20 June 2020

Lunch by the railway track

Caught up with John towards the end of our motorbike ride about his family. Over lunch at a restaurant by the railway track in Woodstock. John surprised me by how much he knew about the storm in Kolkata, Indian politics and the Indian prime minister Modi. We talked about the political situation in US, the likely outcomes of the virus, how he misses seeing his step grandson in Kenya growing up (he is stuck due to virus and cannot travel) and such. Really loved the conversation and the variety of topics John has wisdom around.

Should have known this guy long time back.

For that matter, should have started riding motorbike long time back too!

20 June 2020

Everything is better on a motorbike

John and I had not gone for a motorbike ride together in a long time. We fixed that problem today with a 100 mile ride. I met John for the first time in Sep 2017. We were in the same motorbike safety class. We bonded well since we were the only two over 50 years old in the class. (The rest were 25 and below). Also, we were the only ones without any visible ink on our skin.

For both of us, it would be the first experience in riding a motorbike. Turns out we bought the same make and model of motorbike (different years). I have stuck to my good old 2017 Honda CTX 700 DCT from the first day I rode it. John, in the meanwhile, has gone thru about four motorbikes, one three wheeler and a scooter. Finally, as of two months back, he has come back to our original model. He has the 2018 version. But as you can see the bikes look near identical. Of course, John being John, his motorbike has been heavily accessorized with all sorts of gizmos and gadgets. Mine is still pretty much the same as it came when we brought it home in Nov, 2017.

It was a great ride together. The feelings that come over you as you cut thru the heavy breeze in the gently winding rural roads of Georgia on a motorbike with a friend in tow cannot be possibly described; only experienced!

20 June 2020

Friday evening winding down

First Sharmila and I showed up by the lake. Stayed inside the car waiting out the thunderstorm. And then settled down by the lake shore with a couple of gins. Guess who showed up after some time. Good old Parijat and Dipanjan – fully equipped with their foldable picnic tables!!

It was a good and enjoyable evening.

Very interestingly, while the thunderstorms went by, temperatures dipped down from 84 to 65 in about half an hour. And then went up from 65 to 77 in the next half an hour!!

20 June 2020

In remembrance of all those people who have meant something to me…

Being on the other side of 50, song choices are often rooted in nostalgia. This evening’s song is dedicated to all those folks that have crossed my path – influenced me in so many ways – some small, some big – and I never got a chance to cross their paths again – to say a simple “Thank You.” My life was enriched by every such friend I have had, their parents who often guided me, my teachers, my family, those strangers who often left a big mark on me, those who became very close to me and then became strangers, my colleagues, those fellow passengers, those random foks that I met at restaurants, bars and streets… in so many ways, life has been nothing but an enriching collage of those meetings…

From the pen of Anand Bakshi..

“Zindagi ke safar mein
Guzaar jate hain jo makaam
Woh phir nahin aate.
Phool khilte hain, log milte hain, magar
Patjhad main jo phool murjha jate hain
Woh baharon ke aane se khilte nahin

Kuchh log ek roz jo bichad jate hain
Wo hazaron ke aane se milte nahin
Umr bhar chahe koi pukara kare unka naam

Woh phir nahin aate”

Roughly translated (improvements welcome)

In this caravan of life, all those places you pass…
They never come back again!

Flowers bloom; people meet; but
That flower that wilted in Fall,
Does not bloom again in Spring

Some people that split paths with you once
Never show up again, despite the milieu that you meet
Try as much as you might call out for them

They never come back again!

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16 June 2020

What I learnt from a few second generation immigrants about BLM

The backdrop to this is rather unfortunate. If I have my facts right, a young adult from our Bengali community (Rupkatha) posted about BLM in a Bengali forum and a grown up adult Bengali used the vilest of languages to attack her (and some other women in the forum). That had triggered in my mind a thought about how does the second generation immigrant Bengali community view the first generation immigrant Bengali community’s reaction to issues like BLM that is pretty much on everybody’s mind in this country.

Did a video interview with four young Bengali girls from our community Rupkatha, Dyuti, Diya and Puspita – all born in the US. Here is what I learnt:

First, I am simply amazed by the articulation power of young kids these days. Their ability to construct points of views and express them coherently and cogently far supersedes what I remember of my generation’s ability in those days. The sheer oratory skills – let alone the intellectual constructs used in debating a point of view – is impressive. This is why I always feel we are going to leave this world in smarter hands than ours. As it should be.

For folks my age – their message below might be hard hitting (I have tried to soften it without losing the essence). It is important not to get defensive and just listen to their points of views and respect them for that. Perhaps, some amount of reflection, if you so choose.

The key messages I heard from them for us first generation immigrants are:

(*) We should educate ourselves with the history of black Americans. We miss a deeper understanding of black Americans and the struggle the country has gone thru that shaped the platform for immigrants like us to succeed. It is not BLM’s responsibility to educate us. There is enough information out there. Lack of this education can only lead to lesser than deserved empathy.

(*) We need to realize that not saying anything or not taking a position is giving a message of not caring and thus makes us complicit. Especially, when we organize ourselves as a community, we need to realize that we represent a demography – whether we like it or not. Not speaking up when the rest of the country has – only speaks for supporting status quo. This is one of those few cases where not taking a position IS taking a position.

(*) We need to realize that situation is more complicated than just black Americans. On the other side of this equation is police brutality. Police (like military) is something our whole sense of right and justice is indexed on. It is important not to throw the baby with the bath water. Therefore, it is important that we listen to the other side. Regardless of whether we agree or not.

*ALERT* This gets really hard hitting for my community
(*) Speaking up is a function of how much privilege one enjoys. For most of our community, we came here due to our skills (technology, research etc) and we associate ourselves more with the affluent. That tends to be more white than black due to the history of the country. We therefore tend to have a dismissive attitude towards black Americans’ plight.

(*) We have inborn bias for fairer skin color (and against dark skin). [Rajib notes: as a background, in India, at least when I was growing up, a darker girl had far less chance of getting married than her fairer sister – I have a true story from my own family; there was a whole cosmetic industry peddling stuff to make your look fairer. I am not sure how it is now but I suspect biases do not go away in a couple of decades.]

(*) We instill hard work, good grades and staying out of trouble as virtues in our younger generation. Because, as immigrants, that is what made us survive and flourish. But does that teach the next generation how to integrate into a society and community that their parents might have only a cursory and a privileged point of view?

Like I said before – I learnt a lot from these young adults. I hope this is not the last discussion we have had.

Thanks are due to Amitesh for scribing while I was engaged in this video discussion.

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