September 11.

911 anniversary WTAP dot comToday is September 11. A day to mourn. And a day to reflect.

Seventeen years ago, on this day, we went through one of the most horrible terrorist acts in the history of human civilization. My family and I went through the experience, where we were disconnected for a long time: none of us knew where the others were. Our high-school-going child saw the twin towers collapsing, and hapless people jumping to their deaths. We lost countless innocent people — of all races and religions. Windows of the World, the restaurant at the top of the tower, had a number of Muslim workers who all perished with the others.

But then, we saw how the ruling class took advantage of the terror that they could not prevent (and many say it was insider job, hushed up), and unleashed global terror. New York Times and other media with their fake WMD in Iraq stories legitimized genocide, and Bush and Cheney with complete disregard for the American and international people, wreaked havoc. Countless people were killed, and the destruction of Iraq de-stabilized Middle East. More terrorist groups were born, with alleged help from CIA and U.S. government. Bush, Obama, and Trump have all continued the bombing and killing ever since.

Fanaticism, hate, bigotry and violence-based politics have risen their ugly heads — in an unprecedented way that we have not seen since the demise of Hitler and Nazi Germany. People who supported Hitler and genocide of the Jews are now in power — both in the U.S. and in India. Trump’s father was a white supremacist, and Trump himself is openly supported by hate groups in America. In India, those who eulogized Hitler and killed Gandhi are now ruling the land of Tagore, Kabir and Sri Chaitanya.

The world order of peace and harmony that human civilization aspired for and nearly reached — is now a dream of the past. The international Doomsday Clock is now put at the closest hour to midnight, by scientists. As Noam Chomsky, whom New York Times ostracized repeated, climate catastrophe on one hand and threat of nuclear bombs on the other have brought us and our children on the brink of destruction.

I mourn the lost lives on 9/11. I pray for their souls. I condemn any variety of terrorism. And I mourn the loss of humanity, equality, peace and justice — because of the aftermath and politics of hate and violence, following 9/11.

Sincerely Yours,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Photo courtesy (for one-time, nonprofit, educational use): WTAP.com

A Very Personal Story

My wife Mukti and me, on Long Island.
My wife Mukti and me, relaxing on Long Island.

This is a very personal story. But this is not just a personal story.

When we left India thirty years ago with a full scholarship to do a Ph.D. in America, some of our own friends and relatives thought it was a fluke. They said, “But they were never stellar students: look at their exam results. It sounds fishy.”

Some of them said, “Look, Partha did so poorly in college and university that he couldn’t even find a job in Calcutta. He ended up teaching in a God-forsaken place in a no-name college in the forests of Sundarbans.” They said, “And, suddenly, he is in America, to do a Ph.D. in science? Come on, gimme a break!”

So, when we were struggling as new immigrants in USA and going through poverty and extreme isolation, building a new life from scratch, practically nobody cared to know how we were. Then, our hard work and determination paid off: I did a Ph.D. in plant biology from Southern Illinois University, and my wife learned molecular biology and became an indispensable worker in her lab.

But these friends and relatives still didn’t care to know how we did it. So, when I switched career from science to humanities at the age of forty, and did a journalism masters from Columbia University, and my wife switched her career to start Mukti’s Kitchen here in New York City, they said, “See, I told you. They are not doing well, and therefore doing anything they can to make ends meet. See, in thirty years in USA, they should have been millionaires. But look where they are now.” And others who listened to them, nodded in agreement. Nobody even bothered to ask what our side of the story was.

Mukti's Kitchen was invited to teach at Union Square, New York.
Mukti’s Kitchen was invited to teach at Union Square, New York.

Even today, when we go to India perhaps once or twice a year, we see a look of rejection on their faces — look that tells us they have kept the same feeling of not trusting that the way we built and lived our lives in America — from zero — is worthy of anything. They don’t want to learn from us, because to them, success is only measured by how much money you’ve made, and nothing else.

This is not about our acceptance in America. This is about acceptance by some of our own people in India. We have worked hard, and made it a point to be accepted and recognized here in the U.S. My wife’s Indian cooking class has countless five-star reviews, and my students and followers have now put together a Wikipedia page on my work. Mukti is now a board member at Brooklyn For Peace.

We are both happy, and humbled.

And never I write anything only to tell my personal story, even though I title it in a way so that people actually read what I write. It is about new immigrants like me, and like my wife. And we are doing quite well in America, and we are privileged. Millions of other immigrants are going through a very difficult time, in spite of their talents, honesty and hard work. Mainstream media and the people in power do not know, and do not care to know about their poverty, isolation and misery.

Do we care how some people back in India or some friends here in America treat us? Hell, no! Then, why am I writing about it? So that others like me and my wife can relate to it, and form a wavelength of togetherness. That is really my goal: to reach out and touch as many like-minded men and women as possible. To tell them that we are all in this together. We are members of the same family.

We know each other. We care for each other.

My story is not only my story. I give up my ownership on it. Now, it’s your story too.

Sincerely Yours,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Just this weekend, they video recorded my entire labor workshop.
Just this weekend, they video recorded my entire labor workshop.

I Spoke with Noam Chomsky, One on One!

With the Living Legend.
With the Living Legend.

On Saturday, 15th of November, 2014, I had a chance to speak with Noam Chomsky — one on one.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime. For me, it was a memorable day.

And two friends helped me to record the half-hour conversation on camera. And they also put it on YouTube.

I hope you have time to watch it. I would greatly appreciate if you do.

The link is here.

One person has so much education and insight that informed people compare him with Plato, Aristotle, Russell, Marx or Einstein. I compare his ocean-deep knowledge with poet Tagore, and his global peace activism with Gandhi. But U.S. media including CNN and New York Times censor his views, and exclude him from their list of experts.

If this is not bizarre and depraved, then what is?

Noam Chomsky asked me to call him Noam, and not Prof. Chomsky. So, Noam and I had a one on one video interview, then walked over to Plymouth church for his talk at Brooklyn For Peace on its 30th anniversary. I sat with him at the front table, and spoke on various subjects including war and peace, immigration and labor, media and Manufacturing Consent, and India and Bengal. And about his legacy. Got his signature. He pronounced my name the proper Bengali way, and referred to my introduction in his speech. I always lamented that I did not meet Tagore, Gandhi or Einstein. He filled up that emotional void. And his wife asked for a copy of my introduction to his speech.

Truly, and I repeat, it was a memorable day in my life.

Thank you, Noam. And thank you, Brooklyn For Peace.

Manufacturing Consent

A Memorable Evening with Noam Chomsky

Bowing my head to him.
Bowing my head to him.

On Saturday, November 15, Noam Chomsky came to New York. 

Brooklyn For Peace, a grassroots organization, celebrated their thirtieth anniversary. On that occasion, they presented Chomsky with their Pathmaker to Peace award.

My wife and I have been involved with Brooklyn For Peace for a long time. I was its board member for a few years, and worked on its immigrant rights committee in the aftermath of the September Eleventh tragedy. The group reassured me and comforted me that there are a lot of mainstream Americans who are not hateful about Muslim and Arabs. And they do not consider them as “perceived criminals.”

I am neither a Muslim nor an Arab. But I feel a lot of togetherness with them. Just the same way I feel a lot of togetherness with African Americans and other marginalized groups. Latinos, Chinese, Sikhs…

Noam Chomsky is one of the most important scholars and intellectuals of all time. He is perhaps the most important linguist of our time. And outside of his M.I.T. linguistic studies, he is known worldwide as a leading voice of dissent against U.S. foreign policy and war diktat.

People line up for hours to get a ticket to hear him — all over the world. Scholars compare him with historic figures such as Aristotle, Plato, Russell, Tagore, Gandhi or Einstein. But U.S. corporate media despise him, because of his strong, fact-based, objective analysis of the media. Chomsky’s media expose Manufacturing Consent is a must-read, must-watch. You’ll know why U.S. media hate him.

And because of the blanket exclusion of Noam Chomsky by U.S. corporations, media, and the two big parties, most ordinary Americans do not know much about him. And the elite, status quo — both in the U.S. and across the world — are very happy that they don’t.

Speaking with yours truly.
Speaking with yours truly.

On Saturday, November 15, I had a chance of a lifetime to talk to him for a few hours. Some of it was, blessed I was, one on one. I also had a chance to interview him on camera, one on one. I shall post it when it is edited and ready to publish. I want to thank Brooklyn For Peace for that privilege too.

I’ve known the living legend since when I was a student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. I had my first chance to hear him a few months before I joined the school, when he came to the university to speak, along with late professor Edward Said on Palestine and Israel. In April of 2000, I organized a student meeting at the department when he came and spoke to the students of the department for the first and only time. Since then, I’ve kept in touch with him, and for the past six or seven years, I’ve kept pushing him to come speak at Brooklyn For Peace.

Finally, it all worked out. And I had my chance of a lifetime to sit down with him at the dinner table, and discuss many important subjects, including politics, economics, U.S., India, Bengal, and all. We particularly spoke about immigration, labor and their place in human history. We talked about the history-depraved U.S. education system too.

Noam Chomsky is now almost eighty six years old. But he is still doing okay, Thank God. He is speaking, he is writing books, and he is also traveling. A proverbial intellectual and scholar with ocean-deep knowledge is still around us, among us. Mainstream, corporate media and establishments will never like him. But let them dislike him. We love him. We absolutely love him. And we don’t have to agree with him one hundred percent on every issue.

I have never met Tagore, Einstein, Russell or Gandhi. But I have met Noam Chomsky. I’ve known him for quite some time.

And it’s by God’s grace he has also known me. And gave me his blessing and indulgence.

Know this great man.

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The Great Master of Human Conscience.
The Great Master of Human Conscience.