climate-change-ONE-

On Sunday, September 21, at 11.30 A.M., an historic People’s Climate March is beginning at 59th Street near Columbus Circle, New York City. It is perhaps going to be the biggest climate march in human history.

I am going to participate in the march, enthusiastically. I hope you do, too. 

Climate change and global warming are proving to be disastrous for the entire mankind. Greenhouse gas build-up, breakdown of the atmospheric ozone layer, rapidly-rising air pollution, melting of the polar ice cap, more frequent Hurricane Sandy-type super-storms, El Nino’s, etc. are subjects that many of us do not immediately recognize as the worst killers. But they are. In fact, if we do not do anything about it right now, conservative, scientific predictions are that world’s average temperature is going to rise 4 to 5 degrees by the end of this century.

And conservative, scientific projections are that if the world’s temperature increases only 3 to 4 degrees, places like Bangladesh, West Bengal, Assam and Orissa are going to be submerged in rising ocean waters.

That’s pretty scary for me, because I came from there, and all my extended family members, as well as hundreds of friends, students and colleagues live there. They’ll be gone. At least, their children and their children will be gone.

Worse, a very rich history of art, poetry, literature, film, drama and culinary traditions will be wiped out from the face of the earth.

And I’m only using these countries as examples. It’s going to be pan-demic.

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Fossil Fuel burning-TWO-

Who are the people responsible for this looming catastrophe?

World’s temperature did not rise more than 1 degree in the past 100 to 150 years. But NASA scientist Jim Hansen and his colleagues attribute the current, rapid rise in global temperature to one or two things, primarily: (1) out-of-control burning of fossil fuels, and (2) post-industrial-revolution CO2 build-up. These are the two biggest culprits.

It is true that industrialization and modern civilization have given us a much faster and easier way of life: speed and convenience that we could not imagine even 50 years ago. Cars instead of public transportation (burning oil and gas), refrigerators in our homes (PCB’s), natural gas for domestic and industrial cooking, tissue papers and napkins in our kitchens and bathrooms (felling forests), McDonald’s hamburgers (raising and killing millions of cattle and grassland) and supermarket plastic bags (huge pollution source)…you name it…they all made our lives much easier.

But question is: at what cost?

And the next question is: shouldn’t there be some checks and balances, so that the ill effects of these costs do not go out of control, and destroy our very existence?

But the current, neoliberal economic model and its political and corporate pushers would not want any checks and balances. They have created an exclusively market-driven socio-economic system, one that does not take into account human costs. The sole motive for their functioning is growth and profit.

And that has proved to be purely disastrous.

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Climate refugees-THREE-

Elite, scholarly discussions aside, what are some of problems that we can DIRECTLY connect to climate change and global warming?

Think about health and health care. Asthma and allergies and countless, mutated viruses and bacterial diseases are on rapid rise — all over the world. Whether in New York City, London, Paris, Calcutta, Brasilia or Beijing, just find out how rapid these health problems have become, in just the past decade or so. It’s scary!

Cancer has become almost like an epidemic in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Believe me!

Who is going to pay for it? And how?

In Paris only (that is Paris, France — a so-called First World country), 10,000 old people died in about a week in 2003 — the first time world health experts attributed climate change and global warming to that massive number of deaths. So, it is NOT poor country’s problem anymore.

It is everybody’s problem. Over 1,000 organizations, including 75+ labor unions, therefore, have endorsed the march. That’s history in itself.

Think about public transportation. Does global warming have anything to do with it? Shouldn’t there be a revamping of the way we move about? Green buses and trams, car pooling, electric cars? Look at greener and saner countries like Norway or Belgium. Even Calcutta has a well-functioning subway metro train line, that has saved millions from pollution-related diseases.

Here in the U.S., corporate media would not talk about it!

Think about immigration. Think about war and violence. DIRECTLY related to climate change and global warming.

World is going to be a thousand times more violent, and poor people will cross borders to flee their poverty, hunger and diseases — DIRECTLY because of climate change and global warming.

Then, think about…FOOD. What we eat, and what we drink. Who produce them, and who manufacture them.

Corporate media especially here in the U.S. deliberately bypass these critically important discussion. The U.S. government and its lynchpin, corporations (the 1%) keep sabotaging global climate talks.

We are marching on Sunday, September 21, here in New York City, because two days after, the United Nations are convening a global climate summit here. Our historic rally is going to send a very strong message to them.

And then, we shall keep organizing. To reverse the disastrous climate trend.

Let us be a part of this movement.

We’re going to make history. And we’ll pass on this people’s history to our children.

Let’s join in on the People’s Climate March.

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Sincerely,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

PCM route 92114

Photo Courtesy: Bill Moyers on PBS. What a beautiful photo, isn't it?

Photo Courtesy: Bill Moyers on PBS. Children and a Green Environment.

Just a quick, important announcement. And this is your chance of a lifetime to see me on TV, LIVE!!

(Well, sort of live.)

:-)

September 14, 2014. — TONIGHT, ON TV New York’s historic People’s Climate March on September 21. A TV discussion.

**You can watch from anywhere in the world. Visit www.mnn.org — click on MNN1.**

Watch this Sunday, September 14, 2014 on MNN 1 (Time Warner Cable Channel 34, RCN 82, FiOS 33), simultaneous transmission via internet.

Line up for the Civic Programing,

11PM – Midnight Premier Program: Roundtable of Press and Advocates Takes on Environmental Challenges in NY. Communities are taking action to challenge environmental toxins and climate change both here and in their home countries. Journalists and advocates will identify issues of environmental degradation that are not getting media attention and discuss the impact of current policy.

Panelists are:

Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, Director of Environmental Health, West Harlem Environmental Action

Katherine Bagley, reporter, InsideClimate News; co-author of Bloomberg’s Hidden Legacy: Climate Change and the Future of NYC

Dr. Partha Banerjee, educator, blogger, & contributor to Thikana

Rong Xiaoping, reporter, Sing Tao Daily

(WITH SPECIAL THANKS to Abby Scher and Juana Ponce de Leon, noted writers and journalists.)

__________________________

Announcement almost verbatim, as received from MNN organizers.

(Photo credit: Bill Moyers dot com at PBS)

Search Light Twin TowersAnother September Eleventh is around the corner. Another year when I ask the same question I’ve been asking since the terrorism and tragedies thirteen years ago.

“Are we ready for another disaster?”

I have seen it all. I have seen two of the four hijacked planes that morning hitting the Twin Towers. I have seen ordinary, working men and women — American and non-American — jumping off the burning skyscrapers to death. I have seen the towers collapse.

I have seen complete chaos where school children were evacuated of their buildings, and driven to walk aimlessly up north, for miles without any official plans or instructions. Asbestos-dust-covered Chinese residents few blocks away mandated by our leaders not to include their neighborhood in arbitrarily-mandated disaster zones. I have seen total system failure of a Giuliani administration as well as a Bush White House, with total lack of coordination, to inform the ordinary people in New York and across the U.S. about the nature of the disaster and prevention and safety measures.

Nobody knew what was going on!

Of course, ordinary firefighters and countless volunteers and low-paid workers — American and non-American — worked in exemplary manner to save lives and property. Some gave their lives too; I personally knew a couple of these heroes.

And of course, very important, elite people were airlifted and safely shipped away as quickly as possible. That group of elite included Dick Cheney and sheikhs visiting from Saudi Arabia.

I did not forget anything.

W_HATE_0731slb.jpgBut in spite of blanket censorships and media spins and distortions for years, followed by a brutal genocide on Iraq on a phony WMD pretext, ordinary people like us who lived through the horror and its aftermath cannot forget what we saw in our neighborhoods. We saw poor, innocent people dragged out of their homes at gunpoint in the middle of the night — many on false terrorism charges — yanked from their families and loved ones, to be held in prison indefinitely, only to be summarily deported, without due process. We have seen hate crimes on Muslim and Sikh immigrants from Arab and South Asian countries, committed by violent, ignorant xenophobes. We have seen a climate of fear created by the people in power and their mouthpieces — that planted and perpetuated hate and mistrust even across the immigrant communities and people of color.

Suddenly, people I never suspected started suspecting me, as perceived enemy!

We have also seen police, FBI, Homeland Security and other powerful law enforcement agencies warning us relentlessly, sometimes on baseless, unverifiable information, to keep us on the edge — with the pink, orange and red color-codes, for years. The warnings came and the warnings went, baselessly.

Yet, we have never seen any serious, meaningful, pro-active plans and programs undertaken by the leaders — to assure us that they have learned a hard lesson, and that next time, God forbid, should another disaster happen, the damage and the deaths and the detentions and deportations would be brought down to zero.

We have had one zero action on one Ground Zero of a lifetime. We do not want to see another one, in the lifetime of our children.

In my years of intense work as a grassroots community organizer in New York and New Jersey, I have seen how poor, innocent communities — mostly immigrants and people of color — have lived in worries and uncertainties, in increased poverty and hopelessness. I have seen how in the sudden absence of the head of the family who was detained and deported on meaningless charges, the rest of the family languished in desperation, with no love or compassion received from mainstream America, in times of grave needs (ah well, those peace and justice groups were few and far between). I have seen how countless immigrant families finally ended up returning to home countries, heartbroken along with broken dreams of their U.S.-raised children.

I have seen how America, a once-inclusive land of immigrants, overnight turned into a land of non-compassion, non-tolerance, and loathe.

ToleranceI keep asking my simple question to anyone in a position of power. I ask them to make some meaningful changes. I ask them, please tell me, are we as a country different now? Have you learnt any lessons at all from the terrorism and tragedies that changed America forever thirteen years ago? Have you done anything since then — to assure us that God forbid, should another disaster happen, we the ordinary, working men, women and families — non-American or American — going to be, not punished, persecuted and prisoned, but protected and preserved? Have your began any elementary education on diversity, tolerance, and peace?

(And I already know your answer.)

In case another terrorism happens, God forbid, is America going to rise up to the occasion this time around, and reclaim the country of inclusion that it is supposed to be? If not, can you make plans now? Please? We are here to help.

Because this is our country too. We share our common beliefs, goals, and responsibilities.

###

May Day Protestors March For Immigration Reform

I am reporting on the Labor Day Parade in New York City today.

I was there, walking with thousands of union brothers and sisters along Fifth Avenue. It was a wonderful experience.

I am reporting it because corporate media would not report it. 

And I am glad that NY1 did report it — in a positive way. I thank them.

For the other media organizations — TV, radio, newspapers and Internet — I hope you cover it next year. Because, you are being exposed of your deliberate exclusion of real news. You have all the time for the Kardashians and scandals, but no time for the working men, women and families and their real lives and struggles.

Your media spins and lies are exposed — in front of the entire world.

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Truth is BeautyYou could also call it the Art of Labor.

Because that’s what it is. I’m going to briefly remind you on the artistry of the everyday workers. Men, women, and their families.

I could of course definitely talk about the big artworks that we see on the streets and in parks and libraries and museums in big cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco. I could talk about the Key West sculptures. I could talk about some of the legendary artists and painters such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who also worked with progressive labor movements. Or, artists like John Lennon and Yoko Ono — people who sang praises for the ordinary, working men and women. Or, Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie, two champions of labor rights.

Yes, of course, I could talk about them in this blog.

Instead, I’m going to talk about something simple and down to earth. I’m going to talk about the ordinary men, women and their families who are just doing their ordinary work every single day — around us — to make sure we have our lives go smoothly. And yet, doing that ordinary work, they’re doing extraordinary work of art — every single day.

Perhaps we don’t even realize how beautiful their artwork is. We don’t even notice.

Because, they are not sensational. Not pricey. Not sexy. They don’t bring billions in bushels.

Glass blowingBut, have your really ever noticed how the immigrant worker in the back of the fancy restaurant scale their fish? Have you ever took the time to find out how the overworked baker make their bagels or donuts — one at a time? I’m not talking about the mass-produced stuff; I’m talking about the little mom-n-pop stores, where they take care of you and me — as human beings. Have you ever noticed how carefully electrical workers splice their wires and optics, making sure nobody gets hurt? Have you ever followed the ceramic workers, potters or basket makers in action? Have you ever been present when the glass blowers make art out of their red hot flames and burning hot glass? One touch with a split-second of carelessness — and you can lose a few of your fingers instantly, melted away in that molten glass!

Have you ever seen workers working in sewers, or at the sewing machine? I have.

Have you ever gone into the forest to find out how farmers sap maple trees and make high-quality syrup to put on your pan cakes, early in the morning? Have you ever taken the time to see how corns and soybeans and grapes and apples and cauliflowers are planted, grown and harvested? If not, do it. I’d like to invite you to the area between Riverhead and Greenport on the north fork of Long Island, New York. You’ll see for yourself, and the farmers are willing to show you their crafts. Come out any time between June and October.

I could go on and on. 

Often, we overlook and ignore the extraordinary art our “ordinary and lay” working men and women are putting together. We take them, their labor, and their artwork for granted. Worse, the elite of us do not even consider them to be art at all. Because their art is not fancy enough to showcase at the pricey art museum. Their craft is not good enough to be framed — to sell to the affluent bidder or her agent at a Sotheby’s auction at a five-star hotel.

pottery-studio-in-fairfieldYet, not only their unglorified, non-sexy art high art, but they are actually art that is running the mighty global machine on the wheels of biology and economics.

I don’t know about you. But I salute these artists first.

Then, perhaps, if I have time, I’ll remember Picasso or Dali or Lennon or Braque or Brancusi or Beyoncé, or the other billionaires.

I love labor’s art of labor — the best.

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Labor Day 1This is an oped I wrote for various publications. Please feel free to share it.

I fail to understand why we do not see news reporting of Labor Day parades, rallies and marches that happen nationwide. I have always asked myself: why is labor absent in Labor Day coverage?

It is true that organized labor have lost the power they once enjoyed. It is true that a mighty forty percent labor density in the U.S. during four prosperous decades of American middle class has now come down to a paltry eleven percent, only six percent of it being in the private sector. And it is true that unlike FDR’s New Deal administration that championed rights and respect for the working men and women of America, and created massive numbers of U.S. jobs under labor secretary Frances Perkins, even Democratic presidents like Obama and Clinton have not done much to stem the low tide of the labor movement. In fact, they have pushed on the same, anti-labor Reaganomics on one hand, and passed anti-labor laws on the other – to severely damage the bargaining power of unions for equality, fairness, and justice.

Clinton passed NAFTA with more votes from Republicans than his own party’s lawmakers, an act that American workers – both liberal and conservative – remember with an acid taste in their mouth. Then, after eight years of a disastrous Bush era that saw massive tax cuts for the super-wealthy individuals and corporations, capped with a trillion-dollar Wall Street bailout, an Obama government did not do what the ninety-nine percent wanted it do – to empower the powerless. A key, 2008 election issue such as the Employee Free Choice Act slipped out of peoples’ short-lived memory.Project2_Layout 1

Income inequality has skyrocketed in America since Ronald Reagan, resulting in a situation where USA is doing the worst among developed, capitalist countries on social, academic and health issues. Republicans have actively encouraged this obnoxious inequality where today, the one percent elite have forty percent of the country’s wealth and fifty percent of the entire stock and bond market. Democrats have passively complied with the Republican onslaught on the ordinary people. Unemployment is the greatest since the Great Depression; blacks and youth unemployment is over twenty-five percent. The working men and women and their families are languishing, and struggling to make ends meet. The American Dream is essentially non-existent, because the horrible inequality has put a stop on any upward social mobility.

Far right are exploiting on people’s anger. Job outsourcing in China, India and Bangladesh, and domestic replacement of fair-paid U.S. workers with low-paid undocumented immigrant workers have only thrown more fuel to that fire.

Yet, this is precisely the time when a Labor Day celebration must remind us of the countless, important contributions labor unions have made to make this country so great – for its working people. I remember when I was growing up in Calcutta in the sixties and early seventies, I would be awestruck to see pictures of ordinary, middle-class American families and their enviable standard of living. Life or Time magazine brought us photos of glory of American capitalism – a forty-year saga from 1940 to 1980 – when the middle class had full-time jobs, could pay back their home mortgage in one lifetime, and also had free, stress-less time for their families and children. It was also a time when the income inequality was the lowest, taxes were reasonably high on the rich and low on the middle class, and the labor movement indeed enjoyed a forty-percent union strength, with New York, California and Massachusetts having sixty to seventy percent of working men and women in the union, working hard and efficiently negotiating human rights and wages.

Share this. Please.

Share this. Please.

It was also a time when USA also passed a historic Civil Rights Act with an Affirmative Action Act that created social equality, and paved way to elect a black president in America nearly half a century later.

How quickly we forget our own history! And I’ve learned American history fairly recently.

But I learned more. I came to know that Dr. King, one of the most important civil rights leaders, was also a labor leader. I learned that his final speech the day before his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee was to a group of striking, sanitation workers. I came to know that Dr. King fought for income equality along with global peace and social justice. In fact, labor leaders such as him spearheaded precious movements for many decades that gave rise to an eight-hour work day, an overtime pay, weekends, collective bargaining, maternity leave, environmental and safety standards, and pension and other benefits we now take for granted.

Even people who are now blasting organized labor and helping to roll back the basic American human rights and freedom – are enjoying the rights and freedom that labor unions have fought for, and won for them.

This Labor Day, I ask America to remember its glorious history of its working men and women. I demand media and establishment to put labor, and its due rights and respect, back in Labor Day.

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Do-GoodOkay, so, here’s one more of those wise-guy sermons. I mean, look at the title here.

Read it one more time.

“Do Good. Make Money. Be Good.”

So, is there like a stupid catch somewhere? I mean, what’s the catch here?

There is no catch. Honest to God. I’m just telling you about my life’s experience. As I always do. Honestly.

But there is a special way to read it, perhaps. I’ll tell you very quickly what that is.

Ready?

__________

Do Good. You know what it means. Simple sentence. Do good. It means, be successful in life. Deed-wise. Work-wise. Not money-wise. Only because we have a separate section here on money.

What is success? Some diehard humanist may ask.

Well, I can’t define it for you. You decide what your success is. If your success is teaching and graduating five poor, orphan kids each year, that’s your success. If your success is to travel to Mount Kilimanjaro next year, and trek to Lhasa the following year, that’s your success. And so on.

If your success is to learn oil painting basics, or nature photography, that’s up to you. 

And so on.

So, do good.

__________

make_moneyMake Money. Now, this is something that everyone today understands very well. Nobody perhaps wants to know what I mean by it. Right?

Wrong.

I’m actually asking all of us here to make lots of money. Like, money you’ve never seen.

I grew up in a poor family in North Calcutta. This is not really the place to talk about what kind of poverty, starvation and death I’ve seen in my own life. And I’ve already written about it in various places, including this blog. You can look it up.

All I’m saying here is that poverty does not give you anything. Poverty, coupled with hard struggle to come out of it, perhaps gives you a strong character and emotional fiber to keep on the fight. But, that’s really about it.

Only poverty, unlike what some poets, philosophers and politicians have preached to us, does not get your anywhere. If anything, it brings you down more and more, like a big boulder chained to your feet. It stops you from going anywhere.

And if you’re in deep water, this boulder chained to your feet actually makes you sink faster.

Don’t live poor. Or, nobody is going to take you seriously. Most people look up to those who made good.

__________

Be goodBe Good. Now, what does the wise-guy OneFinalBlogger seem to mean here?

Wait. It’s no riddle. Be good is be good. It means, be good. Which means, be a good man. Or a woman.

Which means, in my dictionary, live an honest, dignified, happy life. And be good to OTHERS. Make a good society.

Any more questions?

Actually, I have one — I says.

What is it?

Is it possible to do all three at the same time, in one life, in today’s world? Isn’t it some kind of an oxymoron?

Can you do well in life, AND make lots of money, AND be honest, happy, and dignified to yourself AND your loved ones?

Great question, I says.

__________

Well, precisely, that is my challenge today — to YOU. And to ME. And to the people I know, love, and care about.

Show me that this life is possible.

All my life, I’m going through this fantastic struggle — and the older I get, being convinced that it is possible to do it.

That is my challenge to you today.

And my life’s experience tells me that once you decide to set foot on this path, get this: your life will be so much happier and meaningful.

By setting foot on this path — borrowing Robert Frost “the road not taken” by most others — you shall reach God.

Because this is the path that God has chosen for the few of us.

Try it. In this life.

I’m with you.

Your Friend,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Robert Frost

So what he was a high school graduate? What's the big deal?

So what he was a high school graduate? What’s the big deal? We are all high school graduates.

[Read it twice before you judge. Maybe, thrice. That's three times.]

_____________________

Blacks are really a problem, you know? I mean, just look at them around the world.

Look at small-town Ferguson near St. Louis here in Amrikka. Mighty, mighty Amrikka. The best country in the world.

A black man named Michael Brown was accidentally shot to death by law enforcement officials who were trying to enforce laws. And the whole world fell apart. Well, at least the small town of Ferguson near the big city of St. Louis where I lived for some time fell apart.

Protests, rallies, rowdy demonstrations, candle-light vigils, and then those blacks started throwing bottles, rocks and stuff. I mean, can you believe it? They’re talking nonsense. Like, Trayvon Martin. Like, Rodney King. Like, Amadou Diallo.

I mean, what does Ferguson have to do with L.A., New York, or Florida? They are far apart!

Didn’t Ferguson law enforcement tell us they didn’t mean to do it, and that they were sorry it happened? I mean, let us just give them a break. They’re only trying to do their job. Sure, the family of this Michael Brown kid suffered. So, give them some money to compensate for their loss, and let’s move on.

Enough is enough!

Let the world move on. Already for this one small lapse and curfew and all, the small town of Ferguson near the big city of St. Louis where I lived for some time suffered big loss in business and city revenues. Now, even the federal government with its justice department and this Eric Holder guy (who is also black) and even the black president Obama (who never speaks up) spoke up. 

We all know what’s happening. It’s ganging up of those blacks across the country, and nothing else.

I am so sad the way America God’s chosen country in the world is falling apart.

I am heartbroken.

__________

Why spend so much to save those who are not to be saved? It's God's wish, don't we all know?

Why spend so much to save those who are not to be saved? It’s God’s wish, don’t we all know?

And then, this Ebola thing.

Again, just look at the mess these Blacks created. Some God-forsaken country in Africa Nigeria, Liberia or Damneria got this horrible disease — and I hear it’s even deadlier than AIDS or cancer I don’t know which one is badder like you vomit blood to death or something — and then Amrikka the best country in the world must get involved? I mean, like, why??

Don’t we have enough problems of our own? Why us? If they can’t fix their own mess, then why create it?

And, most of all, don’t we all understand it’s nothing but God’s final curse? Isn’t this sure indication that the world is coming to an end, only for Dear God to send His Son to destroy it all and save the sinners like us?

I mean, it’s all too clear to me. Ain’t it to you? The Second Coming is coming. And that’s the first thing we need to understand.

I mean, look around. Did you ever see any bad germs happening out of God’s chosen countries? Like, Amrikka, Israel, or Germany or U.K.? No! Cancer, AIDS, Ebola, Sfeebola — all from Africa. Get the facts straight!

Even look at this. St. Louis virus they tried to name it. It was a conspiracy against our country. Now we all know it’s East Nile virus. East Nile. Where is East Nile? It’s in Africa, Goddamnit!

__________

Blacks have always been a problem. We always had to deal with it. We live in Amerikka. We know. 

Even ask Indians. Like, India Indians where I came from. They all know blacks are big problem. 

Don’t fool us. And don’t pull our precious resources off to help those who don’t want to be helped. Like, Ferguson. Don’t spend an unnecessary amount of money. We know how to deal with such big mess. And it’s not Gandhi that can do it. We need guns. And we need the military. We need our own citizens, just the same way they’re guarding the borders to fight back against those Mexican invaders. Those illegal aliens who are about to take over this chosen country.

And we definitely don’t need no black man in the White House no more. Although, this Obama guy has mellowed down. He don’t talk nonsense no more. He finally got it.

But, still…

###

Look at them. They have no respect for law. You judge. I'm speechless to see the vulgarity.

Look at them. They have no respect for the law. You judge. I’m speechless to see the vulgarity.

GodotThis is a special anniversary.

Half of my life I spent in India. And then, half more I spent in the U.S. Today is that special anniversary.

August 16.

Now, what is half life? And what does it have to do today, whatever anniversary I may have? — Some might ask.

Scientific definition is half life is the time taken for the radioactivity of a chemical element to fall to half its original value. The second definition is half life is the time required for any property to decrease by half.

The day I left India was the day when my life was cut in half. Today, after being in America for the second half of my life, I still feel like fate cut my life in half. Life was cut in two pieces — never to be meant to fuse together — ever again.

Now, some friends keep reminding me that I lament the loss too much. They say that I blow it out of proportion. Some even call me a hypocrite: they say I complain too much about India and her problems while sitting cushy in the “best country in the world.” And my intellectual achievements, and my earned respect as an activist and a teacher and a writer. Whatever little I’ve done in one life, starting humble, and starting from scratch. What’s the use of talking about the loss all the time? — They say. They advise me that if I felt so strongly about India, then I should return and live there. Otherwise, they say, I have no right to talk about India’s problems — however horrendous and prehistoric they are. 

Of course, some of my American friends say exactly the same thing, but only in a different, subtle way. They ask me why I complain about America’s problems when compared to India, it’s a much more luxurious situation for me? They say, can’t you find anything positive about USA? Do you only have to talk about America’s wars and income disparity and media lies and myriad of hidden secrets, and write about them in Indian publications and on your measly blog? They say, I mean, if you’re so unhappy to be in America, go back. They even say, “please.”

So, thus goes my half life — half here, and half there. Tormented. Splintered. Just like an eccentric chemical element absolutely erratic on its orbit. In simple English, like a crazy man.

Poet Tagore wrote: “This bank of river sighs: the other side are all the highs.” My Indian and American friends keep reminding me that my lament about my half life is nothing more than this stupid frustration. They remind me that there are always some people who can’t be happy anywhere: they are lifelong complainers. Basically, they say, they are losers.

So goes my half life: half here, and half there — complaining, and losing. According to popular definition, that is.

MarieCurieI sometimes felt that I have had some radioactive property in me. Radioactivity in my mind that illuminates and charges. Radioactivity that can create a lot of energy — to do a lot of incredibly charged things in life. But I also sometimes felt that I never found that Marie Curie who would take the time to research on me, explore the possibilities, and finally harness the energy into real-life action. So that I could feel happy in this life, even when cut in two halves.

I have waited for Madam Curie to take charge of my life. I have waited for Godot to show.

But that did not happen. Godot didn’t show.

Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, I lost my half full life. A full half life — on two sides of the globe.

That radium that was supposed to glow — never came to glow.

Lamenting, reminiscing, expressing — in all sincerest honesty,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Jumanji three

Robin Williams killed himself today. He was suffering from depression.

But why was he so depressed that he had no choice but to take his own life? Wasn’t he supposed to laugh his sadness away? Wasn’t he supposed to laugh our sadness away?

Was Robin Williams depressed because he could not cope with Hollywood’s lies, exploitation and profiteering? Was he so sad because he did not see a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel?

In spite of being a Hollywood celebrity, he put up some serious resistance. In Jumanji, he talked about Mother Nature and how the so-called civilized man destroyed it. Melodrama, yes. Typical Hollywood or Disney-style sensationalism, yes. Make-believe, fake, sentimental, yes too. Still, young boys and girls perhaps got an underlying message that if you keep destroying nature for urbanization and profiteering, nature will one day come to get you. And you’ll have no place to hide. You can run, but you can’t hide.

And his super-rich businessman dad who shows up later as a crazy, NRA-type maniac with an assault rifle ready to kill anyone in front of him? No underlying message there? Are you kidding me?

Jumanji two

Of course, it was not the only movie where Robin Williams talked about violence, and against violence. He did it in Good Morning, Vietnam. He did it big time to voice a strong opposition of America’s mindless, global terror unleashed on poor, ordinary people in a faraway land. So, it was just a movie, and he only acted in it? Sure! But wasn’t that a loud and clear message against global warfare, and one conscientious military man’s resistance against it? Wasn’t his satire something we all thought was hitting the bull’s eye? One by one by one?

Looking back, did Good Morning, Vietnam and his role as a radio DJ cum journalist remind you of Bradley Manning, or Edward Snowden? Perhaps, just a little?

I don’t know about you. I always thought that Robin Williams was sometimes too loud, and too extravagant. His comic gestures sometimes ticked me off. I thought they were sometimes too blunt. Yet, looking back, through his meaty, American laughs, he hit home runs every time. In his Good Morning, Vietnam, he made us realize how brutal and full-of-lies USA’s global game of war and violence was. His radio DJ was defeated, and the people in power returned him to America, because they couldn’t take his strong, protean jokes anymore. But even in his defeat, he won. His acting won the hearts and minds of millions of people worldwide who got a chance to see through the smokescreen the military establishment and their politicians create for us.

I have not seen all his films. I also know I won’t have time to talk about all his movies I actually saw, such as Mrs. Doubtfire, the man dressed as a woman to nannie his own divorce-separated kids. Or, Patch Adams where he was the cancer doctor in children’s ward. I’m sure I’m forgetting some more.

5.0.2But I shall definitely remember Dead Poets Society, a 1989 movie where he acted as an English teacher at an aristocratic, conservative high school. It was the first Robin Williams movie I saw after coming to USA from India. I was completely blown away by the powerful story and his incredible performance as John Keating. His totally unorthodox teaching style shocked the school’s administration, and was absolutely admired by his students. He taught them not just poetry, subject nobody had paid any attention to before he came, but humanistic values. He taught them the purpose of life. He showed them that a global life outside of the straitjacket education system was indeed possible. He showed them how to breathe in open air, without any inhibition.

I have always believed in non-traditional, non-colonial teaching, and all my life I’ve tried to put my philosophy to practice. My first years in America were dark and depressing. I felt like I was suddenly given a lifelong exile in an Alcatraz-type prison, and could never escape from it. Suddenly, I found Robin Williams and Dead Poets Society, and I believed that even in America, there is a different side of America.

In Dead Poets Society, Keating’s student Neil committed suicide, and the school administration asked Keating to leave. He leaves for good, but gets a standing ovation from the students he had mentored to be different human beings.

I find Robin Williams’ own sudden end to be like a real-life replay of the movie.

He commits suicide. But he doesn’t die. He and his one-of-a-kind fun persona live on.

Sad, shocked, and in heartfelt tribute to this great artist,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Good Morning Vietnam