Apropos your cover story The New Republic Of Auteurs (Jan 15), Hindi cinema has undergone something like a revolution by coming out of the dynastic era of few heroes and heroines, fewer directors and producers mostly delivering the same formulaic movies revolving around the eternal love-triangle. Now the new breed, literally, of directors and producers mostly delivering offbeat movies on unconventional, at times startling, themes have pitched some of the most lucrative, not to mention cost-effective, tents in the Bollywood landscape. Along with them have come raw and refreshing faces as actors. All this change is indeed good, but I wonder if these new age plots and faces have that timeless quality that the actors and directors of yore had. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, one of my favourites, and comedian Mehmood come to mind as creators of timeless entertainment. Now, all is in abundance and there is hardly any such craze for either directors or actors. There are many new storytellers, but their stories are heard, viewed and forgotten. The era of classics—such as Sholay and Mughl-e-Azam has passed. Gone are the days when movies would run for weeks, months, and years celebrating silver, golden, and diamond jubilees in theatres across India.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to ‘When I Wrote Kahaani, Everybody Ran Away Faster Than Usain Bolt’. Producing movies has become a lot cheaper and streamlined. Even small/mid-budget films are now making decent money at the box office, thanks to the maturing of the multiplex age and the demand for good content from the new age audiences. I, however, have always thought that film-making is not just about making a living. Film is art. There are so many fine films that failed to get their due at the box office, but they remain as fond memories in the hearts of so many people. So many things come together to become a film; from production to storytelling, narrative, characters, actors. Leaving a piece of history that has the potential to influence people’s lives or their perception towards the world around them is an amazing and fulfilling job.
Mark D’Souza, On E-Mail
Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood, which was deeply invested in nation-building narratives earlier and then became a representative of various nationalistic aspirations, has had a huge sway on the masses. Hollywood has at best been entertainment from a distance for the American audiences, but the kind of ‘fan cultures’ Bollywood has cultivated in India has been a peculiar phenomenon. With the coming of multiplexes, mass cinema consumption ceased to be a thing, unfortunately. But the multi theatre system has finally diversified the entire range of content in the Hindi film industry. Small town stories of people of different shades are now coming to the forefront. The moral fabric of narratives used to be rather monochromatic earlier in films, but now a rangoli of has spurted out. This festival of different moral colours can at times confuse, even baffle, people. But then, these are curious times.
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi
The Bollywood citadel may have been breached but the multiplex is a classist fortress too.
Anil S., Pune
This is about Outlook’s package on the abysmal system where unscrupulous profiteers in India’s private healthcare system mint money at the expense of ordinary citizens (Misery As A Terrific Biz Opportunity, Jan 15). Our abysmal healthcare is well-known—according to the WHO, India is ranked 187th out of 194 countries, carrying 20 per cent of the global burden of diseases. About 70 per cent of Indians spend an inordinate portion of their income on healthcare, driving many to penury. It’s this high cost of medical access that is driving quackery, over-the-counter treatment and proliferation of private hospitals. A poor country like Cuba, where healthcare is a fundamental human right, is able to deliver good care at a fraction of the cost. Rising private healthcare costs and falling public investment in healthcare in India are driving this crisis.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Health and education are the primary responsibilities of a government. Only if people are healthy can they form part of the productive population, instead of being a burden on families, society and government. The Centre over the years has failed to focus on healthcare and education--no new government hospitals, health centres, schools and colleges have come up; the entire burden of a fast-growing population was conveniently passed on to the private/corporate sector, leading to a mushrooming of private educational institutions and colleges. Indeed, there are many cases where brain dead, terminally ill or even dead patients are retained in hospitals for months, giving hope to their families and fleecing them ruthlessly.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
My family too has had bad experiences with private hospitals. Some time back, my sister-in-law was being treated at a well-known private hospital in Tiruchirapally for a brain haemorrhage but the specialist was not in station. So she was just treated on the basis of the specialist’s advice over phone. He came after two days of the procedure only to tell us that there was no hope. She was kept in a ventilator till then with exorbitantly priced medicines being administered to her, but she never recovered. In another instance, more than Rs 1 lakh was paid to a Chennai private hospital where my daughter-in-law was admitted for her delivery. After the delivery, her child developed some complications and was kept in a secluded glass room for about a week. Each day of the week cost a bomb. Sadly, the newborn could not make it. But it was kept on ventilator for three whole days! I’m not a doctor, but I have my doubts that in both these cases, the hospitals saw huge money-making opportunities and unnecessarily prolonged the misery of these two patients, my kin.
Mahaboob Hussain Alla Baksh, On E-Mail
This refers to The New VC. The medical profession and corporate hospitals have come in for a lot of flak recently. Indeed, it would appear from this barrage of loud criticism that all Indians are immortal till they are killed off by greedy doctors. Yet, doctors are only the workers, landless labourers tilling the fields, if you will—small, though essential, cogs in the machine. Analysis of recent ‘high’ bills show that the doctor’s take rarely exceeds 10 to 12 per cent of the total. Yes, corporate hospitals overcharge. But for what? They cannot bill for the HEPA filtered air that patients breathe, for RO water that is drunk, for the clean, sterile sheets, the nurse to patient ratio of 3:1 in ICUs room. These are given. So, to keep the place going, they have to mark up rates of commodities that can be charged. True, implants etc need to be regulated, but to compare private ventures with government hospitals is just not right. Another popular grouse is that private hospitals were allotted subsidised land, so they should not overcharge. Five star hotels were allotted such land too, yet it’s nobody’s case that a cup of tea there should cost as much as the neighbourhood chaiwallah’s. And private schools are allotted free land too! Are their facilities and fees comparable to government schools? The truth is corporate hospitals exist because we need them to exist, in the same way as we require cars made by multi-nationals or guns made by Bofors. If you need robotic surgery or cyberknife or stereotactic brain surgery in the country it is the private players who can provide these, not municipal hospitals. These imported items cost serious money and this money has to be recovered. Business is never charity.
Medicine as a profession is different from others. There are too many variables that can affect a patient—a rotten tooth can ruin a good knee replacement, someone’s immune system may just fail or the body may stop producing a certain type of cell. Harmless bacteria in the colon can suddenly multiply, and there are lifestyle diseases to complicate matters. Then, you can’t turn away a patient because of a diseased liver or dicky heart. Though there are innumerable professional treatment guidelines, randomised trials and multivariate analyses, mortality can never predictably be zero. A specialist doctor’s life is more complicated than most people imagine. He is forever making subconscious notes while listening to you; conflicting diagnoses are churning in his mind, as are hastily remembered guidelines. And he is supposed to deliver his judgement on the spot. And be right every single time! Compare this with the learned judge who can sit back and ponder over months, sometimes years.
Dr S.V. Kotwal, On E-Mail
Your editor needs to sit through just one business review meeting of any corporate hospital in the country to realise how difficult it is for it to make profits (The New VC, Jan 15). I hope you know that a lot of them are being taken over by bigger groups for lack of funds. Customers are willing to pay Rs 25,000 for just one night in a star hotel room, but it pinches to pay 50k per day in an ICU with high-fidelity machines and clinical experts. Quality comes at a cost, sir. Let us not forget that, okay?
Pearl Fernandes, On Email
Your magazine’s unrelenting quest to demonise the medical profession leaves me wondering about the state of journalism in these times. Surely, the moral high ground Outlook’s editors take when criticising doctors and hospitals disappears when it comes to the news media, which is as corrupt and as involved in corporate deals as the medical community, if not more. Let’s look forward to an investigation of media scams and shams in one of your future covers, shall we! I highly doubt this will ever happen though.
Kothari, On E-Mail
I write in response to Outlook’s timely story on the encroaching sea eating away at the vitals of the ecologically crucial area of Sunderbans (Graveyard of a Land, Jan 15). Over the years, successive governments have failed to address the issue of serious erosion in the Sunderbans river islands, resulting in several of the islands disappearing into the sea, affecting human lives as well as flaura and fauna. In the last decade alone, around a hundred islands have disappeared. The threat looms large for the metropolis of Calcutta. Luckily it was not in the path of the tsunami a few years back. It’s time for the central and state governments to seriously take up the issue. The delta is an extremely precious natural zone that we cannot afford to lose.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), On E-Mail
The range of reactions that Rajnikanth’s confirmation of political entry has evoked is as fascinating as some of the roles of the superstar (New Dawn Or A Lit-Up Screen, Jan 16). His decision to contest all the 234 constituencies in the next Tamil Nadu assembly elections has brought cheers to his fans and large sections of people who were looking forward to a change from five decades of corruption and the incompetence entrenched in the Dravidian parties. Yet, one fails to understand why Rajni set the rider that he would renounce politics within three years if people do not accept him as a leader. That said, the political parties in the state are in jitters. Some have set their eyes on his non-Tamil nativity as a point of attack. Now, that is too cheap a tactic.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
It is a disgrace to reduce Rajni to a Karnataka-raised Maharashtrian. On his part, the actor has sought to lend an air of lofty idealism to his political philosophy by characterising it as “spiritual”. It’s a smart tactic, given that it will stand directly in conflict with the atheism ingrained in Dravidian parties. No doubt given the personality vacuum created in the state (due to Jayalalitha’s death and the advancing age of Karunanidhi), Rajni’s timing could prove to be a political masterstroke.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
It appears that Rajni wants to reap the fruits of power and being an advocate of soft Hindutva. The BJP may be pushing him to the edge with its own desperate designs to gain a toehold in Tamil Nadu politics. Tamil people have been ruled by many cine stars, but mere stardom may not help Rajni. It is very crucial for the superstar to articulate his vision for the state, and take a clear stand about the BJP and other challenges facing the state. Rajni’s political foray may not be an alternative to the state’s Dravidian politics, though there is bound to be some churning in the field.
Lal Singh, Amritsar
Tamil Nadu elections aren’t due till 2021, although there is a strong likelihood of them happening earlier. The DMK looks tired, the AIADMK is torn between factions, the Congress hasn’t been a force in the state for 50 years, and the BJP never was. Indeed in 2018, for voters in that state, Rajnikanth is likely to come across as a rare and refreshing option. It is interesting that, like M.G. Ramachandran and J. Jayalalitha, the two most popular chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, Rajni too isn’t from the state. The Karnataka links and the Maharashtrian roots will be exploited by his political rivals, making him vulnerable over a contentious dispute like the Cauvery. All the same, it remains to be seen what star power can outshine.
P. Arihanth, Secunderabad
It might be too early to say that Bitcoin is an accessible option for money laundering in India (Coins of Change, Jan 15). But the cryptocurrency has surely shown a potential for becoming an alternative money stacking space. What’s scary is that there is no international body governing the use of Bitcoin. Now would be a good time to take preventive measures against what cryptocurrencies are capable of doing in the future. India should frame laws to regulate the use of cryptocurrencies. If Bitcoin rates continue to rise as rapidly as they are doing now, it will be in proportion to the rise in its credibility. In the next few years, we may be looking at a completely new economy in the making. One outside, and even above, the purview of nation states.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
This is my answer to the question you raise on your cover (Is God Harmful to Human Beings? Jan 8): If one were to go by all the wars driven by religious motivations and the number of people killed in these wars, which far outnumber all other wars put together, then God certainly seems to have been harmful to human beings.
“Is God harmful to human beings”? To answer in the affirmative publicly would still be considered impolite, indeed blasphemous. But, history would tell you of the endless amount of violence and terror that has been unleashed in the name of the creator. While many articles in this issue try to defend the ‘essence’ of God, the deficit of a critical approach on God and religion is felt.
P A Jacob, Muscat
There is a part of man’s being that is exhorting him to struggle for peace. He is at peace when he sees the sunset, observes a flowing river, a canopy of stars or a beautiful flower, or when he stands on the peak of a mountain, in a vast desert or on the shore of an ocean. I do not know why, despite having these experiences, man is running after gods and religion. In ancient times, prophets of all hues had glimpses of this peace. But their followers misunderstood them, manufactured innumerable gods and through them religions, in order to wield temporal power and ultimately to sate their unending greed. They failed to comprehend the true intentions of these great souls. All power seekers will plunder nature, and to this end they will enlist the support of any god, religion or ism. And the common man for his part will endorse these as he seeks to satisfy his own greed.
K. Aravindakshan, Thrissur
Your year-end issue could not have been more pertinent. We are in times where fundamentalism threatens to break down the positive ideals we aspire for. But after all, it is the existence of an almighty force that prevents the world from plunging into chaos. A belief in some supreme power raises questions of morality and righteousness, awakening conscience and providing us with the basic tenets of humanity.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Your New Year gift to readers is of some value. It made me remember a seminar organised by the philosophy department during my college days in which the prevailing argument suggested that God and religion were a society’s means of disciplining people for ensuring peace and harmony. For God’s sake, do not blame God. Let God remain good. We must correct ourselves and give a sincere ear to the god-fearing.
M.A. Ahad, Bhubaneswar
This here is a rare issue. Not often is theology discussed so publicly in our times, alas. The mind that relentlessly pursues matter will dwell in a vacuum without God. This is perhaps the reason why Voltaire said: “If God didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him”. It is telling that the world’s largest democracy and biggest capitalist economy, the US, has “In God we trust” as its official motto.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, On E-Mail
For what purpose or whose purpose was God created? People came up with the idea as a way to escape life’s problems. But such belief does not solve anything in reality. The real question is not whether God is harmful, but whether people are trying to approach these difficulties in a rational and constructive way.
G.L. Karkal, Pune
While Devdutt Pattnaik’s analysis on the theme shines for its audaciously original approach, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s words inspire hope. M. J. Warsi excels in clearing common cobwebs which entertain men like Mill and Tocqueville as offering the gospel of liberalism. I must make mention of Shiv Visvanathan’s engagement with the contemporary as a very significant analysis. No doubt, world leaders must make a push for their peoples to wake up from a stupor of indifference.
Lalit Mohan Sharma, Dharamshala
The question whether God is harmful has been addressed by most pundits and religious figures in Outlook’s year-end special issue. Most have reckoned with it according to their faith and learning. Truth is, religions and their gods are the well-meaning work of prophets and their early followers, who prescribed sets of rules and codes of conduct for people to follow. The question of God’s existence has fascinated mankind since ancient times. Preachers and saints have pored over this question for long; in the process some have been turned into gods themselves. So it goes.
Indu S. Dube, Varanasi
If atheism is a religion, as it is being seen these days, not playing cricket is a sport.
Mick Scheinin, On E-Mail
The first article in the package by the Dalai Lama (Inner Peace Vital, Jan 8) set the tone for the rest. I must agree that any violence in the name of God is certainly against the wish of God. Truly, humans cannot represent God properly; it always leads to factionalism. In India, home to so many spiritual icons, none can stem the tide of religious and communal hatred. All the powerful citadels of popular godmen have started reeking of arrogance. The disappointing thing is to see these living gods living in luxury at the expense of their blind devotees. Why? They should come out of their cocoon, like the Buddha, and see how people actually live.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
While Upinder Singh’s article on the role of violence and religion in ancient India was a good read for neophytes (The Warlike Bodhisattvas, Jan 8), I didn’t like the lecturing tone of the piece. Everyone knows that not every Hindu, Buddhist or Jain in the last thousand years was a pacifist saint. But when you look at the overall record of Indian culture, it is quite good on the matter of inter-faith relations and acceptance of diverse doctrines.
Varun Shekhar, Toronto
Refer to Man’s Ego is a Horse Without Reins. The answer to that age-old question, ‘What is God?’, has been given by Mata Amritanandamayi: “God is not an individual, a personality or a particular form that sits on a golden throne beyond the sky and passes judgment. God is pure consciousness.” Common believers are god-fearing, contented and satisfied with their own gods. For the poor, God is an invisible but omnipresent force which controls the universe and would provide them succour. It instils confidence in them and consoles them in grief. Those committing mindless murders in His name are not believers but betrayers of God and religion.
This refers to your editorial comment The Good God (Jan 8). People’s ignorance is their God; the greater the ignorance, the larger God looms on their canvas. Those who believe the universe is orchestrated by a power beyond their comprehension see God as a mysteriously omnipotent and omnipresent force, but keep it a secret as their affair with God is private and sacred. The public manifestation of God through several religions is only for grooming the dominated sections of society and for making the oppressed sections accept their exploitation under a cover of holiness and spirituality. No wonder most people are gullible and remain mesmerised enough to happily suffer all the injustice heaped on them by the grossly unjust social order. Power-crazy politicians encourage supremacy competitions among different gods and their followers, divided into several religions and castes, pitting them against each other. May God save us from this opium of the masses!
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
The answer to your cover question in bold is yes. Bomb attacks, mass murders, wars or even individuals trying to drive cars into crowds, all are being done in the name of a loving, caring, merciful, father, mother, son or formless god”. This concept of God in the “collective ego” of tribes, nations, and religions always contains a strong element of paranoia: “us against the evil others “ This extreme collective paranoia is the main cause of much human suffering: the Spanish Inquisition, burning of heretics and witches , gau rakshaks’ killings of innocents in present times, fundamentalist killings in the Middle East. All these have come out of the ‘my God is better than your God’ logic. Nietzche said, “God is dead”. Not quite. There are frenzied attempts at killing gods everywhere. But the atma in me promises that the good God will survive.
Col (Retd.) C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
Kudos to your ‘God‘ edition. As a Hindu married to a Christian, I couldn’t agree more with the editorial. My husband and I do not subscribe to the idea of conversion under any circumstance. Religion should be a personal matter, and no authority should be allowed to interfere with it. I look forward to more such cover stories.
Anu Bangara D’Souza, On E-Mail
Isn’t the very notion believers hold—that their God/religion is better than another’s, the reason they follow that particular religion? Think about it, if you force everyone to say that every religion is as good as theirs, the religions are themselves bound to lose their value.
Jean Rogers, On E-Mail
“Well, all I know is that the poorer one is and the more unpredictable one’s life is, the more real God becomes and greater the need of a God, any God,” reads a line in your Comment. In case you haven’t checked, it so happens that most of the temples, mosques, churches and synagogues run not because of the prayers of the poor but because of the contributions from the rich.
Akash Verma, Chennai
I reckon that the writer of your story on caste riots in Tamil Nadu (Sectarian Fire Burns, Jan 8) is most likely a Brahmin with an RSS bent of mind. Why else would he try to portray fights among different sects of Hindus as well as those among Hindus, on one side, and Muslims or Christians, on the other, as authentic, but the ones instigated by Brahmins as frivolous. He also claims an RSS office was bombed by Muslims, even though the Supreme Court released all the accused in that case for lack of evidence. Repeating a lie until it becomes the truth is, after all, the RSS method of truth-telling.
Nasar Ahmed, On E-Mail
The writer says, “ That even the Jain sources do not speak about the event or that the Jains were thriving long after the supposed mass impalements do not seem to deter them.” Well, Jain monks, just as Buddhist monks, are not allowed to point fingers, or go to court. That’s the reason why they remain silent.
Ratana Sifu, On E-Mail
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