They were somebody’s children. They could’ve been your children. They could’ve been my children. I wrote about it before. I shall write about it again.

The same NRA and gun lobby and conservatives and feudals and primitive, pre-historic profiteers and politicians and press often tout God especially during election times. Would God — any God — approve such massacres? Would Jesus approve it? Would Moses approve it?

I don’t want to spend any more time and words on this subject. It’s fairly simple. Guns kill. Nowhere in the civilized world outside USA people carry guns, or buy and sells guns at Wal-Mart and such places. It’s unthinkable. And those countries and societies do not lose their children every other day because of gun violence at a shopping mall or school or day care center.

I do my part. You do yours. Stand Your Ground.

Shun the Gun.

Or, one day, just like my uncle Buddha, somebody in your family might get killed. It’s a very real possibility.

Believe me, I’m not making it up.

Trayvon Martin would still be alive if Zimmerman had no gun. It’s simple. As simple as the bullet that killed the poor kid.

 

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Koch-ALEC-NRA-trinity