Tag Archive for 'Bengalis'

The hidden history of Bengali Harlem

From MIT News:

While it is commonly known that a wave of well-educated South Asians arrived in the United States after 1965, this earlier saga of immigration and assimilation has largely been overlooked. Until now, that is: A new book, “Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America,” by MIT assistant professor Vivek Bald, illuminates this thread of history in unprecedented detail.

“Without these stories, the history of South Asians in the U.S. is incomplete,” Bald says.

One reason the subject has particular resonance for the present day, Bald believes, is that many of the immigrants in question were Muslim. “I wanted to make clear the depth and the persistence of the South Asian presence in the U.S.,” he says, “and specifically the South Asian Muslim presence in the U.S., at a time when Muslims are being portrayed as newcomers, enemies and outsiders.”

The genesis of “Bengali Harlem,” published this month by Harvard University Press, comes in good measure from conversations Bald had with Alaudin Ullah, a New York-based actor and playwright and the son of Habib Ullah. Hearing about the Ullah family’s odyssey sparked Bald’s curiosity. More:

What happens when an author questions Amartya Sen’s analysis?

Illustration: The Telegraph

From The Telegraph:

Bengalis love to quibble — from the shape of the hilsa to the future of Mohun Bagan. That would mean almost on everything. As even a Nobel laureate is finding out, everything also includes famine.

Once, the filmmaker Satyajit Ray and the statistician Ashoke Rudra had verbal fisticuffs over the film Charulata. Rudra thought the film deviated from Rabindranath Tagore’s story on which the film was based. Ray denied it. But the arguments went on for over a year, much after the film ended its run at local theatres.

Sadly, like many things else, this quaint but endearing trait is missing in Bengal. Things, perhaps, are a-changing.

A Bengali physicist, who stays in Germany, has taken up cudgels against Amartya Sen — no less — and on — hold your breath — the Bengal famine.

Clearly no hausfrau, the physicist, Madhusree Mukerjee, quotes Mark Tauger, a Sussex-based British historian of moderate renown, to claim that Sen’s estimate of crop output can seriously be challenged. Sen in his book on famine argued that the Bengal famine of 1943 was avoidable and that there was enough food to go round.

Not quite, argues Mukerjee and quotes Tauger to claim that Sen based his estimates on projections and not actual production. She also says that diseases spread by wet weather appear to have reduced the harvest. In other words, the famine was not avoidable.

She continues undaunted: “Furthermore, in his paper Sen misquoted the government’s estimate of the rice shortfall as a mere 140,000 tons (instead of the 1.4 million tons stated in the document he cites) — which led him to mistakenly claim that the authorities could not have predicted famine.”

Sen possibly became aware of the tempest after a review of Mukerjee’s book, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II, by Joseph Lelyveld appeared in The New York Review of Books, a well regarded American journal of ideas. Lelyveld, an experienced journalist who reported on the Bangladesh war for The New York Times, avoided taking a strong line. More: