My Half Life for Godot


GodotThis is a special anniversary.
Half of my life I spent in India. And then, half more I spent in the U.S. Today is that special anniversary.
August 16.
Now, what is half life? And what does it have to do today, whatever anniversary I may have? — Some might ask.
Scientific definition is half life is the time taken for the radioactivity of a chemical element to fall to half its original value. The second definition is half life is the time required for any property to decrease by half.
The day I left India was the day when my life was cut in half. Today, after being in America for the second half of my life, I still feel like fate cut my life in half. Life was cut in two pieces — never to be meant to fuse together — ever again.
Now, some friends keep reminding me that I lament the loss too much. They say that I blow it out of proportion. Some even call me a hypocrite: they say I complain too much about India and her problems while sitting cushy in the “best country in the world.” And my intellectual achievements, and my earned respect as an activist and a teacher and a writer. Whatever little I’ve done in one life, starting humble, and starting from scratch. What’s the use of talking about the loss all the time? — They say.
They advise me that if I felt so strongly about India, then I should return and live there. Otherwise, they say, I have no right to talk about India’s problems — however horrendous and prehistoric they are.
Of course, some of my American friends say exactly the same thing, but only in a different, subtle way. They ask me why I complain about America’s problems when compared to India, it’s a much more luxurious situation for me? They say, can’t you find anything positive about USA? Do you only have to talk about America’s wars and income disparity and media lies and private prison and police brutality and 24/7 gun violence and myriad of hidden secrets, and write about them in Indian publications and on your measly blog?
They say, I mean, if you’re so unhappy to be in America, go back.
So, thus goes my half life — half here, and half there. Tormented. Splintered. Just like an eccentric chemical element absolutely erratic on its orbit.
In simple English, a crazy man.
Poet Tagore wrote:
“This bank of river sighs: the other side are all the highs.”
My Indian and American friends keep reminding me that my lament about my half life is nothing more than this stupid frustration. They remind me that there are always some people who can’t be happy anywhere: they are lifelong complainers. Basically, they say, they are losers.
So goes my half life: half here, and half there — complaining, and losing. According to popular definition, that is.
MarieCurieI sometimes felt that I have had some radioactive property in me. Radioactivity in my mind that illuminates and charges. Radioactivity that can create a lot of energy — to do a lot of incredibly charged things in life.
But I also sometimes felt that I never found that Marie Curie who would take the time to research on me, explore the possibilities, and finally harness the energy into real-life action. So that I could feel happy in this life, even when cut in two halves.
I have waited for Madam Curie to take charge of my life. I have waited for Godot to show.
But that did not happen. Godot didn’t show.
Waiting, and waiting, and waiting, I lost my half full life. A full half life — on two sides of the globe.
That radium that was supposed to glow — never came to glow.
Lamenting, reminiscing, expressing — in all sincerest honesty,
Brooklyn, New York


  1. Partha da, forgive me for saying this, but perhaps this is what happens when an Indian chooses to stay in a foreign country not because he had no other option but because he chooses to. When a migrant does nothing but criticize – however positively and however good the intentions – both the country which he fled and the country which gave shelter to him, he becomes vinegar rather than wine. While vinegar gives taste and piquancy to what we eat, unlike wine you cannot drink vinegar alone. The day that you look at the good things in both the countries and write about them, you will find inner peace. Till then you will be a tormented prophet, saying the things that must be said, trying your best to point out the flaws of everyone else, without finding any contentment for yourself…and the worst is you will be prophet without honour in either your adopted country or the country of your birth. Once again I apologize for my brutal candour.

      • Having said that, Partha da, I must admit that your articles are the welcome splash of freezing water that drives away sleep on winter mornings; or the lamp that Diogenes held up to find a true man. I am afraid like most others I too am found wanting in its brutally honest light.

  2. I think that we take too much time thinking that we have some purpose in this life that isn’t fulfilled. I don’t believe that is true. I think that we are all like a cog in a giant wheel, each one of us whether we do something spectacular or not, is important and just meant to be. We have no idea how our presence in this life affects so many others, yet it does. Just like a rock thrown into the water makes many ripples. I think this is what is important to remember, This is our purpose.

  3. Partition narratives bear testimony to divided existence.of thousands of immigrants who came to Western part of Bengal from the Eastern half. Even hard-earned prosperity and social status in their adopted country have failed to drown the pain of their forceful translocation. It is as if they have left behind the better half of their life in the country of their birth. Their lives remain forever unsettled; the search for a peaceful haven remains eternal. The story of your life reminds me of tales of such tormented souls. Your intellectual evolution in America can surely enrich and guide people back here in India. I am sure that the twain selves within you shall meet sometime in near future. Sincerest wishes for the end to such disconcerting existence.

    • True. I keep telling my students about that similarity between immigration across the two sides of Bengal and across the seas. Pain and raw, emotional wounds are a daily part of our days. Dreams of a left-behind half-life is a daily part of our nights. How many know? How many care to know?

  4. Partha da,
    Firstly, A very Happy Anniversary! And secondly, I share your pain. I know exactly how you feel. I am guilty myself for lambasting and criticizing the USA heavily from time to time. But I do it out of love. Just like you would reprimand your own child or loved ones instead of your neighbors child or to a stranger.
    The USA is my home now and my adopted MOTHER land. My sons were born here. I have lived more than half of my life in this country. More than my own birthplace. I have been torn apart many times trying to figure out where I belong and with whom my loyalty lies.
    From time to time, if we had a knock-out political debate or disagreement, I have heard from natives of the USA that, if I don’t like this country or hate it so much then I should leave. Quote, “why don’t you go back to the country where you came from”. And when arguing and taking the side of the US, I have been called many names. I’m “too westernized”, “where’s your loyalty”, or I’m “too whitewashed”, a “traitor”, there’s “something wrong with my upbringing because I may be ashamed or embarrassed to be an Indian”, etc.
    Just recently one of my own, a Oxford graduate gold medalist cousin & her entire family called me “Racist”. “I have orientalist language & ideas which is very offensive and that is a reminiscent of British historiography in the colonial era.” People like us migrated from India to the USA was a move from tradition to freedom and she/they consider herself/themselves as a global citizen and humanitarian.
    She turned down a UK Job and went to work for Orissa’s jungle but is now living in the US for the past 7 years and reaping all the benefits of the US and at the same time bashing the US.
    Hilarious! Don’t you think? The epitome of Arrogance, Hypocrisy & Double standard. (FYI: I was born after two decades of India’s Independence. So neither I have seen or have known colonialism nor have I experienced post colonialism syndrome).
    It really got me thinking, where DO I belong? Especially people like us? What and where is our home? Who are we? To find these answers, I have cried myself to sleep. Literally I have. I am not kidding. It is a battle with doubt, you might say, people like us is fighting. I’m so tired of proving my own loyalty to both… the USA & INDIA, juggling and walking the fine lines of harsh criticism. But very recently, I found courage, strength and power to stand up to these BULLIES. I am not going to put up with the nonsense and cockamamie BS from anyone.
    Please don’t get me wrong. I am a very balanced and humble person. I know my roots, my heritage and my culture. I am very proud of that and feel very lucky to HAIL from India… one of the oldest & richest CIVILIZATIONS in the WORLD. But equally I am also proud to be an American… one of the pioneers in modern amenities, the richest and most powerful country in the WORLD.
    As an immigrant, Ayn Rand declared America to be intellectually bankrupt. Criticism is an American sport. So you are welcome to play that. Ayn Rand was clear about her criticisms. Just like me, she thought this was the greatest country and wanted it to get even better. Her criticisms were from that stand point. At a meeting she was asked by an American “are you not an immigrant?”. Rand replied “I chose to be American. You were born here. What else have you done”. Criticize all you want.
    As a human who has a conscience and a brain, we shall all be embarrassed & ashamed of the USA’s involvement with all of the geopolitical world crises. Right? But No. Most Americans don’t care, getting ready for Back to school or Football season and the rest who thinks they know are gravely MISINFORMED, IGNORANT AND MISGUIDED.
    I am not trying to hijack the current topic to my own hidden agendas. Just a perfect example to point out why not every single Black, White, Brown and in-between are not disgusted and doing something about it? Haven’t we learned enough from our history not to repeat the same mistake? Then why are the Natives who are born here not taking part in condemning it? Why is it up to us ?
    Having watched the US vote against countless UN resolutions since 1945, I can’t help but wonder… If there had been a UN in the 1930s, and they considered action against Germany, how would the US have voted, given the economic interests of US corporations in Nazi Germany? “The U.S. is the reason why the United Nations is not able to play the role its charter requires, which is to stop the scourge of war.
    The UN is now, and always has been, the New York branch office of the US Department of State.
    For the US, war in itself is an industry. It is simply extraordinary and without precedent that TWO Countries are based on invasion and conquest. USA & ISRAEL, that is. Look what happened to the Native Americans. So no wonder the USA supports Israel. “Birds of feather, flock together”, remember!?
    The two parties (Dem/Repub) have backed the Palestinian slaughter every time, and so we have zero representation, no appeal and no redress. These crimes by the state of Israel – shuffling people into open prisons and then bombing them – resemble the practices of Nazi Germany in Poland that were once vigorously condemned by the United States during the Nuremberg Trials.
    They try and test their WMDs in the war-torn countries and then sell them to the warring countries showing their effectiveness of destruction and deaths of enemy countries. Not a bad technique, yet the US killed several Muslim leaders under the pretext of WMDs. Both hands are full.
    Speaking of cowards and hypocrites: I haven’t heard a peep of dissent from the bourgeois-liberal heroes Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The Senate resolution was unanimous, despite all the apologies for them. Some progressive, huh! What a SCREWED UP COUNTRY!
    Have you ever asked yourself , why Al Qaeda and ISIS never attacked ISRAHELL! It is very clear that the IS had advanced sophisticated military training that was provided by the Pentagon, the CIA and the Mossad.
    Here’s why or one ……/5391593—Law.html
    You don’t have to be an American or an Indian to ask yourself this question… if you found out that one of your beloved male members in your family had done something terrible, like rape or murder; what would you do? Would you not report that to the proper authorities? Would you sit there and hide the evidence or think about your part of the betrayal or worry that someone would call you a traitor?
    People like us fall into the honest, conscious and noble category. We’re are not ungrateful to our biological or our adopted mother or homeland. Let’s put it in a lighter note, we are equal opportunity lam-basters!
    I always say: “There is a way of living in this world without being bound by it.” Equally, the right way of living is that in which one does not really do or claim to do anything. As are Nature’s biological processes behind hunger and thirst, and also their appeasement, so are the psychic laws and processes in all that the mind, intelligence, heart and ego do and do not.
    To claim doership over anything is verily wrong and foolhardy. When the child shapes in the physical womb, in the mother’s mind motherhood too gets shaped. One is a physical development, while the other the corresponding psychological evolution and growth. The same is the case with every course of action and interaction, and naturally their outcomes too. The way of knowing and being in tune with this supreme Truth is available to all, though sought and actualized only by a few. It is a wonder why this is so!
    The summary message is that the mind is the one great treasure every one has. Its purity, dedication, commitment, the beautiful and benevolent thoughts and wishes it brings forth, are the first and last creators in human world. So make your mind the best, by enriching it with goodness, expansion and dedication.
    Partha da we live in a culture or society where people are more offended by swear words and the middle finger than they are by Famine, Monsanto, Northrop & Grumman, General Dynamics, Wall St or K St and the destruction of our environment and or existences.
    People will want you to behave a certain way, to make a certain choice because it Reinforces the way they SEE the world. So don’t worry and don’t feel bad. Do what your heart says.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful, articulate comments, as always. I particularly appreciate these couple of lines you wrote: (1) I always say: “There is a way of living in this world without being bound by it.” Equally, the right way of living is that in which one does not really do or claim to do anything.” And (2) “we live in a culture or society where people are more offended by swear words and the middle finger than they are by Famine, Monsanto, Northrop & Grumman, General Dynamics, Wall St or K St and the destruction of our environment and or existences.” What do we do about it? That is the question of the day.

  5. Partha,
    You’re troubles come from the fact that you love both India and America and only want the best for both. I think it is like a caring parent who constantly tries to point out what’s wrong with the things their kids do hoping that they change and do what is right. Often it only results in them doing worse and the parent becomes more frustrated.
    I think Protik is spot on in saying that you have to see what’s good in both your half lives and use that as strength to move on. I cannot relate to your situation because I was brought here very young and don’t remember my home country, but I know what it is to live two lives.
    One was in a country that made anything you ever dreamed of possible. A place where hard work and sacrifice meant success. The other, my current life, is in a country where increasingly those opportunities only exist for a small percentage and I find myself working even harder to become more accomplished than I already am in order to scrape by.
    Is that fair? I don’t think so, but such is life. I look to my gifts of health, friends and family to carry me through. I am thankful to still be here fighting the good fight and know that it is up to me to find my happiness. No one will help me; they are searching for their own. How selfish of me to even ask.
    I have said this to you before, that your writings have introduced an India I knew nothing about. To a Westerner that’s not too hard to do I suppose, but you should know that your work is not in vain. Spend the rest of your half life not waiting, but pursuing your Madam Curie.

    • Thank you for such heartfelt and compassionate writing. I truly appreciate it. It is not that I constantly vent my anger and frustrations at the two countries and their two political and social systems I think are absolute failures (for the 99 percent people that is), but I keep making people aware what it is like to live an intelligent but powerless life. The only power I have is perhaps my teaching and writing. So, I do it both, and do it together. But like you said, you probably would never feel the pain of living through this half-life existence, which some people also call a hyphenated existence. I’ve done the best I could to cope, and I have coped. Otherwise, I couldn’t have done so much in one life — a life that began on the street of Calcutta. I’m writing my memoir, and I’m writing this blog to re-explore me, and prepare me more for my memoir. If and when I finish it, I hope it’s going to show this immigrant life and its many layers unknown both to India and America. My writing is my honest thinking, and I express it as honestly as possible. Maybe, some day, some people will find some value in it.


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