Skeletons in the basement

The last two days I have been performing back-breaking, grueling, utterly soul crushing labor…in my own house (well, my parents house). Have you guys ever read a news article about some reclusive old guy who had a lifelong hoarding problem (a.k.a syllogomania) and when police finally entered the house they found a rotting, partially eaten corpse buried underneath a pile of junk that was formerly on one side of the only navigable lane through the house? Yes? Then now you know what my dad is like (known as “Yo Dad” to some who read SM). My dad left with my mom for India earlier this week so I flew home to help my brother clean out the house without any resistance. I wanted to solve this looming crisis before my dad made the local news in the “odd news” segment. Over the last two days we’ve been cleaning out stuff (mostly stored in the basement) that spans back 40 years! I won’t bore you with descriptions of 20-year-old used shower curtains or “Indian luggage bags” filled with spiders. I will take you straight to the good stuff. First, check out these two cricket bats. I remember they were purchased on a trip to India in 1982/3 in Ahmedabad (I was ~7). Notice anything shocking on one of them?

Was I an angry militant batsman as a child?

Can someone please explain this to me? Why would a child’s cricket bat say Hitler on it? I can understand why the one on the right has Sunil Gavaskar’s name…but Hitler?? As best as I can guess, the bat makers meant to spell “Hitter” but misspelled it as “Hitler.” Why did my parents even buy me this cricket bat? This could REALLY come back to tank my candidacy if I ever run for office. This is a closet skeleton right up there with GW Bush’s and Obama’s cocaine use.

Digging through more boxes, I found a pleasant surprise to offset the feeling of guilt that the cricket bat had left inside my soul. It was my mom’s British Colonial Passport!

It had a bunch of 1971 visa stamps in it so I guess this is the passport my mom had in hand when she first entered the United States. I’m glad this precious document avoided ending up in the local dump. What a thing to show my kids some day.

Finally, I came across the one thing that can make any grown man fall to his knees and weep in remembrance of better times long since gone. Deep inside one box in the darkest corner of my basement was my teddy bear. It doesn’t matter to me that he is cross-eyed and mangy. His name is Bearhug. I named him that because that is what it said on his shirt. The name has long since been wiped off the shirt because of years of excessive hugging, but I still remember. Maybe I’m not a perfect man. Maybe I have a lot of flaws. Maybe I have a shadowy past (as evidenced by the cricket bat). But at least Bearhug loves me…still.

Whole again

123 thoughts on “Skeletons in the basement

  1. The ensign of Legion Freies Indien (Free India Legion) was later adopted as the Flag of Azad Hind. Azad Hind was the Indian Government-in-Exile established in Singapore in 1943.

  2. Camille said …..[there were dominions, protectorates, and crown colonies -- each had a different definition in terms of colonial occupation/governance, access to the home Parliament, etc.] :) ……… Also, I’m pretty sure Kenya became a colony (it started out as the East African Protectorate). :)

    I stand corrected – the term “crown colony” definitely rings a bell. Also, I have this vague recollection of Kenya being referred to during colonial rule as a “colony and protectorate”.

  3. 9 · nala wrote:

    it seems to me that if so many people don’t recognize the historical significance of Hitler, there is something missing.

    US schools don’t teach much about US imperialism (starting with the Native American genocide) and support for scores of jerks like Saddam Hussein, Mobutu, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, Manuel Noriega, Francois Duvalier, Anastasio Samoza, Suharto, Rafael Trujillo, and Fulgencio Batista, among many, many others.

    It seems to me that if so many people don’t recognize the despicableness of Henry Kissinger, there is something missing.

    How different is Abhi’s cricket bat from this baseball mascot?

    Pot, meet kettle. Please climb down off your high horse and shake hands.

  4. 15 • ente wrote:

    I’m sensing that the Holocaust in India has about the same or slightly more awareness as the Armenian genocide does over here–sort of a tsking “but what does that have to do with me?” view.

    Word.

    18 • Prasad wrote:

    I’d rather keep it way it is – history as it happened. Beat it around the dates and place and the leaders.

    You seem to believe in some sort of objective reality. Did you know that eyewitnesses often give widely divergent accounts of the very same event? You also neglect to consider that which events/perspectives are chosen to be highlighted and which events/perspectives are chosen to be ignored is a political decision.

    20 • zuni wrote:

    Historical dates might be confusing, but I also prefer hard facts rather than history being tinted by views/beliefs of different religion/civilization/culture.

    How would you avoid “tinting” your account of history? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but you seem to advocate only one acceptable historical narrative (i.e. that of whatever ideology is currently dominant.)

    23 • Pravin wrote:

    The US and UK have allied with just as despicable people as Hitler to further their needs.

    Actually, Henry Ford was a big fan of Hitler, as was G.W.’s grandfather, Prescott Bush. Some have argued that the Holocaust as we know it could not have occurred without the aid of the US corporation IBM, whose executives were well aware of what their machines were being used for even as they traveled to Nazi Germany to maintain the machines.

  5. Yogi

    Forget Hitler and history, Gujarat is poised to vote for Modi again, the Germans only voted for Hitler once.

    Again!!?? I believe in democracy too but an election every 2 weeks is taking it too far

    For some people in India Hitler’s example is to be emulated, to much of the leadership of the Hindu right he is a hero and I would wager that they are well aware of the Holocaust.

    That explains why the hindu nationalists and the jewish state hate each other so much

  6. BTW, Pravin, I was not disagreeing with you in the last bit of my comment there. I just wanted to say that some in the US aligned even with Hitler, himself.

  7. I brought this post up in conversation and got the following response: “Hit-ler because you´re supposed to hit with it?” So, I hope that helps you, Abhi :)

  8. “Play with soft ball”

    I am just guessing that his is a warning against using the bat with “hard balls”, such as a cork ball or a regular cricket ball, and to only use a soft (like tennis) ball. Poorly constructed wooden bats can break easily when used with “hard balls”

  9. Again!!?? I believe in democracy too but an election every 2 weeks is taking it too far

    Well I am glad you find humor in the fact that people of Gujarat have elected the man whose government conducted a pogrom against people of his own state who happened to belong to the “wrong” religion who he was charged to protect not once but twice.

    That explains why the hindu nationalists and the jewish state hate each other so much

    Hindu nationalists don’t hate the Jewish state or the jews. I never said that, you are twisting my words. RSS leaders present and past have written approvingly of Hitler and his tactics.

  10. Yogi,

    There are serveral good explanations why Modi won and why he’s popular. A bit of knowledge of Indian history would also explain why the non “progressive” types are not quite as aghast at Modi for 2002.

    RSS leaders present and past have written approvingly of Hitler and his tactics.

    This is a lie. Often repeated, but still a lie. I tried to be subtle about it (think about it — would Israel really have this level of affinity for a group of people who approved of Hitler and his tactics?).

    If you really can assimilate something more than mindless talking points check this article. It does not shower the RSS in glory, but does add perspective.

    I for one do not want to see this thread hijacked by the senseless vitriol and Guju baiting, and will not post anything more about Modi in this thread. In the spirit of Christmas, and the whole turning the other cheek thing, could you do the same?

  11. US schools don’t teach much about US imperialism (starting with the Native American genocide) and support for scores of jerks like Saddam Hussein, Mobutu, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, Manuel Noriega, Francois Duvalier, Anastasio Samoza, Suharto, Rafael Trujillo, and Fulgencio Batista, among many, many others. It seems to me that if so many people don’t recognize the despicableness of Henry Kissinger, there is something missing.

    I agree, I didn’t mention before that I feel like my high school social studies curriculum shafted us in terms of more recent events, both in world history (post-WW2) and American history (post-1960s). Part of this is we’re strapped for time, part of it is by the time we get to the end of the school year no one gives a s*it anymore (especially if it’s post-AP exams), part of it is it’s probably harder to try to treat more recent events objectively. (So I had to learn myself why Kissinger sucks, though I actually wrote a ten-page paper about the Iranian Revolution so I know all about the Shah).

    What are some good sources for me to catch up with what I’ve missed on?

  12. Nala

    Try the “Trial of Henry Kissinger” by Christopher Hitchens.

    He explains the many war crimes of Kissinger.

  13. I dont think Kissinger is in the same league of Hitler;s people. Kissinger is an awful human being. He showed it with respect to Bangladesh and South American events. Still, I see Kissinger as one level below the Hitlers.

    As far as Modi, I see this ridiculous article in rediff by some moron named B Raman http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/dec/24raman.htm

    What he fails to say is “secularists” like myself are not mad at Modi for staqnding up for Hindu rights. I agree Hindus dont have to pander to minorities in India. However, this idiot does not mention the main reaosn why Modi is despised. He supported the massacre of muslims in his own state. A state he governs. A state where he is the Chief Minister of the Muslim residents and is obligated to protect. What i found despicable is another article in rediff which quotes some rich NRIs who support Modi. Well, Hitler made the trains run on time. The Nazis were efficient. Is that a good enough reason to support them? That is the same rationale they use to support Modi. Hell, Osama Bin Laden is a saint if you ignore the 9-11 bombing . The same applies to some of the Islamic fanatics who bomb India’s parliament or hijack their plane. They are not in it for the money. Should we praise them because the guy who was relased by India during the hijacking incident was a brilliant guy who eschewed riches to fight for his cause?

  14. If you really can assimilate something more than mindless talking points check this article. It does not shower the RSS in glory, but does add perspective.

    You are being condescending and derisive and making a personal attack.

    This is what Golwalkar guruji the second sarsanghchalak of RSS said in his book `We on Our Nationhood Defined’: “

    To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here…a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”

    Also Bal Thackeray not a member of the RSS but certainly a part of the hindu right, has written articles in his newspaper Saamna praising Hitler which I have read, I will find try to find these quotes, they are in Marathi though.

    RSS believes in a muscular Hindu nationalism, they want to make India a “Hindu Rashtra”. The whole concept of Hindutva is based on the hatred of the “other”; those who follow religions that did not originate in India(Jews and Parsis get a pass because they don’t have much strength innumbers to really challenge the Hindutva project)Swayamsevaks are indoctrinated with this hatred week after week, Modi and many other BJPleaders come from RSS.

    I used to know people in India who were active in the RSS and my knowledge of RSS is gleaned from conversations with them, their capacity for hatred seemed bottomless.

    and Pravin at #114 Word. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I am signing off from this thread now I have other things to attend to.

  15. Last warning. Any more off topic comments will be deleted. One of the biggest gripes people have with SM is that every comment thread seems to eventually descend into an idealogical battle of some sort.

  16. SM Intern sorry I didn’t realize I was being off the topic I thought we were discussing Indian attitudes towards Hitler.

    OK no more politically charged stuff and social commentary from me I promise. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all the mutineers.

  17. SM Intern,

    Thanks for the evenhanded enforcement of the rules. Often posters will make several leftwing ideologically charged statements on the sly (or in this case overtly) and then accuse anyone who responds back of “hijacking the thread” or “trolling”.

  18. 102 · notsoyoungdesi said

    I stand corrected – the term “crown colony” definitely rings a bell. Also, I have this vague recollection of Kenya being referred to during colonial rule as a “colony and protectorate”.

    I hope it didn’t come off as a correction! More of a clarification. I am sickly fascinated by 20th century imperialism, particularly vis-a-vis diaspora, state, and governance :)

    And you read Zinn if you go to a beatnik school like Camille or Muralimannered ;-)

    I totally missed this the first time around :) My social studies education was, with the exception of 7-8th grade, disgustingly inadequate and certainly very pro-U.S. in its attitudes and representations. I think a lot of my questions (and questioning) of “historical fact” actually came from having heard alternative oral histories in the home. So, it came from being desi! At any rate, I did most of my “beatnik” reading on my own, outside of the classroom :)

    I often wonder how much our perspective changes because of our location in the U.S. Kissinger did horrific things and would certainly be classified as a war criminal. Hitler’s exceptionalism is that he matched his disgusting ideology with brutal industrial efficiency. However, while his method may seem unique, it was not very far from what many other colonial powers were doing in other areas of the world. This does not diminish how disgusting his legacy is, but it’s politically convenient for other nations to scapegoat Hitler’s Germany to deflect attention away from their own gross injustices.

  19. 114 · Pravin said

    I don’t think Kissinger is in the same league of Hitler’s people. Kissinger is an awful human being.

    I don’t know if we’ll get much out of discussing degrees of evil, but I do think it’s important to remember that we ALL have the potential to dehumanize and brutalize “the other.” (The Stanford Prison Experiment, The Milgram Experiment, The Banality of Evil.) I think that when we deny this potential within ourselves and declare ourselves unequivocally better than “those evildoers,” we are that much closer to becoming like “them.”

    Nala, I would recommend Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. I’ve also heard that this is a pretty good, comprehensive book, but I haven’t read it myself.

    Finally, I want to reiterate that Abhi’s cricket bat doesn’t strike me as being any more offensive than the Cleveland Indians mascot. (Apparently, from it’s well-preserved state, it doesn’t seem that Abhi’s bat struck much of anything at all! ;-)

    SHAMELESS PLUG: Check out Border Crossings, the South Asian-interest radio show I work on, tomorrow night, 10-11 pm (Central Time). Here is last week’s show with Abhi and Amardeep. And Merry Happy everybody.

  20. 88 · Sulabh said

    One theory that can explain the lack of knowledge in history (or even arts) in some of these engineers is the brutally competitive entrance exam system for engineering colleges in India. Most of the aspiring engineers are only concerned about PCM (Phy-Chem-Math). On the similar note not many artsy types in USA (or anywhere else) can solve differential equations

    He-he. Some “engineers” in USA can’t solve differential equations either (just biased personal opinion from teaching experience).

    Not every one can learn everything and given the constraints on time/effort the emphasis varies. The nature of the engineering education excludes taking any history/arts classes at university level and this isn’t limited to India. I wonder how many engineers are ever history savvy.

    Indian schools have to deal with teaching multiple languages (3 minimum, native-national-English, some take 4) in addition to standard math, natural and social sciences. The Indian education system might be lacking in some aspects, but so does any educational system if seen with a different emphasis.

    OTOH, I think history is not just limited to schools but it is personal experience from collective memory. What I learned about Indian independence/partition from my grandmother stuck with me better. If a Jewish person was my neighbour perhaps I would understand/care about holocaust too. In my opinion the debate on Hitler awareness in India is like wondering why Japanese might care more about Hiroshima than holocaust.

    Without the personal experience, despite “reading” history, Hitler may not appear satanic – only a person with better means to execute genocide (compared to Armenian genocide, Rwandan genocide, and others).

  21. In response to your question, read Martha Nussbaum’s “The Clash Within”, to see how the BJP systematically introduces pro-Hitler messaging in children’s textbooks and children’s memorabilia to create a subliminal notion of the purity of the “aryan” or in this case north indian, indo-aryan caste. See Gujarat riots.