Christmas always brings a special meaning to me.
Not for religious reasons. Even though I went through a Christian missionary school in Calcutta, and they made us read the Bible. We had to take tests on the Old and New Testaments. I actually liked them, even though the Bengali translation was horrible.
Much later, I had a very rare opportunity to visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, and to see the Church of the Nativity gave me goosebumps.
In fact, I have always been a follower of Jesus Christ and his lifelong work for equality, peace, and justice. In fact, Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, Buddha and Krishna — five major religious icons I know of — have all preached socialism and no war, their way. Truly. They are progressive path breakers and torch bearers in human civilization.
But from an Indian and Bengali point of view, Christmas also is synonymous with two hundred years of forced occupation, tyranny, violence, and economic and social plunder of the subcontinent, that took my country away from me, and made me a victim of Western powers’ total takeover of a place that I have considered my motherland. British and Western occupiers raped and pillaged and robbed a very prosperous and peaceful India, and in two centuries, transformed it into a land of poverty, hunger, violence, hate, and mistrust.
Now, what the British and Dutch and French and Portuguese aggressors couldn’t do in two hundred years, American rapists and rulers have done in twenty years: they have colonized the minds of young India. But America and CIA and IMF and World Bank couldn’t do it, without the long, violent destruction by the British.
Yet, they did it in the name of spreading Christianity.
The Bible came to India, and so came the Western seeds of individualism, greed, destruction of our history, and breaking down of the society.
Jesus Christ didn’t live long enough to see this horror. He couldn’t have imagined it.
Merry Christmas only means so much to me.
Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York