Missionaries of Charity and Mamata Banerjee (India Blog 15)

Missionaries of Charity and Mamata Banerjee (India Blog 15)

Outside the Victoria Memorial, I got a taxi to Mother Terasa’s Missionaries of Charity, as it is called. I had no idea what I would see there, but I just wanted to get a picture from the outside.

I must say that the location was unlike anything that I had imagined before, being such a famous place.

When we arrived, I could only see the gate and the entrance inside a building. There were a couple of iron gates with the name and another small sign near the doorway. I had no desire to go inside. I don’t think they would have let me in, anyway. I don’t see why unless I wanted to contribute some money. And it was Sunday.

So I just took a couple of pictures and decided to head back to Sudder Street. However, on the way, we came across a political rally on the street of Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress Party. I had rather lost track of Bengali politics. I thought that I might get some interesting pictures there.

So I just asked the driver to drop me there. I figured that it was close enough that I could just walk back to Sudder Street. I took some pictures of the speaker and the crowd on the street, without understanding what was being said. Several people were up on the stage, mostly men, with one guy speaking into the “microbe phone” as Woodie Guthrie would say.

I walked on. I realized that it was a pretty poor area, but the shops and sidewalks were much cleaner and more sanitary, it seemed, than in those places on Chowringee where all the street vendors are. They have really made a mess of the city in that respect. But it is probably necessary to provide a livelihood for millions of people.

Some of the buildings in that area were very old and run-down, but it was much cleaner. I felt that I would not mind to eat in some of the small restaurants there. But I am being quite cautious, as getting a bad stomach will take one down. It is not worth the risk.

Along the way, I stopped and talked to a guy who was friendly. It was a conversation about how bad Trump is! He was a genuinely friendly guy not putting any trip on me. He told me the way back to Sudder Street, which was not far.

Along the way, another guy came up and said “hello.” This was a very suspicious guy and I wanted to just get away from him quickly. He started by asking me where I was from. That is generally the first question. I said something like: “New York, California, Los Angeles,” like that. I should have said Bangladesh, as I sometimes do.

They are not really interested in knowing, anyway, most of the time.

Then he started to try and flatter me. He said: “Great Country” and so on. I said, “Well yes, they have big problems.”

At that point, he started to show me small bottles of oil or ointment from his pockets. He said that he does massage. I told him that I was not interested.

Then he started to try to give me a demonstration. He took my left arm and started to rub my shoulder. I thought at once: “This guy is going to try to rob me with this shit.”

So, I pulled my arm back and kept control of my bag. I never carry anything in my pockets on the street. And any valuable money is inside a hidden pocket of the bag. My reserve dollars, passport and so on, are inside my clothes, where one would have to make me faint to get to them. When I took my arm back, he started again and said: “Are you going with me?” Then he took off walking rather fast. Maybe he saw that I was onto his game. I don’t know. I could only think that he wanted to pick my pockets and get my money. That was pretty obvious to me.

So I didn’t think he could rob me easily, but I don’t want any stranger putting their hands on me on the street. So I ended it quickly. The guy was trying to pull a stunt for sure. So I got away from him.

I saw a station on the way that compacts garbage. Then I walked a little farther and came to the row of shops selling Christmas decorations. Sure enough, these were the shops that I had seen before just off Sudder Street. So I came back to the hotel for a rest.

4:15 Afternoon. After today, I have four days left in Cal. (Kolkata) It is enough time to do some more street photography. So I will mostly be using the time for that. I still have one roll of black and white film per day for that time. It is not very much, actually. But maybe it will be enough. Actually, I am sure that it will not be. But nothing that I can do now.

Selma called. She says that it is cold and rainy in Izmir today.

8:15 Evening. In the morning, I could not get any hot water for a shower. It may be because a group of Australians had arrived in the hotel the day before. I saw them at breakfast. It seems that they are on a tour. Not a big group. I heard them talking about churches and missionaries. Apparently they are in the business of bagging souls in a foreign country. I thought that had mostly gone out of style. But I guess not. Heads are exceedingly thick in the realm of religion. No doubt about that.

If they are on their way to heaven, I probably ought to go in the opposite direction. And probably will.

There were some young teen-agers in the group, young guys about sixteen, high school age. One of them had bought an Indian pajama and kurta, a sort of Punjabi outfit. He wore it to breakfast. It was a long kurta that came down below his knees. He was wearing a sort of white sports shoes. It was a nice outfit, but it looked very strange on him, with that combination. He was a beautiful young guy. I could understand that they were from Australia from their accent.

The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (India Blog 14)

 

The Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (India Blog 14)

9 December 2018. 5:50 Morning. It is Sunday. I slept good, from 11:00 last evening or so. I crapped out even though there was a lot of pounding going on. I woke up a couple of times, but had a good sleep.

Noam Chomsky has turned ninety years old. I think that there is not much that they can do to him at this point. Nothing, no matter what he says. Anyone who has not read him could learn a lot from him. Just a couple of his books would be enough if they understood them.

I will do some walking again today, but not so far as yesterday. I will go to that Victoria Memorial, which is to the south of here. After that, I am not sure. I will surely need my 28 mm lens to take pictures there.

I would also like to get a picture of Mother Teresa’s place, just to have a picture of it, since I am here. I do not know if what she has done is right or not. There is a lot of controversy about it at this time.

Travel always teaches one something and I think that I will learn something on this trip.

1:35 Afternoon. I started out about nine o’clock in the morning and walked to the Victoria Memorial. After that, I took a taxi to Mother Teresa’s. I didn’t see much there, just the front of the place. But I ran across a political rally for Mamata Banerjee’s political party, the All India Trinamool Congress, on the way back. She is the Chief Minister of West Bengal State.

So I stopped and got some pictures of that. I walked part of the way back, shooting some colour film.

Need to change money. Official rate is around 71 rupees to a dollar.

The walk in the morning was not bad. After a while, walking to the south, one gets away from most of those street vendors. They have taken up the sidewalks in so many areas. Now they are organized into unions and the government cannot dislodge them to send them somewhere else.

On the way, I crossed over to the west side of the big street. There was a large park across from the Tata building headquarters. I walked around that park and made a few pictures. There are signs forbidding almost everything. Not yet breathing, fortunately. There is even a sign that says that shooting film is prohibited. It seems that there are cameras everywhere. Presumably digital cameras and cell phones are fine. They just do not want one using film. What could this mean? By that time, I had already taken all the pictures that I wanted with film, so the sign came too late to do any good.

I walked past the Birla Planetarium. A little later, I came to an open area where there were some vending stands on both sides. I looked for signs that this might be the entrance to the Victoria Memorial. But there was not any mention of it anywhere, as far as I could tell. I could not tell exactly where I was according to the map I could find on my cell phone.

Finally, I went over and talked to a taxi driver. He said: “This is Victoria Memorial.”

I said: “Well, there is not a single sign anywhere saying that it is the Victoria Memorial. And there wasn’t. Amazing!

There should be a limit to nationalism.

It seems that they have become so nationalistic that they do not post the name of such a British monument, even though they are charging one to go in and see it.

I was quite early, so not many people were going in the gate. I lined up for the ticket. They had made it pretty stiff for foreigners. It is not important money, but it seems a little over the top. At least a couple of beers. The ticket is rupees 30 for Indians but rupees 500 for foreigners. They have made it some seventeen times as much for a foreigner.

Well, there they have it. They are actually putting themselves down, in my view, by doing that.

As I was walking in the morning, just down from the hotel, there was a huge throng of people. Obviously very poor. Some welfare organization was giving out free food. And the line was very long. It seems that the food was puris and channa.

Back to the Victoria Memorial. I went inside the gate and broke out my Minolta film camera (old SRT 101), because I needed the 28 mm lens to take pictures of the grounds and building. I sat down on a bench to rest for a while before going on up to the building.

A couple of people came up and wanted to make selfies with me. Why, I have no idea. But I don’t mind. A couple of times, it was attractive women, but with a man, of course.

After making some pictures, one must walk around to the back of the building which is the entrance. There is a security check set up there. I went through that and went inside. Several people were coming, but it was still not very crowded. But I noticed that it was quite noisy inside. Especially, people were shouting to each other while taking selfie photos. There were framed black and white photos along the walls from the late 1800s.

I made a few pictures inside, using my Leica M6 (F 2.5 at 1/15 second). I could do it without a flash, even though there was not a lot of light inside.

Inside, one is under a huge high dome. One can climb up to a walkway that goes all around the perimeter, about half-way to the top. I didn’t walk up there, but it could have been good for some pictures.

I made selfie pictures with several people when they asked me to. There were several people from Bangladesh. But the most interesting was this couple from Assam. It surprised me when they asked to make their picture with me. I stood with the woman and her husband.

Then, I felt her pressing her soft warm flesh against my body from the side. It was pleasant, but my inclination was to check my bag. But it was nothing like that. It seemed that she was just being friendly. Getting that close to a stranger of the opposite sex was certainly culturally different from the far more cold west. And surprising for me in India. Maybe Assam is different. I don’t know.

I took a few more pictures and got out of there. Out in the open air. Outside, I sat down on a bench and called Selma. She laughed about the huge discrepancy in the price for Indians and for foreigners.

It is a little over the top. Maybe four times the rate for foreigners would be slightly less vulgar and still make the point.

News from a Space Power.

I would head for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

Zarang Restaurant Kolkata (India Blog 11)

 

Zarang Restaurant in Kolkata (India Blog 11)

The restaurant where I went to yesterday is in Lonely Planet (Zarang Restaurant). I had a conversation with a guy there. I don’t know if he is the owner or just the manager. I hope that I did not piss him off too much with my comments about Trump, and then some critical comments about Modi.

I hear the morning Izzan (call to prayer) starting from a nearby mosque. The time is 5:54 AM.

The guy thought that I might be supporting Trump. I told him that Trump is doing great damage to the United States. I said that it was a horrible development. He seemed to be astonished. He said: “Oh, but you are an American. Why would you say that?”

I said, “Well, in order to tell the truth.”

Actually, I mentioned quite a few things about the government. I told him that the US is not a democratic country but an oligarchy. It is ruled by the rich corporations. I told him that if you want to be a representative or a senator in Congress, you have to take millions of dollars from corporations to get elected.

I didn’t mention to this guy that I lived in Turkey. I have told some people, but sometimes I do not. When I tell them this, they are always surprised.

When the guy got around to asking me about Narendra Modi, I had criticized Modi for being a Hindu nationalist and communalist. Actually, I suspected that he might have the same sentiments. He said something about religion.

I didn’t want to start getting into talking about the caste system. So I just said, “Well, I agree with the analysis of B.R. Ambedkar. I think that he was right.”

I think that at that point, the guy sort of ended the conversation. He may be an Arun Shourie type guy who trashes B. R. Ambedkar. But I didn’t know.

For Ambedkar, Hinduism was the root of the problem of the caste system. To solve the problem of caste, one had to abolish Hinduism. Of course, that would be impossible in India. Tantamount to abolishing Indian society itself.

People really do seem to be quite naive.

He asked me if I thought the US would keep troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq. I said: “Sure, they will. One should understand that the US is a global empire. Countries have to take orders from the USA. Either that or get bombed.”

Then he asked me if Obama was better than Trump. I said that he is a nice guy, but he was lazy. He didn’t really do much while in office. I could have been more critical, but I left it at that.

The guy said: “Oh, but he got Osama bin Laden.” I said: “That was nonsense. Bin Laden was living in Abbatobad in Pakistan next to a Pakistan Army base. The Pakistan military was protecting him.

He knew that it was true, that the US created bin Laden. Earlier, bin Laden was working for the Americans. I said: “Sure. And they created Saddam Hussein too. The US supports these guys as long as they take orders from the USA. Then the US goes after them if they do not.”

Then I gave the example of Turkey: Tayyip Erdogan. I said: “The US was fine with him for some years after he became Prime Minister. But then, the US launched a coup against him in July 2016 and tried to kill him. It was a CIA operation, carried out with the Fethullah Gulen organization. But they failed. God saved him!” I added the last, being cynical. I also told him that I have written and published a book on the Iraq war.

USA and the New Middle East,” published in Delhi by Gyan Publishers in 2008. It found its way into many libraries across the Middle East, and also in several in the USA.

Wow! Sometimes the people that you talk to seem to be very naive. He asked me why the US would stay in Afghanistan. Good question. But the US is a global empire and being so, generates big profits for US capitalists. Afghanistan is rich with vast minerals. And then, there are the plans for pipelines for gas to South Asia.

The conversation got around to Kashoggi. I said: “Look, the Saudis murdering him was alright with Trump. It is all about money. If he invests in the USA, and buys weapons, Mohammed bin Salmon is great for Trump. It doesn’t matter if he murders a journalist from the USA.

I said that Trump only cares about money. He is just enriching the big corporations in the US. The US working class has been losing since the 1970s.

I said: “Why should I trust Donald Trump? He got his money from his father who was a big slumlord in New York City. He cheated the poor, the tenants and cheated the government out of taxes. That is all on record, of course. Donnie boy is the same.”

Well, there are some Americans who are so stupid as to say: “Oh, you shouldn’t criticize your own country while you are abroad.” Well, I can hardly think of anything more stupid than saying that!

When I criticized Modi for being a Hindu nationalist and communalist, he pointed to the young waiter there and said: “Well, look. He is a Moslem and he doesn’t have any problem.”

I said: “Sure, many Moslems would support him because they both have religious issues.” I didn’t want to talk about communalism.

Modi can use their votes, but they may not realize the thrust of his communalist Hindu ideology.

I do not know if he knew what I know about the history of Hindu fascism in India. The RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) and so on. I couldn’t get into all of that.

When I start to talk to a person like that, I start to think that I really know too much, far more than is good for me. The guy probably regretted that he asked if he could talk to me. He didn’t expect to hear what he heard.

I later told him that we shouldn’t discuss politics. Maybe sports is better. But then, I didn’t know anything about Indian sports.

He agreed. Sports is a better topic.

I got the idea that criticizing US imperialism is fine for him. He also does not like what the US does. But he does not like criticism of Modi. Wow! This country, like Iran, is full of petty bourgeois shop keepers who are socially, politically, and religiously backward. That was my reflection.

The failure of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, the socio-political construct. It generated a lot of hot air over the years, but never delivered for the masses. It has led to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Just like the liberal Obama failure led to Trump in the USA. Hasn’t it happened around the world? Brexit in England. The working class gave Brussels the finger. Up yours! That was the message. Now the ruling class in Britain cannot digest it. They are looking for another way to weasel out with another referendum or pro-European deal in the United Kingdom. Becoming a rat-fink as the Europeans did in the referendum in France, where they had a second vote. So much for British democracy. They just cannot stomach their defeat.

But now most of the Europeans are fed up with dealing with the British.

In late March, the remainers have yet to give up screwing over the people who voted to leave.

Well, this trip is more interesting to me when I can have some stimulating conversations like that. But I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. He was a nice person.

I am sure that there are many intellectuals at the university here. It is not so far from here. That’s the story this morning.

6:00 Morning. I have been hearing the sweepers doing the streets for some time. The army of bhangis. Slaves, essentially. Indentured labour, for sure.

After breakfast I am off for the long walk to the Howrah Bridge.

The Flight to Cal: Kolkata (India Blog 9)

India Part II: Calcutta (India Blog 9)

Midnight: (Thursday December 6)

12:00 Midnight. I could not sleep. So Fuck it. If I sleep some, that would be okay. If not, then I will have to catch up sometime. Now somebody has started beating a drum somewhere.

The empty drum rattles the loudest.

Now the two guys in the next room are talking. They were talking loudly in the hallway outside my door. The bathroom door just started vibrating, maybe from the drum beats. Now I have closed it! Sometimes I wish that I was making my own noise and disturbing others the same way they do me. A mutual exchange of disturbing noise. Some people would be too insensitive to get it, however.

I suspect that this new BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party or Indian People’s Party) generation is different from the old ones. More nationalistic. Loving Mother India and Cows. What a crock! What ever happened to old fashioned honest critique of traditional society? The Sangh Parivar.

Where are the Marxists? The opium of the masses has reached flood stage.

This country has so many well-meaning people, so many improvement schemes, and the only thing they cannot improve is the culture of Hinduism, caste prejudice, itself. That’s the way it seems to me.

Ambedkar was right.

I had made the plane reservation for the flight to Calcutta at noon. But now the flight has been moved back to 6:40 AM. There is nothing I can do about such an ungodly hour. Nothing! I wish these guys would get straightened out and go to bed!

Friday, December 7: Calcutta

I did crap out shortly after midnight last night. It is now noon here. I will take a little rest. I had to turn the electric punkas off in the rooms. I have a nice room. A two-room suite, actually. Wonderful! Glad that I did not go for that famous Fairlawn Hotel.

I got into the hotel and relaxed.

7:45 Evening. I have shot one roll of black and white film already today. My film is going pretty fast and I want to get some good pictures.

I had to get out of the hotel in Delhi pretty early this morning, but picked up maybe three and a half hours of sleep. I checked out shortly after four o’clock in the morning and headed for the airport. It was a quiet, eerie, foggy morning in Delhi. It seems like quite a long way to the airport, but the roads are good now. The fare was around 230 rupees. I just gave the guy 300 rupees.

The navigational system in the car tells them how to go, all in English. I have not seen that in the taxis in Turkey yet. Anyway, it would have to be in Turkish.

It was lucky that I could connect to the internet, because I had to show the time of the flight from the email that came with the changes in order to get into the airport. Everything has become too technological these days.

Even in India.

Got checked in. The airline was making offers to upgrade to first class for 120 US dollars. There was no way that I was going to do that. So maybe that is why they put me in a middle seat with a huge bear, a stuffed pig, next to me. I hate that. The guy tried to stuff his coat down between us. I made him move it, as it was taking up my space. I was glad that when he tried to leave the plane, he got it stuck in the arm rest. He refused to put it in the overhead.

The guy on the other side, next to the windows looked more decent.

The flight was fine. Smooth most of the way. So no complaints.

They served a small breakfast, a sort of pronta and curry along with a roll. Then tea too. The stewardess was from the east, maybe Manipur, a beautiful girl.

The guy next to the window started to get upset. He didn’t want the pronta and asked if there was anything else. Then when the tea came, he asked for lemon. The girl said that she would have to go and get it, since the only lemons were in business class. (That’s what the hundred dollar upgrade was for, presumably. If you don’t pay, no lemons.)

Back in the cattle class section, the passengers do not measure up to having lemons. I said to the guy: “There are only two classes: Business class and cattle class.” He liked that. But his tone was very authoritarian toward the stewardess. First, he had said to the stewardess: “I’ll ask you for tea later.”

Then, when he asked for a lemon, he said: “Make sure she squeezes it.” My goodness! Then when the tea came, he wanted to squeeze the lemon in the tea.

He said: “Bring me the lemon. I want to squeeze it.”

Well, I would have loved to squeeze some lemons, but not that kind. I am sure that her lemons would be lovely to squeeze.

Then the girl offered to bring him another tea. But by that time, it was too late. The plane was about to land. So he had to give it up. I couldn’t believe that he was making so much fuss over a fucking cup of tea!

The luggage came okay and I lined up for a prepaid taxi. There was quite a big line there, so it took some time. The rate was 250 rupees to the city. All the taxis seem to be run by the police association and they are all old Hindustan Ambassador autos. The streets are full of these old cars painted yellow, and I love it. It seems that they have disappeared from Delhi. I mean, what is an Indian city without Hindustan Ambassadors? Each receipt that one gets goes with a particular taxi and the system seems to be working very well now.

It is great that the taxi system is working very well in the Indian airports now. It used to be hell a few years ago.

There was a money change place and I had to change some money, even though the rate was not the best.

The old Hindustan Ambassador was beautifully old on the inside. I regretted that I did not have some film in my Leica as the driver had Hanuman and Ganesh on the dashboard. I had never seen that back in the late sixties. But with Saffronization it is now everywhere in India, it seems.

So-called progress.

I was ready for Kolkata. Calcutta. Ready for heaven. Ready for hell!

A River of Shit (India Blog 8)

A River of Shit (India Blog 8)

I guess that it must have been Punjab that ruined me.

After that two years, I could never really feel at home in the USA again. I just wanted to get the fuck out every time that I got a chance.

Somehow it gave me a feeling of freedom. Freedom from so-called American freedom.

Finally, I had had enough and left for good. That was in 1992. Some 27 years ago. I have never been sorry that I did for a single day. One of the best decisions I ever made in my entire lifetime.

It saved my ass.

Sometimes people ask me if I miss anything. I tell them that the only thing I miss is the poverty. It is true. In the USA, I was always short of money. Once I left, I have never felt poor again. Not since the day I left.

Life, liberty and poverty,” as one of my brilliant students wrote on his exam.

I also don’t have to feel guilty about contributing to the US imperialist war machine that has ripped up so much of the world. That has caused such a hell for so many people. Especially in the Middle East. The US makes trouble everywhere. Political security, my ass! The US destabilizes every place it hits, under the name of political stabilization. Once “stabilized,” American capital can come in and clean up in the country. Make a killing. Get the oil. Cheap labor in Vietnam. That’s the rest of the story that Americans never hear.

Global security, national security and so on.

If one just reads a little of Chomsky and one should understand it very well. But most Americans do not read that kind of thing.

I don’t know if they would understand it, the way they have been brainwashed by the system. So I cannot say how many would really get it. It is not easy to break down systematic ideological indoctrination. This is the especially true in the case of a country so religious. The religious factor is exceptionally strong in the United States of America. It can easily block rational thought.

That is another boon of living abroad. One largely escapes the constant brainwashing. Turn off the TV. Give your brain a break. Shoot the mother, like Edward Abbey did. Free yourself. Free yourself from that river of shit.

You won’t regret it.

Get off shit-face book.

Talk about the swamp in Washington? More like a cesspool, actually. The corporate media floods the country with a river of shit every single day. They call it the news cycle.

My book, USA and the New Middle East, would also be quite educational. If read. It is in some libraries in the USA and a lot of libraries in the Middle East and Europe.

All that work to write a book and no one reads it. Face-book will pretty much ensure that.

Back to Delhi.

When I got to the Regal building, I went into that restaurant in the old Bobbys corner. Pind Baluch Restaurant. At first, I thought it meant Baluch Village, but the waiter, from Utterkhand, said that Baluch just means “place.” Then I realized it must be a Punjabi restaurant, since they started playing Punjabi music.

I had chicken tika and nan. And a big Kingfisher beer. It was not as expensive as Kwality. A great restaurant! The food is better! I was hungry and the food was delicious.

After the meal, I told the guy at the door that I had known the place since it was a discotheque back in 1968, when I first came to India. It was a sports bar when I was there ten years ago in 2008. They were amazed that I knew that about the place and I don’t think either of these guys were even born at that time. It was the infamous Bobby’s. Unbelievable!

Well, I am off for Cal (Calcutta) tomorrow. Now Kolkata. I read that Jet Airways is strapped for cash and the company has not even paid their employees and pilots what they are owed. I don’t know what kind of outfit it is. Maybe it needs to merge with another airline. But the piece said that they were getting a cash infusion soon. They were asking the passengers for it the next day in the airport.

It was not good news to read before taking a flight on the airline.

This is the end of Delhi for this time. Three days, only, this time. That Chandni Chowk is the real India. That is it, undiluted.

I think that I had pulled the wool over my eyes about India. But I think that the scales have fallen now. No need to sugar coat it. The people in these cities, like Delhi, are struggling to survive and are being brutalized there in that mess. Only the very young women are sometimes very beautiful. There are some beauties, but what is their future?

Most will be hit with the tragedy of marriage.

Chandni Chowk (Old Delhi)

(India Blog 6)

Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi

6:45. Evening. A good day. Good pictures, I hope. Shot about three and a half rolls of film. More than a hundred frames. The last color one is still in the Minolta. It is a good thing that I had that 28 mm lens. I needed it. I had never realized just how massive the Red Fort is. The Lal Qila.

I spent almost the whole day in Chandni Chowk. I didn’t eat or drink there. And I didn’t carry any water as I had the cameras.

Anyway, it is very different from Paharganj. A big Gurdwara there, but I was on the wrong side of the road to photograph it fully.

After that, I wandered back into another area that was totally Moslem. There were at least two big mosques there. One has to get out of the most crowded areas to get decent photos. That is, to even start to frame them anywhere decently.

I sat down on a cement stairway next to a shop to change my film. I realized that it was a good place to take street shots and no one was bothering me there. It was right on the street. So I just kept sitting there. It was right across from a huge mosque. As far as I can tell, I didn’t have anyone trying to steal my bag today.

I still have 1400 rupees out of that first one-hundred dollars that I changed, and it is probably enough to get me to Calcutta. And probably to the Hotel Lytton too. But I would like to change money at the airport if I can. I will be packed up and ready to go tomorrow. The flight is at 6:40, morning. I need to be there two hours before the flight. So I will leave the hotel at a little after four in the morning.

Today was generally quite good. I had to get rid of a couple of hawkers at the Red Fort. They come at you in a very aggressive way with those post cards and other things. Sometimes one has to be quite hard to get them to stop harassing one.

In the morning, it was farther to the Chandni Chowk area than I expected. And there was a lot of traffic. I got down to that big main street. There were families of monkeys walking along the buildings on the opposite side of the street. There was massive traffic, and the middle of the street was all dug out. They were apparently putting in a pipeline. I made some pictures there, but it was too crowded to do any proper framing. The streets were jam packed with rickshaws, cars, small vans and trucks. Even a few bullock carts.

I went into a side street. The sun was coming at an interesting angle, making it rather difficult to shoot black and white film. The electrical wiring was unbelievable, the way the cables were wound up and tangled together. I spent some time trying to photograph that. It was just amazing and quite easy to photograph, really. No one put up any resistance to my photography.

I went inside a smaller lane. This was really better for framing the shots.

When I came out on another street, it had shifted to an Islamic area. I was in front of a large mosque. There were some interesting characters on the street and I began to photograph them. At first, I was just walking, doing what I could. I sat down on a side street, near a stairs, to change the film in the Minolta.

But them, I started shooting black and white film with the Leica M6.

I shot almost a whole roll of 36 frames right there in the same spot. I was sort of back from the street rather out of site. I realized that it was a good place from which to shoot the street. The light was good for black and white, out of the direct sunlight. People had no idea that I was taking pictures of them. It was also a help that there were so many things going on and much confusion. I was not being noticed. There was a constant parade of people walking on the street, where there were no sidewalks.

After a while, an old Moslem guy came with a cart and set up a peanut stand just to the right of me. And he asked me to make his picture. But after that, he acted like he wanted a tip. Unfortunately at the time, I didn’t have any change, and the smallest thing I has was a 500 rupee note. I made a couple more pictures of him while he was selling peanuts.

Young children were coming from a school, packed into rickshaws. There must have been ten or more packed into each rickshaw. That was their school bus. Many people were just walking on the street in rather local colorful outfits, so it was a good place to get local pictures.

Finally, I figured that it was enough in that spot. I walked on and was rather hungry and thirsty by that time. I thought about where I should go. I thought of that Moti Mahal Restaurant that I had made a note of. I knew that it was not too far from there, near the Red Fort.

But first to the Red Fort.

Early Morning Reflections (India Blog 5)

India 2: Early Morning Reflections (India Blog 5)

6 December. 3:30 AM. Thursday. This guy in the next room is snoring incredibly loud. I have been hearing it since I woke up around 2:30. It even disturbs me here in my room. The walls must be pretty thin, for sure.

Yesterday, I was accosted by a woman on the street claiming that she wanted help for children in Bangladesh. Sure enough, she presented a petition of sorts. She claimed that several foreigners had signed it. I saw names and “USA” beside the names. But I didn’t examine it closely.

First, she said: “No Money. Just sign.”

I said: “How will my signature help?” I said that I don’t have any information about it. I didn’t sign and just started walking away. Then she asked for some money. I am sure that if I had signed it, she would have hooked me for some money for sure. Bangladesh, my ass. How would I know if this is anything legitimate? Probably a scam. Why not? Is Bangladesh more needy than India? Where are the signatures of Indians? Anyway, I have no way of knowing, so it would be foolish to give money. If you just walk away, they will not follow you.

She was operating in Paharganj, where a lot of foreigners hang out.

Then I went a little way out of the main street. There were vegetable markets there. A old guy with a white beard came holding a round metal container in one hand. He asked me for money. I thought, Okay. I will give him twenty rupees. But he wouldn’t take it. “One-hundred rupees,” he said. It was like he was bargaining about how much I would give. Then I heard him say: “Five-hundred rupees.” And “why the hell should I give you five-hundred rupees when I know nothing about you and have never seen you before?” I thought.

Another guy wanted to shine my shoes. I had just had them shined, so I was not interested. He said: “Oh, just brush them for twenty rupees.” I said: “They don’t need it, but here is twenty rupees, anyway.” And I walked away. There was no need to waste my time with that. Some kids there just call to you: “Money.” It seems that the foreigners have got them trained in that part of Delhi. They have trained a new generation of beggars.

It is hardly different from “Go Fund Me” on the internet, I must say. That is just high-tech begging. The Western form. Welcome to corporate capitalism. So-called neoliberalism. A new form, when today’s capitalist economies will not provide jobs for many people. At least not the kind that they can tolerate.

So everybody is out for something. But it is unfortunate because after a while, one starts to see everyone who approaches you as wanting something from you. Their friendliness is just feigned to put a hook into you and get something out of you. It is not always that way, but one starts to get that impression. It is because they have actually been spoiled by the foreigners that stay down there in Pahargunj.

I didn’t find the beggars as bad as in Hyderabad, but maybe it was because I was with some American women there. And here, they see that I am busy taking pictures and don’t want to be bothered. It is an institution. Giving will just perpetuate and strengthen it. Probably, there is no solution that the government or anyone can reach. Not under the current system. Sometimes, one feels that Indira Gandhi had the right idea. Mass Sterilizations. There is something to be said for corporatism in such a dire situation. Probably that is what it would take. And it would necessarily be cruel. Some way to control the population. Over population. It is actually not a myth, as one realizes in India. It cannot be said that it is not a problem here.

Most people are forced to deal with it by just looking the other way. It is the only way to cope with it.

I think some type of corporatist rule from the top would be the only way to approach it. Not what they call “democracy” now. I hate to say that, but perhaps it is true. Where are they going? Where have they gone? Everybody with their own car or auto rickshaw or even bicycle just clogs up all the roads.

The mass production of sub-standard individuals who have little or no education. Even the rats have to struggle less than the people to survive here. They are exporting labor. The cheap kind and some of the expensive kind, in the form of doctors and professors.

There must be some limit. Escaping to the USA is not the right thing, either.

I admit that it is bad to come to the country and take pictures for two weeks, like in a zoo, and then get out. Maybe it is wrong. I don’t know. But I didn’t create the situation. Actually, I spent two years of my life thinking that I might do something worth while in this country.

It was all illusion. Nonsense. I don’t know if anyone really believed in that. The so-called “Peace Corps.” I don’t know. The Peace Corps officials were just getting a job and a chance to travel and live abroad. A good deal while it lasted. Nehru knew that it was a joke but did not want to displease Jack Kennedy and his brother in law, Shriver. He had upper class manners and played along.

With all the recent economic growth in India, people, masses of them, are now just eking out a tiny living. The economy goes up. Everything else seems to go south.

Except in rich, elite, families. The only decent-looking young women and girls are those not yet hit by the tragedy of marriage.

But it is still a hell of an interesting society.

I read a few things in the Hindustan Times, and old newspaper. The government is now setting up cow shelters. Well, one generally does not see them on the streets here, like in Varanasi. It seems like the Modi Government is doing more for cows than for people. What a society! It has just happened in some village not far from Delhi. Clearly, one is better off being a cow.

God! Gott! What a fanatacism over cows. The cows are better off than the vast majority of women.

10:30 Morning. I am about to head out for Chandni Chowk, Kashmiri Gate. At four o’clock, I was not sleeping, so I took a pill and slept until after eight.

Tomorrow to Cal! Calcutta! Here I come.

Delhi in the Evening (India Blog 3)

 

India Blog Three: Delhi in the Evening

5 December. Wednesday. 3:00 AM. I have developed a sore throat and I think it is from being a little cold on the plane. And the flimsy blanket they gave me was not enough. After that long march through the airport, my T-shirt was damp from perspiration. That is one of the perils of travel. I woke up now at three in the morning, but got a good sleep since last evening. I am feeling much better. I was quite out of it yesterday.

Man! I am not sold on this society. It seems that so many people are trying to leech off of you. Not everybody. But almost. But maybe I can handle it better coming from Turkey than if I was just fresh from the USA. I think that is probably the case.

I was able to shoot a roll of film in the evening yesterday, with a minimum of molestation. But one must be very careful walking on the uneven pavements and curbs. All of the surroundings are quite rough.

I crossed the big street over to the old Regal Cinema Building. There is an underpass, but I did not realize it at first. There is massive traffic on these streets now, so it is not easy to cross without using the underpass. Almost all are cars, with a few auto rickshaws. There are no old pedal rickshaws now in this area of Connaught Place, that I can see.

I walked and made some evening pictures under the lights. But some of the white lights are just too bright. The old Kwality Restaurant was starting but customers started coming around eight o’clock. So I decided to wait. I walked around to the other side of the building. There is a new Punjabi Restaurant on the corner called Pind Baluch. That place keeps changing. It was a sports bar ten years ago, when I was in Delhi. They have a door-man dressed in a turban and robe. The place looks expensive, but that is deceptive. Perhaps expensive by Indian standards. Middle class.

I could not see any sign of the old Gaylords Restaurant. Is it still there? It used to be close to that cinema. I went there the first night that I was in Delhi in June 1968.

But that was nothing like the scene now. A lot of markets are set up in the evening outside. They are selling woollen things, like sweaters, that look good. They must be cheap. However, I am not in the market for them.

I walked farther, and there the place has really turned into massive saffronization, I can say. There was a whole array of shops selling sweets and Hindu bric-a-bac. It was colorful and a good night for pictures, even black and white. I do not use a flash. I am pushing black and white film for evening shots.

People were walking and sitting around everywhere. Lone individuals too. They stake out a place for themselves on the pavement, making something or selling something, trying to live. Somehow or other, I would say.

In the daytime, young guys just set up a small stand along the walkway, selling something. Things like golies or other sweets or food. Also drinks. That’s what the economy has produced, it seems.

They are part of the surplus army of this society. Karl Marx understood the future.

Back to the night scene. I walked there and took pictures without being heckled much or harassed. As one walks around, some guys or women call out to you, saying “hello” or something. One can just ignore them. What can they do when one does not respond? When one acts deaf and dumb. So that is what I did. I took several pictures of the street shops. There was generally not enough light to take pictures of the people. One needed a flash. But I don’t think that it would be very easy to use there.

Near that old Bobby’s corner, where the restaurant is now, a guy and his friend asked to make a picture with me. I didn’t mind. Another guy took the picture with his cell phone. Cell phones are the only cameras that I have seen here, so far. No one seems to use film. But I know that there are a few in India that do. It is next to impossible to find in India.

After that, I asked to take a picture of these guys. It was a good chance, and one cannot do it with everybody. Sometimes I wait and get a shot of someone that I want. If I am lucky. And they do not even know. That is what I want. Candid shots. I pretend to be taking a photo of something else. That generally works. Last evening, so much was happening there that few people were noticing me moving around to frame shots.

The masses are eating cheap things off the street from all kinds of small vendors.

I finished the roll of film and went to the old Kwality Restaurant. This restaurant has been upgraded, since I was here ten years ago. Now there is an upstairs section. It is elegant inside. There are framed black and white pictures along the walls. Historical pictures of figures who have eaten there. So it has some taste. Some people started coming in after eight o’clock. There is a door-man. Maitre de? He takes one in and shows them a place.

I ordered a beer. A kingfisher. It is from Mohan Meaken. I asked the waiter about Golden Eagle Beer, from the same company. He said that it had disappeared 20 to 25 years ago. That shows how up to date I am! But this was not the big 650 ml bottles. It was one-third liter. I love the bigger ones, that I found later in other restaurants.

A couple of groups came into the restaurant. A young attractive women came in hot pants and bare legs, with her boyfriend, of course.

The other group was more upscale. The women were generally attractive. I could partly overhear the conversation. They speak more English than Hindi, but it is a mixture. I clandestinely took pictures of both groups.

I ordered a type of chicken curry in a sauce. I didn’t know how it would come out, but the chicken were without bones in the spicy sauce. I had two nans with it. I should have had the puffy puris, but the nans were actually delicious. I had two beers with the meal and then decided to have another beer. Most meat dishes are are around 500 rupees, less than ten dollars. So not expensive. I lingered over the third beer. It was around 125 rupees for a beer. They added a service charge, but I gave a tip anyway.

I realize that I need to change more money. I got 65 rupees to a dollar at the airport, but it was not a very good rate. It hardly matters with the amounts that I will spend. The whole bill was around 1600 rupees, around twenty-five dollars. But it is a nice elegant place with class. More so than in the past, it seems. The food was excellent.

On the way back to the hotel, I bought some bottles of water, just twenty rupees each. I saw the old book store there that I visited ten years ago. But it looks quite run down now.

A little further on was a restaurant, that would be quite cheap. It looked like a good place, but there was a crowd outside waiting for seats. Further on were some small restaurants and a place that advertised money change. I don’t know if these places are legal or not. One has to have a receipt to change money back to dollars when leaving.

When I was going out of the hotel earlier, the clerk called up someone. I understood that he said he was an American, but I misunderstood. He was an Indian. Then he gave the phone to me. When I answered, the guy asked: “What do you want?”

I had not asked for anything, really.

I said: “Peace, Love and Brotherhood. But the world is not going in that way.”

But it wasn’t exactly what the guy was asking for. He wanted to pitch me tours. That was his angle.

He said: “Agra, Varanasi and so on.”

I told him that I was not interested. I had been to those places before. I guess that it was a mistake, but I told him that I was going to Kolkata. He asked me how. I said “by plane.” It was OK to talk to him. The good thing is that people speak English. But now, they are angling for a way to hook you for a profit. They seem to think that one just lands in the country with no agenda and they can just arrange travel on the spot. It may be the case with quite a few people.

If I wanted a tour to those places, I could arrange it myself. I would have already arranged it. I am not that naive! Oh well! Those are my midnight ramblings.

On the street, this country is interesting, partly because it is so impossible. So impossible. One sees how so many efforts at improvements have just fallen by the wayside. It turns every effort to dust, it seeems. People just go their own ways to the temples and gurus. There are endless markets for those. And a Prime Minister who is a rank communalist. I don’t pretend to know anything about Modi and Hindu Fascism. It is so thick everywhere that one could cut it with a knife. I pose as a naive tourist.

It was a hell of a day. I talked to a lot of people. Too many people know English.

A Roll of Film in Old Delhi (Part 2)

Sitting down across the street from the entrance to an old Mosque, I shoot pictures on the street.

Leica M6 TTL Camera. Kodak Tri-X Black and White Film pushed to ISO 1600.

A peanut seller appears with his cart.

First Customer

A heavy load

The Peanut Man

Group of women pass

Young girl wants to buy peanuts

Taking a stroll

Another Rickshaw passes

Another Customer

Some Poor Mother

On the corner is a juice bar.

And the busy street full of confusion

Even more lovely confusion ahead. A dynamic country!

All shots with a Leica M6 TTL Camera. Leica Summarit 35 mm f 2.5 Lens. Kodak Tri-X Black and White film. Developed with Kodak HC-110 Developer. Film pushed to ISO 1600. 

The Truth About the USS Liberty

American Legion Joins VFW in Calling for Congressional Investigation of Israel’s Attack on USS Liberty.

Updated on December 29, 2018
USS Liberty, body bags.
USS Liberty, body bags.

Due to the persistence of surviving crew members and the continual emergence of new revelations, the national veteran’s group American Legion has passed Resolution 40 calling for Congress to “publicly, impartially, and thoroughly” investigate the attack by Israel on an American ship in 1967, in which 34 American sailors were killed and hundreds of others were wounded. The resolution comes despite a veil of government secrecy which keeps key documents on the attack classified more than 50 years later. [NSA USS Liberty documents]

The attack, which surviving crew members to a man say was deliberate, as well as a stellar list of high-ranking officials, has never been officially investigated outside of a Navy Court of Inquiry and an NSA probe. Surviving crew members were not allowed to testify to key points which did not fit the official conclusion that it was an accident.

For example, according to James Ennes who was Officer of the Deck that day, crew members were never allowed to give testimony witnessing an Israeli patrol boat’s methodical machine-gunning of the life boats, which supports the contention that the Israelis wanted no survivors.

The surviving crew continues to hold a memorial service in Washington DC each year on the date of the attack, and issues invitations to members of Congress to attend. To date, not one congress member has attended a service.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the other major US veterans’ organization, passed a national resolution calling for a congressional investigation in 2003.

Although the American Legion leadership has fought hard over the years to prevent the Liberty survivors’ resolution from passing, the rank and file has overwhelmingly supported the veterans, and passed the resolution thunderously on a voice vote. The leadership had no choice but to introduce it into the record. Resolution 40 itself is a devastating document, reading in part:

WHEREAS, on June 8, 1967, while operating in support of the National Security Agency (NSA) in international waters, properly marked as to her identity and nationality, and in calm, clear weather in the eastern Mediterranean, the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) was the target of an unprovoked attack by Israeli military forces that killed 34 members of the Liberty’s crew and wounded 173; and,
….
WHEREAS, according to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) information reports from June and October, 1967, sources in Tel Aviv reported: “Israel’s forces knew exactly what flag the [L]IBERTY was flying” and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan “personally ordered the attack” on the Liberty over the objections of senior uniformed military personnel, one of whom characterized the attack as “pure murder”; and,

WHEREAS, Richard Helms (Director of Central Intelligence, 1966-1973), stated in a 1984 CIA interview: “…I don’t think there can be any doubt that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing…”; and,

WHEREAS, Lieutenant General Marshall S. Carter, USA (ret.) (Director of the NSA, 1965-1969), recalled in a 1988 NSA interview that he stated at a Congressional hearing in 1967 that the attack on the Liberty “couldn’t be anything else but deliberate…and,

WHEREAS…Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN (ret.) said: “there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew” (Moorer was also the legal counsel for the official Navy investigation);

The American Legion Resolution 40 harnesses two of the most powerful non-corporate lobbies in America, US military veterans. The survivors are now asking military veterans to forward the resolution to their congressional representatives.

On the morning of June 8th, 1967, Israeli reconnaissance aircraft circled slowly around the Liberty, according to the sailors, for 9 hours, making 13 very close passes. The Liberty crew members recall the planes were close enough to wave at the pilots, who waved back. The ship was flying two American flags, including the Holiday Colors, a particularly large flag. The breeze was around 15 mph and the flags flew fully unfurled.

At around two in the afternoon, after the recon planes broke off, Israeli Mirage jets came roaring over the horizon and opened fire, for nearly two hours, with .30mm cannon, rockets, missiles, and napalm bombs. Then an Israeli Navy patrol boat arrived and launched torpedoes.

According to the timeline of If Americans Knew, a website run by survivors, at 12:15 and 12:45, Israeli recon aircraft again circled the ship. The timeline reads:

1215 & 1245: Israeli reconnaissance aircraft again circle Liberty.

1341: Israeli torpedo boats spot Liberty and call for an immediate air strike.

1358: Two unmarked delta-winged Mirage jets attack Liberty. After taking out gun mounts, they target ship’s antennae and bridge with heat-seeking missiles.

1405: Three unmarked Dassault Mystère IIIC jets attack with napalm and rockets. Ship tries to contact Sixth Fleet headquarters, but five of Liberty’s six shore circuits are jammed. Radio operator manages to send distress signal from Captain McGonagle: “Under attack by unidentified jet aircraft, require immediate assistance.” Attack lasts approximately 22 minutes, involving 30 to 35 sorties, killing nine men and wounding around 60. Israeli pilot reports to base: “Great, wonderful, she’s burning, she’s burning.”

1409: Captain Joe Tully of the USS Saratoga acknowledges call for help, dispatches four F-4 Phantom jets, and informs Liberty that help is on the way. Within minutes U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara orders rescue jets to return: “Tell Sixth Fleet to get those aircraft back immediately.” Rear Admiral Geis relays message and tells them to re-launch jets in 90 minutes.

1424: Three French-built 62-ton Israeli motor torpedo boats approach Liberty in attack formation. Because the Israeli fighters had destroyed the American flag, Captain McGonagle orders the signalman to hoist the “holiday ensign,” the largest flag the ship has.

1435: Torpedo boats launch five German-made 19-inch torpedoes at Liberty. One torpedo strikes starboard directly into NSA area, accounting for 25 of the 34 men who would be killed. Torpedo boats then circle, machine-gunning the ship with armor-piercing projectiles for another 40 minutes.

1450: Commander of Sixth Fleet orders carriers USS America and USS Saratoga to send aircraft to defend Liberty.

History has charged LBJ with failing to assist the ship and ordering a cover-up. As to the reason for the attack, Admiral Thomas Moorer once speculated it was an Israeli attempt to draw the US into war with Egypt, which Israel was fighting at the time in the Six Day War. The apparent attempt to kill all hands and leave no witnesses is cited as support for this thesis. Indeed, sources say LBJ had already launched nuclear-tipped jets toward Cairo when word came that the Liberty had not sunk.

If true, it has also been speculated, the Liberty crew, by saving the ship, may have prevented World War III. Survivor Phil Tourney, in his talks recounting the damages from over 800 cannon rounds, rockets, missiles, napalm bombs, and torpedoes, has said that the ship not sinking is to him a “miracle.”

In 2007, the Chicago Tribune published an explosive exclusive, in which US officers who had seen presently classified NSA transcripts of radio transmissions that day disputed the accuracy of leaked transcripts published by the Jerusalem Post.

The Tribune reported:

“The transcript published by the Jerusalem Post bore scant resemblance to the one that in 1967 rolled off the teletype machine behind the sealed vault door at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, where Steve Forslund worked as an intelligence analyst for the 544th Air Reconnaissance Technical Wing, then the highest-level strategic planning office in the Air Force.

“The ground control station stated that the target was American and for the aircraft to confirm it,” Forslund recalled. “The aircraft did confirm the identity of the target as American, by the American flag.

“The ground control station ordered the aircraft to attack and sink the target and ensure they left no survivors.”

The Tribune reported the words of James Gotcher, who was then serving with the Air Force Security Service’s 6924th Security Squadron, an adjunct of the NSA. Gocher said:

“There is simply no way that [the Post transcript is] the same as what I saw,”

Even more damning are the recollections to the Tribune of Air Force Capt. Richard Block, who was commanding an intelligence wing of more than 100 analysts and cryptologists monitoring Middle Eastern communications.

“Some of the pilots did not want to attack,” Block said. “The pilots said, ‘This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?’

“And ground control came back and said, ‘Yes, follow orders.'”

Forslund, Gotcher, and Block agree that the Jerusalem Post transcript was not at all like what they remember reading.

During the attack, some Liberty crew fought fire and damage even while wounded. Less wounded cared for more gravely wounded. With Israeli 30mm cannon being made for tank killing, the rounds punched through the thin steel hull and butchered men deep inside the ship.

For the incredible drama of that day, in which one Medal of Honor was won and a rafter of other heroism decorations, the bare facts of the USS Liberty attack are little-known, with barriers and stumbling blocks placed in the paths of survivors at every turn. Even though the American Legion passed Resolution 40, in 2018 it denied booth space to Liberty survivors at their annual convention. James Ennes, the Officer of the Deck that day, has written a book which, although well received and with many orders, seems to have problems finding its way into major bookstores.

It is clear that the surviving veterans are not fading into the sunset quietly.

As the Chicago Tribune reporter reached out to survivors for telephone interviews he relates:

…decades later, many of the more than two dozen Liberty survivors located and interviewed by the Tribune cannot talk about the attack without shouting or weeping.

The epic struggle to be heard and avenge their shipmates, almost all young in their twenties when killed, by forcing Israel and the US government to admit it was not an accident, might recall the Dylan Thomas lines:

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.