Solitude. Green. Peace.

Solitude. Green. Peace.

We just came back from a short vacation in Vermont. 

For those who don’t know, Vermont is a small, New England state in the Northeastern corner of the U.S. I don’t know how Vermont ranks among the fifty U.S. states on education, environment, health, employment, and other such important matters of life. But based on what I saw, I’m sure it is one of the best places to live in America.

Especially if you love nature. Mother Nature has created a paradise for the men, women and children of Vermont to live in.

For those of us who always lived in big cities such as New York, London, Delhi, Bombay or Calcutta, we perhaps do not understand how important it is to preserve our nature and environment, and how preserving our nature and environment is automatically linked to a long, healthy life. We, big city dwellers, have lost our connection with Mother Earth. We do not know how to breathe pure, uncontaminated air. We do not know how to walk in complete safety without the constant fear of being hit by a car. We have forgotten what solitude and quiet is.

Vermont reminded us of these forgotten, essential elements of human life that we have now taken for granted and therefore misused and abused.

Sustainable Farming. Revolt against Monsanto and GMO.

Sustainable Farming. Revolt against Monsanto and GMO.

During our four days of stay in that little paradise state that also takes pride in its most progressive, pro-equality laws, we visited two small farmers, and met the farmers. We were surprised to see the level of knowledge they had on issues such as climate change and global warming, neoliberal economics and rampant use of GMO through multinational corporations such as Monsanto, harmful foods and drinks mass-manufactured and commercialized through McDonald’s, Coke or KFC, and what an ordinary global citizen like us can do to prevent these disasters through our own change of lifestyle and food habits.

The farmers showed us how they are putting sustainable and organic farming into practice. And that they are doing okay economically.

I looked at these farmers. Hard work, disciplined life, and healthy, environmentally sound food have stopped the aging process on their bodies. A seventy-year-old farmer wife and her seventy-five-year-old farmer husband looked simply fifty or fifty-five. Happy, smiling faces — totally with Mother Nature and her peace.

Vermont can bring the poet out of your reluctant, resistant self. Being with trees and their tranquility can bring the lost humanity back in you.

Peacefully Reporting,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Soft. Quiet. Green. It's Raindrops and Poetry.

Soft. Quiet. Green. It’s Raindrops and Poetry.

It could be my child. The father mourning here could be me. (Photo courtesy NYT)

It could be my child. The father mourning here could be me. (Photo courtesy NYT)

Yesterday, July 25, New York Times published a report on Israel’s merciless bombing of Gaza schools and shelters, and printed a few photos of Palestinian children killed and their parents mourning. Thousands of readers expressed their anger, and it was the first time I have seen such outrage against Netanyahu’s genocide — outrage from NYT readers, who are normally pro-Israel.

It shows that in spite of U.S. media’s bias, distortion and cover-up of the barbarism happening on the ground, where hundreds of innocent children, women and men were killed, dismembered, and permanently crippled — horror that CNN, Times, Washington Post and their nationwide followers are not exposing as is, and we are not even talking about far right-wing media such as Fox or Rush Limbaugh and Tea Party airwaves, the ordinary Americans are finally getting it.

Like I said before, I do not support violence of any kind: Israel, U.S., Hamas or Taliban. I have made myself very clear on this. But this grotesque Israeli barbarism is beyond belief!

I’m quoting a few readers’ comments from New York Times: for you to judge.

Note that ALL the top “likes” or “recommends” on the reader comments denounced and condemned Israel. In my opinion, that is the most important observation.

_______

Bottom pit of human civilization. Thanks, USA. (Photo courtesy NYT).

Bottom pit of human civilization. Thanks, USA. (Photo courtesy NYT).

Reader Comment #1.

MM
Danville, CA

Enough Israel, enough. As a father of 2 small kids, seeing these pictures is beyond heartbreaking. This is not going to win you any hearts or minds. You are fast losing the respect of the entire international community whatever is left of it. Yes you have a right to self defense but your actions are leading to indiscriminate killing and maiming of 100’s of innocent children – and that is beyond the pale. You simply cannot claim a moral high ground now. What have you unleashed? Do you have any sense of humanity left? And please do not equate your actions to the thuggishness of Hamas and their tunnels and rockets that have caused far, far less damage than the lasting damage you are causing to an entire population of innocent children. Please, at least for the sake of children stop this madness and figure out a way to more effective self defense.

1153Recommend

_______

Reader Comment #2.

viola

boston

How much blood on Netanyahu’s hands is necessary before he feels that it is enough!? How many children must die before he is satisfied? Yes Hamas has brought it on to themselves but enough is enough! What Israel is accomplishing now is to create the next generation of terrorists fueled by the hatred that he is creating anew. This will solve nothing. It only proves that Israel has more weapons and is willing to use them. More tunnels will be built. An ultimately impotent strategy

700Recommend

_______

Reader Comment #3.

amaBern

Brooklyn, NY

It pains me to say this, but I’m grateful my father, grandparents, great-grandparents and other relatives – Jews who fought tirelessly for social justice, peace and helping those less fortunate than themselves – are not alive to see this. I feel ashamed.

681Recommend

_______

Reader Comment #4.

Midwest Guy

Milwaukee, WI 21 hours ago

I think it’s time for war crimes to be charged against Israel.

641Recommend

_______

Reader Comment #5.

David

Colorado

It’s time for America to end our blind support for Israel.
It’s time for America to end the billions in U.S. aid to Israel.

499Recommend

_______

NYT and CNN never quote him. And he is one of the most important intellectuals of all time. I'm happy to have known him.

NYT and CNN never quote him. And he is one of the most important intellectuals of all time. I’m happy to have known him.

Reader Comment #6.

brooklynforchange

New York City 21 hours ago

This is absolutely horrific, and I have no words to express my feelings.

However hard pro-Israeli voices and organizations and corporations want to justify the genocide under Netanyahu and his brutality government, it’s absolutely clear to the rest of the world that they’re committing war crimes.

If only the U.S. and its two-party, jingoist plutocracy and Koch Brothers and Heritage Foundation and Tea Party understood it. But they won’t. Obama and Kerry and the Clintons and Bush’s are equally responsible for this prolonged, never-ending brutality on poor, displaced and powerless people — for generations.

Helene Cooper and Somini Sengupta in their story entitled “As Much of the World Frowns on Israel, Americans Hold Out Support,” (July 23) showed us the real reason behind the misperception: media slants, distortions and plain lies. That is precisely why Americans do not know the extent of this genocide.

The photos that New York Times is publishing today is only a small, superficial fragment of what is truly happening on the ground. Without going into the gory details, if, only if Americans and NYT readers knew how children’s bodies are being severed into pieces by Israeli shells and guns and bombs, this perception would rapidly change.

I condemn Israel’s genocide. I also condemn Hamas’ politics of violence. I do not support any violence of any kind.

But what Netanyahu and his government have been doing deserves a war crimes tribunal — the Nuremberg way.

364Recommend

_______________________

She could be my daughter. He could be me. (Photo courtesy NYT).

She could be my daughter. He could be me. (Photo courtesy NYT).

NOTICEABLY, a lot of readers thought Israel was committing war crimes, and that the state and its people forgot what they had went through under Hitler.

Any comments?

Sincerely,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

     

      Now, who taped it? Get him! Now!!

      Now, who taped it? Get him! Now!!

      A school principal and his associate in Kakinada district in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh mercilessly beat three blind students — as if they were going to kill them. And someone videotaped it.

      And then media got the video, and aired it on TV just a few days later. Then, angry parents raided the school, and beat up the perpetrators. I’m posting the Telugu-language news video. Watch it. Hear the helpless screams of those young, blind children as their teachers cane them — ten, fifteen, twenty times. If you feel uncomfortable and helpless and angry, it’s your problem.

      I do not support the angry parents’ beating up of the principal. But I support their anger.

      I especially feel the pain of those kids. I know what horror they went through. Because I was there.

      I have many reasons to be ashamed of India. I have many reasons to be proud of India too. But right now, I’d like to focus on the reasons I’m ashamed of the country I have so much love for. You find the statement strange? Okay, that’s your problem too.

      Merciless beating of school children, by their teachers inside the classroom, is one reason I’m ashamed of India. Because, I was there. I went through it. India has not changed in half a century. Those malls and money machines and MTV are meaningless. India has not changed.

      Then of course, gang raping, killing and hanging of young girls would be another recent reason for me to be ashamed of India. A film star politician’s open vitriol threatening rape of girls from opposition families is another reason. A country of one billion people run by corrupt politicians and their musclemen, mafia and crooks is another reason I am ashamed of my motherland.

      There are many other reasons.

      Here is the video. Watch it. Feel the way the principal’s cane hits the soft, young skin of those kids in the classroom. Hear their begging for mercy. See how they wrap around the teacher’s legs asking for forgiveness. See how the two child molesters use their supreme power to punish their powerless, vulnerable subjects.

      And these students are blind. Not that it would matter.

      Feel uncomfortable. Feel angry. And then, perhaps, do something about it.

      Shame my shameless, cruel, uncivilized India.

      Partha

      Brooklyn, New York

      ###

      The criminals were arrested (almost never happens). But they will be free soon. Watch my word!

      The criminals were arrested (almost never happens). But they will be free soon. Watch my word!

      Courtesy: EaglesofBrassTacksBlogspot dot com.

      Courtesy: EaglesofBrassTacksBlogspot dot com.

      Israel is killing innocent children. Hamas is killing innocent civilians.

      I do not understand their politics very well. But I understand that they are both killing many, many innocent children, women and men. These children could be your children. These women could be our sisters. Those young men could be my brothers.

      I am sick to the stomach. I want to throw up. I want to scream. I want to cry.

      I want to pray to God that if you really exist (and I have every reason to believe you don’t), save these poor children. Save them. Save them. Save them.

      Israel and Hamas are two of today’s biggest mass murderers, and they should both be punished for their crimes — in front of a global court. They are criminals of the worst kind.

      Gaza, Palestine, today. Photo courtesy New York Times.

      Gaza, Palestine, today. Photo courtesy New York Times.

      U.S. of course will keep supporting Israel, and that has been our lifelong experience. U.S. media will keep supporting this horrible bloodshed too, and spin the news blatantly.

      To them, it’s war. To us, it’s genocide.

      When an army and a nation support killing innocent children (of any race or religion), that signifies they have reached the bottom pit of human civilization.

      Israel and U.S. have reached the bottom pit of human civilization. Hamas and their supporters — whoever they are — have reached the bottom pit of human civilization.

      It could be your home. It could be my home. Photo courtesy New York Times.

      It could be your home. It could be my home. Photo courtesy New York Times.

      I have always doubted in the existence of a Savior God. I have every reason to believe that God who is supposed to save the innocent simply do not exist.

      Who will save the mankind from this gruesome violence? Who will save our children from this terror?

      I do not understand their politics. And I don’t care if it’s Israel, Hamas, Palestine, Iran, U.S., China, Russia, India, or Pakistan. Whoever is responsible for this terror, this new barbarism, must be held accountable for their crimes, and punished — in front a global court of justice.

      I am sick and tired of this horrible bloodshed.

      Partha

      Brooklyn, New York

      ###

      Innocent people are not terrorists. They are innocent people. Photo courtesy New York Times.

      Innocent people are not terrorists. They are innocent people. Photo courtesy New York Times.

       

      Bravo! And I mean it, Madam. Thank you.

      Bravo! And I mean it, Madam. Thank you.

      I just learned that just like I decided not to watch the World Cup football (aka soccer) games, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, president of Argentina, also decided not to watch the recent biggest hype in the world. 

      Associated Press and some other dubious news sources that only cater and promote Wall Street and the 1 percent and their pimps, report:

      “When Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentine World Cup team got home from Brazil, likely dejected after their loss, their president dealt them another cruel blow.

      “As you know, I’m no soccer fan,” said President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, while standing next to Messi and Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella.“I didn’t see a single match, not even the one yesterday (on Sunday) [boldface theirs]. Even so, I called Alejandro (Sabella) because for me, and for 40 million Argentinians, they had won the match.”

      Brutal.”

      That was according to Yahoo Finance News. But here, watch this Spanish language video of the news. It clearly shows that the Argentinian president warmly receives each of the returning players, even though she did not give any special treatment to Lionel Messi, whom FIFA made the best player of the tournament, a decision rebel football genius Diego Maradona blasted as commercially motivated. Maradona thought it was a marketing stunt.

      He has a point. Both Messi and the Golden Ball award are promoted by sports corporation Adidas.

      Yahoo Finance News and such dubious news sources: Don't scandalize her.

      Yahoo Finance News and such dubious news sources: Don’t scandalize her.

      I was delighted to know that President Cristina had the guts not to comply with the global dictates of FIFA and the 1 percent, and stood tall. She did not believe the World Cup event was a must-watch, unlike what FIFA and the 1 percent (including ESPN and its owner Disney) wanted us to believe.

      Of course, FIFA and the 1 percent (including ESPN and its owner Disney) would be shocked and dismayed that the president of the runner-up country defied their dictates.

      And that’s exactly what makes me so happy.

      Bravo, President Cristina.

      Brazil flopped. Their hype and lies were exposed. Even a few of the ESPN and New York Times experts occasionally had to mention how Brazil, a poor nation, spent 12 billion (that is, 12 thousand million) dollars (not Brazilian dollars: U.S. dollars) to make the World Cup hype possible, funneling money away from food, health care, education, transportation and such essential items that Brazil did not have money for.

      And they also had to sporadically mention how Brazil’s government, 1 percent and police and military rounded up their protesters and killed and jailed countless.

      At the end of the day, New York Times and such big, powerful media may find the World Cup a success. But I do not. Do you?

      If you do consider it a success, please answer this simple question:

      How many of Brazil (or Argentina’s) 99 percent made money out of the event?

      And how many of Brazil (or Argentina’s) 1 percent did?

      Thank you for thinking. Oh, you already thought once today?

      Well, think again.

      Partha

      Brooklyn, New York

      P.S. — Confession. I did watch the final game between Argentina and Germany. You and President Cristina must know.

      One more time, the real story before we forget all about it -- for at least four more years.

      One more time, the real story before we forget all about it — for at least four more years. Cartoon by Paolo Ito that went viral across the globe. It made at least some people think.

      crying-brazil-fan-1For the first time in my life, I feel happy that Brazil lost in World Cup football (aka soccer), and that too, in such a humiliating way.

      Yesterday, they lost to Germany 7-1, in their worst football performance ever. And I was not even shocked to see them going down this way.

      I’m happy for various reasons.

      The first and foremost reason is, all their lies were nakedly exposed yesterday. Lies that Brazil still were the best football team in the world. They were not. Their glory days were long gone. I remember how growing up in Calcutta, I was a big fan of Brazil and Pelé and Sócrates and Zico and Carlos Alberto and in their not-so-glory days, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, or even the much-hyped Ronaldinho and Kaká. I was glued to their artistry and antics. Pelé and Carlos Alberto even played in Calcutta once. Oh, what a thrill it was to see them!

      Their magic football was long gone. They lived on their legacy and hype. And global corporations and FIFA, the global corporate body of football that ruthlessly runs the trillion-dollar empire, only cashed in big profit by using and exploiting that hype.

      In this World Cup, which I’m boycotting happily to show my strong protest against the lies and exploitation, Brazil could not even come to this point had it not been unethical (and some say, bribed) refereeing. Colombia, Chile or Mexico could defeat them weeks ago. Brazil used violent football and unscrupulous officials to win their quarter-final match against Colombia.

      Brazil supporterDon’t get me wrong. I feel sorry for the young Brazilian supporters, and especially those kids who cried helplessly after Brazil’s thrashing, historic defeat to Germany yesterday. But the way they put together this World Cup, with the massive and violent displacement of poor people in the name of development and building those stadiums — funneling billions of dollars that they did not spend on their most urgent needs such as employment, health care, education and transportation — was horrible. FIFA did not care. The global corporations that went in there to make big profit didn’t care either.

      And the new Brazilian government and big politicians worked closely with the global 1 percent, to stay in power, and make more profit. Lula’s Porto Alegre and his participatory, democratic budget days were long gone too! Now, even the crying kid has Coke in his hand, while crying!! And McDonald’s are big sponsors.

      So sad. The entire World Cup of 2014 was done in a scandalous way.

      I would be very happy if Argentina loses too. Not because of Argentina’s ordinary supporters and kids. But because of Argentina’s 1 percent — working in collusion with the global 1 percent. They are cheating their own people exactly the Brazil way.

      Footnote: The entire saga of lies, exploitation, profiteering and purposefully misplaced priorities has stark similarities to India and its cricket. Or Pakistan’s. Replace Brazil and Argentina with India and Pakistan, and the word football (aka soccer) with cricket. You’ll get the same story, told all over again.

      Pele Brazil gloryLamenting the loss of the poetry and magic that was Brazil’s football, and feeling truly sorry for the young Brazilian kids who got badly hurt,

      Partha

      Brooklyn, New York

      ###

      Watch the video, and share it. Please. This is important.

      Watch the video, and share it. Please. This is important.

      India, my motherland, has a lot of criminal politicians. That is not news.

      For example, a quick Google search under “India criminal politicians” would immediate show a Wikipedia site with names of Indian politicians convicted of crimes. Some of these are big-name politicians, such as Lalu Prasad Yadav. A click on his name would show that he was the chief minister of the Hindi-speaking state of Bihar, and was a major power-broker in national politics, and also a powerful railway minister of India. But on October 3 of 2013, he was given a court sentence of five years of rigorous imprisonment and 25 lakh (US$42,000) fine for his role in the Fodder Scam. He was a member of a so-called low caste, and played caste politics big time.

      Lalu Prasad is one of the rare, big-name Indian politicians that actually was punished for a handful of his many crimes, and served a jail sentence for some time. Some argued that had he not been low caste, his fate would not have sunk low so quickly. But he is now out of prison, and back into politics. Chances are, in five or ten years, he will rise again. Nobody knows.

      You can do your own Google search under various key words. I’d let you do it, instead of taking my word for it.

      Here I’m going to talk about a new variety of Indian politicians that came from the movie world. In India, traditionally, the southern state of Tamil Nadu with its regional, Tamil-language and region-based parties elected noted film stars as members of the national parliament. When I grew up in the sixties and seventies, I always heard the name of M. G. Ramachandran of the DMK party, who became the chief minister of the state and bemused us with his always-sunglass-covered eyes and strange, confusing political statements. Then, we heard the name of N. T. Rama Rao of Telugu-speaking Andhra Pradesh, who also came from the movie world, and became the chief minister of the southern state, and also made many idiosyncratic statements, border-lining stupidity. We, the politically savvy Bengalis from Calcutta always wondered why in the world did the people elect them to be the architects of their destiny?

      But Bengal, and most of India, was free of such apparent nonsense.

      Not anymore.

      He was caught on camera threatening to rape and kill. Now, police is searching for those who taped his speeches and turned it over to the media.

      He was caught on camera threatening to rape and kill. Now, police is searching for those who taped his speeches and turned it over to the media.

      Recently, in the May parliamentary elections, West Bengal for the first time elected a whole bunch of movie stars — to represent at least one million people from each of their constituencies. Most of these electoral constituencies are rural, and therefore, a very high number of the people who elected them are extremely poor. And illiterate too. At least, it was obvious the way they voted for these out-of-touch, elite, filthy rich film stars as their leaders clearly show they didn’t have any political knowledge or awareness about the lack of political knowledge and awareness of these celebrity candidates.

      These film stars included Tapas Pal, Shatabdi Ray, Moonmoon Sen, Sandhya Ray, and Dev. The last three were never involved in politics, but chose to run because Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, asked them to run. During the election campaign, they made stupid statements, showed their extreme ignorance and apathy about the Indian people and politics, and did not come out in the fierce May heat when Bengal’s temperature shot up to 100-105 F. They only campaigned out of their air-conditioned cars, and later in the evenings. Then, they retreated back to their makeshift A/C lodges.

      Tapas Pal and Shatabdi Ray ran for the second time. During the first five years of their tenure, those one-million-plus poor people who had elected them practically never got to see them. They returned for a second time, made many stupid comments during their campaigns, and more.

      They all won landslide elections.

      But Tapas Pal did much more.

      Recently, phone-recorded videos surfaced that Mr. Pal, once a soft-spoken, mild-mannered hero, screamed at various villages and small towns of his Krishna Nagar constituency, asking his supporters to take violent revenge against workers of the opposition party. He was caught on camera challenging his supporters to go out and kill opposition workers. Then, he was also caught saying that he himself carried a gun, and was himself capable of killing.

      Finally, he was caught on camera screaming that he was now asking his party workers to go into the villages and homes of opposition parties, and rape their women.

      Here is one of the few video tapes that surfaced. This is also subtitled by media that aired it.

      Even by the Indian standard, where some politicians are convicted of major crimes and many others commit major crimes but are never convicted, this one created a new low.

      But guess what? Neither the West Bengal administration, nor his own ruling party with its firebrand, woman chief minister Mamata Banerjee, did anything to punish him for his criminal remarks. They asked for his written apology, accepted it, and said that would be the end of the matter.

      No criminal prosecution, or even an attempt to do it, for his absolutely criminal activities.

      But, under the administration’s instructions, West Bengal police are now frantically searching for those who taped his speeches and handed the tapes over to the media.

      This is today’s India. Worse, this is today’s West Bengal — my country, my state.

      Once I felt proud to be from there.

      Footnote: After some of his vitriolic speeches, his party workers actually went into villages, and killed workers and family members of the opposition party. I do not support the opposition party either, but that’s beyond the point here.

      You decide how you want to read about this latest development, and what to do about it.

      With a numb mind, a numb brain, and a numb heart,

      Partha

      Brooklyn, New York

      ###

      The original vitriol: in [my] Bengali language :-(

      The original vitriol: in [my] Bengali language :-(

       

      It was almost like it.

      It was almost like it.

      How many friends have I made here in America?

      In nearly thirty years, at least thirty thousand?

      :-)

      Well, maybe, not so many. At least, I didn’t count. But many, many, many, many, many. That’s for sure.

      American friends. Indian friends. Bengali friends. Chinese friends. Mexican friends. British friends. Brazilian friends. Korean friends.

      We can easily start with an A as far as their names, countries or languages…and end with a Z.

      That’s definitely one of the big blessings God blessed us with in this one otherwise ordinary life: to be able to know and make friends with people whom I would otherwise not be able to know and make friends with in this one otherwise ordinary life.

      _____________

      I’ve always had this strong desire and knack to make new friends. Some of my school and college friends still remind me of that. I remember I would cut my own science classes to sit in some humanities and commerce classes, just because I wanted to spend time with some friends who were not like us: “elite” science students in an “elite” school in Calcutta.

      The word “elite,” of course, is emphasized. To show you the elitism we had back in those days. Fake elitism with no substance.

      Anyways.

      _____________

      I could talk about new friends I made here in America, and literally, start mentioning their names alphabetically. Like, Ashis from India. Ahrar, aka Bablu from Bangladesh. Chad from China. David (one of the many Davids) from USA. Esther from Mexico. Fran. Gordon. Hyun-Ae from Korea. Iffat — at least two of them. And so on. These are all real-world friends, and not Facebook faces.

      It’s impossible to mention them all in one blog. It would take us many articles to remember them, especially I want to tell you why I remember them in the first place. Their attributes. Their specialities. Their special smiles. A special event with them. Etc.

      So, I’m only going to mention two special Bengali friends here. One of them is a simple man from Jashore, Bangladesh who had a small book and music store in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. When I left science, and went back to school to do a humanities degree at the age of forty, and lived in New York City all alone leaving my family behind for quite some time, Shahid’s small, basement bookstore was a refuge. A group of Bengali friends — Muslim, Hindu, Christian and atheist — would flock around in the evening, have some tea and fritters and stuff, and chitchat for a couple of hours. This chitchat has a very special and fond Bengali name. We call it adda. Shahid’s bookstore was an adda oasis for us, away from home.

      He was not particularly a business-minded person. He took care of his friends more specially than he took care of his customers. Not that he was not mindful of his customers. But he never had the desire to make his business flourish. He was not a believer of the typical, business-world rat race. Soon after, it folded, and so did our priceless, cherished adda.

      Where New York immigrants speak two hundred tongues.

      Where New York immigrants speak two hundred tongues.

      The person who first took me over to his bookstore chat room — way before Facebook chats and Google hangouts and Skype meetings came about — was Salam Sarwar, whom I’ve mentioned in a blog a few weeks ago. Brother Salam, in Bengali whom I call Salam da (da is short for dada or elder brother), has always been less of a tax consultant and public accountant than a head-to-toe, complete Bengali progressive liberal, with enormous, normal desire and knack for Bengali poetry, music, movies, and of course, adda. One day, in his Brooklyn office, while having a conversation, he picked up the telephone and introduced me to Shahid. Before you know it, both Salam da and I ended up in Shahid’s bookstore chat room, and that was the beginning of a long friendship with the simple man from Jashore, Bangladesh who was a sports journalist and political activist who almost lost his life during the 1971, violent and historic Bangladesh liberation war. Later, for a short time, Shahid bookstore Ananya (Bengali: incomparable) with an impeccable reputation of honesty moved up to second floor of the building.

      I came to know of Shahid’s close friends too. Anis, Abedin, et al. One thing was common for all of them. They all were highly educated and smart, and kept in touch with world political affairs. And they knew them in-depth. A journalism student at a very prestigious journalism school here in New York, I would often be awed to see their level of knowledge and analysis.

      I remember I invited them to hear Noam Chomsky at our journalism school when a few friends and I had organized his talk in April of 2000. They all came.

      __________

      Today, after a hiatus of at least five years, I ran into Shahid at Salamda’s Brooklyn office. As if the story circle was meant to complete this way.

      We said hello to each other.

      And a lot of precious memories rushed in.

      Just thought of sharing with you,

      Partha

      Brooklyn, New York

      ###

      Jackson Heights, Queens.

      Jackson Heights, Queens.

       

      Am I making them afraid?

      Am I making them afraid?

      I sometimes see fear on the faces of my students. Or, is it just something I imagine?

      Faces of my labor union students. Their spouses: mostly wives. Or, girlfriends. Partners.

      Is it just imagination? Am I thinking of something that is not true?

      I do hope it is not true.

      It could be plain imagination. Because, nobody shows anything but brotherhood, respect and courtesy. I’ve been teaching my interactive, critical thinking workshop to my union worker students for so long that not only my face is familiar to them, but it is familiar to their wives and girlfriends and partners. I see them once or twice every year out on Long Island where the labor union I work for has built a beautiful educational center and retreat — out of a rundown, roach-infested motel, and they all come up to me and say hello. The junior workers and their spouses and even children who know me say hello. The senior workers. Supervisors. Retirees. The black workers, the white workers, Latinos and Hispanics, and the brown and yellow workers, the Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu and religion-indifferent workers all say warm words to me. They crack jokes. They do firm, strong handshakes. I have never heard anything other than positive things from them.

      Yet, I see fear, apprehension, anxiety, stress and doubts on their faces, mainly because I teach them how to think critically, and that makes them nervous. They think I’m challenging them too much to make their “stable” lives “unstable.”

      Or, is it that I only imagine it all? Who knows?

      I teach global economics, the role and place of organized labor in this economy now completely taken over by the 1%, role of corporate media to drive the democracy away from the us the 99% by their slants, misinformation and half truths.

      I teach the history of labor movements — past, present and future — happening all across the world. I talk about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Chelsea, New York City that killed young, immigrant American sweatshop girls one hundred years ago. I talk about the 2013 Rana Plaza catastrophe in Dhaka, Bangladesh that killed 1200 poor, young women and men on a fateful, April day. I talk about the historic number of farmer suicides in India because of Monsanto and their GMO push. I connect the dots.

      I teach the history of the 1930’s stock market crash followed by the Great Depression in USA, and connect the dots with what happened back in 2007-2008 when the big banks and financial institutions destroyed the U.S. economy, and walked away with trillions of dollars in bailout money — our money.

      I teach with total calm. I do not show anger.

      I teach with total calm. I do not show anger.

      I tell them how Iceland also went through a similar episode, but then completely turned around their economy, and took constitutional and administrative measures so that type of disaster does not happen again. I tell them how U.S. and its two big parties decided not to do it. I tell them how the Koch Brothers, Heritage Foundation and Tea Party kept fooling the American people. I tell them how both the Republican and Democratic Party have cheated them. I show them, with objective information and analysis how income inequality has made the so-called “American Dream” impossible.

      Do I make my students afraid by asking them to know the truth? Do I make them unnerved by challenging them to challenge the status quo — including this two-party plutocracy?

      I emphasize nonviolence. I NEVER ask them to do anything unconstitutional or undemocratic. I insist that we worked under the constraints of the political and economic system we have. I never ever encourage people to resort to throwing stones from the outside.

      Yet, I see fear, apprehension and anxiety under those warm smiles. I feel trembling under those firm handshakes.

      Or, is it that I am only imagining?

      Looking for an answer I can believe,

      Partha

      Brooklyn, New York

      ###

       

      I also listen to my students patiently.

      I also listen to my students patiently. This class was at a Delhi university two years ago.

      Image

      He is a Muslim man.

      He came to America from Dhaka, and I came from Calcutta. He is one of my best friends here in New York.

      He is also like my elder brother. I touch his feet after Durga Puja. He comes to our house and eats breakfast with us. I go to his house and have tea and snacks with him. I call him “dada” and his wife “boudi” our Hindu Bengali way.

      We both believe that the British and then their hand-picked, corrupt successors have partitioned us — a very prosperous nation — and destroyed us beyond recognition. He talks about places in West Bengal he has not seen: the temples of Bankura and Birbhum. I talk about places I have not seen in East Bengal: poet Michael Madhusudan’s birthplace in Sagardari and Rabindranath Tagore’s retreat in Silaidaha.Bishnupur temple

      We both remember our cherished Bengali treasure trove of culture: poetry, literature, art and music. The incredible Bengali cuisine. Tagore. Nazrul Islam. Shamsur Rahman. Jibanananda Das. Sunil Ganguly.

      And treasured, revolutionary politics and international business entrepreneurship Bengalis have been known for so long. We laugh and we lament looking at the miserable turn of events in today’s Bengal: on both sides.

      He has taught me how to be humble, honest and generous. Well, at least he tried. He is one of the best human beings I’ve ever seen in my life.

      Salute to our Salam’da. Sarwar Salam.

      Humbly,

      Partha

      Brooklyn, New York

      ###

      Image