My Last Letter To President Obama

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

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I hope you read it. It might help you.

October 12, 2012
New York

Dear President Obama:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can never vote for racists and bigots.

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

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

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

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

Sincerely Writing,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Do You Want to Die of Cancer? If Not, I Have Some Tips.

Foreword: Stay away from Monsanto and its BGH-tainted milk…and other products. They are as bad as Agent Orange.

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Part I.

-One-

Have you ever seen someone you loved dying of cancer? I have. I have a feeling some of you may have too.

Those who have seen it intimately would quickly understand what I’m talking about: the horror and pain of the disease and how this disease from hell can hurt and destroy not just the person suffering from it, but the entire circle of family and close friends. But for the person who’s going through the pain and horror and trauma, it’s indescribable.

There’s a saying in our Bengali society: “Bhagaban, shatruro jeno emon na hoy.” It means, Oh God, may even my enemies not have this.

I am writing this article not as a doctor or a scientist. I am not a medical doctor. Although I have a doctorate degree in biology from a reputable U.S. university, and some of my post-doctoral research has been in molecular biology and infectious diseases, I do not have any special expertise to write about cancer from a biologist’s point of view. Plus, I have changed my career, and moved out of science into humanities, journalism and social sciences.

I am also sincerely apologizing to them who have sick patients at home: a child or an adult, whose cancer could not have been prevented because of various reasons. Some people are more prone and genetically predisposed to cancer. I am in no way contradicting their beliefs or lifestyle choices, or raising any hopes for them. I salute them for their courageous battle.

What I am writing here is purely a layman’s story. I’m describing some facts here, and I’m going to write down some simple tips I think I can share with you about cancer based on my real-life experience.

But before I write down the tips, let me quickly describe what kind of experience I have had with cancer. I must say it’s not something one should brag about. I wish I never had this kind of experience; I hope none of you ever have it too.

My mother died of cancer when she was only forty-two. She had ovarian and uterine cancer that spread too quickly — like wildfire. We did not have the means back in those Calcutta days to have regular medical check-ups, and my mother perhaps also hid some of the symptoms and pain to save my father and us from worries, stress and doctor’s visits. Maybe, she thought it was not serious, and that the pain would slowly go away. Eventually, when doctors saw her and did surgery on her, it was already Stage IV. Metastasis had occurred (i.e., the cancer had spread throughout her body), and even after removal of her ovaries and uterus, she did not survive for more than a month or perhaps six weeks. The cancer came back, caused her unbearable pain, changed her physically too, and doctors basically gave her maximum-strength sleep medications to save her from agonizing with the pain.

My mother died when my sister was only thirteen years old. I was twenty-one turning twenty-two. I could never get over with her painful death even after so many years. For my sister, she lost her at a critical age, and it caused her lifelong social and emotional problems. My father suffered greatly too even though on the surface, he wouldn’t show it.

One week after my mother died, my uncle — eldest brother of my father — died of oral cancer. His suffering was more prolonged. He actually got it a year before my mother did, and his cancer took time to develop. Doctors initially misdiagnosed it, and the disease spread. Finally, it went out of control, and my uncle who was a flute player, lost one side of his face; there was a gaping hole on his cheek. He couldn’t speak, and was in excruciating pain. Toward the end of the disease, about a couple of months or so before he died, he was in so much physical and emotional pain that he went to commit suicide.

Then, my grandmother — my mother’s mother — died of throat cancer when I had already left India for USA. She suffered greatly too for months. I heard she couldn’t eat or drink in the final months before she passed away.

(I have also known cancer deaths of a few other people I loved and admired a great deal: another uncle — my father’s youngest brother who had special affection for me; a colleague from my first work place at a rural Bengal college where both of us were professors; and a senior friend in Albany who became like an elder brother in this land of alienation where we have no relatives at all: friends have become like relatives here. I had a mentor who taught me political organizing during the dark days of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule also got throat cancer; twenty years later I saw him dying in Calcutta of this horrific disease. I have seen these deaths from a distance; yet, they were also difficult to bear.)

As I said, even though there’s nothing to brag about how many cancer deaths I’ve seen in my life — closely — and how they have forever changed my attitude toward life, I must say that I have also developed some knowledge and insight about cancer and how to perhaps ward off cancer as much as possible — if possible at all. And I want to share some of that insight and knowledge with you.

Sharing my personal knowledge — from a first-hand point of view — would be my small way to contribute to the worldwide battle against the deadly disease.

Again, thousand salutes to them who are fighting back courageously against cancer — all over the world.

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-Two-

Since my childhood in India, I always heard that very soon, there would be a cure for cancer. I heard that somewhere in the United States of America, some famous scientists had built an entire research township where they were pushing hard 24/7 to come up with cancer cures. In a poor Indian family like the one where I grew up, that rumor was reassurance. That was more than enough to believe that cure for cancer was not far off.

Boy, how mighty fools we were! Nobody told us that Western scientists — U.S. scientists in particular — have not been able to come up with a SINGLE cure for ANY diseases in the past fifty or sixty years. Nobody discovered or marketed a panacea like Penicillin or small-pox vaccine for a VERY long time, even though drug industries with help from media and governments have always created and sustained an illusion and false hope — whether it’s about cancer, AIDS or Alzheimer’s. At the same time, these powerful, now-global institutions have actively rejected thousands of years of scientific knowledge and lifestyle choices from the Old World: India, Africa, Japan or China.

Therefore, the real, believable rumor for me now has been that the mighty, well-financed, powerful medical research industry WOULD NOT want to come up with any more cures for deadly diseases — for obvious sale and profit reasons. Cures would cut long-term profit.

Genetics, Molecular Biology: Use Pro-actively.

I’d save that political discussion for later.

But, because the fact remains that “modern” Western science has not been able to produce any cure for cancer, and more people are dying of cancer worldwide than ever before, and signs and predictions are that cancer deaths will rise rapidly in the coming decades, I believe it’s about time we approached the disease from a totally different point of view — going completely against the dictates of a rat-race-variety Western lifestyle and the powerful medical science industry.

We shall go the pro-active way as opposed to the re-active way. That means, we shall change our lifestyle so that cancer cannot penetrate us and take us over. We shall live the way civilizations lived peacefully and prospered before the re-active, profit-driven variety of Western medical industry and multinational drug czars and insurance giants took our lives over, once and for all.

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-Three-

So, here’s my simple, three-point pro-active lifestyle-change tips, based on what I have seen in my own life.

(1) The first and foremost lifestyle change is: REDUCE STRESS AND ANXIETY. (Catch phrase to remember: SLOW IS GOOD).

(2) The second-most important lifestyle change is: EAT AND DRINK RIGHT. (Catch phrase to remember: LESS IS MORE). Here in the U.S., they say: “Eat one size smaller.” Plus, avoid junk food — like McDonald’s, KFC or Pizza Hut. Avoid drinking milk that has artificial hormones in it: such as Monsanto’s BGH.

(3) And the third advice, however generic, is: DO NOT DO ANYTHING YOU’RE GOING TO REGRET LATER. (Catch phrase to remember: LOVE YOUR LIFE).

(3a) — An emphasis of #3 above: LOVE YOUR LIFE. (Catch phrase to remember: YOUR LIFE).

Let me explain these three easy tips — one at a time. Stay with me for the next few minutes. Okay? Please?

But obviously, its easier said that done: reduce stress and anxiety. You’d say: yeah, right! How would you do it? In this West-inflicted, East-copied rat race where even the naive, half-asleep country farmer is being forced to overnight sell his farmland to a giant automotive, media or I.T. industry, where Monsanto is forcing Indian farmers to commit suicide by numbers unheard-of in human history, GE has polluted an entire river in USA, and where urban middle-class man with a private-sector job or small business is finding less and less time to spend with his loving wife and children (and in the Old World, aging parents) because he’s spending more time at work, on the road and away from home (and can’t even find free time on the weekend) — where is the time to rewind, to get rid of all the anxieties and stress?

The new world order controlled and run by power at the top of the food pyramid is demanding more of your time — more of your life. They order, “Work harder, meet our production goals, or we’ll make your life miserable!” Problem is, it’s already miserable. Problem is, we’re already working harder — FOR THEM. We shall never be able to meet their production goals.

It’s not easy to discuss it all in one article. Plus, I do not have all the answers. I am writing this piece to tell you what social, economic and emotional situations the people I saw up close dying of cancer went through, so that the prevention (note that I’m not using the word remedy, because of its reactive nature) is possible and can be worked out. Regardless of what excuses or real, serious predicaments you have, won’t you try to live differently before it is too late?

Don’t you want to spend some precious time with the people you love the most, before this life ends?

I’m sure you have thought about changing your lifestyle many times over. WELL, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, DO IT NOW!

(I promise to write more on it. Please come back. Let me know your thoughts.)

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Holistic Approach. Pro-active Approach.

I Shall Never Vote for Romney and Ryan. But They Will Win.

Money Money Money…Sweet, Ryan and Phony

Note: I wrote this article on my own, using my own time and resources. This is a purely personal opinion.

Also, please read these related posts.
https://onefinalblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/an-urgent-call-to-occupy-wall-street/

and

Questions Media Won’t Ask Romney and Ryan

https://onefinalblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/questions-media-wont-ask-romney-and-ryan/

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I am never going to vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. But my vote would not matter. Romney and Ryan are going to win in November, 2012.

Let me tell you why.

But before I do that, let me tell you this. I am terribly worried that a Romney administration, with help from someone like Paul Ryan, is going to destroy the last remnant of the New Deal economic system — an FDR-established, time-tested fiscal policy that saved and prospered the working people and middle-class families of America for decades.

I am scared to think about the future of America and its new generation of working people and families that’s going to suffer the most. Irony is that, many of these young men and women this time wouldn’t even come out to vote. I am frozen to imagine how their lives will shatter into pieces. I am frozen to imagine how the top 1 percent in America will now be even more powerful and richer — at the expense of the poor and middle class. Occupy Wall Street’s worst nightmare will come true! Sadly. Scarily!

The new Romney-Ryan (and Rove) administration also will, in all likelihood, begin a new war in a matter of months. Another ancient civilization will be erased from the face of the earth. Millions of innocent lives and dreams will be destroyed in that new, massive bloodshed.

Because I understand the looming destruction and doom and cannot ever accept it, I shall not vote for Romney and Ryan. But my vote won’t matter. With help from U.S. corporations, think tanks and media, as well as Karl Rove and Koch Brothers, they will win the elections this November.

War, Profit and Propaganda…All in the Name of Democracy.

Let me tell you why.

I shall be brief. After all, with all these big-name political pundits and their big-name media spouting foam-in-the-mouth, who’s going to listen to what a no-name neophyte says on his little, obscure blog?

I quote this from CNN today.

“Congressman Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are a match made in millionaires’ heaven, but they’ll be a nightmare for seniors who’ve earned their Medicare benefits,” said New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, “For the last 18 months, we’ve said Republicans will have to defend the indefensible — their vote to end Medicare. Now with Congressman Ryan on the ticket, House Republicans face the one thing they hoped to avoid — a national debate on their budget that puts millionaires first and Medicare and the middle class last.”

I think that quote says it all. Let’s see what it really says — section by section.

Section 1. “Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are a match made in millionaires’ heaven.” Okay, great point, Mr. Israel. We all know Republicans’ crocodile tears for the working people and middle class, especially at election times, are phony. But do you know what’s phony about your quote? Democratic Party has done exactly the same thing over the past two presidencies — of Clinton and Obama. You have not done a thing to bring the economy back to the direction of the poor and middle class, who voted you in with so much hope and expectation. You have worked with the rich bankers and financial institutions, and have not held them accountable for their destruction and looting of the American economy.

And just two days ago, in spite of a scathing Congressional hearing that completely, unequivocally exposed the criminal activities of Goldman Sachs and its billionaire executives, your administration has let them off the hook — silently.

If the Republicans are hypocrites, at least we always knew they were. But Mr. Israel, you can’t project a different, clean image for your party and your administration. As far as I am — a registered Democrat voter — concerned, I feel cheated.

Clinton Destroyed Welfare. Even Reagan Couldn’t Do It.

Secton 1: post script. Bill Clinton destroyed the welfare system in a way even Ronald Reagan or George Bush Senior couldn’t do. See, we’ve heard a lot of talk from the Dems about Republicans’ destruction of Medicare and Social Security. I’m sure some of it is true. But again, they don’t make any pretension about it. They tell us that Medicare and Social Security are wasteful expenses and they want to get rid of them. They tell us that they want to privatize Social Security (which will really be the end of the last remnant of New Deal economics), and I am sure Romney and Ryan will keep their promises. They will also destroy America’s once-prized public education system, once and for all.

But think about it. Clinton destroyed American welfare that was so critical for so many poor people especially poor women and single mothers. You Democrats named it welfare reform. Corporate media was handy again to spin on it and middle class people who didn’t know much about the devastating impact of this “reform” bought your spin. Clinton won in 1996, with help from Southern moderates and Northern conservatives.

At the same time, Clinton put Greenspan, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin in power, who with help from Phil Gramm, et al. in Congress, overturned the landmark Glass-Stegall Act and deregulated financial derivatives. Basically, the Clinton administration privatized the U.S. economy and promoted deregulation — going against the New Deal principles of the Democratic Party.

Section 2. “Now with Congressman Ryan on the ticket, House Republicans face the one thing they hoped to avoid — a national debate on their budget that puts millionaires first and Medicare and the middle class last.” Great again, Mr. Israel. But what if someone like me challenges you and the Obama Democrats how you have performed over the past four years when you bailed out the richest corporations (and let off the hook Goldman Sachs, etc.), took in some of the biggest Wall Street crooks on your administration, and did not do anything significant to drive the economy back in the direction of the working people and families.

What answer would you have for them: like, “Well, I know we have not done anything significantly different from Clinton or Bush W., but see we are really significantly different? Just trust us?”

Well, Mr. Israel, I am definitely not going to vote for Mitt Romey and Paul Ryan, because I just know them all too well. But guess what, a LOT of ordinary Americans, who are sick and tired of your party’s and administration’s false promises for Change We Can Believe In, will vote for them.

I work with American labor and immigrants — all poor and middle class. I know for the fact that a large number of these people will vote Republican this time. Not because they don’t like Barack Obama. They do. Barack Obama is a likeable guy: he is smart, he is extremely articulate, and he is I believe much more caring than some of his predecessors.

But his personal qualities and his administrative records simply do not match.

Rats! They are Republocrats!

So, to keep it brief, here’s some of the reasons Romney and Ryan will win.

Bullet Point 1. The Republicans and Democrats are now really flip sides of the same, old coin (or you can use the other cliché and call them same-old wine in a new bottle). People now call them Republocrats, and how much ever you’d dislike to hear it, they have truly become just that.

Bullet Point 2. The Koch Brothers, ALEC, NRA, right wing think tanks such Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Center for Immigration Studies, Eagle Forum, and the billionaire Super PAC’s are now going to work extra hard to pump in an historic amount of campaign money to the Romney-Ryan ticket. With U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Citizen United verdict, nobody can prevent them from doing that, and they don’t even have to disclose their identity.

Bullet Point 3.We have seen a small version of that enormous campaign cash in the Wisconsin Scott Walker recall election. It’s going to be deja vu, thousand times multiplied.

2012 Super-PAC Contributions

Bullet Point 4. Labor and youth will vote in a drastically smaller number because they have lost their enthusiasm for Obama. If anything, a large number of working people — especially non-union people — will vote Republican this time. Even a significantly higher number of union members will vote Romney-Ryan. Congressional elections this November will also be a Republican landslide. Hate me for saying this, and I hope to be proven wrong.

Bullet Point 5. Contrary to the above, Tea Party will come out in full force and with help from white supremacists who absolutely want to see Obama eliminated, will work Romney-Ryan with the same enthusiasm we had for Obama in 2008. They do not believe in government, they hate Obama, and they’ve found their best spokesperson now in Ryan (and Joe Biden is…well, I don’t know what he really is). Government programs, whatever is left for the poor and needy, are going to be history. In fact, chances are, the U.S. government as an institution is going to be history too! And that would be the ultimate victory for Ayn Rand and Frederich Von Hayek and their disciples such as Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin.

Bullet Point 6. The war lobby, especially the Middle East war lobby and their known spokespersons in the media, will make sure Romney wins. Romney’s announcement today on the V.P. pick in front a Norfolk war ship is not a missed point, especially for these powers and their big friends in big media. Romney presidency will start a new Middle East war very soon. In spite of Obama’s so-called terrorist kill list (one that President Carter denounced recently), there has not been a new full-scale war in four years; in fact, people are coming out on the streets of Egypt, Yemen and those places, and are throwing off U.S.-supported dictators. The Middle East war lobby and their media are deeply disturbed.

I shall come back and write more. I hope you come back and send your comments and criticism too.

Sincerely (and Scared’ly) Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Arab Spring. We need a nonviolent American revolution, now!

Death Is A Very Special Experience

-1-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-2-

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

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

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

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

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

Gutubaba loved children.

-3-

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

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

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

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

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

The End Came Fast.

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

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

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

Gutubaba left us — in peace.

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

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

T = mc2 . Einstein. That’s My Life.

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

The Time of Life Clock. Simple Description.

Recap from Part 1 of this post.

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

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

T = mc2

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

Therefore, to put it in words, it is:

Time of life = Money involved x Cost1 x Cost2 .

[That’s Equation One]

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

Here’s an attempt to do it.

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

Okay. Let’s see.

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

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

[That’s Equation Two]

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

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

My Dr. Jekyll

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

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

[That’s Equation Three]


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

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

I hate him. But he is so real!

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

Like, spending experience = 1/earning experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, that you have, indeed. Thank you.

Well, wait a minute then. Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the ultimate message here. From me.

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

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

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

Wow! So gratified!

___________________

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

___________________

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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

My Very Special Birthday Wish

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

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

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

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

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

(But that’s a different story too.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, that’s it!

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

This is a major tipping point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s sarcasm, as you can see.

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

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

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

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

My Alma-Mater Speaks Loudly.

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

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

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

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

No, I won’t die their prescribed death.

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

I hope you do too.

Smile with me.

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

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

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Another Reason to Celebrate: Teaching American Labor Rights!

The Death Bomb Now Exploded

–Tick Tock…Strike Two–

Yama Strikes Again!

I hope you did not un-like what I had to say yesterday about my distant-uncle Death. I mean, I know you could not particularly like it. But could you really un-like it?

Read the previous episode if you haven’t. My infamous Lord Yama Uncle decided that it was time to show us how long he could stick around with us…uninvited, unwelcome, dis-un-disliked.

In Ma’s painful cancer death at the age of forty-two, he saw there was a gold mine to mine in this poor, God-forsaken, North Calcutta mezzanine household. He grinned, and he grimaced, and he growled.

And then he howled.

That evening, Ma came out of her home one last time. I didn’t cry, and I’m positive father didn’t either; but everybody else did. Poorna, my sister (whose Tagore songs you’ve perhaps heard here on my blog), wept hard, and Sova, my aunt, cried out loud. Kakima, our next-door neighbor, wept too. All our previous domestic maids over the years, who came to see Ma one last time, inconsolably sobbed. Slowly, with extreme care, we carried Ma and put her on the flower-adorned cot sitting on the earthen alley. “Bolo Hari, Hari Bol,” they all chanted out Lord Vishnu’s name in a familiar way, one I had heard numerous times in Calcutta ever since I remembered. Four of us hoisted the four corners of the cot up on our shoulders now cushioned with a cotton towel. In a few moments, all the male members of the family and friends, in the midst of the loud and subdued cries, set out on the final procession on foot to the Ganges, about five miles away to the West side of the city.

I believe about a hundred people came along with us.

Hindu Crematorium, before the Electric Pyre Era

But Subrato, my best friend didn’t show; he’d later said he didn’t because he couldn’t take it; my mother’s death was too much pain for him to bear. He came from a solvent family with both parents working and a reasonably affluent lifestyle. He was a very bright student, yet a very weak man – so much so that many years later, when his father suddenly died, he couldn’t take it either, and in a matter of days, during the obligatory bereavement period, he walked out of his house in his mourning garb leaving a mother, a sister, a wife and two young sons behind, and stood on the tracks of a speeding commuter train. He was killed instantly.

Somebody emailed us here in New York about his violent death. Not an agreeable way to deal with the sudden death of your best friend.

But much before that, in quick succession of Ma’s death, came small and big bolts from the blue. Uncle Yama had warned me long ago that I was going to see him frequently once I grew up. Now I knew I had grown up.

Just the next Sunday, about the same time in the evening, Jethu, father’s oldest brother who lived only walks away, died of a prolonged oral cancer. A chain smoker, he had been suffering for nearly two years, and got the disease way before Ma fell sick; in fact, it was Ma who first told me that Jethu got cancer. This is a man who lived with us for years before finding his own apartment, played the flute sitting on our narrow veranda in the evening, and took him out on leisurely spring-night tram rides. He bought me my first (and last) pair of cricket gloves.

In less than a year, my oldest maternal uncle Bishwanath died of a stroke; he couldn’t handle the enormous financial mess he got himself in by playing the Indian stock market, got bankrupt, and left four small children and a widow behind. I went to see him in his final hours at the Calcutta Medical College emergency. I remember he lay on a narrow bed in a very small room, eyes closed, and his upper body was all hooked up with pipes, monitors and tubes; his mouth was wide open, and he was fiercely and noisily gasping for breath like a big fish out of water. I saw his chest pumping like a balloon inhaling and exhaling air; I knew just by looking at his terrible suffering that he was not going to make it. This is an uncle who was a soft-nature man, a singer. He was a champion carrom player too. What niyati Lord Yama had set aside for him!

Two years later, when the men were not home, my middle maternal uncle Madhu’s wife Amita – a schizophrenic woman who angrily refused any basic medical help – screamed about her poverty and distress, poured kerosene on her body, and lighted herself up. Then, she ran fiercely up and down the narrow, dark, dingy alley next to their bedroom, shrieked violently in extreme fear and pain, tried to tear off her burning sari and blouse, and my poor grandmother and Sova ran back and forth to rescue her and away, and cried out and begged to everyone for help. In half hour, in front of practically all the helplessly onlooking residents of their neighborhood who did all they could to save her including a last-ditch attempt to blanket out the fire, a charcoal-black Amita got a heart attack, and dropped dead.

Madhu and Amita had been married for only two years, and she left a six-month old child behind. Sova now became the mother of that child.

And then the final blow came five years after Ma’s death, just two weeks before I was scheduled to take my TOEFL to come to study in the U.S., when on a Friday Christmas-eve night, Buddha, an Indira Gandhi Congress rising star, was found in his State Electricity Board office room in Central Calcutta, shot in the head to death.

The gun was never found. The assassins were never found either. In India, law enforcement and administration do not work for you unless you can force or bribe them. We could not force or bribe them: we were too poor and powerless to do it.

To me, Buddha was more like a big brother than an uncle, just like Sova was always more like a big sister than an aunt; when I was very young, I saw Buddha playing alley marble, street football and strike-day cricket; and I saw Sova playing jump rope, hide and seek and rhyme games with her teen friends. I accompanied them to their simple, frugal but fun winter picnics – on rooftops and at school compounds. I saw Buddha’s ambitious ascent, slowly assuming leadership in his friends’ circle and then in politics. I went to hear his speeches at political rallies; I went to hear him recite Tagore and Sukanto poetry at cultural events. And I unknowingly emulated him in my own political and cultural performances. I helped him write New Year greetings cards he’d send out to numerous friends and followers. I followed him on, and I followed him often.

Buddha’s death was a huge blow to us – our entire family. Even the entire neighborhood of that long, narrow alley behind the vegetable and fish market was completely shocked and frozen. The final ray of hope for my poor grandmother was gone.

It was as if as soon as Ma left, the force of love that held the family together melted away, and everything fell apart. And my grandmother had to go through it all, one tragedy at a time.

Before my grandma died, she had lost five children.

###

Enough for now. (By the way, this is all from my memoir I’m slowly putting together. Any takers? Let me know.)

You might ask, why in the world am I writing about it, especially when it is so personal and so painful? Am I trying to self-inflict pain into those covered-over wounds?

No. Seriously. I’m not trying to draw your sympathy and consolation — believe me. It’s been quite a while. I’m out of it…you know…sorta. You feel bad? Thank you. I appreciate. But that’s about it.

I’m telling you these stories because this is the India that you probably do not know or hear about, especially in today’s media glitz and superpower blitz. I know for sure many of you did not hear these stories from someone like me who actually lived them.

Lord Uncle Yama has been playing his cunning death games on us — the poor and the vulnerable in that little corner of the world — for eternity.

I feel I’m still a small pawn in his game.

(come back for more, if you still not completely un-like it.)

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

The Empty Mezzanine in North Calcutta