Once Upon a Sidewalk

Once Upon a Sidewalk

By Eddie Girdner

October 23, 2011

Once Upon a Sidewalk

Eddie J. Girdner

Published in Third Concept, No, 278, 2009

 

As I stepped out of a restaurant in New Delhi, India, some piles of books for sale on the sidewalk in Connaught Place caught my eye. It would be instructive to see what the local population was reading, I thought. Or were these bootlegged copies only being picked up by the foreigners living in the city? The first title that my eyes focused upon was The Warren Buffett Way by Robert Hagstram and next to it was The IBM Way by Buck Rogers. With all the poverty one sees around this city, these should prove useful indeed. And then I was hit by a feeling of nostalgia when next to these I saw the old classic, Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, which I had seen selling in the same spot some forty years ago. Was that stuff still selling? Amazing. Surely, it seemed to me, if the way to grow rich was to think, then India would surely have been the richest country in the world for hundreds of years.

 

And then there was The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman… sure enough! Friedman had ridiculed all those critics who doubted the virtues of globalization and the global neoliberal economy, in this book, particularly those who wanted more government regulation and social welfare, when times were good, that is, just before the collapse of the global economy. Oh yes! That should explain what was happening in India very well, I thought. And making a bid to trump Friedman was Once upon a Wall Street by Peter Lynch. That should make one’s lunch digest better! And on another brightly colored cover Jack Welch screamed out in big red letters: Winning! Well, I don’t know. I guess there must be somebody somewhere who is. It had been a while since I had run into anyone in that category. And Delhi didn’t seem the likely place.

 

After a couple of days negotiating the streets of Delhi in an auto rickshaw, and comparing these books to what I had seen over the years, somehow they just did not quite seem to suit the climate. But then another book, looking on the brighter side, suddenly proclaimed: Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do. Now there’s a lie if I ever heard one! Well, getting down to the nuts and bolts of things, I moved my eyes around to Tom Hopkins, How to Master the Art of Selling and Mutual Funds Made Easy, put out by an outfit called Beria Sunlife Mutual fund. Along with those it might be wise to pick up a copy of Consumer is King by Rajyalakshmi Rao. A nice package there to acquire the know-how of getting ahead in the business world and life in general in the world’s teeming underbelly. Mutual funds, here I come! We have all learned what a great investment those are in the last few months! Certainly appropriate for Delhi residents. I wonder if my auto rickshaw driver, making five dollars a day, not enough to send his children to school, should pick up a package of those mutual funds for his future. And next to it all, to give one a broader view, and a more philosophical underpinning, was Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

 

The juxtaposition of these titles next to what I had seen on the streets and around the city, the condition of the common people, could not have been more stark. I thought of the thousands of Indian Farmers who had committed suicide over the last few years because they could not even feed their families. I thought of the women construction workers I had seen waiting at the side of a road in Delhi that morning, with their babies, waiting to begin their day of heaving soil and cement and bricks for a dollar a day. They were certainly not following the Warren Buffett way. They may have been thinking, but they were not growing rich. And as far as I could tell, they were not winning either.

 

Only one writer seemed to have gotten it pretty much right. Right in front of me, there was a copy of Peter Robinson, Snapshots from Hell. Now that ain’t no lie! When there is no future, then why not fantacize about the glories or capitalism? Nowadays, in New Delhi or New York… what’s the difference?

 

Another title offered was by Mark McCormack, What they Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School.  But why buy the book? One could learn much of that just by riding around a third world city in an auto rickshaw or in these days, or sleeping on a sidewalk.

July  16, 2009

Eddie J. Girdner, Professor of International Relations, Izmir University. Author of USA and the New Middle East, 2008.

 

 

 

A Roll of Film at Jawaharlal Nehru’s Family House in Allahabad

Anand Bhavan is the former Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru’s family house in Allahabad India. All frames were shot by the author with a Leica M6 TTL Camera, with Leica Summarit M 35 mm f 2.5 lens. The photos were shot on 15 January, 2020. The building behind Anand Bhavan, where former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was born, is Swaraj Bhavan.

The film was hand developed by the author using Tetenal Colortec C-41 process and scanned with an Epson Film Scanner.

 

 

India Trip Blog 8. The Residency, Lucknow. (10 January 2020)

India Trip: Blog 8 The Residency (January 10, 2020)

3:10 Afternoon. Out a little after nine and now I came back to the hotel just before three o’clock. It was enough time to go and photograph that Residency place. It is much bigger than I had imagined with many buildings. Some were blown up in the war, apparently. But the grounds are vast. I shot about four rolls of film, two of black and white and two of color. So it was quite a lot. The place is a gold mine for a photographer. I only saw a few people there, all with cell phones. They were all Indians, except for one Australian couple. I talked to them a little.

It is great to have plenty of time to go where one wants and plenty of time to change your film. It takes some organization and it is good not being marched around as in a tour! Man! I hate that so much on a tour.

I got an auto rickshaw just in front of the hotel. He took me to the Residency for Rupees 200. I know that it is more than a local would pay, but nothing to me, so I can just make the guy happy with that extra one dollar. He got me there.

Man! It was very cold in the morning, going there in that open rickshaw. I really do not remember that much cold in India before. Maybe it was because of the storm. It was a good day, a sunny day. The traffic was horrendous, even more so coming back. When I came back, the guy asked for Rupees eighty. I paid him Rupees one-hundred and he wanted to give me change. Pitiful!

When I got to the Residency, I paid Rupees 300 for the entry fee. The museum is closed on Fridays, but that was alright with me. My objective was to do some photography. Maybe I got too careless in the end, as there is so much to photograph. But I just did it the best that I could do and I hope that most pictures are decent. I would like a few extra good ones.

I saw right away that the Residency is the place where young lovers and couples meet secretly. They can meet in the day and be seen by few people. It has to be in the day, as the place closes at five in the afternoon.

Walking around the compound, one should not go too far from the track laid out for visitors. I went back from the track to get a better shot of that old mosque, but some dogs came out and started barking. They did not appear to be friendly, so I back tracked quickly. It turned out alright.

Two times today people asked to make selfies with me. Man! I thought that I looked awfully old in those cell phone photos.

Another couple came and talked to me. They were from Andhra Pradesh. The guy said that he was an electrical engineer. I have to say that he did not strike me as terribly bright. But probably language. His wife got the gist of what I was saying much more easily than him. I think that she understood English easily.

Some people seem quite nosy. He asked my age. I asked him to guess. He said 70. Then he asked me what city that I thought was developing fastest in India. I told him that I didn’t have any idea.

I said that they were all developing too fast for me. I said that I like slow development. I tried to joke around with him, but usually, he did not get it. But generally, his wife understood the joke. An engineer!

He asked me how many times I had visited India. I said that I could not remember. (a lie) “But I keep making the same mistake over and over,” I said. He didn’t seem to get that joke. An Engineer? But I told him that I did like coming to India, anyway.

3:55 Afternoon. Friday 10 January. I am sleepy and just about ready to crap out now.

There is a lot of pounding going on up above. It sounds like it is in the room above me. My legs got quite tired today at that place and I needed a rest for sure.

It was okay for a one-day outing. Tomorrow I will try going to the Bara Imambara. And maybe to the Chhota Imambara. (the Hussainabad Imambara). They are close together, but a little farther than the Residency from here. They are in the north-west of the city. There are several things to go to here if one takes the time to do it and take pictures.

American Sahib

American Sahib by Eddie James Girdner (2016) 416 pp.

Available from Amazon.com.

This novel is largely autobiographical but contains a good deal of fiction. It is mostly about life in a Punjabi village in the late 1960s.

I wrote this book in 2015 and then put it aside for several years after publishing it. It was based upon my two years in Punjab, India (1968-1970).

I had forgotten somewhat how the narrative unfolds. So I read it again this summer to see what I would think of it.

If someone is looking for a patriotic book that only praises America, the Peace Corps, the US Government, then this is not the book. It pokes a lot of fun and criticism at the USA. And it does not spare India either. So one should read it with an open mind. If one does not have something to say, then why bother to write the book?

The book has not been sanitized by a corporatist publishing company to make it safe for a neoliberal global agenda.

The book has some love affairs. Not unusual. This often happens in life itself, so it should not be surprising to discover it between the pages of a novel. One might be surprised at how many people object to such things. So many Americans seem to have a puritanical bent of mind. Often hypocritically, however. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Reading the book after three years, I was rather surprised. I hoped that I could look at it somewhat more objectively. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how good it was. I just don’t know of very many books that describe life in Punjab as well as this one does. Prakash Tandon, of course, Punjabi Century and Beyond Punjab are great books. But a somewhat different genre.

I found the book to be such a revealing description of life in a remote village in Punjab and in the towns in those days. Now that was fifty years ago. Half a century of water under the bridge. The book is quite funny in many places. The book is not only literature, but a political and economic analysis of a developing country without all the academic jargon. British colonialism, Indian politics, and the USA in the global system. America as an imperialist hegemon. A good deal of political economy spills out of the pages. And what the locals think of America and Indian politics might be interesting.

The love scenes spice up the book somewhat, breaking the monotony of village life. The dichotomy between the city and the countryside is stark. Escape is necessary to keep one’s relative sanity.

The perspective of the left in India, the relevant communist analysis of society emerges. Comrades are in the street, some actual members of the Communist Party of India. The author finds their analysis honest and convincing. They are often hauled off to jail. Actually, I think the members of the US State Department could benefit by reading this book. They could certainly learn something. This would surely be their ruination, as a part of that outfit. Unfortunately.

The author cannot resist mentioning the stupid things one hears on VOA, the Voice of America. Actually, the voice of Dick Nixon in the late 1960s. One picked it up on shortwave radio, the twenty-five meter band in India. Dick, the US President, hates the Peace Corps and sets out to kill it. Or as much of it as he can. He almost did. The US Presidick, for the author.

It always amused me how US congressmen in Washington were afraid to send young Americans abroad, especially to developing countries. What were they so afraid of? Why, simply that they might learn something and bring their ideas back to America. The old mushroom syndrome once again. Keep the people in the dark and pile horse shit on them. That’s the way one grows mushrooms. Americans are mushrooms. No shit. But why insult mushrooms? They are useful.

I will not even mention Tiny Hands Trump. Things can always get worse.

There is a good deal of satire in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.

It came to my mind that it would be incredibly instructive for students in a South Asian studies program in an American university to read. It is very informative in a simply way. But I don’t think that most American professors would have the courage to use it in their classes. The book steps on too many toes and is too unorthodox. Political correctness has ruined so much freedom in academia, it seems. The very place that it should not be ruined.

I am not saying that this is a great novel, as a novel. I do not claim to have any expertise to evaluate the book as a novel. But it is an interesting story. I think that it is a fun book. It is full of ideas. I just had some things that I wanted to say, and so I said them in the form of a novel. I would like to think that I have learned something living outside the USA for a third of a century. And all in so-called developing countries.

I guess that young Indians, especially Punjabis, might enjoy reading it. That is, if they knew about it. So many know English. The book is written in very simple language. It is also good just for entertainment. That is, if one has a critical and intellectual bent of mind.

It is not a bad book to have on one’s book shelf.

July 21, 2019. Akarca, Seferihisar, Turkey

Images of Punjab in the 1960s

US Empire at War

 

The US Empire at War: Some Thoughts About the Consequences

Eddie J. Girdner (Retired Professor)

(Published in Third Concept Journal, July 2019)

From all indications, the United States is preparing for a new war against Iran, using almost exactly the same script that was used to drum up a war against Iraq in 2002 and 2003. Perhaps the officials believe that people will not remember how the neo-conservatives in the George W. Bush Government lied the United States into that war. A new war is apparently being drummed up by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor, John Bolton. Thousands of additional US troops are being sent to the Middle East in June 2019.

It is said that President Donald Trump does not want a new war in the Middle East. But with Congressmen in Washington, such as Representative Tom Cotton and others, things may spin out of his control. It seems that nothing is easier for the USA than going to war. The country certainly has a lot of experience at it.

The United States of America has been continuously at war now for almost thirty years. Since the US invasion of Iraq in 1991 under George H.W. Bush, the father of George W. Bush the country has been at war. That is twenty-eight years.

So a person younger than thirty years old in the USA has never known their own country to be at peace. Of course, the USA was at war continuously from 1961 to 1975 in Vietnam. (Fourteen years)

Go back sixty years. Over that time period (1959 till 2019), the USA has been at war for at least forty-two years out of sixty. This does not count all the proxy wars that the USA carried out in Central America, as in Nicaragua and Grenada. Also Afghanistan, and other countries. Indeed, in many places all across the globe where the US Central Intelligence Agency destabilized governments.

This means that a person in the US who is sixty years old has only known eighteen years of peace in his or her lifetime.

There is no other country in the world that I can think of that has engaged in so much war over the last sixty years. If the US mission is to preserve the peace in the world, that is a hell of a way to do it.

Fighting for peace is like having sex for virginity, as we used to say in the sixties about the Vietnam war. It is still largely true.

But the USA will keep on keeping on waging war all over the world. I am confident of that. The officials in Washington will keep on drumming up needless wars as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are now doing with Iran and Venezuela. So far US efforts in Venezuela have failed, which is good.

It seemed, at one point, that US President Donald Trump might end some of the continuous wars and bring some troops home, like he promised to do. But if he was serious about that, he has been defeated by the deep state that insists on keeping the wars going. Trump said that he would get US troops out of Syria a few months ago in 2019, but that did not happen.

The military industrial corporate complex wants war profits. They don’t need them, but they do want them. The roads, bridges, and other infrastructure in the US are falling into a state of collapse. But the US Government prefers to print money for wars, rather than putting money into fixing the roads and airports.

There are many other things besides war that the USA could have done over the last sixty years.

It was trillions of US dollars down the drain in Vietnam. Like Marx said, war is like dumping a portion of the national wealth into the sea. The US lost the war there. After 1975, Vietnam unified, tried socialism for a few years, then began shifting to the successful East Asian Model of state-guided capitalism. This model was followed by Japan, Taiwan, and then China after Deng Xioping moved toward state-guided capitalism. The Vietnamese saw that this model was successful, far more than the American liberal model. Chalmers Johnson on Japan and all that. US economists claimed that the model did not work, but this was wrong as Johnson pointed out in his writings. The model successfully developed the countries of East Asia. China became the great work house of the world with massive exports to the USA.

So all of that destruction and chaos, the killing of three million Vietnamese and sixty thousand American soldiers in Vietnam, many more wounded, many more suicides of veterans and so on, was completely unnecessary. Except, that is, for the making of war profits.

The war did contribute to the development of South Korea, just as the war in Korea in the early 1950s contributed to the development of Japan.

When it comes to the war in Iraq, hardly anybody now claims that this war was a good idea. That is, except for a few people like Bolton, Pompeo, Dick Cheney (thr former US Vice President) and so on.

And then there is the war in Afghanistan. Don’t even mention it. The Taliban were still winning, the last time I checked. But the war goes on now, after about eighteen years. It keeps pumping out war profits for the ruling class in the USA. The US Generals know that they whole thing is a farce, but they have to wait till they retire to tell what is really going on. What a waste on an international scale.

So, I will put it bluntly. It would have been difficult to devise foreign policies more destructive than those followed by the USA over the last sixty years. Destructive of both life in the USA and around the world. That is, if one wanted to have a peaceful world. It takes real talent!

But the guys in Washington are not about to let the world down! They can provide new wars. And, of course, every US president has to have his own war. If not, then they are seen as a failure. Remember Jimmy Carter. Poor guy. He never started a war anywhere. So he was sent back to grow peanuts on his farm in Plains, Georgia.

But he probably saved a lot of people from dying in useless wars.

There are many things that the USA could have done if the country had been a democracy that served the people instead of only the One Percent and US corporations.

The USA could have had a wonderful world-standard health care system that was available to the whole population, like most of the developed world has. Even Turkey has guaranteed health care for citizens at a very small cost.

The USA could have had a university system that was free and available to all, like Germany, Slovenia and many other countries. Now university graduates are saddled with debt and cannot find jobs. Some end up leaving the USA to teach in China. Salaries are much smaller in China, but they find themselves a lot better off than they would be in the USA.

The US could get rid of the crippling student debt of over one and a half trillion dollars in the USA. This would be a great help to young people trying to start their careers. Not a chance of it ever happening, however.

Surely, providing some benefits for the people was not out of reach for the USA. After all, dollars for the wars have been created out of thin air by the US Federal Reserve and just added to the US debt tab. The USA has not even pretended to pay for any of these multi-trillion dollar wars. The debt just generates more profits for the bankers.

Why not print a little money for social welfare? Not a chance of it ever happening, unfortunately.

The US didn’t have to pay for the wars because it had the world’s reserve country. It just shift the debt off onto other countries in inflated dollars.

So money was not the problem.

The USA could have built one of the best high-speed rail systems in the world, as France, Japan, China and some other countries have done. It would not be difficult. Much of the USA landmass is relatively flat. The technology exists for building tunnels through mountains. It is old technology. The Chinese or Japanese could have shown them how to do it. Even Turkey has high-speed trains.

Now much of the infrastructure in the USA is old and falling into a state of decay. But the US is not doing much to repair the systems, while spending massively on new wars.

People who do not fly in the USA are travelling on the old slow Amtrak trains. Actually, I love them. Personally, I love old, slow trains. But they do not get people anywhere fast. The US needs an alternative to airports and personal cars. People have to drive or fly everywhere to travel. Such travel is difficult for the elderly. High speed rail is the answer, but it would threaten the auto and airline industries.

The USA could have had a capitalist economic model that provided good jobs and benefits, like the European model of stakeholder capitalism that allows workers to share the profits. Not a chance of it happening, unfortunately. Wall Street corporate interests are too strong for that under stockholder capitalism.

The USA could have been a great place to live and a model for the whole world. Instead, the politicians in the USA just warn people to be careful or they might end up being just like Europe. Actually most people would love to be just like Europe, if they only had a clue about the benefits people enjoy in Europe!

In the event, the USA missed the boat over the last sixty years. That was the price of being the oligarchy that it is.

Today, the USA is losing the war. Not only in hearts and minds, but in real democracy and social welfare for its people. Just look at the many thousands of homeless young people living in tents in Los Angeles and other places in California. Official figures are way over one-hundred thousand just in California alone. Surely, the scenes of degradation one sees on the streets of Los Angeles is shameful for a country as rich as the USA.

It would be a shame for any country.

The lack of a national health care system in the United States is a national disgrace. One wonders how the officials believe that one can run a country without taking care of the health care needs of the people. It boggles the minds of those in most developed countries, such as Europe.

Again, politicians in the US warn Americans to be careful. They could end up being just like those in Europe. This would be funny if it was not so absurd.

Some Americans have started leaving the USA for a better life elsewhere and find that they are better off.

Some go to universities free in Europe, such as in Slovenia, Germany or France. Some young Americans find it easier to live well and pay off their student loans by teaching English and other subjects in China. So much for the so-called evils of communism!

Americans have started to retire abroad because their small social security checks give them a higher standard of living in Mexico and many other countries than they would have in the USA.

Wall Street and the corporate oligarchs in the USA, on the other hand, are mostly happy. Today, that is obviously the top priority.

The US Empire is not yet over, but on the down-side of history. Perhaps that is the bright spot on the horizon.

How many more imperialist wars will it take to finally bring down the American Global Empire? That is the historical question.

Eddie J. Girdner

June 18, 2019

 

St. John’s Church and South Park Street Cemetery (India Blog 24)

St. John’s Church and South Park Street Cemetery (India Blog 24)

6:00 Evening.

At 9:00 in the morning, I got a taxi to St. John’s Church. I told the driver: “Near Calcutta High Court” I thought it might help.

I guess it did. The guy knew where the high court was. He took me there, then stopped in front of it.

I said, “No, not the court, I want to go to the church. I think that he did not understand “church.” There was a young guy there who looked like a student. The driver asked him and he told him the way. The church was just a short distance farther.

I got to the church and made some pictures. There are several tombs around the church. They have inscriptions. One can see that many of the British died quite young here. That is, the ones who did not get rich and go back to England. Disease and malaria got a lot of people in the terrible climate.

Job Charnock, for example, is buried near the church.

I went inside the church and made some pictures. A few other foreigners on tours were also there.

I think that I was the only one that was there on their own. I like to take my own time. My own sweet time.

I am not rushing. I’ve been dragging my pecker through the crud for nearly three-quarters of a century. Three-quarters of a fucking century. And what a fucking one it has been when one looks at the history.

And the next one is likely to be worse from all indications at the present time! As far as I can tell.

Back to the church. The sword and the Bible! The twin pillars of Western Imperialism. That was the second half of the formula for imperial rule. Imperial plunder, to be more exact.

And it ain’t over yet, baby! Hoisting entire nations on the mighty petard of the US dollar by the big banks in New York City. In case that fails, just bomb the fuck out of them. When they refuse to take orders. The missionary business is rather old school today. They will be softened up with bombs.

It is a beautiful life. A beautiful world. If one is lucky enough to dodge the bombs. Those bombs that bring, of course, national security, political stability, and of course, peace.

That’s what we learn in international relations courses. So-called.

I took about 30 film pictures. More by cell phone.

When I departed the dearly beloved St. John’s church, I got a taxi to Park Street. This was truly amazing. When I asked the driver how much, he pointed to the taxi meter. My God! You mean those ancient things actually work? I had no idea that they did. Or that they were ever used. It said 30 rupees when we started and went up to 70 rupees at Park Street. The driver even pointed out things along the way, like “The Bengal Commandos.” A military outfit, presumably.

The traffic was one way on park street at the time, the wrong way, so he could not go to the cemetery at number 52.

I just gave him 100 rupees. Amazingly, the guy reached to give me back some change. I thought: “What kind of Calcuttan is this strange creature?”

I just said: “Its okay” and let him keep the change.

From there I had to walk east on Park Street. It was good that I did, because it was a good place for pictures with my cell phone. And a pleasant walk in an area quite a lot more upscale that Sudder Street. There were more upscale shops and restaurants, more like Connaught Place in Delhi.

I noticed signs up around the city. They said that the city of Calcutta was offering a 65 percent discount on paying traffic fines. Just pay 35 percent of the fine and get cleared. But there was a deadline of a month or so.

Obviously, no one is bothering to pay the fines. So they are settling for pennies on the dollar. Or rather paise on the rupee.

I walked past several people wrapped up in blankets along the sidewalk along the way. And several shoe-shine wallas. It was a good long walk.

I had just recognized that I had come to the cemetery wall when an older woman asked me: “Can I help you?”

I said, “I am going to the cemetery. It is here, I think.”

There are some people who genuinely want to help one. And I appreciated that.

I just came in front of the gate and went inside. They charge one fifty rupees if one has a camera. It seems silly, because just about everyone has a cell phone that will take pictures today.

The St. John’s Church fee was ten rupees. This was fifty. A big discount on salvation and sin, it seems, as Woody Guthrie remarked. But there is a more hefty charge for dying. There is a premium on dying. The fee for getting put out of one’s misery, perhaps. Possibly worth it.

So I paid up and went inside. It was amazing! The huge tombstones that they had put up there! Fruits of the Empire, I guess. But in the first row of monuments, I realized that there were piles of trash behind some of the big grave stones. I walked on and tried taking pictures with my Leica 35 mm lens. I needed my 28 mm lens, but had not brought it.

There were many old tombstones. They were very old and enormous. I mean, really big. Some of them go back to the 1700s (eighteenth century).

I put my last roll of Ilford black and white film into my Leica and hoped the pictures would come out good.

There were some people living in the cemetery. Not many. But I thought that it was a bad policy if they let squatters take over the place, while they are charging to see it as a sort of tourist attraction. I thought that if they could restore all those tombstones, how beautiful the place would be. But maybe, some would prefer the thick moss that had started growing on them, showing how old they really were.

I walked on around and made pictures of several of the huge stones. Toward the back of the cemetery, they are not as close together and it is easier to shoot pictures of them there.

I was about to finish my film, so used my cell phone for many of them.

When I was leaving, the guy at the gate asked me to sign the book. There is a place to make some comments.

I did sign it and put down my place of residence as Izmir, Turkey. I said that the cemetery was very interesting from a historical point of view. The British must have thought of themselves as small maharajas to put up those huge grave stones, monuments over their graves. I think they could do it because labour was cheap and plentiful, essentially free for them. And the profits from the East India Company in India were so enormous. I wanted to make a comment about the lack of maintenance, but decided to just leave it at that. It is too bad that the place cannot be restored as it is so rich in history.

I started to walk back and notices that now Park Street was one way in the opposite east direction. I managed to cross to the north side of the street, but not easily.

I wanted to look for a restaurant. At one point, there was a crossing with lights, but people were just going out into the traffic. They were taking a chance and the drivers seemed rather ready to challenge a pedestrian.

My goodness! I waited and crossed in a crowd of people, but even that was not very safe. Absolute madness!

I came across some book stalls on the side walk. I looked at the books. But I did not want to load myself down with more books. The one I had would do me for the trip.

At one book store they had a sign in the window that they changed dollars. So I went in and changed another one-hundred dollars. They told be that the Kwality Restaurant was just down the street. So I walked. Man! By this time, I was pretty tired from all that walking. I needed a rest and some refreshment.

I found the Kwality Restaurant and went inside. A very nice place. It looked very big inside, but only because one side was a mirror, the full length of the place. I sat down on some comfortable seats in a corner.

I ordered a type of malai kofta and nan. I was afraid that they would not have beer. And I was keenly in the market for one after all that walking. Man! I was relieved when the waiter said that they did. He brought a big beautiful bottle of cold Kingfisher Beer. I started sucking it down as I rested my tired feet.

The food came, and then I had a second one of those big beers. Man! That was great! The class of Indians in there was totally different. Middle class.

A group of eight was sitting next to my table. A sort of family affair. They may have been rather socially conservative. But I very much liked one attractive middle aged woman, around fifty, who was sitting over across from me. I don’t know. She was very attractive. Most women have been familied and fatted out. I drank the second beer more slowly watching the scene in the restaurant. I also enjoyed the tasty mango pickles, achar, with the food.

Man! I went out of that place a renewed man. Restored my faith in India. Well, that would be going a little too far. But it made me realize that I do like these types of experiences in India. The ones that are quality experiences.

That is not meant as a pun. And seeing some decent looking women, not all the peasants on the street who have recently come from the villages.

I took a taxi back toward Sudder Street. It was actually closer than I realized.

The driver could not go all the way and let me off at a very busy corner.

The traffic was absolute chaos. Absolute madness!

So I just stood in front of a shop on a corner for quite a long time taking shots of the street and people with my cell phone. I made about 325 pictures with my cell phone, just today.

I walked the rest of the way to Sudder Street. This street is driving me mad! Beggars calling out to you on the street. I said: “Oh, I have so many friends in Sudder Street. They just call out to you as you walk down the street. Of course, they are poor, but they have made begging into a profession. One can see how they are training up their children in the same way. Showing them just how to do it.

Actually, I met a guy on the sidewalk there who said that he was going to train some street kids not to be beggars. I told him that I hope that it is successful.

He asked me how I liked the city. I said that it is a great city. But a difficult city. I knew that before I came, but I had always wanted to visit the city.

Some Reflections (India Blog 23)

 

Some Reflections (India Blog 23)

10:00 Evening.

After more than twenty years of teaching in Turkish universities in all the three biggest cities, Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, plus some years in North Cyprus, I was ready to enjoy some leisure time. I was not going to miss the interminable bureaucracy in Turkish. I would miss the pleasure of teaching. I would miss the students, but it would be nice to be in control of my own time and have some freedom to travel more. Some freedom to pursue photography.

This evening, I basically give it up. First, I went out to that restaurant in the corner, Zurich’s. I wanted a beer. The restaurant part was closed and dark. There was just the one lone guy near the bar. In another part, there were a few Indians. I sat near the bar and had two small Kingfisher beers.

The guy gave me some peanuts. They were small and hard. I could not recognize them as peanuts. I had never had that sort of peanuts. They were not appetizing.

I remembered the beautiful peanuts they served with beer at the old Maharaja’s palace hotel in Bhopal, when I stayed there a few years ago. It was out on a beautiful green. Just like in the old British days of the Raj.

I paid and got out.

I thought that maybe that Kingfisher Restaurant near Hogg Market would have beer. I went in and thought about eating something with the beer. But when I asked for beer, the waiter said: “No beer after 10:00 o’clock.” I didn’t understand why that would be. There was another bar, a sort of discotheque on the corner. But there was loud Indian music. I just couldn’t put up with that.

I realized that I had to hang it up for the day. All the rickshaw wallas want to take one somewhere. They don’t know that I would ask them if I really wanted to go somewhere. I am getting quite discouraged by this Sudder Street area.

There are a couple of places that I still want to go to. I will go somewhere tomorrow.

12 December, Wednesday.

5:25 Morning. I woke up and heard the birds croaking. They sound like crows, but I don’t know.

Generally, I have lost my illusions about Sudder Street. I guess that I had some illusions before coming. I thought that it would be more pleasant.

In the evenings, it is difficult to walk on the side walks. They are blocked in some places and the sides of the road are rough with a sort of gutter, often filled with trash. One has to hobble along, back and forth from the roadway to the side walk. Hobble along, avoiding getting hit by a car or a terrorizing motorcycle rider. So it is not a pleasant thing. There is not a pleasant place to walk.

And the motorcycle horns are so loud and bad-sounding. For sure. People are so rude to each other. Sometimes it seems like a rude culture. I guess that I can understand my old Bengali friends better after being here.

I don’t like people calling to me, either, as I walk down the street. They have nothing to do with me. Trying to make me come to their shop. They put their game on you, whatever it is. After a while, it starts to get on one’s nerves. And then, they force you to be rude with them.

Turkey is far better, in that sense, it seems to me.

I will start by going to St. John’s church this morning. There is a historical grave yard there. After than, maybe to the South Park Street Cemetery. (52 Park Street)

I will get a shower before others get all the hot water.

4:40 Afternoon. Back to the hotel. A hell of a day! Hell of a good day. I will write about it soon, but need a rest right now.

I thought of that young, buxom, healthy and fecund young woman with a gorgeous ass, from Australia. Everything about her is gorgeous. She is not beautiful, she is gorgeous. She is cute and has a beautifully well-build body. It makes me believe that she would make love like wild. Very photogenic.

God! I think I would have had that girl if I had met her when I was young. She actually said “hello” to me on the stairway this morning. I was almost ready to grab her. Don’t tempt me with that delicious, plump, perfect ass. Oh God! Gawd!, as Edward Abbey would say. I am a sexist pig. Sure as hell. Sure as fuck. All men are, but nowadays a lot of them have to hide it. Her ass was simply gorgeous in those tight bluejeans.

With society in USA in the throes of the Thermidorian Period of the 1960s sexual revolution, it is not politically correct to say anything. One must pretend to be something other than a man. The return of the Puritans.

She is so refreshing after a week of these wretched Indian wrecks of women all worn out by degrading marriage and family life. Generally fatted out.

It is not politically correct to appreciate the beauty of a young woman. But fuck it. No need to fool one’s self. It is just hypocrisy.

Sometimes I just have to laugh at how puritanical American Society has become in recent times. The Europeans are laughing their asses off. Sorry, America. But its true.

Today most do not remember the sexual revolution of the 1960s, which I personally missed out on completely. They were also not raised up in an Assembly of God Church in rural north Missouri which was far less liberal than the Taliban in Afghanistan! Or the Salafists in Saudi Arabia. They were ready to burn one in hell for just thinking of a girl. Maybe some of them still are. Anything that was the least bit enjoyable was strictly forbidden. And there was not a whole lot to enjoy in that small pitiful town.

Well, I said enough about that in my autobiography. There are people who would love to burn me at the stake for that!

That was the Assembly of God Church in Princeton, Missouri. They were right up there with the best when it came to religious idiocy. Just as well be honest about it. They should have saved the old church building. It was classical. Somehow when they finally killed the church off, I think the old church building probably went too.

I still love the old Edward Abbey classics like Monkey Wrench Gang. They are not politically correct by contemporary American standards. They hark back to age when people were allowed to have some ideas of their own in America and not be burned at the stake for them by someone prancing around and pretending to be “politically correct.”

Another Scam and Pictures (India Blog 20)

 

Another Scam and Pictures in Kolkata (India Blog 20)

The Yellow Vest Movement in France is going on. It is a protest against global capitalism and neoliberal austerity. The global corporatist agenda. It is a backlash against the do-nothing socialists and the right-wing capitalists. Richard Wolff, the American Marxist, thinks that it could spread to a lot of other countries. It has already spread to Belgium.

Meanwhile, nothing like that in America. Or rather, the backlash against neoliberalism put Tiny Hands Trump in the White House. So much for political consciousness. American style.

Let them eat MAGA! I just hope they are enjoying it!

I guess the next election will be a litmus test for that.

I got out of there before the deluge, some 27 years ago. I could see it coming.

Anyway, no one would give me a job in the USA with my ideas. So much for political freedom! I was over educated. Or under roboticized.

4:55 Afternoon. Rested up.

The Hogg Market is quite complex. I couldn’t understand the layout of the whole thing.

I am planning to try using my cell phone for some night pictures in the evening.

I now understand that there are many Biharis in the city. Bihar is a nearby state.

8:40. Evening.

I went out and around and made some night pictures with my cell phone. They are pretty good. I think it is useful for that, after all.

Tonight I got tried for a scam. But I didn’t fall for it.

The oldest game in the world. Using sex to hook a man.

I knew that there were several things wrong with it from the beginning. Anyone would know that who is the least bit familiar with Indian society.

A woman, quite attractive, with two kids, around five and six, comes up to a foreigner and asks what time it is. Sorry, baby. That just doesn’t happen in this country. So I knew it was a scam from the beginning.

But I thought that I would play along a little bit. It hit me that this is the first woman who has talked to me in this country in more than a week. So there must be something wrong!

I played along and showed her the time on my cell phone. Of course, she didn’t even pay attention. Didn’t even look. Everyone has a cell phone these days.

Then she started her cock and bull story.

I live a long way away, near the airport. I came here with some friends. My husband has gone…” I thought she said “to a bar” but I don’t know if that was what she said. Either that or “my husband has gone away far and I am here with the two kids…” By then, the cock and bull story was in full bloom.

I said: “I think you are scamming me.”

She started saying: “I don’t understand you.”

I said: “Sorry, but I cannot know if your story is true or not.”

Of course, I knew that it was bullshit.

At that point, she saw that it was “game over” and just walked away.

She was going to ask me for some money for the kids. How could someone fall for such a cock and bull story? Not if they knew anything about Indian society. Besides, if she wanted to know the time, there are plenty of people around to ask. Why me?

My goodness! One would have to be brainless. I wouldn’t go for such a thing in any country. And everybody in India has friends and relatives who would help them out. Everyone has cell phones today.

Oh yes, I remember that I had my cell phone out when I started questioning her.

She saw my phone and said: “Do you want to take my picture?” She is not the only woman that I could get a picture of if I wanted. She was hoping that I would take a picture, and then she could ask me for money. So I guess it was a fall-back scam if the main one failed.

Some people can ask you to take their picture and then ask for money. Usually, I try to take pictures of those who do not ask me, but look more interesting. And more natural, if not posing. Sure, it would have been nice to take her picture, if it was just a picture and not a scam! She was a nice looking woman. But this was part of the scam.

It happened to me today in the Islamic area. Five young guys asked me to make their picture. They looked like the local toughs. I really had no desire to take their picture. They were not that interesting compared to a lot of old guys. But I consented. They lined up and I took a shot. Then they wanted to see the image in the back of the camera. They do not know what a film camera is. I tried to tell them that it was film and if they had an email address that I would send the picture to them.

But then a guy who spoke English came along and said that they would not have an email address, probably. When I was walking away, one of them said: “One Dollar.” I was already on the way to get a taxi.

I walked around in the evening a little, trying to make night pictures with the cell phone. I think I got some decent ones. But it is not easy to frame the shot with a cell phone.

I refuse to tell anyone the name of my hotel. I just say, “I don’t remember” or something like that.

But I did tell the guy who was selling silk scarves about my books on India. Maybe it was a mistake, but I didn’t think it would hurt anything. He seemed surprised that I had written four books on India. Well, that is what professors do, sometimes. Write books!

Most of them are not read, unfortunately. Sometimes fortunately!

However, I did not tell him the name of my hotel. I don’t want anyone scamming me at my hotel.

Corporatist Rule for India? (India Blog 17)

Corporatist Rule for India? (India Blog 17)

Monday 10 December. 5:00 Morning. Kolkata (Calcutta)

There was a big argument going on in the street last night. One guy was just shouting to the top of his lungs for the longest time. It is a matter of live or die and I don’t think they have much to lose if they die. One sees these guys sleeping on the sidewalks in the daytime, wrapped up in some old rag of a blanket and it seems like they are just laying there and suffering. They are just living it out till they die literally on the spot and someone comes and picks up their body.

I saw one person, a man, wrapped up in a dirty blanket on the sidewalk just nearby the hotel yesterday. There were flies swarming around him. (Another call to prayer is going down now. They need more prayer.) Flies were sitting on that dirty blanket. I wondered if the guy was already dead. People usually walk in the road, anyway, not the sidewalk. There are so many obstructions. On the sidewalks, people just go around the wrapped-up bodies.

Well, people walk on the roads in Turkey too. I am very used to that.

Society is badly broken with that going on. Mother Teresa was just a sort of band-aid for the misery and poverty. I cannot say that what she was doing was not good and kind, but I can say that it is just a meliorative, a palliative that can do nothing to reach or address the root if the problem. Broken down society, broken down world.

At the same time, there is a lot of closeness in families, big families. Sometimes communalism emerges. And people try to put one in a box: Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, American, British, French, Bangladeshi. And sometimes there is hatred for what one seemingly is.

I get the idea that USA or American propaganda has worked here and I am embarrassed when guys (I have not talked to a single woman yet in this country in casual conversation), when people come out with big compliments about “America.” I don’t know if they are serious or just trying to please me.

I get the idea that they are much more favourable toward America than the Turks, who are just about one-hundred percent cynical, not believing anything that the USA puts out. Recent figures showed that the US image was the lowest in Turkey of any country in the world. Largely a result of the US screwing around in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Causing trouble everywhere.

I have to get a shower this morning before those Australians get up and use up all the hot water!

I noticed that the reviews of Calcutta that I have seen on Youtube never mention the huge mosque that is here. They usually talk about the two big Hindu temple complexes.

The Islamic sections of the city seem invisible to them.

Now the birds. I don’t know if they are crows, have suddenly come to life and are calling loudly. It is 5:21 in the morning.

I think that I saw one nice-looking dog in this city yesterday. And yesterday, there were two Dalmatians, hunting dogs, apparently, mean and ready to attack, at this hotel. The dogs on the street are miserable. There are a few cats. They too, are mostly miserable.

M.N. Roy, the Indian communist wrote about why Hindus hate cats. And wrote a book from the cat’s perspective. Autobiography of a Cat, I think. It is great. Very witty. He wrote it in an Indian prison, where he was kept for years by the British.

Strange thing is that I feel almost at home in this city.

People sometimes call out to one on the street, but it is best just to ignore them. Some women around the hotel are doing the milk powder scam. I just ignore them. That scam is overworked. There should be signs with a warning.

AVOID THE MILK POWDER SCAM WOMEN!

The last thing they want is milk powder!

And about the street vendors. I will say that they are trying to help themselves. They have found a way to survive and protect themselves by organizing and unionizing. That is far better than seeking charity. They survive through a very difficult struggle.

But when I look at the whole thing, my view has to be that only some sort of rule from the top could save such a society. Population growth must be controlled. Either left-wing, right-wing, Hindu fascist, or other nationalist ideology, maybe religious nationalism combined with Bharat, Indian nationalism.

Corporatist rule from the top. I am almost reduced to advocating it.

In Bengal, it could be Netijiism, from Subas Chandra Bose. Bengali nationalism, something that people could believe in and accept and impose strict discipline on society. There seems to be a complete lack of discipline in this society.

It might break down at some point, as in the Soviet Union, or in Turkey and Argentina, but it will have improved society and made things better for most people.

The historical model comes from Saint Simon in France. Science and engineering of society. Ataturk picked it up for Turkey. Stalin in the Soviet Union. A form of Jacobinism.

In Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan is the using the same model as Ataturk, as far as top-down rule is concerned. Jacobinism. Just different underlying ideas. It is top-down rule and the state can impose some discipline on society. I guess that India is the closest thing to anarchy in existence.

In India, the Nehru, Gandhi, Patel, model failed. A historical period of corporatist rule might have done wonders. Now, it may be too late. They missed the historical window of opportunity.