My wife Mukti and me, on Long Island.

My wife Mukti and me, relaxing on Long Island.

This is a very personal story. But this is not just a personal story.

When we left India thirty years ago with a full scholarship to do a Ph.D. in America, some of our own friends and relatives thought it was a fluke. They said, “But they were never stellar students: look at their exam results. It sounds fishy.”

Some of them said, “Look, Partha did so poorly in college and university that he couldn’t even find a job in Calcutta. He ended up teaching in a God-forsaken place in a no-name college in the forests of Sundarbans.” They said, “And, suddenly, he is in America, to do a Ph.D. in science? Come on, gimme a break!”

So, when we were struggling as new immigrants in USA and going through poverty and extreme isolation, building a new life from scratch, practically nobody cared to know how we were. Then, our hard work and determination paid off: I did a Ph.D. in plant biology from Southern Illinois University, and my wife learned molecular biology and became an indispensable worker in her lab.

But these friends and relatives still didn’t care to know how we did it. So, when I switched career from science to humanities at the age of forty, and did a journalism masters from Columbia University, and my wife switched her career to start Mukti’s Kitchen here in New York City, they said, “See, I told you. They are not doing well, and therefore doing anything they can to make ends meet. See, in thirty years in USA, they should have been millionaires. But look where they are now.” And others who listened to them, nodded in agreement. Nobody even bothered to ask what our side of the story was.

Mukti's Kitchen was invited to teach at Union Square, New York.

Mukti’s Kitchen was invited to teach at Union Square, New York.

Even today, when we go to India perhaps once or twice a year, we see a look of rejection on their faces — look that tells us they have kept the same feeling of not trusting that the way we built and lived our lives in America — from zero — is worthy of anything. They don’t want to learn from us, because to them, success is only measured by how much money you’ve made, and nothing else.

This is not about our acceptance in America. This is about acceptance by some of our own people in India. We have worked hard, and made it a point to be accepted and recognized here in the U.S. My wife’s Indian cooking class has countless five-star reviews, and my students and followers have now put together a Wikipedia page on my work. Mukti is now a board member at Brooklyn For Peace.

We are both happy, and humbled.

And never I write anything only to tell my personal story, even though I title it in a way so that people actually read what I write. It is about new immigrants like me, and like my wife. And we are doing quite well in America, and we are privileged. Millions of other immigrants are going through a very difficult time, in spite of their talents, honesty and hard work. Mainstream media and the people in power do not know, and do not care to know about their poverty, isolation and misery.

Do we care how some people back in India or some friends here in America treat us? Hell, no! Then, why am I writing about it? So that others like me and my wife can relate to it, and form a wavelength of togetherness. That is really my goal: to reach out and touch as many like-minded men and women as possible. To tell them that we are all in this together. We are members of the same family.

We know each other. We care for each other.

My story is not only my story. I give up my ownership on it. Now, it’s your story too.

Sincerely Yours,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

##

Just this weekend, they video recorded my entire labor workshop.

Just this weekend, they video recorded my entire labor workshop.

They were cheated, and lost all their money.

They were cheated, and lost all their money.

I hope you read it with some patience. Let me know what you think. Please read the first paragraph, and then please read the background of the story. Thank you.

Yesterday, a well known film actress and political leader in Calcutta, and I actually like her guts too, even though I do not support her political party, said, “jara agency niyechhilo,, jara taka logni koechhilo tara sobai soman oporadhi,,, tahole tara atyohotya korle sympathy paabe keno?” — Which means, her question is, people who took agency of the scam fund, and those who committed suicide because they invested [and lost everything] — they are all equally guilty, and why should they get any sympathy at all?

I was very surprised and puzzled to read this statement from her. I didn’t understand the logic she made.

Background:

If I steal money, and then return it because the theft is now exposed and I have no place to hide and I need to save my rear end from going to jail, is that going to absolve me from my crime?

Bollywood star Mithun Chakraborty returned one crore rupees to Enforcement Directorate, years after the Saradha scam was exposed.

Bollywood star Mithun Chakraborty returned one crore rupees to Enforcement Directorate, years after the Saradha scam was exposed.

Mithun Chakraborty, a Bollywood star, now returned millions of dollars he took from a hugely scandalous small-investment scam called Saradha Chit Fund.

Here in the U.S., North American Bengali Conference (NABC) people took crores from Saradha (the Las Vegas conference was primarily sponsored by it), but they never disclosed the amount. I wrote articles about it, and they were very unhappy.

Now, if and in case they return the money, would that going to absolve them from the wrongdoing? Whether it’s Mithun Chakraborty the Bollywood star or NABC or other criminals some of whom are in jail now, crimes must have legal repercussions. And these crimes robbed millions of poor people, and some of them killed themselves too.

Bigger Picture:

Big media personalities, celebrities, and their lies. — Judith Miller forged fake WMD stories for New York Times, validating an Iraq genocide. She is now working for Fox.

Brian Williams of NBC (owned by GE) thought he flew on a combat helicopter, and reported fake news. Today, he is given a new, different appointment with NBC and MSNBC.

George Stephanopoulos forgot that he gave $75,000 to Clinton Foundation, and reported pro-Clinton stories on ABC (owned by Disney), and blasted anti-Clinton politicians.

Kathie Lee Gifford thought she didn’t know her brand-name clothes were manufactured in Wal-Mart sweatshops around the world.

In India, we have known cases involving big media personalities and their breach of ethics and law.

But they are all working, all making millions, and continuing to do their “shows” on national and international networks.

A Bollywood film star Mithun got millions from a small-investment scam that ripped off countless poor people, driving some of them to commit suicide. He is now returning the money (he said he didn’t know), and already supporters are manufacturing public sentiments in his favor.

Amitabh Bachchan long advertised for MSG-laced noodles, and got millions. He said he didn’t know what was in the product.

Amir Khan of Bollywood is a national spokesperson for Coke in India.

Then, we have John Stossel-type journalists who openly twist news in favor of pro-Monsanto, anti-environment corporations, and blast any dissent as “radical” and “communist” propaganda.

Yet, most people do not know much about them, or their criminal activities. People are made to believe either they are above the law, or their crimes are not really crimes; they are only minor professional errors.

And the rich and powerful and their celebrities and their class are actively downplaying their wrongful acts.

It is very, very difficult to deal with ignorance of the havenots. But it is even more difficult to deal with active compliance of the educated and wealthy — compliance with crimes.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

She validated the Iraq genocide with her WMD stories in New York Times.

She validated the Iraq genocide with her WMD stories in New York Times.

Jon Stewart thinks Sanders is a better candidate. He was serious this time.

Jon Stewart thinks Sanders is a better candidate. He is serious this time.

Is Bernie Sanders only a long shot? Or, could he actually win?

Here is my two outsider cents, in case anybody out there in his campaign really cares.

Now, who the heck is Bernie Sanders, and what is he trying to win?

Bernie Sanders is an independent-leaning politician here in the U.S., and he calls himself a democratic socialist. He has joined the fray of the Democratic Party presidential primaries — an election that will decide who will become the party’s candidate for the 2016 elections. He is fighting against a massive, billion-dollar campaign of Hillary Clinton. By default, Sanders is fighting against the Goliath, and he is not even David. We can call him david, with a small d. But Sanders has built a huge grassroots support across the country, especially from young-generation political, social and environmental activists. Sanders also has a long and successful administrative record in his state of Vermont.

Scott Walker and his union-busting politics have found praise in New York Times, and Walker could be a possible Republican candidate, perhaps a running mate with Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush, younger brother of George W. Bush, has just announced his candidacy for the Republican Party’s primaries.

Of course, New York Times is anti-union, but most people do not know it. Scott Walker’s violent union-busting tactics, funded by Koch Brothers’ millions, gave the American 1% another arsenal. Media have largely sided with what Walker did in Wisconsin, by excluding important, balanced economic discussions and globalized politics of IMF, World Bank, G-8 and Wall Street.

IMO, there is very little difference between the Republicans and Hillary Clinton.

IMO, there is very little difference between the Republicans and Hillary Clinton.

People who are working on the Bernie Sanders team are, I am sure, aware of how critical labor union support will be in 2016. But, challenges are hard, fierce and vicious.

Media is one challenge: CNN, NBC, ABC, WSJ, Fox. Radio talk shows. Most ordinary people do not understand alternative media. Koch Brothers and Clinton Foundation, Obama Foundation, and big, multinational corporations that supported their pro-TPP congressmen and congresswomen are challenges with billions of dollars to spend — secretly, thanks to Citizens United. Heritage Foundation and ALEC.

Pro-Hillary news from around the world is another challenge in this globalized society. NOW (National Organization for the Women, a liberal and elite organization) is a big Hillary block with money and influence.

Yet, one of the biggest challenges will come from within the American 99%, and from within the middle-class and poor societies: particularly blacks, Latinos, Chinese and Indians.

I have kept my ears to the ground: I work with labor unions and immigrants. Blacks and Latinos together are nearly 25% of U.S. population, and Indians and Chinese together make another 5%. Plus, Indian white collar have money, and they will give to Hillary. Money will come from corporations around the world, without having to disclose their identity. And it’s very likely that money will decide 2016.

***
UNLESS
 there is an unprecedented bridge building across the moderate left and right. IMHO, that must happen, or Bernie Sanders has no chance. Let us forget the left-right-socialist-capitalist divide, and bring the 99% together.

Again, I am sure people who are working on the Sanders campaign team are aware of all of the above. I just thought I should reiterate it, from a small, outsider point of view.

If Bernie Sanders can make it a step towards a positive, pro-equality, pro-99% honest change, he has a chance to win. If he tries to make it an overambitious revolution, he will lose. That is the trap media will lay out for him.

Thanks for listening.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Build that Bridge, Bernie!

Build that Bridge, Bernie!

Archipelago

The Land of Diversity? Or, the Islands of Diversity?

Ferguson, Baltimore, Staten Island, Texas, Trayvon Martin…

Racism is not only about whites hating blacks. Although American police’s out-of-control brutality often violates blacks. But racist oppression is happening against new immigrants: Latinos, Muslims, Sikhs, Chinese, Arabs, Africans, and all other ethnic groups and colors.

One strong common denominator is class. Barack Obama and his family would not be brutalized by police. Beyoncé or Kanye West would not be touched. J. Lo and Eva Longoria would be spared. But a poor, powerless man, woman or child — from any minority race or color is target of violence.

And ironically, many of these acts or hate or bigotry come from within the minority community.

This happened recently, many years after 9/11. The attacker said, "I don't like those people."

This happened recently, many years after 9/11. The attacker said, “I don’t like those people.”

Just the other day, an Hispanic man beat up an 82-year-old Sikh grandfather, because the man said, “I don’t like those people.” An Hispanic woman pushed Sunando Sen, a Bengali Hindu immigrant, on the NYC subway track because she said, “I hate those people.”

Even after fourteen years of 9/11, America has not grown up.

The people in power do not have any public education program to teach diversity, peace and tolerance. They do not care about the pervasive climate of mistrust, hate and racism. They will keep using stop-gap measures, shoot and kill some, put some in private prisons, and deport some more. Obama has deported millions already.

America is not the land of diversity. It is an archipelago of diversity. Diverse people live on diverse islands, and there is no cross-cultural understanding.

This is not an abstract observation. I have seen it for many years here in America, especially since I worked as a grassroots community organizer at an immigrant advocacy group.

Sincerely,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Sunando Sen, a Bengali Hindu immigrant from India was pushed on to the subway track by an Hispanic woman. She yelled, "I hate those people."

Sunando Sen, a Bengali Hindu immigrant from India was pushed on to the subway track by an Hispanic woman. She yelled, “I hate those people.”

How low can you go?

How low can you go?

Recently, I had a very difficult experience on Facebook.

“The lowlife scums and trolls like you…” — This is what she wrote about me. This was just the beginning of her many messages, followed by even nastier words from her sister in-law. I unfriended and blocked both of them from my friend’s list. They are now gone from my life, forever.

She threw major hate, as well as personal insults. I’m sorry I didn’t know her state of mind before. In fact, I didn’t know her at all. I do not have time or energy to deal with such toxicity back and forth. But I’ve saved all her messages for future use.

She was angry not because I ever wrote anything personally insulting or demeaning to her (I never do it), but she thought she represented the 1% and that I was championing the 99% with facts and force. In a way, I am happy I got to know her kind. These people exist, and they can harm you, or affect your sanity.

The intensity of her vitriol was shocking. Never seen anything like it in my seven or eight years on Facebook. 

Facebook etc. have given us permission to be harsh, arrogant, crude, obnoxious, filthy, demeaning, and hateful. Anything goes. There is no pause for civility. There is no self-monitoring. There is no filtering. Someone who was your friend yesterday suddenly decides they don’t like you anymore, and therefore, can insult you in front of your loved ones, friends, students, supporters, and well wishers. Even though you have never used a single disrespectful, personally hurtful word against them.

Of course, you can think about them twice, and unfriend or block them, but the words have already been said, and seen by thousands of people. They have made you sick, and you didn’t plan on being sick because of insults from sick people you didn’t know were sick.

I mean, really sick.

When people personally insult you on a public forum like Facebook, and post hate messages, what are they trying to do? They are trying to dampen your spirit, and create an environment that makes your friends, family, students and well wishers doubt about your worth.

Most would not want to get into this sort of verbal violence. It’s no different than throwing bombs or shooting guns on the street so that everybody stays at home.

Their hate was shocking. 

Reporting in sadness and hurt,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Anything goes?

This message was not written to me. This is just an example I got from the web. 

Produce from local farms. Except for the fruits.

Produce from local farms. Except for the fruits.

It’s all about food, health and the environment. And the life we live.

Most people here in the U.S. have no idea what good food really means. Those who can’t afford high-quality food eat MacDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut. Farmer’s markets, mostly, are too expensive for the poor.

The food industry has used big media to promote junk food, and kept people in dark about health and the environment. They tell you french fries, potato chips and Big Macs are actually good for you. They tell you KFC’s buckets of un-skinned chicken are good for you. They tell you Coke and Pepsi and Mountain Dew are healthy drinks.

I’ve been boycotting McDonald’s for ten years now. Have been boycotting other junk foods and drinks too. I am very happy I have.

But even those who can afford good food and are educated enough to know about the pluses and minuses go to eat at places where they never disclose their marketing source. Very likely, even hip NYC or SF restaurants are using Monsanto and ADM, i.e., toxic vegetables, meat or fish. India and its younger-generation people have caught on, only to follow the illiterate side of America (and ignoring the educated, modern side).

I post a few photos here I took from India in February and March this year to show you what good-quality vegetables, fish and sweets really mean. My wife used these veggies and fish to cook at home, and regardless of my bias, I can tell you this is what good food really means.

Please do not fall for media trap. Your health and your children’s health, as well as our environment, are at grave risk. Grave risk. Sharing with Mukti’s Kitchen, a place in New York where you can learn how to cook healthy Indian.

Ethical disclosure: Mukti is my wife :-)

Sincerely, as always,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Harvest from local pond. Scaled at home.

Harvest from local pond. Scaled at home.

Alone“Can You Afford to Be Alone?”

I’m posting this very short note in a number of languages, hoping people from various corners of earth would read and reflect on it. See below. Comments and share much welcome.

Sincerely,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

_________
Our Strength

Rich and powerful people can afford to be alone. They have money, media and/or military on their side. But we the ordinary and powerless can’t fall for their fake, me-only lifestyle trap. Togetherness is our strength. Our society is our strength. Our love and care for each other is our only power.

_________

हमारी ताकत

अमीर और ताकतवर लोग अकेले रह सकते हैं . उनके पास पैसा,मीडिया और / अथवा सैन्य-शक्ति है . लेकिन हम सामान्य और शक्तिहीन जन उनकी इस केवल-मैं वाली जीवनशैली के जाल में नहीं फंस सकते . मैत्री-भाव और आपसदारी हमारी ताकत है . हमारा समाज हमारी ताकत है. एक-दूसरे के लिए हमारा प्रेम और देख-भाल ही हमारी इकलौती ताकत है .

(Translated by Priyankar Paliwal of Calcutta)

_________

আমাদের শক্তি

ধনী ও ক্ষমতাশালীরা একা থাকতে পারে। কারণ, তাদের হাতে টাকাপয়সা, সংবাদমাধ্যম এবং/অথবা মিলিটারি রয়েছে। কিন্তু আমরা সাধারণ এবং ক্ষমতাহীন মানুষ তাদের আমি-সর্বস্ব জীবনধারার ফাঁদে পড়তে পারিনা। সামগ্রিকতা, দলবদ্ধতাই আমাদের শক্তি। একে অপরের জন্য আমাদের ভালবাসা ও মমতাই আমাদের শক্তি। আমাদের সমাজই আমাদের একমাত্র শক্তি।

(Translated by this author)

_________

nuestra Fuerza

Los ricos y poderosos pueden darse el lujo de estar solo. Tienen dinero, medios de comunicación y / o militar de su lado. Pero lo común y sin poder, no podemos caer en la falsa, yo sólo el estilo de vida trampa. Unión es nuestra fuerza. Nuestra sociedad es nuestra fuerza. Nuestro amor y cuidado por los demás es nuestro único poder.

(google translation)

_________

notre Force

Les gens riches et puissants peuvent se permettre d’être seul. Ils ont de l’argent, les médias et / ou militaire de leur côté. Mais nous l’ordinaire et impuissant ne pouvons pas tomber pour leur faux, moi seule piège de mode de vie. Ensemble est notre force. Notre société est notre force. Notre amour et de soins pour l’autre est notre seul pouvoir.

(google translation)

_________

society 1

beyonce-2015-met-gala

Jennifer-Lopez-Dress-Met-Gala-2015

The Obnoxious 2.

An intelligent, modern-minded friend from Columbia Journalism School drew my attention to such ugliness, and I’m indebted to her.

(and btw, this has NOTHING to do with these actresses’ race.)

We see such “fashion” every single day, but do not take them seriously. After all, we are all mature people. I am a labor educator with a Ph.D., I sing Tagore songs, and I have my wife, students, sisters, nieces, and childhood friends on Facebook. Why show my extreme frustration to them?

But see, we must talk about it. Because it is spreading like a virus. This rape on our senses and sensibilities, in the name of art and entertainment.

Today, I discovered that top Indian newspapers and TV channels published and aired both photos, and more, and we can imagine what our children and their poor parents are going through, explaining what is good and what is bad.

I am by no stretch of imagination a reactionary obscurantist. But I do not for a moment believe this is either fashion or art. And I am not entertained at all. I refuse to pay for it. I demand my money back. I demand compensation for my lost time and sanity.

Reject this global rape of decency.

Sincerely,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Hypocrisy. One for them, and the other for us.

Hypocrisy. One for them, and the other for us. Source: http://www.cartoonmovement.com .

You got cartoons?

So, here is my totally nonviolent bomb — a mind bomb — for the elite liberals and their cartoons.

Anti-Islam, anti-Hindu, anti-Christian? Anti-Jew?

Anti-communist?

Even though I’ve been a strong advocate of freedom of speech, and I hate those who kill or shoot free thinkers such as Avijit Roy or Charlie Hebdo (or now Texas), here is my take.

Farabi a religious extremist who killed Avijit Roy in Dhaka, Bangladesh two months ago. I knew Avijit for many years.

Farabi a religious extremist who killed Avijit Roy in Dhaka, Bangladesh two months ago. I knew Avijit for many years.

I believe satires on religious icons and symbols of ANY religion is truly power’s elitist, intellectual violence on the powerless.

A vast majority of poor people worldwide — a small minority of them fanatics and bigots — have no place else to go but their Islam, Hinduism, Christianity or Judaism. Or, in some cases, communist parties. Etc.

Why hurt them unnecessarily?

If you, the powerful cartoon magazines and your financing supporters, are really so brave, keep hurting with your cartoons and caricatures the Koch Brothers, GE’s, Monsanto’s, Ambanis, Exxons, and their bought politicians.

Expose the cricket and baseball and Disney’s and ESPN’s and their global gambling and child-slaving.

Expose IMF and World Bank and Goldman Sachs.

And embarras the Clintons and the Cheneys and the Kissingers.

Do it, and we’ll see how brave you really are. Or, how long you can do it without being shut down.

Otherwise, with your stupid cartoons, you are actually, purposefully distracting our minds off the real crimes and their criminals. IMO, that itself is a crime. A crime that gets validation by the rich and the powerful liberals, worldwide. It’s an act of hypocrisy too.

I do NOT believe in violence, of any kind. But I also believe in justice, of any kind, against any injustice. Democratic, nonviolent justice.

I rest my case. With my freedom of speech, I spoke my mind.

Sincerely Yours,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Even though this is not the focus of this post, I believe it deserves merit too, in this context. I got it from the web. Source: theredphoenixapl.org

Even though this is not the focus of this post, I believe it deserves merit too, in this context. I got it from the web. Source: theredphoenixapl.org. Disclaimer: I do not take a position on this cartoon. I’m only posting it here, to ask people to think about the many aspects of the subject, often unreported and un-discussed in big media.

I am no communist, but I strongly support their struggle for justice.

I am no communist, but I strongly support their struggle for justice.

When I was a journalism student at Columbia University, some professors and students said I was doing “advocacy journalism,” because I was writing about the poor and powerless. When I said to them, what about you also doing the same thing because you’re *always* reporting news on behalf of the status quo, they got angry. Then, I invited Noam Chomsky to speak in our department, and they got angrier.

Yesterday, a well-known journalist (who is also Indian and a co-alumnus at Columbia) showed again big media’s strong bias for the people in power when she said violence on women was not really so bad in India: she was referring to the BBC documentary “India’s Daughter” — now banned in India — on the infamous gang rape in Delhi.

She said that India has already elected a woman head of state (Indira Gandhi) and U.S. hasn’t; therefore, it is proof that India’s women are better off than what U.S. and Europe had thought. It’s like saying, look, a black man is America’s president now; therefore, all this news about brutality on blacks and their poverty and hopelessness is plain nonsense.

Sometimes, I wonder, if these journalists are just elitist and out of touch, or are they actually paid for by their owner corporations and politicians to speak on behalf of them. This is also proof that women can also be a part of a terribly patriarchal system. 

***

West must come forward, and stand by the fighters in India. In an honest way.

West must come forward, and stand by the fighters in India. In an honest way.

RAPE is an epidemic in India. Not just rape. Sex trafficking. Daily violence on women. Big violence. Small violence. Ridiculing. Name calling. Improper touching. Luring. False promises. Threats. Publishing intimate photos online. Destroying women’s careers. Stealing their money and land. Robbing women of their human rights, economic rights, political rights, workplace rights. Religious subjugation. There is NO concept of equality.

Of course, there have been women prime ministers (Indira Gandhi, a dictator) and chief ministers (Jaylalitha, an Imelda Marcos, Mayawati, a corrupt caste leader, and Mamata Banerjee, leader of an illiterate, mafia-run force) and noted journalists and even a few police officers and scientists and astronauts. And India has had a laughable, rubber-stamp woman president too.

But that does not mean India has any iota of gender equality. People who tell us otherwise are either a part of the status-quo and do not ever want change; or they are elite and privileged class and out of touch. Or, right-wing ultrapatriots who believe women should be put in the kitchen and dark and dingy birthing rooms.

An Indian woman works very hard at home and outside, and is mostly used for her labor she puts in or money she makes. Often, she is forced to give all the money she made to her husband, father, or in-laws. Hindu, Muslim, no difference. A woman is forced to give birth to children against her will; or, if found early in her pregnancy, is forced to abort a girl fetus.

I don’t need to read a book, or hear erudite conference or media speeches. Many poor and working-class women are fighting back against this horrendous patriarchal and male chauvinistic system, but the establishment and their media do not support them. They undermine their struggles, and impose their own, elitist solutions.

We who came from poor and struggling backgrounds know the reality on ground. The others, including Indian powers and “Born Into Brothels,” “Slumdog Millionaire” or “City of Joy”-type missionary West exclude and distort the truth, and offer phony solutions.

India’s gender discrimination and disparity is no less than an apartheid. Let us not fool ourselves no more.

(And there is NO comparison between gender violence and 24/7 discrimination there, and the ones we see here in America. NO comparison. Period.)

Sincerely, with a heavy but fighting heart,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

We are here to support you.

We are here to support you.