Archive for October, 2011

‘Queen to Play’

Amitav Ghosh | October 31, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)

 

 

I am interested in chess as a reader, not as a player. I was ever a sot for words and who can resist phrases like: ‘Nimzo-Indian Defence’, ‘Poisoned Pawn Variation’, ‘Queen’s Gambit’ (or better still ‘Queen’s Gambit Declined’)?

In 1980, when I went to live in a village in the Nile Delta (the ‘Lataifa’ of In An Antique Land),

 

An evening in 'Lataifa', 1980

 

I took several chess books and a small chess set with me. In Egypt, as in most Mediterranean countries, there is a great love of board games, especially backgammon and chess. Many of Lataifa’s fellaheen knew how to play chess. In the evenings, after the fields had been watered and the cows and buffaloes had returned to their middens, we would sometimes sit down to play. I would prepare elaborate openings, learned from my books (the Ruy Lopez, I remember was a particular favourite). But it was hopeless. My opponents would never do what the books said they would, which invariably flummoxed me. After suffering many humiliating losses it occurred to me at last that chess might be (at least for me) one of those things – like deep-sea-diving and kundalini yoga and politics – that was better read about than practiced.

Looking back now, I think my interest in chess must have been kindled by the Fischer-Spassky matches, which were held the year I graduated from school. The chess players of that period were deeply interesting people: Fischer of course, but also Spassky and Viktor Korchnoi and Tigran Petrossian. And then of course, a generation later, there was Garry Kasparov, who was not only the dominant figure in the sport, but also a fascinating and mercurial person, in the grand tradition.

I had never imagined that I would meet Kasparov, but so I did, in 2010. He is a deeply interesting man, as one might expect, absolutely fizzing with energy and ideas; what is unexpected about him is that he is also very charming, in an almost childlike way. He said many complimentary things about Vishwanathan Anand, but then suddenly, apropos nothing, he wagged a finger at me and declared: ‘Chess was not invented in India! It is a completely wrong idea. Completely wrong!’

I had the impression that this was a continuation of an argument with someone else (perhaps Vishwanathan Anand?). I was reminded of a story an uncle of mine used to tell. He had studied at Trinity College, Cambridge in the late 1940s and was very much in awe of Bertrand Russell who was then the presiding genius of the place. One day he found himself standing behind Russell in a queue (those were the days of post-war rationing). Suddenly Russell turned around and thrust his forefinger into my uncle’s chest. ‘India did not invent the zero!’ he announced. And then he walked away.

One of the most remarkable things about chess is that it lends itself wonderfully to story-telling, in literature and film. Nabokov’s The Luzhin Defence and Stefan Zweig’s The Royal Game, come at once to mind, as do Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal and Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khilari (‘The Chess Players’) – one his finest works in my view: what a marvelous performance he coaxes out of Sanjeev Kumar!.

But it’s been a long time since I last saw a good chess movie. This is why it was doubly pleasing to chance upon Queen to Play (the original French title was Joueuse; dir. Caroline Bottaro). I had never heard of the movie and came it upon through a serendipitous click of the remote. It is not in the same league as The Seventh Seal and Shatranj ke Khilari, but it is still an engaging, enjoyable, heartwarming movie, about a hotel maid in Corsica who learns to play chess and goes on to win a tournament.

The only well-known actor in it is Kevin Kline and he hams it up in his usual good-natured way. But it is Sandrine Bonnaire, in the lead role, who transforms what could have been a pedestrian film into something very special. She is marvelous and deserves to be better known.

What a pity these small jewels never get the airing they deserve. Fortunately Queen to Play is available for live-streaming on Netflix. Highly recommended.

 


A list for Sanjay Persaud: some suggested readings on the Indian indenture

Amitav Ghosh | October 29, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (5)

 

 

Dear Sanjay Persaud,

You may remember that we had a brief talk after my reading at ‘Politics and Prose‘ in Washington DC on Sept 27 (that was when I took this picture). Earlier, during the Q&A, you had introduced yourself as a Guyanese of Indian descent who had grown up in the US.

 

You confessed, rather disarmingly, that you had never read any of my books but said that you were curious about your Indian roots and would be glad if I could recommend some  readings on the history of the indentured migration from India. At the time the only recommendation I could think of was Rahul Bhattacharya’s excellent travelogue The Sly Company of People Who Care (see my blog post of Sept 6).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I did not forget your request (nor indeed were you the first to pose this question to me). Over the last few weeks, I’ve been jotting down some suggestions for you. The list has grown longer than I had expected but please note that it is not, by any means, intended to be exhaustive. There are many glaring omissions – no fiction for example, and very little on South Africa and South-East Asia. But keeping all that in mind, I hope it will be of some use to you and those who share your interests.

Unfortunately I’ve lost your email address: I am posting the list here in the hope that it will reach you somehow.

With my best wishes

 

Amitav Ghosh

 

 

 

Anderson, Clare: Convicts and Coolies: Rethinking Indentured Labour in the Nineteenth Century, Slavery and Abolition, Vol 30/1, 93-109, 2009.

Archer, W.G. & Sankta Prasad: Bhojpuri Village Songs, Jrnl of Bihar and Orissa Research Soc., pp. 1-48, 1942.

Archer, W.G.: Songs for the Bride: Wedding Rites of Rural India, ed. B. Stoler Miller & Milfred Archer, Columbia Univ. Press, New York, 1985.

Arya, U.: Ritual Songs and Folksongs of the Hindus of Surinam, E.J.Brill, Leiden, 1968.

Bhana, Surendra (ed.): Essays on Indentured Indians in Natal, Peepal Tree, Leeds, 1991

Bissoondoyal, Basdeo: The Truth about Mauritius, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1968.

Bissoondoyal, U: Promises to Keep, Wiley Eastern, New Delhi, 1990.

Bissoondoyal U.& S.B.C. Servansing (eds.): Indian Labour Immigration, Mahatma Gandhi Instt., Moka, Mauritius, 1986.

Bissoondoyal U. & S.B.C. Servansing (eds.): Slavery in South West Indian Ocean, Mahatma Gandhi Instt., Moka, Mauritius, 1989.

Boodhoo, Sarita: Bhojpuri Traditions in Mauritius, Mauritius Bhojpuri Instt., Port Louis.

Brenneis, Don & Ram Padarath: About those Scoundrels I’ll let Everyone Know: Challenge Singing in a Fiji Indian Community, Jrnl of American Folklore, 88: pp. 283-291, 1975.

Brown, Laurence & Radica Mahase: Medical Encounters on the Kala Pani: Regulation and Resistance in the Passages of Indentured Indian Migrants, 1834-1900.

Carter, Marina: The Transition from Apprenticeship to Indentured Labour in Mauritius, Slavery and Abolition, 14: 1, 1993.

Carter, Marina: Voices from Indenture: Experience of Indian Migrants in the British Empire, Leicester University Press, Leicester, 1996.

Carter, Marina: Servants, Sirdars and Settlers: Indians in Mauritius 1834-1874, OUP, Delhi 1995.

Carter, Marina: Voices from Indenture: Experiences of Indian Migrants in the British Empire, Leicester University Press, London, 1996.

Carter, Marina: Lakshmi’s Legacy: The Testimonies of Indian Women in 19th Century Mauritius, Editions de l’Ocean Indien, Mauritius, 1996.

Carter, Marina (ed.): Across the Kalapani: The Bihari Presence in Mauritius, Centre for Research on Indian Ocean Societies, Port Louis, 1999.

Carter, Marina & Khal Torabully: Coolitude: An Anthology of the Indian Labour Diaspora, Anthem Press, London, 2002.

Dabydeen, David: Coolie Odyssey, 1988.

Deerpalsingh, Saloni & Marina Carter: Select Documents on Indian Immigration, Mauritius, 1834-1926 (Vol II: The Despatch and Allocation of Indentured Labour), Mahatma Gandhi Institute, Moka, 1996.

Dookhan, I: The Gladstone Experiment: The Experiences of the First Indian Immigrants to Guyana, 1838-43, Revista Interamericana VI, 1976-7.

Ewald, Janet J.: Crossers of the Sea: Slaves, Freedmen and other Migrants in the Northwestern Indian Ocean c. 1750-1914, American Historical Review, Vol 105/1, pp. 69-91, 2000.

Gillion, K.: Sources of Indian Emigration to Fiji, Population Studies X: 139-57, 1956.

Gillion, K.: The Fiji Indians: Challenge to European Dominance, 1920-1946, ANU, Canberra, 1977.

Grierson, G.: Report on Colonial Emigration from the Bengal Presidency, 1883.

Holden, Edgar: A Voyage in the Coolie Trade, Gloucester Ma, 1865.

Hollingworth, Derek: They Came to Mauritius. Portraits of the 18th and 19th centuries, OUP, Nairobi, 1965.

Journal of a Voyage with Coolie Emigrants from Calcutta to Trinidad, by Captain and Mrs. Swinton, ed. James Carlile, London, 1859.

Kelly, John D.: A Politics of Virtue: Hinduism, Sexuality and Countercolonial Discourse in Fiji, Chicago, 1991.

Kelly, John D. (et al): My Twenty One Years in the Fiji Islands and the Story of the Haunted Line by Totaram Sanadhya, Suva Museum, Canberra, 1991.

Lal, B.V.: Fiji Yatra: Aadhi Raat Se Aage, National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2005.

Lal, B.V. (ed.): Bitter Sweet: The Indo-Fijian Experience, Pandanus Books, Australian National University, Canberra, 2004.*

Lal, B.V.: Girmitiyas: The Origins of Fiji Indians, Canberra, 1983 (Reprint, (Lautoka: Fiji Institute of Applied Science, 2004.)*

Lal, B.V.: On the Other side of Midnight: A Fijian Journey, National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2003.

Lal, B.V.: Mr. Tulsi’s Store: A Fijian Journey, Pandanus Books, Australian National University,  Canberra: 2001.

Lal, B.V.: Chalo Jahaji: On a Journey Through Indenture in Fiji, Fiji Museum, Suva, 2000.

Lal, B.V.: Broken Waves: A History of the Fiji Islands in the 20th Century, Honolulu, 1992.

Lal, B.V.:  Approaches to the Study of Indian Indentured Emigration with Special Reference to Fiji, Journal of Pacific History, XV, Nos. 1-2, 1980.

Mishra, Vijay: Rama’s Banishment, A Centenary Tribute to the Fiji Indians 1879-1979, Heinemann, London, 1979.

Mohapatra, P.P.: “Following Custom”? Representations of Community among Indian Immigrants Labour in the West Indies, 1880-1920, International Review of Social History, 51 Supplement, pp. 173-202, 2006.

Mohapatra, P.P.: Regulating Informality: Legal Construction of Labour Relations in Colonial India, in Sabyasachi Bhattacharya et al, Workers in the Informal Sector Studies in Labour History 1800-2000, Macmillan, Delhi: 2001.

Mohapatra, P.P.: Longing and Belonging: The dilemma of return among Indian Immigrants in the West Indies 1850-1950, International Institute Asian studies, 134-155, 1995.

Mohapatra, P.P.:  Coolies and Colliers: A Study of the Agrarian context of Labour Migration from Chotanagpur, 1880-1920, Study in History, 1: 2, 1985.

Myers, Helen: Music of Hindu Trinidad: Songs from the Indian Diaspora, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998.

Omvedt, Gail: Migration in Colonial India: The articulation of Feudalism and Capitalism by the Colonial state, Journal of Peasant Studies, 1979-80.

Satyanarayana, A.: Birds of Passage: Migration of South Indian Labour to South East Asia, Critical Asian Studies, 34: 1, 89-115.

Saunders, K. (ed.): Indentured Labour in the British Empire, 1834-1920, London, 1984.

Scoble, J: Hill Coolies: A Brief Exposure of the Deplorable Conditions of the Hill Coolies in British Guiana and Mauritius and of the Nefarious Means by Which they Were induced to Resort to These Colonies, London, 1840.

Subramani (ed.) Dauka Puraan (in Fiji Hindi) Star Publication, New Delhi, 2001.

Subramani (ed.): The Indo-Fijian Experience, University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, 1979.

Teelock, Vijaya: A select guide to sources on slavery in Mauritius; And, Slaves speak out : the testimony of slaves in the era of sugar, African Cultural Centre, 1995.

Teelock, Vijaya: Bitter sugar: Sugar and slavery in 19th century Mauritius, Mahatma Gandhi Instt., 1998.

Teelock, Vijaya: Mauritian History: From its Beginning to Modern Times, Mahatma Gandhi Instt, 2001.

Tinker, Hugh: The Banyan Tree: Overseas Emigrants from Indian, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1977.

Tinker, Hugh: A New System of Slavery: The Export of Indian Labour Overseas 1830-1920, London, 1974.

Tinker, Hugh: Leadership without a Name: The Emergence of Estate Leaders among Indentured Labourers Overseas, Paper, School of Oriental and African Studies, Dec. 7, 1972.

Totaram Sanadhya: Fijidwip me Mere Ikkis Varsh, Pt. Banarasi Das Chaturvedi, Varanasi, 1972.

Totaram Sanadhya: Bhoot Len Ki Katha: Totaram Sanadhya Ka Fiji (ed. Brij V. Lal), Saraswati press, New Delhi, 1994.

Unnuth, Abhimanyu: A Portrait of Professor Basdeo Bissoondoyal, Edns de Océan Indien, Mauritius, 1988.


A link to Commissioner Lin

Amitav Ghosh | October 28, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)

 

 

The best thing about book readings is that they sometimes lead to meetings with people one would never encounter otherwise.

Last night I was reading from River of Smoke at the Greenlight bookstore which is a five-minute walk from my house in Brooklyn (only a couple of years old, the Greenlight has rapidly established itself as one of the leading bookshops in New York; it is now widely regarded as a model for a new generation of community-oriented bookshops).

During the signing a young woman introduced herself as Celia Liu

 

 

 

 

and said she was a direct descendant, through her mother and her father, of Lin Zexu, the famous Commissioner Lin – the incorruptible mandarin whose determined opposition to the drug trade led to the first Opium War. In this critical episode in Asian history, Commissioner Lin was one of the very few who acquitted himself with honour and courage. He was also a remarkable thinker and writer: his letter to Queen Victoria (quoted in River of Smoke ) is one of the most remarkable documents of the 19th century.

Commissioner Lin’s decision to destroy the opium he had seized from the foreign merchants of Canton was a turning point in the events leading up to war. The quantity of confiscated opium was so large that the process took several weeks. The site was near Humen, at the mouth of the Pearl River – a museum now marks the spot. The area was then known to foreigners as the ‘Bogue’ or ‘Bocca Tigris’ (‘mouth of the tiger’).

This is how it is described in River of Smoke:

‘The scene is set in a small village, not far from the Bogue. It is a flat, marshy place, intercut with creeks and surrounded by rice paddies. A field has been marked out, and trenches have been dug; the crates are stacked nearby as they arrive. The Commissioner is determined to prevent pilferage so the perimeter is guarded day and night and everyone who works there is searched, before they enter and when they leave.

‘Day by day the stocks of opium accumulate: the crates rise by the hundred until they reach a total of twenty thousand three hundred and eighty-one. Their combined value is almost beyond human imagining … to buy it you would need hundreds of tons of silver! … And all this opium was intended for sale in a single season: does it not make the mind boggle?).

‘But there it is, this great haul of opium and the day comes for Commissioner Lin to set in motion the process of its destruction. And on the eve of the ceremony what does the Commissioner elect to do? Why, he sits down to write a poem – it is a prayer addressed to the God of the Sea asking that all the animals of the water be protected from the poison that will soon be pouring in.’

To me, nothing says more about Commissioner Lin than the fact that at this critical juncture he paused to think about the creatures of the sea. He clearly envisioned continuities between forms of life in a manner that would be almost unimaginable in a government official today, in China or elsewhere.

I’ve read every translation I could find of Commissioner Lin’s journals, letters and edicts and it is no accident that his voice echoes powerfully through River of Smoke. But it had never occurred to me that the book might one day lead to a meeting with one of the Commissioner’s descendants, and that too in Brooklyn!


A film-viewing ‘commons’?

Amitav Ghosh | October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (5)

 

 

Anupam Barvé, who recently acquired the film option for The Shadow Lines (see my post of Oct 15) wrote to me today to say that he and his collaborator, Vaibhav Abnave, are trying to fund the project through an innovative new method, one that relies, as it were, on the film-viewing  ‘commons’. What is more, they have already had considerable success – novel indeed are the possibilities opened up by the Internet!

I am amazed to think of the possibilities this might open up. It could revolutionize film-making, setting it free of the studios.

The details are available here,

and here:

 


Diwali!

Amitav Ghosh | October 26, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

The nicest Diwali card I got today was from an Englishman – Mike Bryan, who was head of Penguin India and is now head of Penguin Canada. Here it is …

 

 

 


Occupy Ottawa! Oct 24

Amitav Ghosh | October 25, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

 

“Occupy Ottawa gathers in peace and solidarity with Occupy Wall St. and the 99%, to reclaim our planet

 

 

 

from the unfettered capitalist corporate oligarchy that has commodified everything, rendering our citizens impotent,

 

our governments corrupt, and destroying the ecosystem on which all humanity depends. This group aims to force a reconsideration of our current economic and political systems,and offers hope to those who previously felt alone in their belief that the current system is intrinsically flawed and that the time for change is now.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Healthcare and Education are human rights’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was one of the best organized and most impressive of the Occupy protests I’ve visited. I was rather surprised by this since Canada’s financial system is more regulated than that of the US, which is why there was no housing bubble in the country and no bank bailouts either. Canada also already has a socialized medical system and free public education. I learnt that environmental issues (especially shale oil) and the rights of indigenous peoples are at the top of the agenda for the Occupy Ottawa  protesters. But they also share the worldwide concern about corporate greed.

 

 

 

The issues tent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading list

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chart of the decision making process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reclaim the Commons


Letter from a doctor

Amitav Ghosh | October 24, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (2)

 

[The pictures in this post were taken by Suhas Ganguli]

 

 

 

Dear Amitav Sir,

I hope this letter finds you well as it leaves me at present. I am a
young Pediatrician from Kolkata and an avid reader of your works. I
was first introduced to your writings by my cousin Sharmistha Misra,
then a postgraduate student of English Literature in the University of
Calcutta. She gifted me a copy of The Hungry Tide and from that point,
I have found myself forever immersed in anything that came from your
pen.

Within two weeks of finishing the book-which I did over a span of four
nights-I felt compelled to visit the Sunderbans where I really saw
Hungry Tide rise high. The enormous ecological wealth of the Bhaanti-r
Desh was enlivened in my mind by the novel. As you know, a visit in
the capacity of a weekend tourist allows little opportunity to
interact with the local community, it was not too difficult for me to
imagine the very human faces of Fokir, Moyna and Nirmal and their
dreams, aspirations, love, hopes, hopelessness, endurance and every
other attribute that so vibrantly decorate your characters. In this
context, I must mention that I realised firsthand the importance of
preservation of biological and ecological character of the place,
which you had also underlined in an essay written years ago in
response to a proposal to the erstwhile Govt of West Bengal, from the
Sahara Group asking to set up a Tourism Hub in the region. Not the
least of the reasons were the fact that the purity of the Sunderbans
had never been about the flora and fauna alone, it is and always has
been very much about human existence and lives, a countless of them
having been lost in the events that followed the forced eviction at
Morichjhaanpi.

It  has been twenty five years since Alu was able to weave his first
Lokkhoheerabuti Jamdani-a remark that I made when I got the prized
opportunity of my lifetime to meet you in person in an event in
Kolkata earlier this year-but in all your works that followed ever
since, what strikes me most is your constant and increasingly engaging
ability to blend travels, that move as much in space as they do in
time, in the panoramic scale of human history with characters that
create an almost household immediacy around them. This is uniquely
testimonial of your genre, the only familiar (to my limited knowledge
of literature) exponent of the same being Sharadindu Bandypadhyay, the
createor of “Sadasib-er Golpo” among many other historical fictions in
Bengali.
After all these years my mind is still filled with thoughts of
Rajratan, not the preadolescent boy growing up with Malati and
threatening to leave to look for Neel in the Seas as he does in River
of Smoke, but the child waiting expectantly for him in the terrace of
Raskhali Rajbari with a kite that never flew again. Who can forget the
thrill of being able to precisely invent imaginary places, depicted in
The Shadow Lines or fail to ponder over the futility of geographical
and political boundaries enshrined in the remark-“It is this that sets
apart the thousand million people who inhabit the subcontinent from
the rest of the world-not language, not food, not music-it is the
special quality of loneliness that grows out of the fear of the war
between oneself and one’s image in the mirror.” Or for that matter, I
wonder how many of us did not share King Thibaw’s sense of loss when
he noticed that the chariot’s ceremonial canopy had seven tiers, meant
for a nobleman and not nine, due to the King. The Calcutta Chromosome
always holds a special place close to my heart because of its
premises, one such being PG the Hospital-now IPGMER and SSKM
Hospital-where I had my Postgraduate training and not the least
because I someday hope to find a Murugan in me, with you singularly
occupying Sir Ronald Ross’s throne!

I had planned to pen this letter many months ago but could not do it
as I was occupied with the deadlines of the United States Medical
Licensure Examinations and I wanted to write it with my undivided and
unbroken attention. Also, the timing could not have been more
interesting and personally relatable for me as I am now in the USA
travelling to seek specialised professional training. It is this
transit of thousands of miles from my home at Chinsurah on the banks
of Hooghly and anticipation that usually characterise these First
Journeys that makes palpable to me the feelings that crossed the minds
of Deeti, Zachary, Neel and even maybe Bahram, when he arrived at
Canton for the first time. It also reminds me of my Uncle, Late
Biswajit Ganguli, a painter, and his great journey that took him,
initially on a cargo vessel called ‘Damra’, then by hitch-hiking, and
sometimes on foot with his pencils and paintbrushes funding his trips,
to places including Bombay, Bahrain, Egypt, England, Germany and
finally to a Danish suburb, a few miles off Copenhagen, where he spent
a good part of his life.

Another aspect of your works of fiction that enthrals us is the
confluence of academic brilliance, scholarship and thorough research
that they sparkle with.  The enormously formidable ability to deal
with subjects as diverse like anthropology, human history, marine
biology, horticulture and gardening, art history and nautical
sciences, all at the same time, to this degree of precision and
detailing is perhaps non-existent in any other author of any age and
time.

Sir, I am a small and insignificant man with even smaller fund of
literary knowledge. But after River of Smoke it has been impossible
for me to let go of the characters that I have come to love so
earnestly, not much unlike long known friends or members of one’s own
extended family. Therefore the possibility of extension of the Ibis
trilogy to a quintet or even an octet appeared as the ray of hope that
instantly illuminated a fan’s expectant mind. My personal favourite is
Neel but in River of Smoke I missed Baboo Nob Kissen, Kalua and
Zachary very much.

Here I must add that I am enclosing two pictures with this letter. The
first one was taken at the time of my travel to the Sunderbans and I
have taken the liberty to name it The Hungry Tide after your book. The
second photograph captured the most precious moment of my life which
gave me the opportunity to meet you in person in Kolkata. Any
acknowledgement that ‘The Amitav Ghosh’ has read this letter and seen
the photographs will mean the world to me.

Finally, before I conclude this communication, I want to tell you
something borrowing your own words, (the ones that you wrote for
Satyajit Ray, another great son of India) which my feeble memory may
not be able to reproduce verbatim, “In ancient Japan it was a custom
to pay homage to a great artist by standing outside his house alone
and in silence till one is invited inside.” Sir, you are the only
person in the whole world for whom I am willing to do that.

With Bijoyar Pronam and regards,

Respectfully yours,

Suhas Ganguli

 

 

 

Dear Suhas Ganguli
I am  truly humbled by your letter. There can be no greater reward in a writer’s life than to know that his work has made such a profound impression on a reader.
I wonder if you would mind if I posted your letter on my blog? Please do let me know.
I deeply appreciate your taking the time to write to me.
With my sincerest thanks
Amitav Ghosh

 

 

 

 


Following the Calcutta Chromosome

Amitav Ghosh | October 23, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (1)

 

 

 

 

 

Katrine Brondstedt, a teacher from Denmark, introduced herself to me after a reading in Austin Texas. She said The Calcutta Chromosome had made such an impression on her that she had traveled to Calcutta and searched out every site mentioned in the book. Robinson Street was the most difficult to find. No one seemed to know where it was and she had begun to wonder if I’d made it up. But then she found it.

 

 


Occupy Austin! Oct 22, 2011

Amitav Ghosh | October 22, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

 

 

City Hall

Austin Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Occupation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

one wellspring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fancy told me she was from Elgin, not far from Austin. ‘Our system of democracy has been corrupted by corporations,’ she said. The two things she cares about most are:

- Abolishing corporate personhood

- Restoring the Glass-Steagall Act (separating retail and investment banking).

 

She said she felt a little frustrated that some of the protesters did not want to talk about concrete measures. ‘It’s like herding a bunch of chicks.’

 

 

 

 

 

But nearby there was a long list of demands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Have you heard of the American Dream?’ they asked before handing me a leaflet: Contract for the American Dream.

 

It said: ‘Today the American Dream is under threat. Our veterans are coming home to few jobs and little hope on the home front. Our young people are graduating off a cliff, burdened by heavy debt, into the worst job market in half a century. The big banks that American taxpayers bailed out won’t cut homeowners a break. Our firefighters, nurses, cops and teachers – America’s everyday heroes – are being thrown out into the street.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jake was handing out information on how to move from big banks to small credit unions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While nearby seekers sought

 

 


Occupy San Francisco, October 20

Amitav Ghosh | October 21, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)

 

 

Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco, opposite the Ferry Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘We need

- Affordable Housing

- Rent Stabilization

- No More Slum Lords

- Liveable Wage (30 hours a week)’

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘END CORPORATE PERSONHOOD’

 

‘WAKE UP!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘TERMINATE GLOBAL DOMINATION’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘WE ARE THE HOPE TO DEFEAT THIS MIND-BLOWING DISEASE’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘TODAY’S HAPPENINGS’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael is manning the food distribution tent today. He works in the food industry and has a catering job. He said he felt it was his duty to be here to support a world-wide movement. ‘If not now when?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOVE IS POWER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic First Aid Tent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Aid tent is staffed by members of the California Nurses Association. Pilar is a representative of the Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pat is a volunteer nurse. She said: ‘As a nurse I have a really good picture of what the community looks like. And I’ve been seeing people putting off health care because they can’t afford it. As a nurse it is just not tolerable to me.’

Pat traveled around India many years ago. Her brother-in-law was on a Fulbright at the University of Roorkee and she went to visit him.

Now she is outraged by the bank bailout. ‘No bankers have gone to jail and people are underwater. I need to see some bankers in jail. Even the Rockefellers knew that they had to take care of their workers. These people (the bankers) take everything and give nothing.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erin is also a nurse and she wants to get the word out about the International Day of Action on Nov 3, when the leaders of the G-20 nations meet in France. The brochure she is holding says:

International Day od Action:

Occupy G-20

Thursday Nov 3, 2011

MAKE WALL STREET PAY

San Francisco – USA Action

‘As leaders of the G-20 nations meet in France, join with nurses, labor, students, and community activists and be part of the global actions. Demand Wall Street pay for the devastation they’ve caused to our communities.’

 

 

 

 

Raina has been living in this tent for weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were singing ‘Imagine’…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEACE LINE

Do Not Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recycling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are each other’s Social Security

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Vijaya Nagarajan and Lee Swenson, veterans of many a protest (see my post of Oct 2).