Fifteen Years of 9/11: Have We Progressed?

freedom-towerNot that fifteen years of 9/11 is anything different from fourteen years, or sixteen. It is just a number.

For those who lost their loved ones on that fateful day here in New York, their pain and sorrow will remain exactly the same. We — those who were lucky not to go through their traumas — will not understand how intense their bereavement is.

I personally know at least five or six different friends and families who have never been able to escape from their loss. They have done their best to move on. Some of them have moved on, assuming tasks that others would not have the courage or energy to perform.

Adele Welty lost her firefighter son on September 11, 2001. But she did not cringe in fear. She did not preach violence against violence. Instead, she and some of her friends such as Valerie Lucznikowska established a group called September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, and went from place to place — both in the U.S. and across the world including Afghanistan and Iraq — to promote peace. These are leaders who showed me how peace and tolerance vis-a-vis war and violence is the only answer.

But unlike them, a vast number of Americans have not been able to understand peace. They have not tried to understand the reasons behind terrorism, and they have not tried to understand the global game of war, repression and economic exploitation, promoted and perpetuated by war corporations, military complexes, their politicians, think tanks, and media. They have misplaced their anger, and the war-mongering people in power have made this world a much more dangerous and violent place to live, much more so than what it was before 9/11/2001.

What we see in ISIS, Boko Haram, Jamat Islami or other extremist-terror groups now, we could not even imagine them until we began to hear about Taliban or Al Qaeda, really after the 9/11 terror took place. Yet, no serious media or government discussion happened ever as to explain where these groups came from, who gave them funding, political and military support, and how these terror groups recruited so many young men and women — people who are ready to kill any number of innocent people, anywhere in the world?

Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, has prolonged the war in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in a way no other U.S. president has ever done. Even though U.S. media do not want to report it this way, but even the New York Times, a staunchly pro-Democratic, pro-status quo mouthpiece of corporate America had to admit that “Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln.” 

It is extremely unlikely that Hillary Clinton, if and when elected president, will do anything different from what Obama has done over his eight years. And on the other hand, Donald Trump who is perhaps not going to be the next U.S. president (I do hope not), will unleash new reign of global warfare, causing massive, new bloodshed. A pro-peace Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein candidacy is now a dream vanished in thin air, thanks to the manipulative election game in the U.S., one that few people understand or pay attention to.

On the home front, within America, hate crimes are on the rise again. Even here in New York City, a so-called safe refuge for immigrants, just in the past couple of weeks, two Muslim priests were shot and killed, followed by a sixty-year-old Muslim woman knifed to death. Their belongings were not taken, and they were all wearing traditional garbs, making it all but certain that these were acts of hate crime.

We — those of us who worked on the ground against anti-immigrant hate crimes after 9/11 — have seen the ugly face of racism, bigotry and violence. We have seen how innocent lives were taken away, and their families were shattered. We have seen how innocent men were taken from their homes at gunpoint, and detained and deported. We have seen how places like Midwood, Brooklyn — aka Little Pakistan — looked like a ghost town, with many of the men taken away and put in prison, and their wives and children eventually leaving America. Their dreams for a better, safe future ended there, summarily.

We are going to observe fifteen years of 9/11 — the tragedies and terror. Let us question ourselves: have we learned anything from our experience in these fifteen years?

Have we progressed as human beings?

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

aunt-nypd-stabbed-queens

Another innocent life fell victim of hate and violence. Here in New York. August, 2016.

Photo Courtesy: pix11.com

Cricket, Wal-Mart and Progress: Three Indian Lies

Monsanto’s-GMO-Seeds-Contributing-to-Farmer-Suicides-Every-30-MinutesI had to write about it. Even though I did not want to write anything now. A young sister Sandipta’s sudden death last week froze me. I could not function for a few days.

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.

IMFI 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.

sweat-shop-bangladesh-007Congress 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.

cricket-cartoon-ruralDuring 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.

I fear for my life.

Sincerely (and Helplessly) Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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India, Today. And Tomorrow.
India, Today. And India, Tomorrow.

This Diwali Night, A Bengali Short Story

Mother Kali the Demon Slayer

Last year, on this Diwali night, I wrote a reminiscence from my beautiful days in Calcutta — with memories of my childhood friends, firecrackers, clay lamps and all. It was a little on the sentimental side, however real and raw the emotion was. I guess, I was missing Diwali and our worship of Mother Kali the Demon Slayer — quite a bit.

Diwali (or Deepavali, in original Sanskrit) and Kali Puja are inseparable; they fall on the same day. In case you’re not familiar with it, Diwali or Festival of Lights is the cultural celebration of the harvest season. Kali Puja, or worshiping Goddess Kali of course is the religious celebration.

You can read that blog here. Just click on this link.

This year, I’m posting a short story I translated from the original Bengali. The author Sharat Chandra Chatterjee was a preeminent writer who left a mark in the world of Bengali literature with his passionate, humanitarian writing, especially his novels and short stories championing the often-forgotten place of women in the society. He was also famous for his writing against feudalism and other vile forms of social and religious orthodoxy and superstitions.

I hope you’ll like the story here, a story he wrote with a young audience in mind, and find out more about this great writer. Google Sharat Chandra Chatterjee, the Bengali novelist. Animal rights activists might read it too.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

_______________________

Lalu

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Chatterjee)

(1876-1938)

Sharat Chandra Chatterjee, the humanist Bengali writer

His nickname was Lalu. He must’ve had a formal name, but I couldn’t remember it now. You’d perhaps know that in Hindi, the word Lal meant the dear, the beloved. I couldn’t tell you who gave him the name; however, it was indeed the best-matching name for his character. Everybody loved him.

After graduating from high school, we entered college; Lalu said he’d get into business instead. He borrowed ten rupees from his mother and started a small contractor agency. We said to him, “Lalu, but you got ten rupees only.” Lalu said, “How much more do you need? This is enough.”

Everyone liked him; he found jobs quickly. On our way to college, we often saw Lalu with the sun umbrella on his head fixing street potholes employing a few laborers. He’d poke fun at us, “Run on now, scoot – don’t miss the attendance check.”

Even earlier, when we were in middle school, Lalu used to be the repairman for us all. In his school bag, he’d always carry a mortar and a pestle, an open razor, a broken knife, a little hand drill, a horseshoe, and such items. Nobody knew how he managed to collect it all, but with those trivial articles, there was practically nothing that he couldn’t do. He’d fix our broken umbrellas, put back the handheld slate board together, and even sew up our uniforms right away during a game. He’d never say no to any requests; he’d actually do a fine job. Once on some festivity, he bought some colored paper and natural foam, and worked nice-looking toys out of it; he even sold them at the riverbanks and bought us all peanut snacks with the money he made.

Gradually, we all grew up. Lalu became the best wrestler on the pit. His strength was extraordinary, and his courage was incredible. He never knew what fear was. He’d be ready for anybody’s call; he’d be present at anybody’s needs. Yet, he had a deadly flaw: he couldn’t resist himself from scaring someone. He’d do it equally to the young and old. We could never figure out where in the world did he find so many tricks to panic people. Could I tell you one such story?

In our neighborhood, Manohar Chatujje worshipped Goddess Kali in his house. One year, at the very late night hours, he must sacrifice an animal to the goddess. However, the slaughter man didn’t show up at the auspicious time. People rushed to get him out of his bed, but came back with bad news: the man was completely bedridden with a terrible stomachache. The news froze the worshippers; without an experienced slaughter man, there would be no sacrifice, and the entire process would be turned upside down, causing the gravest sin.

Someone in the assembled crowd said, “Why, Lalu can slaughter the goat; he’d done it many times before.” So, people ran again to get him.

However, Lalu woke up and said, “No.”

“What do you mean no? It’d be a terrible disaster if there’s no sacrifice.”

Lalu said, “Let it be. I done it when I was young, but won’t do it no more.”

People who came to get him started crying, “Lalu, there’s very little time left before the auspicious hour is over. Then the curse of the Goddess will kill us all.”

Finally, Lalu’s father came to the rescue. He ordered him to do it. He said, “These elderly men came to you because they had no other choice. You must do it.” Lalu yielded: he couldn’t say no to his father.

Manohar Chatujje was relieved to see Lalu. But there was no more time left. In a great hurry, the priest did the necessary ritual on the animal – he put the red vermillion and red marigold garland on it. The animal was fastened on the slaughter pin, hundreds of people in the puja compound cried out, “Holy Mother, Holy Mother,” and the enormous noise drowned out the hapless creature’s final scream. The semicircular, glittering scythe in Lalu’s hand went up and whacked down, and then blood sprang out of the severed neck of the poor animal, drenching the black soil red.

We reject this horror in the name of Hinduism! In fact, this is not Hinduism at all.

Lalu remained closed-eyed for a while. Slowly, the huge noise of drums, bells and conch shells died down. But then, it went back up again. The other goat that stood shivering in fear was brought in, smeared with vermillion and flower garland, tied on the slaughter pin, the devotees started screaming again with their “Holy Mother” chants, and the goat desperately, miserably appealed for its life to be spared. Again, Lalu’s blood-soaked scythe went up fast in the sky, and came down on the animal’s neck even faster. The severed body of the goat writhed and quivered for a few last moments, as if in complain against this terrible injustice, and lay still; the blood poured out of its neck soaked the already-stained soil of the puja ground.

The drummers insanely beat away their drums; devotees crowded up the puja courtyard, danced, and made a huge commotion. Manohar Chatujje sat on his special quilt, silently chanting his prayers.

Suddenly, Lalu made a terrifying howl. All the noise came to a screeching halt, and everyone froze in astonishment: what’s going on? They found Lalu in a trance, with his incredibly wide-open eyes rotating. Lalu screamed out, “Where’s the other goat?”

Someone from the Chatujje family replied in fear, “But we got no more goats. We always have only two goats to slaughter.”

Lalu swung his bloodstained scythe way up in the wind and roared, “No more goats? No more goats? Hell, that’s no good. I’m here to kill – bring me more goats, or I’ll kill all of you one by one. Holy Mother, Glory to Goddess Kali.” Then he made a big jump over and across the slaughter pin, with his scythe swinging around.

What happened next was indescribable. Everybody ran to the main door to escape together, lest Lalu had caught them up. It was a huge chaos. People started pushing, shoving and jostling in terror: some fell on each other, some tried to crawl on their hands underneath others’ legs, and some others got suffocated by the pressure of strangers’ arms and torsos around their necks. It all happened for a few minutes only; after that, it was all emptied – not a single soul was to be seen in the entire house.

Lalu roared again, “Where’s Manohar Chatujje? Where’s the priest?”

The priest was a scrawny man; he left early and hid behind the idol. Manohar Chatujje’s family guru was chanting from the Chandi the holy Sanskrit scripture; he quickly got up and went behind a big pillar on the courtyard. However, Manohar himself couldn’t run away with his big, bulky body. Lalu went straight up to him, held him by his hand and said, “Come on, put your neck out on the slaughter pin.”

With one hand, he held him like a death trap; his other hand wildly waved the scythe. Chatujje was out of control in fear. He wept and begged for his life, “Lalu, my son, look, I’m not a goat, I’m a man. I happen to be like your big uncle. Your father is like my younger brother.”

“I don’t care. I must sacrifice more to the Goddess. I’ll sacrifice you; Mother asked me to do it. Come on.”

Chatujje now cried out loud, “No my son, Mother could never ask for it, never. She’s the Mother of the Universe.”

Lalu said, “Mother of the Universe! You mean that? Will you ever sacrifice animals? Will you ever call me up for slaughters? Tell me now, or else.”

Chatujje cried out, “No more, my son, never. I promise here in front of the Mother – from today, animal sacrifice will stop in my house.”

“You swear?”

“Yes my son, I swear. No more slaughter, never. Please let me go now son. I must go the bathroom.”

Lalu let him off and said, “Alright, I let you go. But what happened to the priest? Where’s that guru? Where’s he?” He then gave a howl again and jumped forward to the idol. Suddenly, two men, one from behind the goddess and one from behind the pillars simultaneously shrieked out, which created a strange, bizarre sound. It was so bizarre and hilarious that Lalu couldn’t restrain himself anymore. “Ha, ha, ha,” he broke out in loud laughter, dropped the hatched on the ground with a bang, and darted away.

Everybody now realized that he was pretending all along; his must-kill trance and everything was pure fake. Lalu was fooling around all this time. Everybody whomever had left came back in five minutes. The ritual of worship was still not fully done, it was greatly hampered already, and it made Chatujje terribly upset. In the midst of the pandemonium, he yelled, “I’ll show that rascal what I can do. Tomorrow I’m gonna make his dad whip that scoundrel a hundred times, I swear to God.”

But it didn’t really happen. The next morning, very early before dawn, Lalu ran away from home, not to return in the next week or so. When he did return, he slipped into Manohar Chatujje’s house after dark, touched his feet and apologized, to save himself from the wrath of his father.

However, because of the pledge Chatujje had made in front of Goddess Kali, from that day on, animal sacrifice was forever abolished in his home.

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No violence in the name of religion!

November 6: Mundane, Memorable (and Obama Reelection Too)

This is exactly where I was!

11.45 P.M.

Congratulations, President Obama. And more congratulations to Elizabeth Warren.

I hope your second term is pro-people and radically different from your first term. Make Warren the Wall Street watchperson. Bring back Glass-Stegall. Pass Employee Free Choice Act and Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Bring back the New Deal economy. Reward work and workers. Stop all wars and bombing and droning.

The American people have kept faith in you. You show us how pro-people you are. It’s time to sever ties with the same-old iron-walled elitist politics.

Come down to earth. This is where God is.

____________________________________________________________

This is what I wrote this evening, before Obama’s re-election. I want to remember it, for reflection and posterity.

November 6, 2012. Election Day. Barack Obama wants to be re-elected today. He knows it’s not easy this time. Well…we’ve talked about it over and over again. It’s not my fault if he loses.

But I do hope he wins. ONLY because I never want extremists and war mongers to win.

Anyway…it’s too early for politics.

5 A.M. — Alarm rang. It’s too early. Too dark. Had to wake up. Got stuff to do.

5.30 A.M. — Started that old car and warmed it up for a while. That sucker may not run in this cold. Man, it looks like freezing chill in the backyard.

5.45 A.M. — Drove a sleepy wife to the polling station. She works there every time there’s an election. She is really the helping type. Always helps. Wants to help. Just a couple of days ago, she went to a shelter at Brooklyn Armory where hundreds of people began spending nights since that hurricane Sandy struck. She distributed food. She cooked food. She took a whole bunch of blankets and sweaters and shirts and pants, without asking me, and gave them away. Ah, well…I did my part too. Calcutta, Bengal, flood, drought, collecting rice and dal and clothes…campaigning by car…announcing with a hand-held microphone…truckloads of donated supplies…some money…completely honestly handing it all over to Ramakrishna Mission…yeah…I did it all!

A shelter for hurricane victims.

6 A.M. — Did not go back home. Normally, after dropping her off, I go back and take an extra hour to sleep. Not this time. Got stuff to do.

6.15 A.M. — Drove up to a gas station where my friend Sinha works as the head mechanic. He said last night they were going to pump gasoline at 4 A.M. today. Had to be there. Sandy sucked New York and New Jersey dry of gas.

Oh God, the line was already so long! Cops were managing the long line of cars and people. Stood behind the line. Turned off the engine. Waited…waited…

Drove up one inch at a start. This stupid, old car is gonna quit soon with so many starts and stops.

Moving…slowly…slowly…like a metallic snail…

America. Energy Crisis. Inevitable.

7.15 A.M. — Finally I can see the gas station. It’s still not totally morning yet. Even though, just two nights ago, they turned the clock back to end the daylight saving time. Without it, it would now be really dark. At least, I can see the gas station and the people lining up long lines…with containers, big water jars, whatever they got…to get petrol.

I kept thinking of my old Calcutta school days when I would stand up behind long lines to get kerosene, or coal, or bread…remembered those war-torn days in the sixties…

7.30 A.M. — Got gas. Filled up the tank. Paid by credit card. Off I go…

I’m not returning home. Let’s go straight to work. Had to work from home yesterday. No gas, no subway. And I can’t fly to work!

8.05 A.M. — Work. Office. Yesss! Turned on my office computer. Turned on my personal laptop too.

Worked. Had tea. Somebody’s class had extra bagels. Picked up a couple. Not bad. Didn’t have time for any breakfast in that hurry.

11.30 A.M. — 12.30 P.M. — My colleague cum director asked us to come out help load some trucks with bags full of supplies for the hurricane victims. That was not bad, doing it like they do it in an army supply line…pick up bags, throw bags to the next person…like passing the baton in a relay race…catching bags…throwing it to the next person over…bags get loaded…trucks full of bags of supplies…not bad…not bad…did something good…worthwhile…

Worked more…putting together materials for classes…labor workshop for next year…other classes…writing reports for past classes…not bad…not bad…

4.30 P.M. — Had to leave. Didn’t have lunch. Hungry. Got a piece of Sicilian pizza and some coffee. Off to the road…back on Jackie Robinson Parkway…Pennsylvania Avenue…Atlantic Avenue…home.

5.30 P.M. — Parked that old car in the garage. It’s cold, man. Chilly! Need to go pick up wifey very late. She says long voter lines. She might be working until 11 P.M. or midnight!

Mundane. Not exciting this time. Not at all!

6 P.M. — Walked to vote at our usual school building. Long line again. Man, this is a day for lines. Lines. Lines. Spiral lines. So many people are voting…Why? What do they think? Next four years will be different from the last four? Sheesh!!

6.30 P.M. — Voted. Filled up the scan sheet. Scanned through the machine. DONE!

Voted. Because I am a completely nonviolent person. Nonviolent thinker. Activist. Writer. My middle name is nonviolence. My second middle name is mainstream.

Regardless of how many vote. Regardless of how many can stay nonviolent.

P.S. — 1 A.M. — I drove my wife back home from the polling center where she worked since 5.45 A.M. (yesterday). She will make a few hundred dollars. Peanuts…compared to what the people who just got elected would make.

That’s the ultimate irony of this so-called democracy!

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

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.

____________________

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.

___________

-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.

__________________

-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

###

Holistic Approach. Pro-active Approach.

Andy Griffith: A Sheriff Without A Gun

The Happy Family

-One-

I normally do not get emotional about a movie icon.

But this Fourth of July, I can’t keep emotions totally out of my system. Because I’m writing about an icon who I thought was somebody I could remember for the rest of my life. This is someone who makes me happy every time I think about him and watch his shows. He gives me reasons to believe in sanity, moderation, common-sense life and human compassion. He gives me reasons to love and keep faith in love.

I am writing about Andy Griffith. I’m trying make a connection between him, Middle America and yes, the Fourth of July.

Of course, it’s not just about Andy Griffith as a person; rather, it’s about a way of life he iconized through mass media. This is a value system he established even deeper in American soil. That is critically important to remember today because today’s America and American media do not talk about the way of life Andy Griffith, his shows and his friends, colleagues and co-actors talked about. This America and this media today have made a 180 degree turn from the philosophies that his prime time shows in the sixties popularized: philosophies that took deep roots in Mid-America and its moderate, loving and caring, smiling, ordinary, working men, women and children.

They were the philosophies of non-violence, social togetherness, inclusion, equality, modern outlooks and a greed-free lifestyle. Those were the American values that made America an exemplary nation throughout the world. Those were the values that brought millions of immigrants like me to this country — with high hopes and optimism.

Andy Griffith, a small-town Southern sheriff named Andy Taylor, never carried a gun. But he carried those eternal American values we terribly miss now.

Those are the American values we want to remember on this Fourth of July.

-Two-

Of course, he is not the only one who preached and practiced and popularized sanity, society and peace on media and entertainment. Around the same time — in the sixties — icons such as Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Robeson or the Beatles were more or less doing the same in the Western world. It was a tumultuous time. The glorious civil rights movement on one hand and a few years later, the valiant mass resistance against the Vietnam war shook America to the core. Countless artists, poets, singers, filmmakers, actors and actresses joined in on the peace movement globally and the civil rights movement within America. Brutally violent rulers across the world and brutally repressive rulers across the U.S. were struggling to put down the civil disobedience tempest. American young generation was waking up to fresh air of new realities. They were embracing the concepts of peace, justice and equality. The Berlin Wall of color, race and religion was crumbling.

Fishing for Family, Fun and Friendship

Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Paul Robeson or the Beatles’ styles were, however, different from Andy Griffith’s. The simple sheriff in the Southern small-town of Mayberry did not join in on a civil rights protest march or gave a speech about the futility of war. He wasn’t even remotely interested about politics, although he had to run for elections every few years to keep his paid position as the sheriff. He also took sides on local mayoral candidates, and once opposed his own Aunt Bee who stood for mayor, causing serious domestic strife. But he was largely a non-political man: his job was to run the small town of Mayberry as smoothly as possible, with help from his laughably inefficient deputy and a group of awkward country simpletons (or even a town alcoholic he was rehabilitating).

Doing this, however, a widower with a small boy Opie, he wouldn’t have no lack of time to engage in several affairs (one affair at a time) with local belles, go fishing regularly with the son, organize and sing in the church choir, or occasionally visit for dinner Mount Pilot, the nearest big town seven miles away. Sheriff Andy Taylor refuses to leave his birthplace Mayberry even when an old-time, high-school sweetheart attempts to lure him away to Chicago. No he wouldn’t leave: he loves his relaxed lifestyle and rural lads and lasses.

-Three-

That is his real America. Here, a group of Italian farmer immigrants with no English-speaking skills gets a hostile bunch of “mainstream” Americans — to the point of being driven away. An innocent man for absolutely no valid reason is suddenly ostracized by the entire town because the people with their superstition think he is jinx. The old barber Floyd spreads rumors about anything and it catches on like wildfire. Local ruffians engaged in illegal trading threat the weakling deputy. Sinister outsiders stash drug money in the barber shop. A bank is going to get robbed by armed robbers faking a film shooting. A dangerously violent criminal jailbreaks and hides in Mayberry, stealing the deputy’s gun.

The “Innocent” Barber!

And in all instances, it falls on the shoulders of Sheriff Taylor to interfere, mitigate and resolve the issue. And he does it with the use of his head — a head of a genius strategist and game maker — with absolutely no intention to use his gun. I take it back: he never had a gun (not even at his North Carolina home). He always thought problems could be handled nonviolently if he’d acted with determination and had the support and confidence of the society. And he did enjoy the support and confidence of the society.

In fact, he had had a society and they all cared for one another.

Sadly, that sane and moderate America is taken away from us. Extreme inequality, war, violence, hate, bigotry and economic exploitation have pervaded this land once again.

-Four-

Sheriff Andy Taylor would never spare opportunities to sit down with his motherless child for his homework, sort out the small boy’s small but significant problems growing up, go fishing with him whistling away, talk to his school teacher Helen Crump who would later be his girlfriend, and attend church meetings and evening dinners religiously with Aunt Bee and son Opie, with frequent presence of childhood friend Deputy Bernie Fife who as a concerned family friend would also attempt to educate the boy, however inadequately. Andy would not miss an opportunity to play his guitar sitting out on the front porch, with Bee, Opie, Ms. Crump, Fife and sometimes Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou joining in. The country music would be slow and soothing, with soft and subtle strumming of the nylon guitar. The full moon would look down upon these simple, honest creatures; its soft and subtle silvery light would flood the Mid-American little town Mayberry — as if it had brought the divine blessings from the Almighty who is sending down his message of togetherness, love, compassion and peace.

Opie, Ron Howard, is now a big-time filmmaker; he is, I guess, my generation. A celebrity in his own right now, does he remember those soft, love-laced days from the sixties? I do. I wish I had an opportunity to go fishing with Sheriff Taylor. Only once…that’s all.

I wanted to play a small part in Andy Griffith’s message of love, social togetherness and nonviolence. I wanted to be a small part in the Grand-Ole American message of hope, togetherness and nonviolence.

Mr. Sheriff, I’m going to miss you. I’m going to miss the Middle American values you lived and died for.

This Fourth of July, I swear to God, Middle America is going to miss you too.

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Pa, Can We Go Fishin’ Tomorrow Again?

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

Scared? You should be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guns kill fast.

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

Killed by Legislation and Profit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You think. You decide. You act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shun the Gun.

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

Believe me, I’m not making it up.

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

 

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Koch-ALEC-NRA-trinity

My Kid’s Name is Trayvon Martin — reposted

NOTE: I am re-blogging this post on this sad, one-month observance of Trayvon Martin’s death. A seventeen-year-old’s life was suddenly taken away from his parents, family and friends. I strongly feel he could be my kid, and I mourn his loss. I hope we all come together and fight back against this all-pervasive wrong. Let us save our kids from guns, violence and injustice.

onefinalblog

UPDATE JULY 14, 2013. Zimmerman has been acquitted. ONLY HAPPENS IN AMERICA. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/us/george-zimmerman-verdict-trayvon-martin.html?hp&target=comments#commentsContainer

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Update April 11.Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with a second-degree murder. Visit news athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/george-zimmerman-to-be-charged-in-trayvon-martin-shooting-law-enforcement-official-says/2012/04/11/gIQAHJ5oAT_story.html

______________

“Trayvon Martin, 17, was walking home from a 7-Eleven in Sanford, Fla. on Feb. 26 when he was shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer who had called police and reported a “real suspicious guy” wearing a hoodie.

Martin was found dead, unarmed, with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea.

The neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, claims he acted in self-defense and has not been arrested.”

This is NBC news today. I therefore put it in quotes.

What is so special about the news? Which part is the one you don’t understand?

If you ask me, I understand all of it. Here’s how I understand it — point by point.

1. Trayvon Martin was…

View original post 690 more words

Nightmare on Boyhood Street

A special note: I’d like to take a moment to thank all the readers especially those who read it from places I otherwise have no way to reach. It is a matter of great comfort that this post was read in countries — other than India, USA, Canada and U.K. — such as Austria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Spain and Thailand (and some more). I believe the cruelty and violence I described in this blog is global, and there is enough reason to believe that we are trying to find solidarity here — to stop this brutality. Thank you, readers. I hope you take a moment to share it with others. -Partha

________________________________________________________________

Nightmare on Boyhood Street

Today, I remember a day from my school life. I was thirteen at that time – an eighth grader. It was Calcutta, India. It was perhaps a late summer day.

Calcutta’s name has now changed to Kolkata. Bombay has changed to Mumbai. Madras is now Chennai. A lot has changed in India since then…a lot…especially with the invasion of new shopping malls, MTV, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut.

Has child abuse changed in India? If your answer is yes, show me how. Give me some examples. If your answer is no, tell me why not.

Here is a real story from a real life.


Bang, bang, bang…

Punch, punch…

Whack, whack, blow…

Slap, slap, kick, thud…

A stout, muscular man in his forties held a young boy by the hair. He held him down with one hand. With his other hand, he beat up the boy mercilessly. He beat him up continuously. He punched him on his head and upper body. He slapped him fiercely, repeatedly, on his tender cheeks. He pulled his hair so hard that the boy was almost airborne. He pulled his earlobes so strongly that they were blood red. The slaps made reddish pink finger marks on his cheeks.

Along with the beating, the man groaned, ground his teeth, and grunted, “Huh, huh, huh…”

The boy took the abuse…the horrible beating. But he did not fight back. And he did not cry out, or ask for mercy. He did not ask him to stop. He did not show any visible sign of pain.

That made the man even angrier. He became more violent. He forced the boy to sit in an animal position, with his palms and knees touching the floor. The man then climbed up on him, and started to hit his back with his bent elbow. He also kicked him…or did he?

The violence went on for nearly ten, fifteen, twenty minutes…maybe, half an hour. The man lost his sense of time. The boy did too. He was nearly unconscious at this point.

The entire episode happened in a classroom. It happened in front of some forty or fifty frozen, traumatized, eighth-grade students. They watched it with horror;  some covered their faces. A few of them fell sick. Another boy urinated in his pants. One of their teachers was doing this to one of their classmates: they couldn’t believe their eyes! But none of them stood up or said a word against the barbarism. They watched it in complete silence…for the entire time.

Ashu Kar, a teacher in our famous, 150-year-old, missionary Scottish Church Collegiate School, was famous for his bad temper. There were a few other teachers who were even more notorious than him. They were never known for their quality of teaching or love for the students; they were only known for their dexterity to mercilessly, violently beat the kids.

But luckily, these men would not teach us, some of the best students. Back then, Scottish had merit-based promotion; they would always place us in Section A because we topped in the final exam. The abusive teachers would not take our classes. We were privileged to get some of the phenomenal educators of Calcutta whose presence in the classroom was like a gentle breeze coming off the ocean. Shyamadas Mukherjee of Mathematics, Bijan Goswami and Amiya Roy of Bengali, Rev. Santosh Biswas and Sudhendu Deuri of English, Nitya Sengupta of Chemistry, and Tarun Datta of Biology. Then, there was our famous headmaster A. R. Roy, known for his personality and poise. They were great teachers. We learned from them as eagerly and as fast as blotting paper would soak up water or ink – through every possible capillary of our young, inquisitive minds. We’d look forward to their classes.

The horrible hangmen would get the poor, “backward” students in Section C, D or E. We’d often hear horror stories from them. Even in elementary school, in fourth grade, there was severe student abuse. And I’m not even talking about the verbal abuse that was commonplace: teachers would make personal, intrusive, insulting, snide, negative remarks, constantly on a daily basis, to students that did not do well in tests or failed to turn in the homework; particularly, students who came from underprivileged families. Indian boys and girls were used to verbal abuse. At home, they got it from their fathers, uncles or neighbors. At school, they got it from teachers. The verbal insult and undermining would dash their self-esteem once and for all.

Now I’m talking about the more serious, inhumane, physical abuse. We the “good” boys from Section A came to know about them in middle school, since maybe, when we were in sixth or seventh grade.

Police beating a child

There were two men named Mr. Jana and Mr. Dafadar who took Section E classes only: boys who did the poorest in last year’s finals. They brought in class their own special teaching methods and tools. Every day, they’d enter the classroom, and before doing anything else, call out some students they decided the worst backbenchers. They’d line them up outside the classroom facing against the wall, with their arms all the way up, the length of the arm touching the wall, as if cops doing a shakedown on them. I’m convinced these teachers were cops or military men before they became teachers; they did it to their sixth, seventh or eighth-grade students exactly the way cops did it to suspected, frisked criminals. Or, in case of today’s India or USA, anyone the cops or military might suspect to be trouble makers.

Jana and Dafadar – I don’t remember which one was more dangerous – would then return to classroom, take attendance for the remaining students, give them some meaningless work to do – maybe, a bunch of arithmetic or English grammar problems from the textbook without showing them how to do it, and return to their “favorite” students waiting outside. Now, they’d stick out their personal, two-feet-long, wooden ruler scale or a long, bent cane, and spank the students real hard until they all cried out in pain. Some diehards would not budge; some of the kids were so used to it that they’d look the other way, and chuckle while the bad cops kept beating the others. If they’re lucky, they’re spared. If Jana and Dafadar caught them chuckling, they’d have some more special treat that day.

Some E or D students regularly cut classes. They also nicknamed the abusive teachers: Jana and Dafadar were called Jharudar or something, meaning the sweeper; alternately, it could mean the one who beats badly.

That was them. Then there was our Ashu Kar. In between, there were some more child molesters – big or small.

Why do people get so violent? Why are some people so cruel? What pleasure do some big, powerful men get out of beating young boys or girls who can’t resist or fight back?

Sigh…tears…sigh…tears…sigh…

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Owner beating child worker at a textile factory

This is Laughing Matter 2. Or is it?

-Laugh 2-

Or, you don’t. It’s your choice.

My Insignificant Personal Stories

I’m going to tell you three of my own, honest-to-God, real-life, personal, New York City stories of live-together with racism and stereotype. Or, you can call it something else. It’s your choice.

I simply titled it Laugh 2 because I called the most recent story I told you Laugh 1. These three stories are so dry, down ‘n dirty, straightforward and unfunny that you might start suspecting my basic literary prowess. Heck, I seriously doubted it myself when I went through those little experiences; in fact, when they happened — one event at a time with a gap of a couple of years in between — the only thought that came to my mind was how to save my little brown Indian butt, and go home with a non-disfigured face (or in one instance, go home at all).

And I didn’t laugh.

I just thank God I did not become a post-9/11 FBI or NYPD statistic of hate-crime victims (or in one instance, a permanently disappeared U.S. citizen). I just hope and pray to God that, however insignificant my scare was compared to the grotesque, horrific, nightmarish and bone-chilling experiences so many people I know have gone through, none encounter experiences even as small as mine. I don’t know about you the rough, tough and diehard, man, I nearly peed in my pants. And a grassroots, 9/11 community organizer turned immigrant and labor advocate, I am not particularly known as a wimp.

How do I rank these stories? There is no way I could do that. So, like they write experiences on the resumé with the most recent cited first, I’m going to tell you my stories with the most recent one first. Is it the most stand-out one? Not sure. I leave it up to you to decide on the poignancy indicator of it.

Let’s just cut to the chase. I’ll be brief.

Scare 1

NYC subway on police watch

So, about this time last year, on one late morning on a slow, sunny, early fall day, I was waiting on a downtown NYC subway platform for the E train. I was going to college to teach an afternoon class. I had my trademark brown backpack on my brown back, I had a light jacket on, and I also had my hands in my coat pockets.

A woman — she was likely watching over me for some time — walked up to me, just before the train arrived. She smiled strangely at me, and said, “You’re not carrying a gun on you, are you?” Then she gestured at my hands in my pockets, and smiled again, as if she actually had doubts if I was carrying a hidden gun.

I was so surprised by the suddenness of it that I didn’t know what to say. First I thought she was just joking, however bad and stupid the joke was. But then I realized she was serious. The train came and she and I boarded the train; I now felt quite annoyed that she kept looking at me and my brown skin and my “Islamic-terrorist-looking” face and beard (she didn’t know I was an American Hindu, involved with the American peace movement, and preached global non-violence all my life). I realized she was quite nervous by the possibility that either my backpack or my jacket could indeed carry a gun. And then she walked up to me and repeated her question: “You don’t have a gun on you, do you?”

I had a little interaction with her after that — a non-violent one — and it was lucky I only had one station to ride on the E train. But that one-station, three-minute ride was more than enough. It was pretty long.

I am not CNN or Fox or some tabloid paper, and I don’t mean to make too much of a big deal out of it. But I’ve actually thought about the incident quite a bit afterwards, and in hindsight, I believe it could’ve been much worse under a slightly different set of circumstances.

Think about the incident happening on a Greyhound bus or maybe, a commuter train (I’m excluding airplanes because they’d have body scans and all). I very likely “look like an Islamic terrorist” with my brown skin and pronounced beard based on the profiling and flagging they’d had on countless innocent Muslims, South Asians and Arabs since 9/11. What if this crazy woman walked up to me there, challenged me if I had a gun in my backpack (remember my NYPD-NYCLU bag search lawsuit story?), and then perhaps called the “see-something-say-something” police? I know people who were picked up by the police and FBI and other law enforcement on such charges by “responsible American citizens.” I also know of at least one real-life story a young Sikh friend from New Jersey told me where a busload of Americans started heckling him on his way back home from Philadelphia, called him Osama, and followed him off the bus to the public bathroom, and threatened to beat him up black and blue.

Any of the above could’ve happened to me. That was really the scary part.

Glad in this case, it was “small and significant.” And I came back home in one piece to report it on Facebook the same night.

Funny? Not funny?

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Scare 2

(to be continued)