I’m returning to write my blog after a long time. I was sick after returning from India. To see India imploding and unraveling made me sick. The noise pollution and street dogs barking all night made me sick.
Then, there was stomach flu here in the U.S. Maybe, coming back to the Monsanto land of fake milk and steroids got me bad.
Woman #2 is one of the ladies who takes care of my old, ailing father in Calcutta. She’s been taking care of him for over five years now. In fact, this story could have been of any one of those poor women who take the early morning train to commute forty or fifty miles from their villages to Calcutta — to help with one of the many such old and ailing fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers — to return late in the evening to their village, only to show up again the next morning.
Woman #2 is one such poor woman from a West Bengal village in the district of South 24 Parganas. Let’s say, her name is Imagination.
Imagination lives in a village where there is no tap water, electricity or paved road. I know how these villages are: I lived and worked as a teacher in one of those villages for four years before coming to the U.S. In Bengal’s fierce monsoon, the foot trail across rice fields gets washed away and snakes find refuge in mud houses under tin or straw roofs. I remember once I found a hissing cobra inside a colleague’s kitchen they had left unused during the summer vacation.
Imagination lives in one of those mud houses. Snakes are cohabitants there.
Her ordeal is one millions of such women struggle with all their lives. Her husband worked in some manufacturing plant where he had an accident that took a number of his fingers off — making him unable to work normally for the rest of his life. The plant closed down and there was no compensation from the owners. To make matters worse, Imagination’s son could not finish school: there was no money to pay for his school anyways. Pressed hard against the wall, Imagination, a housewife with no knowledge about the outside world, had to come out into the outside world — to make a living. She found a part-time job with a city agency to take care of the elderly.
Imagination never worked outside and never commuted before. She got sick. The four-hour-long commute coming to Calcutta everyday and going back did not help her frail health. She had to take a break for a number of months. She had severe anemia. Now, the whole family began to starve.
Luckily for Imagination, she was not young. Or, she would very likely fall prey to predator hyenas we otherwise call rich or powerful Indian men. She just starved with the rest of her family for a few months. Luckily for her, starving was familiar to them and they knew how to live without eating — an art for Indian poor that we the privileged could never master.
Now she’s commuting again — in torrential rain or scorching sun — defying frequent train shutdowns and political violence on one hand and unbelievable price rise on the other. One third of her wages now ends up in purchasing monthly train tickets and auto rickshaw fare. Fortunately, the crippled husband somehow managed to find a country gardener’s job and the school-dropout son also managed to find a rail station hotel boy’s job. Both jobs are lowest-paid. But the family is still alive.
Only problem is that Imagination now got her anemia back coupled with a seemingly incurable cough. It flares up in the monsoon. It is likely that she won’t be able to work for too long. I saw her the last time I was in Calcutta and found her in a miserable health situation. She doesn’t make enough money to go to a reputable doctor. We try to help her a little bit. But it’s not enough. My sister bought her a cell phone that she uses to keep in touch with her family in the village — especially if there’s a train shutdown or violence on the street that prevents her to return home at night.
Here, my father who’s now 90, would not last long if Imagination did not take care of him: he’s so frail and so dependent on her.
It’s time for me and my family to watch who goes first: imagination or reality.
And that’s the story of Woman #2 in this series. I’ll tell you about another woman soon.
I want to thank you all who took time to read what I said about Sandipta. It was nice to see so many thousands of readers came to visit my little blog. I want to thank those of you who commented on it. It was reassuring to know that people still care about life, and death. Through this very unfortunate experience, a small group of people came together, and shared their pain and sorrow. It was a matter of the soul. It was a spiritual experience.
Thank you so much for your compassion for this young sister who left us so suddenly, and so untimely.
Then, I found some Twitter messages Sandipta wrote in her last few days. One message was a re-Twit about Shiv Sena, India’s KKK, and its just-deceased chief Bal Thackeray. The message Sandipta re-Twitted was on 17th November. “[Shiv Sena chief] Thackerey’s … editorial very sweetly compared women journalists to prostitutes.”
This was from a 1991 editorial Thackeray wrote in his Marathi-language publication Saamna. This is just before the time when SS butchered poor Muslims in Bombay, right after the Babri Mosque demolition that took India into a new bloodbath. Sandipta reposted the message for her friends — without any personal comments.
It gave me the courage to write again. It made me remember the young, vibrant, Tagore-loving Indian journalist Sandipta Chatterjee whom I knew for five years. I remembered how in many Facebook conversations, we often talked about and shared our similar opinions on rights, justice and dignity for all — especially Indian women. I kept tagging her on my blogs — particularly the ones that talked about racism, bigotry and lies.
Most of the time, she would simply not comment. Once in a while, she would, in her usual soft, subtle way. Being a part of the Indian corporate media world, she did not want to be too explicit, and I always honored that ethical boundary. She was not nearly as political as me, either. But I knew she had support for honesty and truth. She had to: she was a graduate from Tagore’s university.
I am afraid I still don’t have enough energy to write too much. I just had to write something because it’s so relevant right now. My apologies if I sound too abrupt and too brief. I invite you to read some of the other articles I posted here on my blog over the past few months, if you’re interested to know indepth about these subjects. I invite you to read what I wrote about India’s corrupt sell-off political leaders, role International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Wall Street are playing in India right now — puppeteering profiteers as I call them — to destroy the Indian economy once and for all, and how Indian corporate media are cheer leading the ruling class without ever exposing the horrendous truths from a global point of view.
There is hardly any comprehensive discussion on Indian media (which is now officially a clone of global corporate media organizations and their profit-only business) on how IMF, World Bank, Wall Street corporations such as Wal-Mart, Disney, Monsanto, General Electric, McDonald’s, Exxon-Mobil or Coca Cola have destroyed economies and environments across the world. There is no discussion on Indian media about the connection between the thousands of farmer suicides in today’s India and the hundreds of young women burnt to death at garment sweatshop factories in Bangladesh just two weeks ago. There is no conversation to correlate these gruesome tragedies with the Union Carbide worker slaughter that happened in Bhopal three decades ago: to show that the global profiteering saga at the expense of poor peoples’ lives has reached a new low.
There was no discussion on the fact that for the first time in a very fractious India, political rivals such as CPI(M) and the left, BJP and the right, and grassroots Congress-breakaways such as Mamata Banerjee the West Bengal chief minister came together on an economic platform to stop the aggression of sinister, global corporations and their devastating profiteering — in the name of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Very soon, just like Indian farmers have been killing themselves in thousands — the largest number of farmer suicides in human history — small businessmen and farmer’s market vendors sitting for centuries on urban and rural markets of India will perish with their familes and children.
Congress Party and its media blast this coming together of right and left: they call it hypocrisy. Yet, just a couple of months ago, Congress got crucial support from India’s KKK Shiv Sena to elect its IMF-sponsored president Pranab Mukherjee. There was no comprehensive discussion of that scandal either!
Finally, before I run out of steam, a word about India’s cricket. This is of course the one of the largest, thriving, for-profit industries in India now. In fact, it is the only sports industry in the entire world that has a major portion of the country’s wealth played into the hands of mafia, underworld bookies, media corporations, politician-turned-administrators, and cricketers who keep making billions in a country where at least three out of four people do not have enough to eat, can’t send their children to school or sick parents to a hospital, or must walk miles every single day to fetch water to drink.
Here, this one game India invests so much money on, and a game only ten countries play (and nobody knows about it outside of the past British colonies they now call Commonwealth). There is no accountability for failures and no media discussion on how much money these players and administrators and underworld bookies actually make.
The game’s star player Sachin Tendulkar is now a Congress Party-nominated parliament member. Now, here is one interesting fact to reflect on.
During the very important FDI debate in Indian parliament, where Congress Party allegedly bribed some small, caste-based politicians to get their crucial, numerical support to pass the Wal-Mart and Rupert Murdoch’s foreign direct investment, Sachin Tendulkar was supposed to be present in New Delhi during that vote. But he was playing cricket in Calcutta exactly at the same time! Even though he was not able to pull the dismal Indian cricket out of a defeat by England (critics say he has hardly ever done it in his entire career: to pull the Indian team out of an imminent defeat!), he displayed perhaps one of the most egregious breaches of workplace ethics (I wonder if it’s illegal too), by working for two employment places exactly at the same time — also perhaps making money from the two places exactly at the same time!
And this entire breach of workplace code of conduct was done in front of one billion Indian people. Like, he was naked in front of all of them.
Well, I have said enough already. I am a poor, powerless man. I should not say so much. People are angry.
Foreword: Stay away from Monsanto and its BGH-tainted milk…and other products. They are as bad as Agent Orange.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
People often ask me why I never find anything good our leaders do for us.
We always talk about trickle-down economics, where in a pyramidal system, money and other powers trickle down from the top to the bottom, and the people in power tell us that would make us all happy and we’ll be rich and famous and happy in this life.
But in reality, it never happens. It’s a lie. It’s a lie the powerful people manufactured, refined and propagandized with help of their media. Whether in the U.S. or in India — the two countries I know — with a very few exceptions that are statistically insignificant, this system never creates any upward social mobility. In short, the poor remains poor and gets poorer, middle class declines, and the rich gets richer.
That has been the history of USA and India for most of their modern history.
But what about trickle-down lies? What does it really mean?
Well, I don’t want to give away the explanation immediately. Otherwise, you would not take the time to read through what I have to say here. And I wouldn’t even give it away explicitly. I ask you to think about it based on what you read. I challenge to your mind to guess, to imagine, to surmise, and to come up with your conclusion.
I hope it’s not an unfair game. At least, it’s not a dishonest game. Everything I say here is 100 percent truth.
Now, let’s cut to the chase, without further ado.
Some of my friends, students and readers complain that I never explain why I don’t see anything positive in the world affairs. They label me as a true leader of the glass half-empty club. They say I should float a Half Empty Party and run for elections; they say I might at last find fame and prosperity if I did.
People who have known me for many years and love me deeply question my state of mind. They suggest that I found a way to calm down my nerves. Otherwise, they say, I might lose my ability to live a normal life.
I do not doubt about their doubts about me. I do not ever not appreciate their observation, judgment and word of wisdom and caution. I know deep in my heart how deeply they care about me, and how deeply they are concerned about my well being. I deeply thank their heart-most feelings about the condition of my heart, from the bottom of my heart.
I love you all. Your love and care show me that love and care still exist. And that is enough reason for me to love and care and exist.
In fact, I am so non-violent and such a strong believer in life that I always know that I shall live nonviolently. I’ve seen enough deaths in my life. I’ve experienced enough violence in my life. Death and violence do not impress me. They do not attract me at all. I do not find them sexy. Seeing them so much so up close made me absolutely anti-death and anti-violence.
Or, to spin the statement positively, I want to say I am a pro-life and pro-peace person.
And that is my choice.
Now, before I digress too much especially in this state of mind that troubles so many so often, let’s examine the first statement I wrote. I copy and paste it here.
“People often ask me why I never find anything good our leaders do for us.”
Let’s take one concern at a time.
Who are these leaders I never find anything good they do for us? Are these are elected political leaders — such as Barack Obama who failed to keep his 2008 promises, Bill Clinton who destroyed U.S. welfare for the poor, Hillary Clinton whose Middle East work did not pay off as obvious by the newest massive violence and Israeli government did not budge an inch? Are these leaders like Manmohan Singh the prime minister of India who yesterday floodgate-opened the Indian market to Wal-Mart, or Pranab Mukherjee the newly elected president of India who has been the India director of IMF when he was the country’s longtime finance minister? Is it Mitt Romney the Republican candidate for the American presidential election this year who doesn’t know what he’s talking about other than the fact that he wants to wage new wars and wants to be even richer using U.S. presidency?
Most importantly, how they became our leaders? If it’s through voting, is the election process fair? Did we hear answers to all our questions and concerns from these leaders? For that matter, did we ever get to ask them our questions? What made their election possible: is it the amount of money they were able to spend, ads they were able to buy on mass media, influence they could exercise in their parties that made their inside decisions possible, or were they in bed with big powers that made their election possible?
If the leaders were not elected leaders (see below), what social, political and economic scenarios made them leaders in their “non-political” fields possible? Family connection, pedigree, wealth, media ownership, or some other ways never fully disclosed to us? What and who kept those untold secrets away from us?
Are they leaders of the economic world — such as Alan Greenspan the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Robert Rubin or Henry Paulson the two big Wall Street CEOs who became treasury secretaries in Clinton and Bush’s Democratic and Republican administrations, General Electric’s chief who is now a chief financial advisor for the Obama administration, or Bill Gates of Microsoft or say, GE’s chief who also by default heads the manufacturing wing of war machineries including its nuclear submarines? Or, maybe, the drone manufacturers that manufacture drones Obama is now using at the ratio of 13 to 1 compared to Bush — to drop remote-control bombs on various countries, without any U.N. approval or following any international laws?
Are these leaders owners of the various media corporations: Rupert Murdoch of Fox Network, or the Salzburger family of the New York Times, Ted Turner of CNN, Walt Disney Corporation that is the owner of ABC TV network and its powerful offsprings such as ESPN, or again, General Electric that owns NBC TV and its powerful offsprings such as CNBC? Are these leaders I’m referring to owners, business managers or directors of Hollywood or Bollywood movie industries? Like, the Universal Studios, Pixar, Disney that also owns ABC TV and ESPN, Paramount, Columbia, or India’s god-like movie icon Amitabh Bachchan, or the other up and coming icon Amir Khan who is the official spokesperson for Coca Cola in that country of one billion people? Are they owners of big media houses in India such as the Telegraph, Times of India, Ananda Bazar and all?
Or, are they leaders of the executive board that runs India’s mega-billion-dollar cricket industry — people who are also political leaders of the country’s ruling Congress Party? What about the cricket players such as Dhoni or Tendulkar who made so much nauseating amount of money from playing and advertising that nobody knows how much nauseating amount of money they really made, and media never challenged them on the nauseating amount of money they made playing cricket in a country where millions of people still die of hunger, poverty and malnutrition, and where the literacy rate is still less than half of the population, and where village women walk barefooted miles every day to get water?
I could go on and on. But I just remembered what I wrote when I started writing this piece. So, to refresh my memory (I’m sure you’d like to remember it too), I copy and paste it here.
“People who have known me for many years and love me deeply question my state of mind. They suggest that I found a way to calm down my nerves. Otherwise, they say, I might lose my ability to live a normal life.”
For the sake of these people, and for the sake of keeping some of my sanity and ability to live a normal life, I’d stop making the list of leaders any longer. I think you can easily understand what I’m trying to say here: what kind of leaders I’m referring to.
So, for the sake of time, and not to test your patience anymore, I’d quickly move on to the second part of my first statement.
Good our leaders do for us:
Now, this appears to be a simple sentence, or in this case, simple fragment of a sentence. But read it one more time. Good our leaders do for us. We’ve already analyzed who these leaders are. But the question remains: good they do for us. That part is not as simple as it seems. Let’s look at it this way:
What is good? (i.e., the definition of good — is it to be rich, to be famous, to be rich and famous, or is it some other measure that makes it good?)
Who decides what is good? (i.e., is there any democratic and open process that helps us all to decide what is good for us the vast majority 99% vis-a-vis what is good for the 1%?)
Why are they doing it FOR us? (i.e., why are they not doing it WITH us, together in a collective — or at least open and transparent and democratic process?)
So, as you can see, the heart of my heartfelt question is really about openness, collective, justice and watchdog — I guess, four important pillars of democracy. I do not believe for a moment that in this trickle-down system, the people in power are giving a damn about these four pillars of democracy. Therefore, without the absence of these pillars, the democracy edifice might soon collapse; when it does, we who believe we’re under its shelter, will be crushed to death.
There will be no democracy edifice for the children we leave behind.
I shall stop now. Because people who deeply care about me and love me express serious concern that my heart’s state of affairs is not truly normal, I leave the question on democracy, trickle-down and lies as they relate to our real and raw, day-to-day lives — open-ended, for you to answer your way. You might say it is an open-heart question.
I ask you to do it if you do not want to die of a massive shock. You might say, I’m trying my best to help save your life, and my life too.
To put it bluntly, my bottom of the heart question needs an open-heart surgery.
“Oh God,” some of you — my friends, sympathizers and global readers — might grunt. “This guy is again writing a depressing note.” Some of you might say, “Doesn’t he get it? Nobody wants to read his depressing notes anymore!”
Honestly, I can’t blame you if you felt that way. Because, feeling cheated all my life is definitely not a happy feeling. It does make me depressed. It would make you depressed too if you thought about it, and asked yourself the question, and challenged yourself to come up with the most honest, no-inhibition, straightforward answer. (Perhaps that’s why many of you do not want to talk about it.)
But I say: have courage and try it, my friends, sympathizers and global readers. Answer my question in the most mano-to-mano, womano-to-womano way (and in all other possible variations). Then come back to me and tell me if you still think I am the only person feeling cheated all my life and feeling depressed because of feeling cheated.
I would most sincerely — “cross my heart and so help me God” way — use all your honest feedback once you told me about the results of your soul searching.
But let me first tell you in a few minutes what the results of my soul searching have been.
Now, as soon as the word “cheated” gets in the mix of any conversation, the automatic knee-jerk reaction is “Cheated? So, are you talking about infidelity? Like, the husband cheating on the wife, wife cheating on the husband ( and all other possible variations)?” And then the automatic response would be, “Ah well, that’s too personal. I’m not gonna tell you about my personal life — for you to put out there for the rest of the world to see.” The response would be, “No Sir, I’m not gonna. It’s my personal life and it’s my privacy.” And who doesn’t know that America is too big on privacy? India, my other country, is also coming up fast and getting bigger on privacy. India’s elite and aspiring-elite upper middle class are getting bigger day by day on privacy — on an American mental Viagra.
But, please, rest easy. My question “How many ways have you been cheated in your life?” has nothing to do with your marital relationship or love life. So, don’t worry. I am never going to pry upon your private life. You can pump in more Viagra to get your privacy even bigger. I won’t bother you.
My question is about your non-private life: life’s other aspects that not only you, but all your immediate family members, friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, students, teachers, well-wishers, cursors, haters, bashers, blasters and such people can see. You might think they are not able to note and judge these elements of your life, but believe me, they can. They do. They are. So, don’t fool yourself believing that nobody knows. It’s obvious. It’s apparent. It’s transparent. It’s vivid. It’s not private at all. It’s already out there for the entire world to see.
Embarrassed? Confused? Don’t be. Take my example. It’s going to be much easier for you to understand the question.
So, the first cheat is that the leaders of my two countries — USA and India — kept telling me that if I worked hard and lived my life honestly and had a lofty goal to be somewhere, I would be somewhere. Just because I was born poor would not make me die poor: the leaders said I would be somebody. To support their claim, they gave me some evidence where a very poor man through hard work and honest living with a lofty goal actually became rich and famous. No, I’m not talking about the lottery winners. I’m talking about their examples where in America, Roger Sherman, who helped to write the American Constitution, was a cobbler; in India, a very poor low-caste woman recently became the principal of a college, and so on. Then, you have Barack Obama, et al…
Problem is, it doesn’t happen that way. People who show you those examples never tell you that they are exceptions and statistically insignificant. What is statistically insignificant? Simply put, if in a population of any random sampling, more than 95 percent of the people have one kind of trend and less than 5 percent have another kind of trend, then the trend that only happens in less than 5 percent of the population is statistically insignificant. That means, that trend is an exception: an aberration. You can’t say that trend is something that is legit or valid for the general population.
In this aspect of life, which I’d call social mobility or upward social movement, those people whom the leaders of my two countries tout as valid examples of upward social movement are too few and far between. Their numbers are so small that statistically they are absolutely insignificant. But neither the leaders nor their mouthpiece media would tell you the real story. The real story is that in this social and economic system — one that America practiced especially since Ronald Reagan and is now devoutly picked up by India and its neoliberal, IMF-sold leaders — if you are born poor, it’s very likely that you’d die poor. Or, if you’re born unknown with no pedigree or uppity country-club-type connections, you’d die more or less the same way.
That is reality. I am a living example of that reality. And I worked very hard in my life, lived honestly, and that too, with a lofty goal. I’ll tell you — kind of hesitantly — what some of those things are I’ve done in my one hard-working, honest and lofty-goal life. I must. Otherwise, you would not believe me at all.
But before that, let me show you a graph on upward social mobility — country by country. It’s important to put it here because I know some of my readers from various parts of the world are quite erudite and are not going to accept my argument unless supported by serious research. So, here we go.
The graph from the now-world-renowned book The Spirit Level shows that among all the developed and prosperous, capitalist countries, USA has the worst upward social mobility especially when graphed against income inequality (i.e., rich-poor divide) of those countries. In other words, USA has the highest income inequality (which means, the rich-poor divide is the widest) and it’s upward social mobility for the poor and middle class is practically non-existent. In India, it’s even worse: the one or two percent rich are extreme, filthy rich, while at the same time, the poor are miserably, haplessly poor. Recent IMF policies imposed by India’s ruling class are making the economic and social misery even more desperate. I wrote about it before (you can look it up here).
But our leaders and media and their advertisements always create this impression that even if you’re born poor, in this system, you can definitely be somewhere in one life.
Problem is, they’re lying. In this system — one that I’ve lived half of my life in each of these two countries working very hard, with a honest lifestyle and lofty goal — I will never be able to be somewhere. In short, the so-called American Dream propagandized in America and now in India is a myth.
In his new book The Price of Inequality, Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has also said the same thing. He said, the American dream is an illusion. He said, if you’re born poor in American, the “overwhelming possibility” is that you’ll stay poor. If you want to read more on it, visit this link. It has a video of the Stiglitz interview too.
Okay. Now, some other friends, sympathizers and global readers might now get restless and ask me not to get too bogged down with hard research and statistics. They might say, well, what is YOUR personal experience to support that you’ve been cheated all your life? What is the real-life hard evidence?
So, here we go. Off of books and papers and research data. On with personal life — of this no-name, no-pedigree, born-poor, die-poor’s experience.
When I quit my more or less lucrative, totally stable and highly respectable job of a biology professor in India (I wrote about that place also in this blog — click here if you’re interested to know), and later forced my wife to do the same — only to come to America, the U.S. university that responded positively to my application to be an M.Sc. student in biology, never told me about the short-term and long-term consequences to immigrate into America. They never told me about the social and economic shocks my wife and I were going to be in. Two highly respectable, young biology professors surrounded by friends, family, familiar society and a large number of admiring students and colleagues, suddenly became extremely impoverished, culture-shocked foreign students the American society (especially outside of the university campus) was unwilling to accept as one of their own. They never told us that we’d have to live with their initially-offered $380 per month to survive (in a few months, graciously, they raised my graduate student assistantship to $420 of which I would pay 10 percent as income tax — percent-wise not much different from what Romney and Ryan paid last year). Two immediate consequences (other than feeling like Neil Armstrong when he first landed on the moon — perhaps even more alienated and blue than he was): (1) we could not return to India in nine years — we had no money to pay for the airfare and other expenses; and (2) because of the shocking, sudden departure of my wife from her parents who were never ready to see their only child leave forever, her parents lost their health quickly and did not live long — and my wife the only child so close to her parents could not go to see them one last time before their death.
Okay, enough sentimental stuff. Some of you — my friends, sympathizers and esteemed global readers might say (and I’m sure authorities of that university that took me in as a foreign student would say the same, even more emphatically): well, nobody forced you to come to USA; you came on your own. Why didn’t you do your own research and find out about the consequences? Plus, aren’t you happy that you did migrate? Aren’t you grateful that because of that decision, in spite of the initial culture shocks and economic hardship for yourself and your family, you did well, got two masters degrees (one in journalism from the coveted, Ivy League Columbia University) and one Ph.D. from reputed American institutions, became so proficient in English that you now effortlessly teach your American students (and write reasonably well in two languages), brought up your children in a developed education system, and earned a lot of respect from your friends, relatives and colleagues — both in India and here in America?
I can’t deny the above. But the feeling that I was a victim of brain drain, lack of comprehensive information and shortchanging my talents, experiences and energy for slave labor (and they wouldn’t let my wife — a foreign student’s spouse — work at all), sacrificing a number of very important years of my life — is simply overwhelming. Sure, both my wife and I came a long way and perhaps improved a little bit on the economic front too (never to be rich — always stayed in the middle of the money graph). But the price we had to pay was unbelievably enormous. And to see my wife’s parents die so soon because of the departure (other than the many emotional distresses, extreme alienation and being forced to be away from our familiar world in India) was brutal.
And then, there were SO many deaths of people we knew so well and loved so much! Almost felt some of those deaths we could perhaps prevent if we didn’t leave India!
You could read this as a depressing note. I wouldn’t blame you if you did.
Because this note is about death (yes, again I’m writing about death — as if I can’t let go of it, ever). And death is never fun and writing about death is never fun either. It’s especially depressing if it’s about premature death. It’s about people I knew — so many of them — who died early; and they didn’t have to. They could’ve easily lived, and I could’ve easily been with them for some more years, and I didn’t have to feel so miserable that they didn’t live, and that I didn’t have the simple, ordinary pleasure of a simple, ordinary man to spend time with them and see them growing old, and grow old with some others who I wanted to grow old with.
But this is also a note to let my steam go, as if in a psychological therapy session. If you read it that way, it may not sound nearly as depressing.
In this little note of reflection, I’m trying to find reasons why they had to die so early and why I didn’t get the simple privilege of life to spend a little more time with them. Obviously, as you can see, I am hurting. And I don’t want to hurt so much.
You could call this a philosophical reflection. After all, discussing death is often philosophical. Talking about death with a heavy heart must always have an element of philosophy. An afterthought of dying early, prematurely, when these men and women were in the middle of us…with a full life that there was supposed to be…a life that was taken away from them…and a life that was taken away from us — must be philosophical analysis. If not a scholarly analysis, then at least it’s some emotion-framed rambling that may or may not make sense to others. But for someone like me who cannot simply either forget these deaths or brush them aside as harsh but unavoidable reality — this discussion is important.
Like they say in compassionate, educated discourses, it’s critical to close the chapter. Without closing these chapters, life hurts more and life hurts always. And you can’t hurt incessantly. You must move on. I have hurt incessantly, and I want to move on.
I could’ve titled this note “Why So Many I Knew Left So Early” instead of the title I chose — that would’ve been simpler, more prosaic and less emotional. People always charge me that I charge with emotion too much and it affects them negatively. They tell me I need to be more progressive and objective and less sentimental and old-fashioned. (In fact, they tell me that I should not dwell on the subject of death so much.)
But my dilemma about the title was that if I chose “Why So Many I Knew Left So Early!” as the title, it might have sounded as if I was merely complaining about these deaths. Or, come to think of it, it may have read (without the note of exclamation at the end) as if I was actually narrating the reasons about the deaths with absolutely confirmation that I indeed knew the reasons behind these early deaths. Choosing the title would always be quite difficult for such a note — a note that most people would not want to read more than once and if they read it at all, it would be quick and cursory only because the readers simply could not not avoid the urge to know what I had to say (thank you, brothers and sisters from all over the world).
No-name bloggers like with no pedigree or media or publishing house sponsorship have even more difficulty to choose the title of the blog and its length or format because there is always fear that these global, friendly readers might get turned off by depressing subjects and lengthy discussions, and may not return (and I want you all to return, believe me!).
Then, I couldn’t simply be disingenuous about what I had to say about these deaths. I neither knew the real reasons they had to leave so early, nor did I mean to complain-only about these untimely deaths. Of course, I knew why they died if you asked me the physical reasons behind them — like, my mother’s ovarian cancer when she was forty-two, or my childhood friend Subroto’s untreated clinical depression and his suicide at the age of forty-six just a few days after his father’s death, my brother in-law Ashim’s death at forty when a drunk driver hit his bicycle on the morning of Holi a few years ago, my big-brother-like maternal uncle Buddha’s death at the age of thirty-five when someone shot him in the head and left his body on his office floor, death of my wife’s most jovial uncle at the age of fifty or so when he had his early-morning breakfast and left for his neighborhood tea shop only to be electrocuted of live wire submerged in waterlogged street, my mother’s closest sister who loved me just like her own child died of meningitis when she was perhaps thirty or so leaving behind three little children, or my mother’s oldest brother Biswanath who out of poverty had a severe, untreated anxiety disorder only to die of a cerebral aneurism when he was in his forties and had to leave four young children behind, etc. I always knew the physical facts behind the deaths. I also saw some of them dying close up — like my mother and my uncle Biswanath; I remember seeing this uncle in his death bed at the Calcutta Medical College hospital emergency ward, breathing his last out of a bunch of tubes.
I could’ve seen them growing old and dying at a mature, normal age. That did not happen.
Or, two of my Scottish classmates Anjan and Nikhil — whom I met through Subroto — died so suddenly when Anjan, then a newly-graduated doctor, fell on the street one fine morning and died of a massive stroke. Nikhil was killed with his whole family — his parents, wife and child — when he was driving back to Calcutta from Delhi and an out-of-control supply truck crushed the entire family to death.
Then I can think of some other deaths that I never thought would affect me at all because they were neither my friends nor relatives; they were only people I knew from a distance. But looking back, they all touched me deeply one way or the other. Like, the death of a young, happy boy Suranjan whom I saw the day before his last, who was playing basketball in our Scottish Church School’s courtyard when a mismanaged, poorly-built chunk of cement that held the basketball basket fell on him and one other kid to kill them instantly. Or, the other young man from Buddha’s alley whose name I cannot remember now — whom I saw acting in an amateur play with Buddha who a phenomenal actor and director, just days before his death; one morning, on his way to work, he fell off an overcrowded no-door Calcutta bus pedestal and got run over by the dilapidated, double-decker bus. He was the only earning member of his large family with a number of unmarried sisters. We were in college at that time and had enough courage and desire to go see the remnants of his body and blood strewn on Beadon Street.
Or, like, when I was five or six years old, a young man Ranjit, I think sixteen or seventeen years of age, who happened to be the elder brother of a boy I used to play alley football and cricket with, hanged himself to death (or did he take poison?). I was the only child then: my sister wasn’t born yet. My parents were so concerned that the incident next door might hit me hard — they did not let me see the dead body laying on a wooden cot before the funeral procession. I remember I only heard some subdued wailing of Ranjit’s poor mother. Or maybe, I’m only imagining. I was too small. That I think was my very first encounter with untimely, shocking death.
Why did Ranjit kill himself? I don’t know. Maybe, he failed in love? Maybe, he failed in his high school exam and could not find a way out of their poverty; I knew for the fact that they were extremely poor. His younger brother Rabin who played ball with us, I remember, would always be overly cautious that the ball we played with would be lost and then he’d have to come up with the money-share for the lost, thirty-paisa ball. Therefore, every time he bowled in a game of cricket, he would yell, “I’m not responsible if the ball’s lost!”
I still remember that so vividly!
In a few years, when I was a high school student and doing well in my exams and all, I saw Rabin working as a part-time usher at our local, North Calcutta theater halls where my parents would take me for a weekday evening, discount show of Satyajit Ray or Charlie Chaplin.
Rabin never finished school.
Ranjit killed himself. Many years later, Ganesh, another friend from the same North Calcutta alley who set up a small grocery shop in our Calcutta neighborhood to make ends meet, only never to be able to make ends meet, killed himself. On top of their humiliating poverty, he also had to come up with expenses for his old parents’ health care, costs that recently went completely out of control in post-socialism India. I was not in Calcutta when Ganesh died; I was already in the U.S. studying journalism at Columbia University (and already considering myself to be a part of the elite U.S. media). It was incidentally about the same time when Subroto stood in front of a speedy commuter train only to be cut up in half.
Ganesh, Subroto and I played and gossiped together back in those romantic Calcutta days. We could grow old together. That didn’t happen either.
Didn’t I say I must tell these stories to close some chapters?
An unprincipled, corrupt political system with an unprincipled, corrupt media just elected an IMF-nominated and Corporate-America-backed career-partisan politician as the new president of India — a man who as the longtime finance minister has brought the country’s economy to the bring of doom. It is truly a sad day for India and her people — a country and the people I so deeply know and care about.
I hope you read this little blog and the accompanying blog on IMF’s global terrorism, and share them with your friends, family and colleagues. Thank you for your time for reading, thinking and sharing.
Allegedly, an unprincipled, corrupt political system with an unprincipled, corrupt media just elected an IMF-nominated and Corporate-America-backed career-partisan politician as the new president of India — a man who as the longtime finance minister has brought the country’s economy to the brink of doom.
I hope you read this little blog and the accompanying blog on IMF and Wall Street’s global politics and terrorism, and share them with your friends, family and colleagues. Thank you for your time for reading and sharing.
The Indian president has always been a nameplate: a rubber stamp for the prime minister. But there’s a strong possibility that Pranab Mukherjee’s (the person in the middle — see photo with Sonia Gandhi) incumbency will change this because (1) he is the current finance minister of India and ALSO the current IMF director of India (very few know this); (2) in all likelihood, through putting…
Greetings. I’m posting a few more important charts and graphs here. We shall have a good discussion.
So we say, Beat ‘er ‘n Teach ‘er: the Poor Got Richer!
We have three graphs below.
Graph 1. “The Poor Got Richer.”
Over the past couple of centuries, worldwide (on average), the poor came out of extreme poverty. At the same time, the rich-poor divide has widened drastically. Now, question is, is that a good thing (that the poor is not that poor anymore), or is it a bad thing (that the economic divide escalated)?
We shall come back and address the issue later. Please let me know what your thoughts are. Thank you.
Here is the graph. Of course, this particular graph is a U.S. scenario. But you can extrapolate and replicate it, with varying degrees, for the entire world.
Graph 2. “Global Misery Declined.”
This graph below tells us a similar story: on a global average, extreme poverty and misery such as child mortality, no-access to clean water, terrible malnourishment, total illiteracy, miserable wages — have all declined over the years especially in the new globalization era. Again, the facts are facts. Question I have for you is, do you think that is a good thing for the five billion poor people all across the world, or you think it doesn’t matter because [your reasons here].
Graph 3. The Champagne-Glass Model of World Economy.
Now, those who didn’t particularly care about the two graphs above might find some reasons to cheer looking at this description of the world’s state of affairs. Again, I leave it up to you to analyze and decide. What do you think? Can you connect Graph 3 with 1 and 2, or they are not directly correlated, or in your opinion, they do not tell the whole story about you and me and us and them?
Let’s have a good discussion. I hope we do.
I SINCERELY look forward to your comments, feedback, questions, analyses and yes, criticism too. Criticism is good. Challenge is better. Questioning is the best. Dissent is awesome. (You know what I’m talking about.)
It’s important that we do it. It’s important for me.
“Mystical Poet” Tagore wrote his non-mystical Bengali verse a hundred years ago:
“আনন্দময়ীর আগমনে আনন্দে গিয়েছে দেশ ছেয়ে
হেরো ওই ধনীর দুয়ারে দাঁড়াইয়া কাঙালিনী মেয়ে
বাজিতেছে উৎসবের বাঁশি, কানে তাই পশিতেছে আসি
ম্লান চোখে তাই ভাসিতেছে দুরাশার সুখের স্বপন…”
Bliss filled the mortal earth up and down below
Almighty Mother arrived: time for joyous psalm
But watch the poor, naked girl with nowhere else to go
Arrived at the rich’s door with an ever-extended palm.
Has anything changed since Tagore wrote it? Just look around.
Of course, Bengal and India were undivided back in those days. A British colonial rule was in place. People like me or my parents or grandparents didn’t have political freedom. There was famine. There was rule of the jungle. There was huge rich and poor disparity – with the Indian rich with their British masters exploiting and whipping their Indian servants, womanizing their Indian women, and shooting and hanging “terrorist” revolutionaries (they did it for a hundred years before Gandhi and his Congress Party were brought from South Africa, and put in power).
There was extreme poverty; a once-rich and prosperous civilization was force-transformed very quickly into a pauper nation. Beggars would mob affluent Desi landlords and their ladies (i.e., Rajas and Ranis spending millions on their cat’s wedding) visiting the Kali temple in Kalighat. Prostitutes and their pimps would line up the same streets after dark. There would be huge charity at the Durga Puja festivities organized by powerful community leaders known for their unquestionable allegiance to the most powerful people in their version of White House or 10 Downing Street…
But wait a minute! I just read the above lines the second time over…what am I talking about? Have I gone insane? It seems I’m talking about 2011, and not 1911 — two years before Tagore got his first-ever-Asian’s Nobel Prize and exactly the same year when the British moved the Indian capital from Calcutta to Delhi!
I just realized I was describing today, when I was thinking about a century before. What nonsense!
So, now…I promised my readers that I would not write in a long-winded, complicated way; I promised I would keep it simple. So, my point is this.
Nothing seriously has changed in India. Even after sixty-some years of the British-donated independence and transfer of power to a bunch of feudal, racist, patriarchal, corrupt and violent people that ruled the subcontinent and its three, partition-created countries, out of the estimated 1.2 billion people (i.e., a fifth of the world’s population), nearly eighty percent still live in either abject poverty or some variety of poverty. Women are systematically subjugated, bride burning and dowry deaths are rampant, children don’t get enough to eat and can’t go to school, corruption, police brutality and violence are sky high, and a large number of people are extremely superstitious, illiterate without the ability to think or analyze, and those who can afford to spend money would not spend money for any social justice or even a liberal-philanthropic cause. But they would not blink for a moment before spending millions on their cat’s wedding (or else, cat walks). The poor and the minority are considered untouchable.
If you need an even longer list of failures of a failed Indian (or Pakistani) state, read my little article Sixty Years of Fake Freedom. [Well, now it’s seventy years.]
Hey, nothing personal, really. This is what it is. You don’t believe me? Let’s have a debate.
So, what does it all have to do with religion? Well, the ongoing Durga Puja across India and the Indian-Bengali diaspora is an example of that fakeness.
The high-excitement community Durga Puja has taken an extremely degenerate form where corporate money flows like Hudson River’s polluted water (I was tempted to say Ganges’ filthy water — then decided not to because of religious sentiments, even though Holy Mother Ganges is perhaps the most polluted river in the world now). Billions of dollars are spent to erect makeshift community puja temples with their blaring-deafening microphones that would all come down in just four days; another few billions are spent on making the clay idols that would also dissolve in the same Ganges or her sister rivers in four days. The other few billions are spent by the upper class and middle class Indians and Bengalis on expensive saris, kurtas, ornaments and sundry expenses. And oh yes, how can I forget…Bengalis would spend like crazy to eat out…no fun and festivity would be complete for Bengali-Indians without fancy feasts and fabulous fish curry.
But they would not spare even a paltry ten or fifteen percent of the unthinkably-outrageous amount to feed, clothe, heal or educate the poor and the destitute, even in the name of the goddess. Swami Vivekananda called this ignorance-apathy “a crime.” But he died a hundred years ago, and his teachings died soon after.
Tagore observed the un-Godly inequality a century ago. He wrote about it all his life (media feel real uncomfortable talking about it; the “mystic” thing works nice). Nothing changed ever since. Poor people are still poor, the hungry and the sick are still hungry and sick, anemic women are still fetching water from two miles away from home, beggars are still begging at the temple courtyard waiting for the rich to dole out alms (for the “pious,” that would be a holy, religious act for a sure no-return birth to heaven — no reincarnation required at all), and slaves and virtual slaves are still serving their masters — in urban and rural India and Bengal.
In the midst of fun-holiday-decorated, highly charged, electrifying, gold- and silver-ornamented Durga Puja, Eid, Diwali and Christmas festivities, the have Indians don’t have much time to think about the have-nots — the poor and dispossessed that Tagore, Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita talked about. In fact, using terminology such as haves and have-nots would automatically qualify me to be a communist…radical…at least, too political. India don’t do political no more! That “sin” too died a hundred years ago.
The conscience of the haves, perhaps, still pricks once in a while. Then, to absolve themselves from the committed sins and possibly-committed sins, they offer more pujas, salats and salts to their gods and goddesses, and offer more alms to the beggars mobbing them at the temple courtyard. (Hey, you know, that’s safe too — just get rid of ’em ASAP — or you could get either bedbugs or badmouths.)
A great, ancient civilization — along with her great, ancient religions — moves on. That poor, naked, hungry, sick girl Tagore wrote about waits for her dream reincarnation to be a film star, or at least to be the wife of a politician, business magnet or cricket player.