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The Promise of Obama
U.S President Barack Obama’s election was one of the more momentous events in U.S. politics, and it has come at a time of great economic and political challenge. Perhaps the U.S., which has enjoyed virtually untrammeled global supremacy after the fall of the Soviet Union, has not faced such an existential crisis since the terrible days of the depression in the 1930s.
Its economy is in shambles, its financial system is teetering, its standing in the world is shaky, and in the meantime if is fighting two wars that are unpopular both within and outside.
Obama’s message of change of hope catapulted him from virtual obscurity barely a decade ago into the highest elected position of what is still the most powerful nation in the world. For progressives, who mobilized and campaigned and voted for him, his victory was sweet indeed.
But faced with the reality of actually governing in a challenging time, he has sometimes disappointed some of his ardent supporters. In this month’s cover story, Akhila Raman takes a closer look at the pros and cons of some of his domestic and foreign policy positions and suggests the smartest thing for progressives is to eschew bitter recrimination and instead encourage Obama in his efforts to help those who are less privileged, while engaging him in a dialogue to relent when he appears to give in to political expediency.
It may be 90 years since the massacre in Jallianwala Bagh happened, the wound is still raw in the heart of any conscientious South Asian. The erstwhile colonial British Raj lost all moral legitimacy after its forces shot on unarmed civilians and killed hundreds in this Amritsar neighborhood.
The sting of this massacre came back to haunt Indians when Queen Elizabeth II visited India in 1983, and despite tremendous national Indian sentiment declined to apologize for the massacre.
What were the circumstances at that time? How did the British react after the outrage of Indians at the slaughter? What are the broader lessons to be drawn from this event and its political ramifications? Author and folklorist Ved Prakash Vatuk reflects on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and its aftermath in an essay in this month’s issue.
Rabindranath Tagore is revered all over India, and in Bengal he is a cultural and literary icon. Filmmakers including Satyajit Ray, Tapan Sinha and Rituparno Ghosh have made films from his work, sometimes to great acclaim, but sometimes facing great criticism. Even the great Ray had to face criticism for his celebrated Charulata from economist and critic Ashok Rudra.
That has not deterred filmmaker and theater director Suman Mukhopadhyay, who decided to take the plunge and make a film based on Tagore’s novel “Chaturanga.”
In the novel, Tagore takes a deep look at a society that is in the shackles of colonial rule, a society that is trying to find its voice as it searches for its identity.
His film will be screened at the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival, where he will be present. In this month’s issue, he talks about why he made the film, and what it is about the novel that attracted him so much.