Honestly, given how perennially poor, powerless and pedigree-less I have always been, I could be killed any time, many times.
And nobody would even notice.
Yet, India trips over the years — short or long — have always been exciting, no matter what.
Last year, around this time, I wrote about my then-imminent trip to India. Here I go again — go again — one more time. Here I write again — write again — one more time.
Last year, I quoted some Facebook comments I received from friends, in response to my trip announcement (read the blog: click on the link). This year, I do the same. Similar, I mean. Well…the format is similar, but the subject of the discussion is definitely not.
You’ll find out.
So, I posted on my Facebook wall this time:
THIS WEEK, I AM LEAVING FOR INDIA, my homeland, where men violate women, rich oppress poor, “high caste” beat up “low caste”…and guess what…powerful men and women of ALL societies exploit the powerless…AND MAKE MONEY. YET, you can’t call killers killers, liars liars and crooks crooks: media, police, politicians and social bosses will tell you what and how much you can say or do. They call it the largest secular democracy in the world!! Wish me well.
Oh boy…oh boy…did I open up a Pandora’s Box!
Responses came like a burst-open Hoover Dam. Or, keeping India in mind, like the Hoodroo Waterfalls in monsoon.
Some comments were quite mild. Like this one:
“I wish you didn’t make such an observation, Dada.” (Dada means big brother in Bengali).
Another innocuous one:
“All said and done India is our motherland…”
Of course! Who would disagree? So, I replied:
“If it’s our motherland, than treat the land as your mother.” (Like, don’t rape and kill and steal and soil and spoil and hit and hurt…the current India way!)
So far so good. People even started “like”ing the conversation.
“This expresn hurts us as we r livng in our mtherland u r nt. Don’t nacket our mother.”
Okay. Still okay with it. (Even though it hurts just a little…perhaps…whenever I see the you don’t live here snide. So, what if I don’t live there physically? I know about India inside out…believe me…I can teach you about India five times over…however “politically incorrect” that teaching might be — see below for clarification. And guess what: I’ve actually lived there for three decades — and that is where half of my heart still is. Does it make it a half-hearted passion? You decide. I don’t care.)
Then…a more “politically correct” comment.
“This is what Uma Narayan calls “Death by Culture.” Your remark is so incorrect and the way you have stated your opinion is so problematic that it requires far more than a facebook reply. It would benefit you to actually educated yourself on gender-based violence, particularly in the post-colonial context.” (No edits done here.)
Well, first of all, I don’t even understand half of it: I’m not that politically educated…at least my language I never claim to be politically correct. And I don’t mind being a little more educated even though I’ve been getting education for half a century now, but some more wouldn’t hurt.
And I also got a long note:
“Exploitation is everywhere, the core countries exploit the peripheral states, the haves exploit the have nts, whites beat up blacks, police interrogate anybody wth a beard and a surname calld khan, presidnts have their underwear testd to cnfirm adultery,…ethnic groups clash, a schizophrenic runs amok and guns dwn schlchldren, the entire world is dark and brutal..lets nt singl out india nly..yes it has many negative aspects…bt its healthier if we see the general dgeneratn of nations as a whole..cultural imperialism has taken its toll on india and such countries. Advertisements, baywatch, sex n the city, these cmodify wmen..we have 2 indias..one whch thrives ôn the MTV inputs and the other an impoverishd india..there is hybridisatn of idntities coupld wth illiteracy whch makes india what u branded it nw..lets nt only thnk frm a macro level.”
[Did not change the typos or abbreviations at all: who knows I might be even more politically incorrect doing it.]
So, I tried to explain my status update (not sure why I have to do it every time — to my “friends…I mean, don’t they know me?)
“Indian govt, police and military kill innocent people (mostly inside the country). U.S. govt, police and military kill innocent people in faraway lands (and also in the country). Indian politicians and corporations have some of the most corrupt elements in the world. So do American politicians and corporations. But they tell me not to get into it. My friends and family warn me not to get into it. My fellow Indians hate me for saying unpleasant things about India. My fellow Americans get very unhappy when I say unpopular things about America. And I really should follow their advice and shut up, given how powerless and pedigree-less I am.”
I also wrote:
USA and Western corporate capitalist powers, with help from IMF and World Bank, have completely colonized India and such countries; most people do not understand the nature of this massive, unbelievable neocolonization mainly because media do not talk about it and it is not bloody on the outside. Nobody understands what Monsanto does, what Wal-Mart, Disney, Coke, McDonald’s, GE, Exxon, Goldman Sachs or HSBC does. The death and destruction is perhaps the biggest in human history; yet we have so little talk about it especially outside the election cycles. India is perhaps the biggest victim. The social, economic and political problems that are imploding the country are all connected to this neocolonizing powers and their paid puppets, politicians and police in India. I’m going to talk about it at every opportunity I get while I’m there. I’ve written about it for years. You can look up one such article at http://onefinalblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/new-imf-terror-in-india-can-kill-my-family/
[And I didn’t even mention the Delhi gang rape preceded and followed by thousands of such horrific acts of violence on our sisters and daughters. I didn’t even mention the gruesome one-in-every-thirty-minute Monsanto farmer suicide, the still-born babies from that 1984 Union Carbide gas chamber killing, the 1984 Sikh genocide by Congress Party killers, the 2002 Gujarat carnage of Muslims, or the continuous barbaric attacks on poor, “low castes” and “untouchables.” I did not mention the unthinkable extent of female infanticide, bride burning and dowry deaths, or acid attacks on women, and zero justice for government and corporation-sponsored thugs and mafia that now rule India. I did not mention countless other such things — old and new.]
I AM poor, powerless and pedigree-less. I do not get quoted in news media. I do not feature in high-echelon accolades. I do not go to elite literary or musical conferences that New York Times reports. I do not have a car or even a family-owned house in India. I do not have followers. I do not have fans. Killing someone like me…is so easy in a place like India…or anywhere. My good friends, family and well wishers are often deeply worried about my well being. I’m not making it up.
I am scared to death too: for me, for my family, for my extended family living in India.
Yet, I got this last piece for now — another piece of wisdom from [I suppose] a more educated and politically correct person:
“Why do you think if a person isn’t making knee-jerk remarks that they are not as enraged or aware as you? Frankly, I find 90% of your remarks to be incorrect/inaccurate in some way or another. I hope you start to analyze the issues in a better way.”
And she even got rave reviews for her remarks:
“I ditto […]. I fnd u too exhibitionist. Anyway gdluck.”
I think she means well. I’ll take it. Thank you.
Not all the responses were critical. Some were reassuring. I’d pay more attention to them (life would become a little less complex that way…I suppose. But who knows if I’m making a politically incorrect, illiterate comment here!)
One friend cheered me up:
“The exploitation on women is universal, I suppose. The form of exploitation can be different from one to another. But still what you said about INDIA is also true.”
A young writer friend wrote:
“Welcome to our Shonar Bangla.” (Shonar Bangla is Tagore’s term for Golden Bengal — the old-glory, prosperous, pre-occupation, pre-colonization, pre-partitioned, pre-looted Bengal where lives and education and businesses and cultures and music and art and poetry and spirituality and such precious things flourished for centuries. Of course, nobody — not even Bengalis — cares to know.)
Even though Bengal is not golden anymore — thanks to a two century-long brutal, violent, plundering colonization and raping of the land followed by half a century of brutal, violent, plundering and raping of the land by a new class of “Independent India” rulers — I’ll take that “Shonar Bangla” omment with a cheerful heart too. It means something. It helps sustain a dream — to rise again, to prosperity and freedom to learn, think and analyze.
That is a dream I come back to every year. I hope those of you who do not like me and hate me and wish me go away do not kill me while I’m there. Even though Indian-Bengali poet D. L. Ray had said: “I wish to be reborn here and I wish to die here too…” honestly, that is not my wish right now.
I want to return. I wish to return — to you.
I am leaving for India again — with mixed emotions. I am excited, and I am nervous. I want to meet friends. And I am also apprehensive about meeting friends: who knows how they are going to talk and treat.
But it’s my mother’s land. I must come back to her.
Brooklyn, New York