America’s New War, and Our New Year.

air-force-usa-bombing
Trump’s new war on Syria is immoral and illegal.

USA is not the world’s police, and nobody attacked USA. Trump wants to distract people from his imminent filthy problems, and that’s why the new war. And even if the bombing stops, that is no reason to believe U.S. has the right to invade and bomb other countries, whenever they like. They have been doing it for ages, since WWII — on various excuses. It’s outrageous. And as always, they have U.K. and France on their side. ONLY THEM.
________________________________
With that strong note of resistance, I’m writing about something totally different.
________________________________

April 14, and sometimes April 15 — based on the lunar calendar — is New Year’s Day in many parts of India — in various, spectacular forms. I am not an expert, but I know it’s celebrated in Bengal, Orissa, Assam and Punjab — under various names. We Bengalis call it Pahela Baisakh (the first day of Baisakh). Baisakh is the first summer month.

Our Old World New Year’s Day used to be celebrated with much fanfare — some places with flying kites, wearing new ethnic dresses (saris and kurtas in West Bengal and Bangladesh), fantastic masks and colorful costumes, AND social and religious gatherings around small sweet and samosa shops, garment tailoring shops, hair styling saloons, Indian-Chinese restaurants…or tiny goldsmith garages — you can imagine the rest…in a hugely crowded city like Calcutta, or Dhaka. People laugh unnecessarily this day, and they do it a lot. Believe it or not, they also hug each other.

Music and poetry is big — last time I checked — in both Bengals. In Bangladesh, the precious, silvery Hilsa (“Ilish”) fish features any menus, in major delight of the revelers.
Hilsa

These are places where new accounts would be officially inaugurated with sweets and fruits (ras gollas, mangoes and bananas in particular), and old accounts would be closed: all borrowed money paid up and off today (hopefully). Of course, thanks to corporate capitalism Wall Street and Wal-Mart style, they drove most small shops out of business, and those still in business would be out of business very soon. And India doesn’t have banks in most places, but its government has forced everybody to go plastic instead of cash, and it has caused havoc, beyond belief. But that’s another story.

Haalkhata

Of course in the Western world, thanks to what I call “Journalism of Exclusion,”
hardly anybody knows what we the “under-civilized” do, eat, wear, worship, or celebrate. We never existed in human civilization, and we still don’t, unless we are rich, white’ish, snob’ish, and famous — enough to donate enough to big politics, media, or both. Indian civilization to American media means new Wal-Marts, multiplexes, Pizza Huts, KFC’s, Coke, and fancy cars. Well, I believe a vast majority of Indians today think that way too.

(Human rights for the untouchables, the 24/7 rapes and murders of young women and girls, Hindu fanatics killing Muslims in India, and Muslim fanatics killing Hindus in other places — really, these are not fun stories for media or the mass: so, why bother? They tell us to be happy, and never question.)

But this Old World, forgotten civilization with its “Journalism of Exclusion” celebrations of its New Year’s Day — in some disorganized, unrehearsed, sometimes hilariously chaotic ways, keeps celebrating its history, language and cultural traditions — with absolute disregard and disrespect for the corporate media’s lack of inclusion. In fact, the people — more than one-sixth of human population — all know very well that an American-variety corporate capitalism and its sold-out politicians and media are slowly but surely crushing them to death. Some know it directly — for example the small sweet shop that ran its business for four generations, and now is about to be extinct because a big chain Reliance supermarket is selling fancier cakes and chocolates that younger people like a lot (and nobody questions what kind of sugar or preservatives were used, or how some child slaves harvested the chocolate — it’s not a part of human consciousness anymore).

But, still, ordinary people — with or without the knowledge of this new, crushing-them-to-death global corporate economy — keep celebrating their colorful, musical, food-and fun-filled social and religious celebration of their own New Year’s Day, the way many generations before them did it.

A story that I told you just now — would NOT be featured on tomorrow’s CNN, NBC, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal.

We don’t wish a Happy New Year, in case you want to know. It’s Naba Barsha in Bengal, Baisakhi in Punjab, Bisuba in Orissa, Bihu in Assam, and so on. We refuse to be a part of a media-dictated global cultural conformity.

I don’t know about you, but I am very, enormously happy to be that way.

###

 

Bangladesh celebrates New Year

The Cricket-ball Tampering Scandal

cricket ball

Australian captain Smith’s Ball Tampering: Cricket scandal and corruption.

So, they tampered with the ball, made it more effective (using illegal means), and got caught by camera. Then, Smith and some other players were punished by their cricket board, and banished for a year or so from playing cricket.

Yet, it is so commonplace occurrence in India and Pakistan!

Why India or Pakistan is so corrupt, and Australia or New Zealand is not? Aussie and NZ people and press and governments expose the perpetrators, and bring them to justice. In India and Pakistan, they worship the corrupt as gods, hide the scandals, and pretend they are all as clean as angels. They even give them national awards. The most corrupt are the richest. Nothing — no consequences — ever happen to the rich and celebrity in India, and this complete lack of accountability has made these countries so corrupt.

Here’s a SHORT list of stories — written by other journalists and bloggers — where India and Pakistan cricket players and officials have been caught of cheating on or off the ground. Just click on the links below.

And there are many, many stories that I did not have time to include. It’s a dark, shameful history.

Sincerely,
Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York

_____________________________

[India’s star player and captain] Dhoni guilty of corrupt conduct, claims lawyer in Mudgal case

 

FIR against MS Dhoni’s wife Sakshi in multi-crore fraud case: Reports

 

Corruption in Cricket Exposes India’s Larger Failings

 

Most damning incidents of match-fixing in past 15 years

 

[Former Sri Lanka captain] Arjuna Ranatunga says India vs Sri Lanka World Cup final was fixed, wants probe

 

Was the World Cup semi-final fixed [in 2015]?

 

Just not cricket? A history of cheating claims against Pakistan

 

SACHIN TENDULKAR: FACE OF CORRUPTION IN INDIA

 

[There are many more…]

My New Book — Music Box and Moonshine

Flipping through

Music Box and Moonshine is my translation of 18 Bengali short stories — by famous authors from India and Bangladesh. Some of these authors are legendary and world famous — such as Rabindranath Tagore, Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Syed Mujtaba Ali, and Sunil Ganguly.

The book got launched — in fact, this month, at the famous Calcutta Book Fair. My wife represented me at the ceremony, and brought back a few copies. I was very happy to see the high-quality production. Moreover, Times of India did a wonderful story on me and some of my peer writers, writing and publishing from abroad.

Bina Biswas at Rubric Publishing in New Delhi was in charge of the entire publication process. She found the best-quality paper, two great artists — one doing the cover, and the other the inside illustrations (one for each of the 18 stories), and she made sure the printing and editing were flawless. She knew of my requirements for quality.

I’d also want to share this experience with you. A colleague named Tania at work here in New York this morning saw the book, and was very impressed. She asked, “So Partha, tell me, what is the meaning of the title?” It was a very reasonable question. I paused, and replied, “Music Box stands for poetry and musicality, and Moonshine stands for humanity.” Honestly, I did not think about the instant answer: it just came out of my mouth. And yes, that is the theme of the book, indeed.

I am so happy that this book got out, after a wait for nearly ten years. I have been translating Bengali short stories, poetry, and songs for many years. For this book, however, we did not want to make it too big; therefore, we took out a few other stories — stories I plan to include later. I plan to publish at least one more volume, if not more, of this series. There are so many great writers who adorned the ocean of Bengali literature with their pearls: how can I exclude them?

Some Bengali writers

I hope the book finds some commercial success — both in India and here in America. It’s now available at Amazon.in (click on this link), and will soon be available globally at Amazon.com .

Happily, I start reading events soon: March 9 is the first event here in New York. If you want to help us out by organizing reading, please let us know.

I deeply care for the subject of the book, and I worked passionately for it. I have a feeling once you pick up a copy of the book, you won’t be able to put it down.

Thank you for taking the time to read a small sample of the vast, endless treasures of Bangla literature.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

MBMS 1

A Cloud-Capped Star Sets

meghe-dhaaka-taaraSuddenly, a very happy day turned out to be not so happy.

It was my wife’s birthday yesterday, and she was celebrating a special birthday in Kolkata with her friends and family (we don’t call it extended family there — it’s just family). She doesn’t get such an opportunity: here in New York, it is a year-after-year routine visit to a restaurant of her choice between the small few of us, followed by watching a movie, only to rush back home in a terribly cold weather. Not much fun. Back there, it‘s always different. Her aunt cooked tons of food, and friends fed her with the ceremonial “payesh,” or rice pudding Bengali style.

Then, on the same day, I got the news of Supriya Chowdhury’s death. Or, Supriya Devi, as she was later known.

Even though it may seem far too sentimental and detached: like, why would I even care about the death of a film star I never knew, and only admired her acting on the silver screen? There is a reason. The two most important movies Supriya acted were “The Cloud-Capped Star” (Bengali: Meghe Dhaka Tara), and “E-Flat” (Bengali: Komol Gandhar), both directed by legendary filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak.

Note: If you want to know the riches of Bengali and Indian non-Bollywood (i.e., junk) movies, watch them. I can send you a list of such movies. They are subtitled.

These two movies, like some other movies by Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Buddhadev Dasgupta, and such directors (Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta, Girish Kasaravalli, M. S. Sathyu are just a few others) made me what I am today — psychologically and intellectually. It made me what I am today — a progressive, democratic, socialist who believes in equality of all kinds.

The open, liberal, and progressive, intellectual Bengali consciousness I slowly got transformed to, from a closed-minded fanaticism and patriarchy that I originally had inherited — was possible because of honestly, Bengali literature, poetry, music, and yes, movies. Coupled with reading some history.

Supriya Chowdhury’s acting in Ritwik Ghatak’s movies made me appreciate the history of a bloody and traumatic British partition and its aftermath on our society, economics, and politics. It made me realize what we had lost as a nation, and what we did not gain. How the British stole our treasures, and transferred power to the rich feudals.

If Ritwik Ghatak was the writer of this script, Supriya was the personified conveyer of the message.

A picture tells a thousand words. Sure. A dark-skinned (and therefore not pretty by Indian and Bengali standards), tall, strong actress whose eyes and lips oozed sensuality (and therefore not acceptable within the prejudice of Bengali and Indian mediocrity) blew me away.

She made me a man, from a child.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

Supriya Chowdhury

Suchitra Mitra, A Legend

Suchitra Mitra

(Photo used only for non-profit, academic, informative use.)

A few years ago on January 4 — I think five or six years ago — I remember I walked into my college office early in the morning, turned on the computer, and went on to browse my routine newspapers. There was a news: Suchitra Mitra passed away.

For those who do not know, Suchitra Mitra was a legendary singer in Kolkata (Calcutta), who specialized in the songs of Rabindranath Tagore. She had a golden voice. Her enunciation was deep, meaningful, and flawless. Her dexterity in Tagore music was exemplary. She taught hundreds of students, and inspired millions more. She epitomized Tagore and his mastery of words, and inculcated it in the minds of us the intellectually disadvantaged youth.

For those who do not know, Rabindranath Tagore was a poet, philosopher, songwriter, novelist, and educationist. He got the first Nobel Prize ever in Asia — in any subjects. Tagore is an institution in the two Bengals and India.

For the musically oriented Bengalis such as myself, I grew up listening to diverse varieties of Indian and Bengali music. Classical Indian and Bengali, pre-Tagore oldies, devotional songs — Baul, Kirtan, and other genres, post-Tagore modern and contemporary, and also trashy and fantastic movie songs alike. But Tagore songs have always remained very special to us. And some Tagore exponents have remained in our hearts as our gurus, mentors, and teachers. As if they brought to us the Tagore whom we did not have an opportunity to see.

Suchitra Mitra was one such singer. Even my father, who had a Hindu fundamentalist upbringing and never understood Tagore that much (and regretted it in his later years), enjoyed listening to Suchitra Mitra. But he only liked her Tagore singing, and not her progressive political affiliation.

Suchitra Mitra was a lifelong believer in socialism. In her early years, she was a political activist, and in her later years, acted in a couple of socially-conscious movies. Her acting was wonderful. She was also a writer and poet.

Even though I have been at a number of Suchitra Mitra’s live performances over my years in Kolkata, I had only one chance to meet and talk to her. Students of the music school Rabi Tirtha (the Tagore Pilgrimage) that she founded gave her a lifetime achievement award, and I had a precious opportunity to be present on the occasion. She was gracious to grant me an informal conversation.

At the end of the conversation, I touched the feet of the legend. I was talking to her, and saying to myself, “Look Partha, you’re talking to someone who went to Tagore’s university, and spent her whole life mastering Tagore’s music. You’re talking to a legend who had once stopped a Hindu-Muslim communal riot by singing Tagore’s music of peace — in front thousands of arms-wielding people, about to kill each other.”

Suchitra Mitra also graciously gave me an autograph on that day.

I said to myself, “Partha, you are truly blessed.”

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

###

 

Port Authority Terror Today!

Dec 11 NYC terror
Photo Courtesy: New York Times (for non-profit, one-time-only, academic use.)

I express my sadness, frustration, and anger on such cowardly terrorist acts, and offer my sympathy for those who were hurt. Thank God, nobody lost their life.

Then, we talk about Islamophobia and Immigrant Bashing.

Every time something like it happens, it automatically makes people even angrier against immigrants and especially Muslim immigrants. People start calling names, and refuse to be in any discussion, any dialogue, or any debate.

Some media flare up the sentiment, and profit more. I am sure tomorrow’s papers will be flooded with sensational, front-page stories, with zero substantive discussion about the immigrant communities. In fact, immigrant communities will continue mistrusting one another, and even more.

I am also sure people like Trump of USA and Modi of India do not mind that hiked-up hatred, to win more elections, exploiting the anger. Misplaced anger also diverts attention from other real-life issues, such as money, jobs, education, health, environment. Violence on women and children. Police brutality. War. Gun violence.

It works so well! They have done it over and over again.

Yet, based on reports today, this idiot named Akayed Ullah, who blasted the bomb at Port Authority today lived in Brooklyn, and was from Bangladesh, and I know literally hundreds of Muslims from Bangladesh living in Brooklyn and New York. I live here. I work here.

I have no doubts in my mind that this nut represents a small, miniscule number of nuts, and the vast majority of immigrants — Muslim, Hindu or Christian, with papers or without — do not believe in violence. They believe in peace. They condemn violence of any kind.

Let us not divide ourselves even more, and fall prey to the traders of bigotry and hate.

Let us come together. Let us live in harmony and peace.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

26 Years of Babri Mosque and BJP

babri-masjid

Twenty-six years ago, on December 6, 1992 — Hindu fanatics (who now support Trump) broke the law, conspired with police and politicians, and rammed through barricades to demolish an old mosque in North India.

They did not do it only to show their anger against Muslims, or to reclaim a piece of land they believed was the birthplace of Hindu god-reincarnate Ram. It was a political ploy to start massive violence and bloodshed across the country, and permanently polarize Hindus and Muslims to consolidate vote banks.

Thousands of innocent people were killed — mostly Muslim men, women and children — by RSS and BJP supporters and thugs. The incredible violence and mass killing brought back memories of horror that occurred during the 1947 British partition. A peaceful land was turned upside down.

BJP, along with their ideological mentor RSS, were not in the seat of power in 1992. The nationwide bloodshed and religious polarization since the Babri Mosque massacres, followed by a similar 2002 communal violence in Gujarat, brought them to the highest seat of power in India. They created and exploited hate. Just the same way Trump created and exploited hate.

Now, their leaders who were once implicated in the bloodshed have stopped talking violence, and media have done their best to make people forget about the history. Now these leaders have new ploys: demonetization (scrapping of currency) and destruction of a traditional, familiar economy.

Absolute, purposeful nonsense!

End result: India is now one of the most polarized places on earth. Hindus and Muslims are more hateful than ever before. The rich is now super rich, and the poor is now…poor. Bollywood stars, cricket players, corporate business leaders, and politicians are incredibly rich and powerful and celebrated by media, and are guarded 24/7 by special security forces, spending public money.

For the 99% in India, a man can be killed any time, a woman can be raped any time, and a child can be molested at school any time. It’s not only impossibly suffocating to breathe air in India. It’s impossibly suffocating to live your daily lives. If you don’t know how to be a part of this cruel, corrupt system, or refuse to be a part of it, you are doomed.

In twenty-five years, India — a place so close to my heart — has forever changed.

India’s Climate Catastrophe

Courtesy Indian ExpressCourtesy: Indian Express (for non-profit, educational use).

Reports from today, November 11, 2017. From: Newsweek, Bloomberg, and NDTV.

(1)

New Delhi’s air pollution has reached levels so toxic that United Airlines flights to the Indian capital city until it improves.

UA canceled their flights between USA and India, after evaluations found the air quality to be around 40 times the World Health Organization’s safety levels. India’s pollution is so bad that the city has turned into a “gas chamber.”

United said the city’s air conditions were severe enough to be considered a natural disaster, and to be avoided like a hurricane or wildfire would be.

(2)

New Delhi’s air quality consistently ranks among the worst in the world, but the city’s air pollution last week registered 10 times worse than the air in Beijing, which is notorious for its smog. Residents complain of burning eyes and itchy throats, and doctors said chest infections and respiratory illnesses have surged.

Authorities ordered 6,000 schools to close, trucks except those carrying essential supplies have been banned from entering the city for a week, and construction projects have been temporarily stopped.

(3)

India’s environment minister Harsh Vardhan appears to question recent global studies that claim lakhs of people die in India due to pollution. Dr. Harsh Vardhan told NDTV in an interview that “to attribute any death to a cause like pollution may be too much”.

The Lancet Countdown 2017 last month said air pollution had claimed as many as 2.5 million lives in India in 2015, the highest in the world. There have been other estimates as well, putting a different number to the lives lost due to air pollution. 

The environment minister continued:

“Certainly if you have a diseased lung and if the pollution is continuously damaging your alveoli (air sacks) then one day when you die, you can attribute the cause of death, to some proportion, to maybe pollution. But I don’t think we can generalise and say that millions of people are dying only due to pollution,” Harsh Vardhan told NDTV in an interview.

Dr Harsh Vardhan’s comment is in contrast to his response in February this year when another global study that estimated 11 lakh (1.1 million) deaths due to air pollution in India in 2015. He had then called air pollution a “silent killer” and a “slow poison” that could kill people, particularly children. “It can be a killer also. It can be like a slow poison. Which keeps destroying your alveoli in the lungs at a slow pace,” he had then said.

But Dr Harsh Vardhan wasn’t the environment minister in February. He is now.

And that is another example to show the people in power do not work for the ordinary, suffering people. We know who they work for. They don’t care if millions of innocent children, women and men die of carcinogens in a man-made, toxic environment. India is dying of a toxic environment.

I rest my case. You judge.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Courtesy Indian Express 2
Courtesy: Indian Express (for one-time, non-profit, academic use.)

A Labor Strike Happening in NYC Now

Spectrum CEO RutledgePhoto by Partha Banerjee.

America’s 1% and Their Depraved Greed.

Look at the picture above. The man on the left — Tom Rutledge — is the CEO of Charter-Spectrum, the big Internet, cable TV, and phone service company.

He made $98,000,000 last year alone, which translates to $47,000 per hour, calculating a 52-week year, and a 40-hour week. I’m sure I’ve missed his lavish perks, bonuses, stock options, and other luxurious compensations. This is only his reported earnings in 2016.

But this man won’t give his workers a decent pay, and is denying health benefits, retirement benefits, and pension. And Corporate America, its president, and pro-Wall Street media are all on his side. He thinks he is invincible. He wants to break union.

Therefore, after a long wait for a fair contract, 1800 IBEW Local #3 union workers have decided to strike against him and his company, and they’re striking for over seven months now. I was at a Times Square rally today, where labor leaders and workers again pressed their demands. I doubt, mainstream media will ever cover this rally.

Our media is our word of mouth, and our media is our social media, such as this blog. We need to maximize the reach of our awareness campaign, to let people know how grotesque the injustice is. Tell them the numbers I’ve shown above. People will know.

Times Square rallyWorkers rally at Times Square today, October 30, 2017. Photo by Partha Banerjee.

This is a very precious labor strike in America today. Corporate America knows if they can break the unions in New York, they can break them anywhere.

But they don’t know the resolve of these workers. Speaker after speaker after speaker today — leaders and striking workers alike — loudly and clearly voiced their resolve. They are united, and they are strong. Many other unions came out to support the striking brothers and sisters. I saw brothers and sisters from CWA, 32BJ, teachers’ union, health care workers’ union, hotel workers’ union…and some more.

Among the speakers, IBEW Local #3’s Business Manager Christopher Erikson, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Centra Labor Council’s Vinny Alvarez, NY State Senator Jose Peralta, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Building and Construction Trade Union’s President Gary LaBarbera, et al. electrified the huge rallying crowd, with their message of solidarity for Local 3, as well as the union movement in New York.

NYC mayor Bill De Blasio spoke too.

They all chanted, “One Day Longer…One Day Stronger.”

We shall overcome. Corporate America and their one percent will be defeated.

Support the striking workers, wherever you are.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Chris Erikson at Times Square rallyIBEW Local 3’s Business Manager Christopher Erikson speaking at the rally. Photo by Partha Banerjee.

America’s Dirty Little Secrets

Newsweek

Photo courtesy: Newsweek (only for one-time, educational, non-profit purpose.)
_______________________________________________________________

Most Americans, and most people around the world, believe that USA is the greatest country on earth. Like, look at the American flag on the moon!

They talk about a whole bunch of things that they feel are wonderful about America.

Older generation brags about the much-touted “American Freedom.” They believe America keeps the world in order, preventing it from falling apart. They believe America keeps peace around the world through its army, navy, and air force. They believe, without the U.S., there is no civilization around the world.

The younger generation talks about being rich in America. They believe America is the richest country on earth, and anybody who wants to be rich can be rich, regardless of how poor they were born. The American saying is that by being American, “You can go anywhere.” They say, “The sky is the limit.”

In fact, they have given it a name. They call it “American Dream.”

And that’s why, they say — both old and young Americans — people flock to America in large numbers from across the world. They believe globalization is now all about Americanization.

American games, American movies, American fun, American gun…look, they say, what else is there? It’s all about America now.

Most people believe that America, i.e., USA is the heaven for democracy. They talk about how free and fair American elections are, and compared to countries such as Russia, China, Pakistan or India, how the American election system is open, transparent, and free of corruption. Any American can vote, and their votes will be counted. For presidential elections, there will always be a series of nationally-televised debates, and to them, that is the ultimate proof that the system is not rigged. Yes, money plays a big role, but it’s all accounted-for, “white” money. Unlike India, Pakistan, Brazil, or Bangladesh.

Privacy is another precious thing Americans frequently brag about. Your privacy is the ultimate secret, and nobody can touch it, or pry upon it. The concept of a private life is as sacred in America, as its Christian church. It’s like God, personified.

Others outside America have other Godly ideas about America. They believe America invites and adores its immigrants. They believe American education system is world’s best. They say, look at the Nobel Prize winners! Every year, it’s almost all from American universities and research institutions. They believe American health care and hospitals are on top of the world. They believe America’s cars, roads, bridges, and railway transportation are immaculate. There are so many cars on any supermarket parking lot! Look at so many millions of fantastic supermarkets and malls! USA is a shopping paradise.

And then, wow, MacDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and the thousands of places to eat and drink…Coke, Pepsi, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi…oh, you name it, they have it! And then, Budweiser, Miller, Heineken… and thousands of beer and hard drinks!

But hardly anybody talks about the dirty little secrets USA carries with it, secretly. And those who open up their mouths are not liked at all. In fact, they are despised — by friends and foes alike. In their own circles, they will be outcast. If they say too much, well, nobody knows what will happen to them.

Media in America and around the world, along with its Hollywood and entertainment industry, have done an incredible job to keep the secrets, secrets. They have created illusions about America that are almost impossible to overcome.

We are going to find out in the next few blog posts about the truth behind the facade.

Can we face up the truth? Can we find out if the American Dream exists?

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee
(a simple man seeking God)

Brooklyn, New York

###