Ravi Shankar in Calcutta.

Ravi Shankar in Calcutta.

A Word About God.

Every morning, when I wake up, a thought comes to my mind. It’s a thought. Or, it’s a dream. It’s the time when I am the purest. Kindest. Happiest too. It is the time when round, plump and glistening dew drops on a soft lotus leaf invite me to talk silently. To be a part of it. It tells me, don’t worry, your dream is all right. It says, you may not believe in God, but that is your God. That thought. That dream. That is God. Because it is pure. I get distracted by other, less important and more mundane thoughts during the course of the day. Then again, when I go back to sleep at night, I get excited. Because I know, next morning, when I wake up, it will come back to me again. I close my eyes, and wait for that moment.

______________

Sylvia Plath, angel poet.

Sylvia Plath, angel poet.

How do you write poetry?

How do you paint a painting? You need training. You need to learn the craft. You need the intensity. Inspiration. Passion. But it’s more. Much more. It’s like when early in the morning, you must go. You know you have to go. Crude? Vulgar? So what? That’s how poetry comes. Art comes. Your first public speech comes. It builds inside. Uses your blood, food and gut. It takes a shape. And it happens because you have done something for it. Cried for it. You have now come to a point when it happens. It will happen. Naturally. Don’t force it. Embrace it, with closed eyes. It’s a spiritual experience. Bliss.

______________

The other angel.

The other angel.

A Prayer and More.

9/11 “Dust Lady” Marcy Borders died this week of cancer at the age of 42. Many people have remembered the terrorist attack, but forgotten the lies and hush-ups that came with it. Bush, Giuliani and EPA director Christine Todd Whitman, along with big media, all lied to us that everything was safe, and there was no potential health threats. They sent kids back to school on Ground Zero when the fire was still burning, and asbestos was free floating in the air. Chuck Schumer’s wife who worked for the city DOT made the toxic dumps barged next to Stuyvesant High School. Now, with Marcy’s death, I hope people revisit the potentially catastrophic health bomb to explode on our children. And challenge the authorities — Republican and Democrat — on their lies.

______________

Sarah N. Cleghorn, my girlfriend.

Sarah N. Cleghorn, my girlfriend.

Post Script.

“The golf links lie so near the mill

That almost every day

The laboring children can look out

And see the men at play.”

— Sarah N. Cleghorn, American poet, and a Christian socialist. She wrote it in 1917.

Just about a hundred years ago.

Think.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a news conference after he announced his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX1B0DW

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a news conference after he announced his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst – RTX1B0DW

It is not just about an election. It is much more than that.

If Bernie Sanders wins, America will return to its long-lost mission to promote democracy, freedom, equality and peace — for all. Yes, in spite of all the wars America waged, killing and destroying millions of lives, hopes and dreams.

If he loses, this country and by default the world will become more turbulent, violent, exploitative, and greedy. His win will defeat the 1 percent and its tyranny. His defeat will mean defeat for the rest of humanity.

Elitism, soft racism and snobbism are all quite rampant in American progressive circles. If not outright exclusion, subtle undermining of blacks, immigrants, and poor working-class people is very perceptible. Privileged educated white do not want to share leadership on a totally equal basis. Of course, there are great exceptions, but this is what I have largely seen over my thirty years in America. And I have worked with students, teachers, immigrant rights, labor, civil liberties, climate, and peace movements. There is no surprise, therefore, that blacks, immigrants, and labor unions have not yet come on board with Bernie Sanders. There is a huge trust gap.

I know the problems.
Recently, I went to a labor and immigrant conference in San Diego, California. We talked about the above there too.

Yes, I know the issues. I know the problems. And I have offered solutions too.

Still, Bernie Sanders (and Elizabeth Warren) gives me hope, in the midst of all the lies and false promises.
Give me a chance to debate with Donald Trump on immigration. Find me a way to debate with Hillary Clinton on Clinton. I am serious. I promise I’ll be respectful.
Sincerely,
Partha Banerjee
 
Brooklyn, New York
###
HillaryProCon_Sorensen

Realistic choice? Are you kidding me? Her connections with Monsanto, Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs, and private prison industries???

Unbelievably misplaced anger!

Unbelievably misplaced anger!

Yesterday, at a Seattle demonstration where thousands of people gathered to hear Bernie Sanders, two black women — allegedly of #BlackLivesMatter — went up to the podium, had a verbal fight with him, took away his microphone, and did not let him speak.

Not that these women were using violence using a gun or something. But looking back, it was violence. To forcefully deprive someone of speaking to his supporters, and that too, this obnoxious way, is violence. If not anything else, it’s violence against somebody’s civil rights and liberties to free speech. They deprived Bernie Sanders of free speech, and they deprived the thousands of men and women who came to listen to him — of their right to free speech.

I wonder, had it happened to a group of black protesters where someone would come up to the podium, uninvited, and take the microphone away from the speaker, how they would react. Not very pleasantly, I presume.

But Bernie Sanders is a gentleman. He was disappointed, but didn’t get into a nasty argument with the women. Nor did his supporters do anything nasty. For better or for worse, the crowd left the scene, I guess, without hearing his message.

I later heard that the organizers at Black Lives Matter apologized for the incident, and disowned the two protesters. I can accept that apology, on Bernie’s behalf.

But I have two questions. 

Question One. why this misplaced anger? Could they repeat the same indecent snatching Hillary Clinton’s mic? I doubt it. And I’m not prescribing it either. Yet, it is Bill Clinton (with support from Hillary), along with the Republicans, who had destroyed the welfare system, privatized it, and then handed it over to Bush who did the rest.

Ferguson protests. I was with them.

Ferguson protests. I was with them.

Under which president, blacks are being killed by cops everywhere? It’s a black president, and that too, America’s first. Why don’t these angry people — with their absolutely justified anger — demonstrate against Obama wherever he goes? What has he really done, other than speaking a lot, to save these black lives across the U.S.? What have the Clintons done about it?

Question Two. How come the campaign team that’s working for Sanders was so poorly organized and near-sighted? This type of incident has happened a few times in recent weeks, and yet, they did not have enough security measures to prevent such incidents?

What if taking advantage of such security breach, some crazy man belonging to some bigoted group went up on the podium, and pulled his gun? Remember Bobby Kennedy?

I am not scare mongering. And I am against any type of violence. I’m only reminding people of facts. MLK, Bobby, John, X…the list is endless. Political violence is not new to America.

American political violence is way too many, too often.

American political violence is way too many, too often.

I am truly sorry to say this, but I do not think with the sloppy organization I see right now, Bernie Sanders can win. He has every qualities an American president should have, and his pro-people message hits home. I believe he is a leader that American people have not seen in a very long time.

But, with his less-than-airtight campaign organization, the violent and richly-funded opposition from both parties will destroy him. They have media the referee on their side.

Yesterday, however, the untoward incident helped Bernie Sanders to get some much-needed media coverage. It was a blessing in disguise.

America is talking about Bernie Sanders now, either in a positive or a negative way.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partha_Banerjee

Related reading (my article): Ferguson, Ebola, and Such Bad Blacks

###

Bernie Sanders rally. One of the many.

Bernie Sanders rally. One of the many.

Personal. Too personal.

Personal. Too personal.

I hang my head in shame.

On August 6, 1945, Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

An estimated 80,000 men, women and children instantly died. Many others died of burns and wounds later. Many more died of cancer and other illnesses directly related to the radiation the bomb created.

Japan and U.S. were locked in a gruesome war, and the Japanese army was doing inhumane barbarity especially on the Chinese they attacked. The Allied Forces led by U.S., Britain and U.S.S.R kept fighting a hellish World War II with the Axis Powers led by Germany, Italy and Japan. The bomb made Japan surrender quickly. Second World War, however, had ended three months ago, when Hitler committed suicide in Germany.

This is history we practically all know. Just the same way everybody knows about the Holocaust.

But U.S. never apologized for using atom bombs on innocent civilians in Hiroshima on August 6 and then on Nagasaki on August 9. Nowhere in the history of mankind, such a massive, catastrophic genocide happened when a country used its horrific, untested, unprecedented killing powers to knowingly, purposefully, deliberately kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people so massively, so instantly.

All over the world, people condemn the barbarity in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is truly an annual day of condemnation. I remember, when I grew up in Calcutta, the first time I heard about it, I was frozen. I thought, how could it have happened? Why did they kill thousands of innocent children who had nothing to do with the war?

Then, after coming to America, I learned more about the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and got angrier deep inside. I joined the peace movement, and learned some more.

But America has a different take on the subject. Not just the powers in America. The ordinary people, many of whom are highly educated. Some of these people are otherwise nonviolent, peace-loving, decent people. But they have a strange perception about atom-bombing and mass-killing in Japan.

(And of course, the younger generation neither knows, nor cares about such “old” history. Seventy years later, America has managed to sweep it successfully under the rugs. Unlike the Holocaust. Everybody in America knows about the Holocaust.)

American media did not disclose the actual impact of the bombing.

American media did not disclose the actual impact of the bombing. General MacArthur censored it.

I had once spoke with a learned, very liberal and kind science professor about this subject. I lived in Albany, New York at that time. I was staying in his house for about a month, before my family joined me. The conversation came up, and I challenged him to take a position on it. He said, he would strongly support using the A-bomb on civilians.

I asked why. He said, because the war was getting out of control, and America needed to end it swiftly.

I said, but at the expense of 80,000+ innocent human lives who had nothing to do with the war? School children, teachers, doctors, nurses, mothers, grandmothers…all included?

He said, it was unfortunate, but hey, didn’t it end the war? He got irked that I kept pushing him on the subject.

When I heard his response — a rather thoughtful, informed response and not an angry redneck response — a knot swelled up in my throat. Possibly, a tear welled up in my eyes. I stopped talking to him, and left the conversation.

That’s all I could do. I am a nonviolent person myself. I don’t want to kill or hurt anybody.

Japan has gone nonviolent too. They have not resorted to violent, terrorist revenge on America.

I am glad they didn’t. And that’s why I am on the side of the innocent of Japanese men, women and children who perished on that fateful day.

You will always be in my prayers.

I truly apologize for what the U.S. did to you.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Related reading: The Hiroshima Myth

Weep. Remember. Apologize.

Weep. Remember. Apologize.

Pro-99%. Not pro-1%.

Pro-99%. Not pro-1%.

It is *very* likely that this 2016 election in America is my last election campaign.

I came to America thirty years ago, when Ronald Reagan was president. I didn’t know who Reagan was, except for the fact that in 1984 when I was a very young professor in a remote, rural college in India, I heard on the radio that he trounced Walter Mondale and Democratic Party’s woman VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

I didn’t know the difference between the Republicans and Democrats. At that time, there was some difference, before Clinton made his party identical to Republicans. So, when I saw Reagan at hand-shaking distance in Chicago, I thought I saw a world-famous leader. Of course, he was world famous, but for all the wrong reasons.

Many young people who are now working for Bernie Sanders do not know the history, or have the political analysis of how Reagan in USA and Margaret Thatcher in UK destroyed any concept of equality and justice, and made this world a very dangerous, violent place for the poor and paradise for the rich.

Reagan and later Clinton finished off the “New Deal,” a system that had made America America.

I went through election cycles ever since, and saw Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama becoming the president. I saw how my hopes and dreams were shattered by W. Bush and Cheney’s global doctrine of warfare and anti-black, anti-immigrant repression, and I saw Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s truly disingenuous rules for sixteen years, where they used what Orwell called “Doublespeak.” I saw 9/11 terror and its aftermath state-sponsored violence, where thousands of innocent lives were destroyed.

NO to them.

NO to them.

I have signed on to work for Bernie Sanders, so that in case this is my last election campaign in America, I can tell myself that finally I have broken myself out of all the myths and illusions, and worked for a cause that is not perfect, but close to what I have always believed in: equality, democracy, nonviolence, justice, and peace.

I can’t live the rest of my life doing dishonest political work for dishonest people. I am severing all my ties with the Clintons and Obamas and Bush’s and Reagans.

I will throw my support and spend as much time as possible to work for an honest leader of the people.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

NO to them too.

NO to them, again and again.

This is real too. But many of the people I work with do not know it.

This is real too. But many of the people I work with do not know it.

Very Troubling. Very troubling.

Liberals’ deeply entrenched status quo.

Last night, I went to a meeting at our member-serviced coop. This is a place where educated and moderately well-to-do liberals shop high-quality groceries at a reasonably discounted price. You work a few hours every month to keep the costs down. They have monthly open meetings for members, where decisions are made in a democratic way. Or, that’s what we would want to think.

We’ve been members for a number of years, and found it to be a viable, alternative food and environment-friendly model, away from the supermarkets and national chains. Their foods have also visibly improved our health over the years. True! Their fruits and vegetables are mostly organic or at least chemical-free, a lot of it comes from local farmers, and they totally reject Monsanto or other GMO products. Definitely, for middle-class people like us, it’s been a blessing.

Yet, slowly we are realizing the problems they have, and *in some cases* this realization is not too much different from my long experience working with my labor union, or the immigrant advocacy groups. In the coming months leading up to the 2016 elections, I’ll write more about it.

But briefly, here’s a list of things we’ve noticed that are of great worry.

(1) Out of some 16,000 members at the coop, perhaps only a hundred or two show up at these important, decision-making monthly meetings, vis-a-vis our labor union meetings where a similarly small percent shows up. The others do not care.

(2) Only about 5-10% vote at important organizational elections where they elect officers for the next few years. Again, exactly the same percent I see at our 30,000-strong labor union. If ten percent vote, that’s a high turnout. The others — non-voters– happily take advantage of all the benefits, but do not participate. In case of the food coop, they must work two and a half hours every four weeks, and they put in the time. And that’s about it. Practically nobody knows nobody. 

(3) Critically important decisions often seem to be pre-determined, and meeting proceedings are conducted in a way so that status quo prevails. Meeting chairs often use biased calls during the proceeding, but they are careful not to flout Roberts Rule transparently. Yet, to the politically savvy, the bias is loud and clear.

(4) Censorship happens in a subtle way when members voice strong dissent on policy matters. Their media subtly use their power to exclude serious voices of dissent. And most members do not care to speak or write in the first place.

This is real too. But New York Times won't tell you.

This is real too. But New York Times won’t tell you. Madison, Wisconsin.

If this is how a so-called “liberal” or “progressive” or “democratic” organization (I’m using this coop as an example) functions, where almost all the members are educated and well-to-do, who overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party, then I have every reason to worry how they will vote in the coming elections.

Whether it’s my union where most are middle class or lower middle class workers and their families, or whether it’s this food coop where most are either affluent or upper middle class, they are decidedly pro-status quo. That means, in 2016, they will overwhelmingly vote for Hillary Clinton, and not Bernie Sanders or other lesser-known candidates.

One group (i.e., labor unions) would vote for Hillary because they don’t know who Bernie Sanders is, and believe Hillary is at least a “lesser evil” than anti-union Republicans. They are right from their perspective, an illusory perspective big media have created for them.

In case of the food coop, a small minority of the educated voters will vote for Bernie, and I know some will vote for the Green Party. But a large majority will vote for Hillary because they do not want to disrupt the status quo. The status quo has kept them happy. They are wealthy or at least better privileged than most other Americans with their own houses, higher education, shares on the stock markets, and other assets. They are also ideologically affiliated with a global economic and foreign policy that have worked well for their class for a very long time. They would not want to rock that boat.

You can call me a naysayer, and you can call me a party pooper, but this is my experience: real, raw and rough. And it’s fresh memory too.

I hope you read this post twice, with an open mind.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee (and my Wikipedia page)

Brooklyn, New York

P.S. — I am going to attend the nationwide mobilization meeting Bernie Sanders is holding tonight.

###

This is real too. But New York Times and CNN won't tell you.

This is real too. But New York Times and CNN won’t tell you.

A comparison New York Times or CNN won't do.

Comparison New York Times, NPR, NBC or CNN won’t do.

I do hope you read it.

Here on Long Island where I come to teach my labor union workshop, this is a cross section of heartland America. Here, you can see the Stars and Stripes flying around every street corner, and you can see churches at every five blocks. Here, they have practically no public transportation, and people with three or four members in the family drive large SUV’s. They have almost no MacDonald’s, and no Burger Kings or KFC. This is suburban America. Here, people believe the American Dream still exists.

My class is largely a Democratic Party constituency. Out of my 1,500 union colleagues I teach every year, most of whom come by rotation, I bet 1,400 will vote Democratic.

So, we’ve been indirectly having this conversation about various candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Most of them know Hillary is the same-old wine in a newly-packaged bottle. They know she’s been a flip-flop on many critically important issues, and she has been a spokesperson for the 1%. They know she will say anything to get elected.

But most will vote for her, because they truly believe she is a lesser evil than the Republicans, and is a big-name candidate who can win. Teacher’s union AFT has already endorsed her — without any open debate. It is possible AFL-CIO will also endorse her, although surprisingly, it has delayed its decision today.

To these union members, Republicans are anti-union and pro-big-corporation (they are right), and they hate people like Scott Walker or his ilk of union busters. They laugh at Donald Trump’s hate speech against immigrants.

Now, thanks to our classes over the years, many of them also know about Bill Clinton’s destructive NAFTA, his overturning of Glass-Stegall Act (a measure that destroyed the age-old separation between private banks and investment banks), and they also know Hillary Clinton’s long association with Wal-Mart, and her secretive position on TPP.

They have reluctantly accepted that even though these two big parties are flip sides of the same coin, they have no choice but to find the so-called “lesser evil,” every four years.

They know how Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan Chase are taking advantage of a weak Obama administration, looting America, and they know how GE, Exxon and Apple are not paying taxes. Some of them who came to my classes all these years also know about IMF, World Bank, Greece, Iceland, Bangladesh, India, Union Carbide, and Monsanto. These are well-informed people with serious political commitment. They participate in phone banking during elections.

Yet, many of them do not know who Bernie Sanders is, or what he has done to try to overturn Citizens United. They don’t know that what he has done in Vermont could be a pragmatic, futuristic model for tomorrow’s America. They don’t know that his proposed socioeconomic platform is not outlandish or far left. They don’t know he is not going to take their guns away.

Yet, some of them know about Elizabeth Warren and her progressive politics, but they also believe she will not run against Hillary Clinton.

This lack of knowledge about viable, strong alternatives has happened because of what I keep calling “Journalism of Exclusion.” Not just the New York Times, NBC, PBS, NPR or CNN, even the so-called lefty media such as MSNBC or The Nation are, in all likelihood, going to take a pro-Hillary position, effectively excluding Bernie Sanders from any possible democratic discussions or debates.

**There will be no debate on mainstream media — on real bread and butter issues.** This is my fear.

If my Bernie Sanders friends think I am being negative or pessimistic, you can hate me. My absence from this scenario will not change anything. Your life, and my life, will go on.

But hopefully, you will not hate what I have to say here. In America, I have a non-Judeo-Christian name, and I am a first-generation immigrant with no money or pedigree. But I bring in decades of political organizing experience, from the two biggest democracies in the world. I have worked with thousands of political activists, and I have worked on American and Indian elections all my life.

I know what I am talking about.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee (Wikipedia link)

Brooklyn, New York

###

History in America is now history! Nobody cares about it. (Just like India.)

History in America is now history! Nobody cares about it. (Just like India.)

An Immigrant’s Isolation

Posted: July 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

People who have not been in an immigrant’s shoes do not understand how difficult isolation can be.

Isolation from his family and friends he left back in his home country. Or, her country. His or her. But because I’m using me as an example of this emotional void, I’ll use “his” in this short outburst. In fact, isolation — when it hits — becomes so excruciating that you do not want to do anything. You do not want to write. You do not want to talk. You do not want to go out and have some fresh air, which could help make you feel better.

It’s a very deep depression you carry with you throughout the journey as an immigrant. You carry it for the rest of your life in the land that you adopted. You thought your life will be better, and perhaps it has been better for some material purposes: money, education, pleasures of life.

But deep down, you are living an unfathomable void. You feel it more when you are in pain. You even feel it when you are celebrating. Because in both cases, you want to share it with others. But there are no others. It’s a complete void. You are cut off from your own kind of society and civilization.

You are trying your best to be a part of the new civilization. You are trying hard. But you can’t do it.

You just can’t do it.

On various occasions, I compared my immigrant’s isolation with the time when Neil Armstrong was dropped on the moon. The way he saw the vast, huge mass of land — dark, empty, lifeless. He broke down emotionally. He fought insanity coming back to earth. But in my case, I can’t even go back to my earth. An immigrant is stuck on the moon forever.

And his spaceship dropped him off, and left. It will not return.

I guess, most people do not understand it. They would not understand it. You don’t feel it unless you have a sensitive mind. You don’t feel it if you do not long for your kind of people. You do not feel the pain if you do not want to share it with others. You do not feel the joy if you do not feel any need to share it with others who love you and care for you.

I do not feel like writing anymore. I am just happy that today, I was able to write this much.

Otherwise, this huge, empty, lifeless new world would devour me to death, quickly.

I am alive. And I am doing a lot of work. Some people say I am doing a lot of good work.

Maybe, I am.

But…who really understands an immigrant’s isolation?

Isolation of an immigrant who can’t deal with a total lack of society.

It’s no different from Neil Armstrong dropped on the moon.

Okay, that’s enough. Life will go on.

Sincerely,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

Life as I saw it. Raw. Rough. Real.

Life as I saw it. Raw. Rough. Real.

This is a short memoir about a long memoir.

I’m writing it now because otherwise, I will never write it no more. Like, if you don’t do it, would you ever do it?

I mean…you know what I mean. Like they say about relationships, “It’s complicated.” My developing relationship with my memoir is kinda complicated.

When I first started writing my non-celebrity autobiography, I didn’t know much about it. I mean, about my biography. Why write it? Why not leave it alone? Who’s is gonna read it? Like, what have you got so special in your fifty-some years of non-millionaire’s life that people would actually spend a few hours of their time to know who you are, and who you are not?

Why would they care?

Like, okay, you are a first-generation immigrant from a poor, Brahmin family in Calcutta. So what? Ain’t everybody in Calcutta poor? What’s the big deal? Like, didn’t we see City of Joy, or Slumdog Millionaire? Okay, Slumdog wasn’t Calcutta. But isn’t Calcutta even more Goddamnpoor? And you were not even that poor. Like, you never starved or anything. You never lived in a slum. You never didn’t not go to school. You didn’t do no drugs or gangs and stuff.

Okay, so you’re gonna tell us another rags to riches story? Don’t we have enough already? And what’s this nonsense about Brahmin and poor? Brahmins are the uppermost caste in that wretched caste system, ain’t it? Brahmins and poor?

Gimme a break!

These are questions I imagined people here in America would ask me, or for that matter, I thought, today’s young, Americanized people would ask even from Calcutta, Bombay, Bangalore or Bangladesh. So, after I wrote about sixty or seventy percent of my memoir in English, I stopped. I played up my impoverished childhood, and I played up my beautiful childhood. I played up my violent young adulthood in a violent political turmoil in Calcutta with bombs and murders and rapes and stuff, and I played up my fascinating, almost spiritual young adulthood in Calcutta, oh God, with surreal descriptions of monsoon rain and Diwali firecrackers and all-night train rides and wildflower collections and cricket matches. I played up my mother’s painful death of cancer when she was forty two, and I played up my love affairs with beautiful Bengali girls — a few real and most others imaginary — and even included dream sequences lush with lovemaking, as if in anticipation of someone like Ron Howard or Miyazaki would snatch it from the Union Square Barnes and Noble immediately after it was put out on sale.

Ah well. Too much expectation. Too little reality. After I had the first couple of chapters professionally edited — ready to go to publishers and literary agents — I stopped. And then it dawned upon me that perhaps I should write in a language that is more lucid to me than lexicography. And I began writing in Bengali. Bangla, that is. And it got picked up immediately by an online literary magazine, and lo and ho ho ho, each 3,000-word episode got 2,000 hits! It was a memorable memorabilia.

Facebook friends even sent in confidential kisses.

So, after all, people do want to read it. That was my realization.

My father is now 91 years old. She was 54 when mother died.

My father is now 91 years old. He was 54 when mother died.

And now it’s all ready to come out as a book. The publishers are even showing interest to hold a press conference in Calcutta, and guess what, a session of selected readings from some of the chapters I wrote. Like, they’re going to make me famous. Rich…well we’ll see. But famous…I shall take it even at two o’clock in the morning…in my dreams or not.

Writing from your heart helps. Blood, sweat and tears trickle from your pen…I mean…the friction point between your fingertips and keyboard squares. Love, passion and honest, no-sugarcoating, no-glossover tales still matter to most people. This is my new, gratifying realization.

There’s gonna be a time, not too long after, when people will stop reading. Just the same way people have stopped writing letters. Love letters. Letters to your favorite sister. Letter to your best friend. Like, those letters I wrote when I first came to America thirty years ago — in August of 1985. When I felt like I was Neil Armstrong dropped on the moon: a vast, barren, empty, gray place where you’re completely alone. Completely alone. I wrote my letters then as if a forever-exiled prisoner writing his script, and putting it carefully in a stoppered bottle, and floating it away, adrift on the turbulent sea, hoping that some day, it will surely reach those people you left behind forever — people who loved you and never wanted you to leave. Words came from the deepest places in my heart, and words came as if God was sending his message through your lips. I knew I was being honest.

I knew I was being honest, when I wrote my memoir. I knew I was being totally naked in front of my God.

I knew I was doing it, perhaps for the first time in my life.

Sincerely Yours,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

###

I was perhaps sixteen then.

I was perhaps fifteen or sixteen then.

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.