Category Archives: Holidays

Tryst With Destiny

Its August 15, the Indian independence day. For the last few years I have written about things to celebrate about India and that make it unique. But today my heart is heavy and those posts from the past years feel like a cruel joke.

For the past five years BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his followers in the government and outside have made it their life mission to dismantle Jawarhlal Nehru’s legacy. But without Nehru there is no modern India. Dismantling his legacy is dismantling the Indian experiment. If India defied expectations and survived as a democracy and as one country it was in no small measure due to the work of the leaders that fought for its independence and then wrote constitution that enshrined within it the ideals of freedom, equality and liberty. And among those giants, Nehru stands tall.

His vision for India is in peril. He has fallen out of fashion in today’s Sangh dominated India.  On this day of all days I want to remember his words, the words he uttered as India gained it is freedom after a long struggle on 15 August 1947

Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny; and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India, and her people, and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries which are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her successes and her failures. Through good and ill fortunes alike, she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again.

 

The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. That responsibility rests upon this assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labor, and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over, and it is the future that beckons to us now.

That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.

The ambition of the greatest man1 of our generation has been to wipe “every tear from every eye.”2 That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labor and to work, and work hard, to — to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart.

Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom; so is prosperity now; and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.

To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.

Advertisements

It is Diwali, So Light Your Lamp, and Vote Blue

Diwali, the festival of lights is here. May there be light in both my ancestral and my adopted home which have taken a disastrous turn towards darkness in the recent years by electing leaders who maintain their grip on power by appealing to fear and by fostering hate.

We all need to do our bit to banish the darkness, so go vote,  if you haven’t voted yet, go vote. Your country needs you, the world needs you. Your vote is your voice and your message. Vote for those who cannot vote to protect themselves, the children still separated from their parents sitting in cages, immigrants who pick your lettuce, the doctors who could potentially save your  life after you have had a heart attack. The knowlege workers and other immigrants performing tasks large and small to keep the economy humming and the country running. The current president and the compliant legislature controlled by his party, the Republican party has declared a war on them by calling them moochers, job stealers, rapists and murders.

Vote to protect the future generations who will have to bear the brunt of the tax cuts for the 1% and ravages of global warming. Go out there and vote. People have died so you have the right to vote. I voted early, my first vote in a general election after becoming a citizen last July.

So light your lamp be a force for good and vote blue.

I don’t want to hear any excuses

Cheezburger Image 9234163712

By two_kittehs

Happy Independence Day, India

India is seventy one and at a crossroads today. Its self image as a secular democracy that embodies liberal values of justice and equality for all are under threat. India’s founding generation gave it a Constitution that enshrined  these secular and liberal democratic values. The values of the current party in power are antithetical to that vision. They worship the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi and blame everything that ails India in 2018 on its first first Prime Minister, Nehru. But that is a post for another day. Today I want to pay homage to India’s founding document.

Writing the constitution was a collaborative effort that took over five years. The men and women who were a part of that entire process struggled with what a just and good government of the people, by the people and for the people would look like. They tackled the thorny issues of gender equity, religious freedom, untouchablity, language, land reforms and even the form of the government.

Although the majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly were from the Indian National Congress, the Chairman of the drafting committee of the constitution, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar was not a member and in fact was an opponent of many of its policies and had locked horns with Gandhi on more than one occasion. Can you imagine that happening today? A member of the opposition being given such a monuemental responsibility because he was the best person for the job?

If you are interested in watching how the most populous democracy gave itself a constitution  you should watch Samvidhaan, a ten part miniseries available for streaming from Rajyasabha TV made by the veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal.

The authors of the founding document gave India a constitution based on respect for all irrespective of their caste, creed, gender or religion. This is especially remarkable considering the ugly and wrenching experience of the partition that tore the former British India into two as the price of independence.

The title track echoes the spirit of Samvidhaan as it blends together Saare Jahan Se Accha (Best in the World) by Iqbal and Bankim Chandra’s Vande Mataram (I bow before  thee mother(land)) and Tagore’s Jana Gana Mana which is India’s national anthem.

Part One

 

Happy 4th

USCIS_Officer_Giving_A_Speech

July 4th 2017, Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts,

A year ago I became a United States citizen. This is what I wrote the day after.

Yesterday, I swore the oath of allegiance to the United States and became a citizen along with 126 people from 47 countries on the village green of Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

The July sun was blazing, the sky was clear and there were no clouds, as I raised my right hand and repeated the words. Repeating the oath along with me was a slice of humanity, on my left was a man from Portugal on my right was my husband, to his right was a young Somali man, also in my row was a Catholic priest from Poland and a woman from Ghana. We immigrants, from every corner of the globe  believed in the promise of America and were swearing an oath to uphold the principles it was founded on.

 
“Life, Liberty and pursuit of happiness for all”

The Federal District Court judge, who administered the oath urged us to do our duty as citizens by getting involved in civic life as he welcomed us as new citizens. He told us to vote and even run for office. He acknowledged  our countries of birth, and how our upbringing had made us the individuals that we were. I was moved and I felt a sense of awe and wonder that I had not expected.
 

The entire naturalization ceremony reminded me very much of a wedding ceremony, there was a legal binding ceremony with a judge and an oath, there were witnesses. It felt like I had finally made my relationship with America official and permanent. There is no going back now. Our relationship is signed and sealed.

 

I believe in the promise of America, the power of the individual to change their destiny. That you are not limited by the circumstances of your birth. If you can dream it, you can do it. It was in early January that I decided that I would apply for naturalization. I sent in my application on January 19th. I had always felt like I belonged here, this was the time to make it count. Do my bit.  The ideal that we were all created equal is a principle worth fighting for. The American ideal is worth fighting for.

Some Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day

If President Obama was Martin Luther King’s dream come true then the current president is that dream curdled into a nightmare. The latest pointless debate over whether his disparaging remarks calling countries with predominantly black populations shitholes makes him a racist, misses the point. The daily random insult generator in the White House has a one point agenda of hate.

During the Obama years, everything that happened anywhere in the world, was all Obama’s fault. From the genocide in Syria to the leak in British Petroleum’s oil well. For this President, nothing is ever his fault, he is not to be held responsible even for the words coming out of his mouth. Judy Woodruff of the PBS News Hour actually praised the President for his performance during a televised bipartisan meeting about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), where he seemed to have no idea what he was talking about.  She was by far not the only one.The prestigious old media continues give the Republicans cover as they continue to destroy one democratic norm after another.

The sad thing is not that the President is a racist but that millions voted for him despite that or may be even because of that. Though they knew that  he was the most ill prepared and ill suited candidate to ever run on a major party’s ticket. Even sadder is the fact that the party of Lincoln condones the  bile he spews on a daily basis. It is they who made his rise possible and have given him the institutional support to thrive. They couldn’t care less that he  pisses away our international prestige one outrageous statement and one discriminatory policy at a time.

They may make soaring speeches praising Dr. King now but Republicans have been single minded in their quest to overturn his legacy, the civil rights legislation. The Republican led Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act  in 2013. Tom Cotton and David Perdue’s goal is to do the same to the Immigration and the Nationalities Act. To them, the man in the White House is a means to an end. Now more than ever we need to do everything to preserve Dr. King’s legacy. Our very lives and what kind of country we want to be depends on it. Our enemies are formidable but we shall overcome.

Cheezburger Image 9115677696

By two_kittehs

Happy New Year

Boss Cat wishes You A Happy New Year!

Happy Birthday, India

Its been seventy years since India got its independence from the British. Its birth was accompanied by the traumatic cleaving into two of British India and the traumatic loss of the Father of the Nation, Gandhi only five months later. Yet, India under its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru embraced a democratic and inclusive vision for India. This vision is under serious threat right now, but that is a post for another day.

I am going to celebrate this milestone by blogging about India. The highs, the lows and everything in between, over the next two weeks. I plan to cover movies, science, history, geography of the original melting pot.

I leave you with  national anthem  written by Rabindranath Tagore, performed here by its preeminent and beloved artists, representing India’s tremendous linguistic and religious diversity. First there is an instrumental version, then a vocal one, both arranged by A. R. Rahman, an example of India’s many cultural strands come together to form  a unique whole.  This version is from  2000, many of the performers featured here are no longer with us, like Jagjit  Singh and Bhimsen Joshi.

Jana Gana Mana

May Day and Maharashtra Day

Happy Birthday 67th Maharashtra. The Sanyukta Maharashtra* Samiti (United Maharashtra Organization) succeeded in their quest for the formation of the state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital. Because many of the leaders of SMS were labor leaders, they chose May 1 to commemorate their victory. It took  a bitter struggle of over five years and the blood of more than a hundred martyrs. The ruling party at the Center under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted Bombay to be a centrally administered area.  Ramachandra Guha has a more detailed background of the struggle here.

 

Photo Credit: Sameer Markande

Maha== Great

Rashtra==Nation

Spring, The Season of Love

A Purrfect Love Story

By two_kittehs (Picture by: cvf)

Happy Gudi Padwa, the first day of spring and the New Year. Its time to welcome spring and  the new year by celebrating love. Starting the new year in spring makes much more sense than the dead of winter, isn’t it?

And now a celebration of love.

I heard this today, from the recently released Phillauri. I think I am in love. The very last lines, slay me.

 Tere bin saas be kaanch si kaate re,
Zindagi raakh si laage re


Translation: Without you , every breath cuts like glass
Life feels like ashes.

ETA: Check out Diljit Dosanjh, you won’t be sorry, Anushka Sharma, too looks radiant.

Holiday Movie Club: “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940)

poster-shop-around-the-corner-the_01Streaming Alert: If you’re a cable TV subscriber, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) should have this available for streaming on their WatchTCM website and app for at least another couple of weeks.

It’s Christmas Eve, so Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and Happy New Year to those who don’t (we can all agree that the year ends on December 31st, right?) This holiday film is one of my all-time favorites, though it’s a “Christmas movie” in the same way that, say, Die Hard (1988) is a “Christmas movie,” because it takes place during that season while not having anything to do with Santa Claus or Jesus or “the magic of the season.” The Shop Around the Corner (1940) involves two parallel stories about the beginning of one romantic relationship and the painful end of another, which lends it that air of melancholy that all of the best Christmas movies have. We can appreciate the happy ending our main characters have because we know the potentially sad ending years down the road.

We start with Ernst Lubitsch, one of the few directors in classic Hollywood who was so well-known, he had his own tagline: “the Lubitsch touch.” Of the films he made under the censorship regime of the Production Code, this is one of the best examplars of how he was allowed to handle themes that were supposed to be strictly forbidden (like suicide and adultery) because the censors trusted him to use his “touch” to make the audience empathize with the characters rather than using the themes for cheap sensationalism.

(For a glimpse of what Lubitsch was capable of under less restrictive censorship, take a look at one of his greatest films, Trouble in Paradise (1933), covered by yours truly over at my Pre-Code films blog.)

This film was very personal for Lubitsch because the character of Mr. Matuschek (played by Frank Morgan in probably his best performance) was partially based on Lubitsch’s own father, who was a similarly tyrannical shop owner in Berlin while Lubitsch was growing up — the young Ernst even worked at his father’s store as a teenager. It was based on a Hungarian play about a perfume shop and adapted by one of Lubitsch’s regular screenwriters, the great Samson Raphaelson. It has been adapted several times as a film (including In the Good Old Summertime (1949) and You’ve Got Mail (1998)) and even a Broadway show (She Loves Me), but none of the remakes has ever equalled this simple story of Matuschek and Company, “just around the corner from Andrassy Street – on Balta Street, in Budapest, Hungary.”

Read the rest of this entry