In the movie To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch famously said:
“I remember when my daddy gave me that gun. He told me that I should never point it at anything in the house, and that he’d rather I’d shoot at tin cans in the backyard. But he said that sooner or later he supposed the temptation to go after birds would be too much, and that I could shoot all the blue jays I wanted, if I could hit ’em, but to remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Today, November 29, we are going to remember Haider Rizvi, a dear brother, who left us suddenly exactly a month ago.
I’m not sure how many people will show up, and I couldn’t afford to do anything bigger than this event at a small Coney Island Avenue restaurant basement here in Brooklyn. But I wanted to organize this event, with help from some other friends for a couple of reasons.
One, Haider and I shared a few things in life. We were both first-generation immigrants here in USA, immigrants who did not prioritize money unlike most other immigrants especially from the Indian subcontinent.
We both rejected wealth as the ultimate measure of success. And we both knew that we were forced to leave our home countries, because our present and past rulers and British colonizing powers through their cruel and corrupt acts made our lives impossible.
We were both victims of the cruel, bloody partition, and we both suffered from that trauma — all our lives. I know some of my family members were destitute, being forcibly uprooted from Lahore and Dhaka. I know Haider’s family went through similar experiences. I could never visit Harappa and Mahenjodaro, which are my history too.
Haider Rizvi rejected and refused to accept the partition. So did I. We never believed in power’s forced boundaries, to keep people divided.
Haider and I were both victims of powers back there, and then as politically conscious and poetically inclined people, we were not treated by the powers here in America, the way we felt we should have been treated. After long, difficult struggles, wasting our health and other pleasures of life, we achieved success in our own fields, although the success was much more intellectual than economic — a fact that made us feel ostracized in our own immigrant communities here and also people we left back there.
And the second reason to organize today’s event is that I did want to make friends with more Indian, Pakistani, American and European men and women who would come together, and use his memory to work for peace, and a global environment of love, friendship and solidarity.
Today’s event is not a big United Nations general assembly. It’s a small event at a Brooklyn taxi drivers’ diner. But we couldn’t care less. We will create a sense of global togetherness out of this basement.
I hope you join us physically, and I hope you join us in spirit. Our resolve for love and peace is real.
Please, please, do not let them kill the mockingbird.
Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York