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This refers to your cover story on the great Indian telly soaps, Telly Hypnotists (Sep 17). Our overall socio-economic condition and IQ would have been better if we didn’t stare at the idiot box so much. We would have had more time to think and act, making better use of the present knowledge explosion in all spheres of life. Most of these serials you write about perpetuate and fortify the old feudalistic, ritualistic, superstitious and hypocritical culture on the gullible masses. The producers’ sole motto with the format is to earn more by improving their TRP ratings. Rare exceptions, like Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, that provides light humorous family entertainment, also exist.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah is a great comedy show (...A Superpower’s Guiding Taarak Mehta). I want all members of the Taarak Mehta team to know that we are not at all bored with the show, carry on folks. It’s a true family entertainer. From the eight-year-old kid to the octogenarians of my family and friends are in love with TMKOC. This show must go on. It makes us roar in laughter multiple times a day and we are able to get rid of the stress and strain of day-to-day life. Otherwise, I prefer to see news channels, but saffronisation of news channels has become the order of the day. I wish even CID to continue, the ACP’s reassuringly repetitive gestures are endearing.
Ashim Kumar Chakraborty, Guwahati
Refer to You Can’t Box This Idiot. There are several categories among idiot box couch potatoes, according to a survey in Britain in the early 2000s. Some are channel-hoppers and some are restless button-pushers who keep changing channels without viewing any programme fully. Others are insomniacs, who watch television at the cost of their sleep. Then there are those who wake up with television and have it on during the entire length of the day. But I wonder what clicks with these different species of telly potatoes!
Mahesh Kapasi, On E-Mail
This refers to your cover story on the RSS (HQ Nagpur, September 10). Buoyed by the success of its political wing, the BJP, in cleverly leveraging social media to build a strong brand. The Sangh seems keen on replicating the same strategy for a quick image makeover. “If you are going to be two-faced, at least make one of them pretty,” yesteryears Hollywood celebrity Marilyn Monroe had said, and that’s exactly what the Sangh is currently preoccupied with. Inviting a former President, industry tycoons and, if the rumours are to be believed, even the Congress president, for its sessions is aimed at beautifying one of the faces. Unfortunately, the other face is so dreadful and its negative traits so deeply entrenched in public memory that it won’t be easy for the Sangh to change perceptions. If the Sangh is sincere about its perceived role in rebuilding the nation post the prolonged dynastic rule of the Congress, it should have the courage to own up to its long list of mistakes, including its second sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar’s offensive comments in the book Bunch of Thoughts branding “Muslims, Christians and Communists” as “enemies of the nation”, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination by one of its fringe bodies, and the recent spate of mob-lynchings by cow vigilantes.
Shailendra Dasari, Bellary
RSS is the ideological fountainhead of India’s ruling party, the BJP. The goal of this dispensation is to create a Hindu Rashtra, following the idea of Hindutva developed by V.D. Savarkar, K.B. Hedgewar and Deendayal Upadhyaya—a clear and present threat to the plural and all-accepting culture of India. Hindutva is the ideology of militant Hinduism and its political manifestation. Inward-looking to the core, Hindutva accords a secondary position to all non-Hindu faiths. We are experiencing a total onslaught by Hindutva on India’s liberal ethos, since the BJP-led government was voted to power in New Delhi in 2014, creating an atmosphere of all-pervasive fear and intimidation.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
The RSS was started as a socio-cultural organisation in 1925, and eventually become one of the most powerful and richest non-governmental organisation in the world. It is also the only NGO to have ever ruled India, which it does through its political arm, the BJP. If we have to understand the Sangh’s narrative and strategy, we have to take stock of the evolution of some of the political parties that emerged before and after India’s independence in quick succession. Had you included some of that, your markedly contemporary analysis of the Sangh would also have got a stronger historical basis.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
This is about the cover story on the RSS (HQ, Nagpur, Sep 10), prompted no doubt by the utterances of the ignoramus, yet amusingly aggressive, Rahul Gandhi. The comparison of the RSS with the Muslim Brotherhood and the ISIS show the superficiality of his knowledge and the depths to which he is misinformed. He might claim that he has a knack of bringing about tremors with his pronouncements, but, alas, tectonic plates don’t move so easily—a disappointment, no doubt, to him and his coterie. The RSS preaches patriotism and builds persons with impeccable character, with high moral integrity. Just a glance at the public conduct of its sarsanghchalaks will tell you that. RSS also serves the destitute at the bottom of the social pyramid. Indeed, such baseless charges can fit into the adage: ‘the opposition is there to oppose’. Indians are not the citizens they had been decades back, open to the machinations of politicians. In today’s digital age, everyone is fairly well-informed, with a cache of reliable information quite literally at their fingertips.
Indu S. Dube, Varanasi
Life often unfolds slowly and predictably in the living room, just like the 1,000-plus soap sagas.
V. Sreeraj, Hyderabad
This refers to Telly Hypnotists (Sep 17). It is sheer arrogance of producers like Ekta Kapoor to say “instead of hashtagging #endYHM stop watching it! All stories will not go as you wish as an audience…’ In the age of social media, favourable and unfavourable opinions will come your way whether you like them or not. You can’t dictate the viewers on their rightful hashtags! Except the two initial mega serials—Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (1,833 episodes) and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii (1,661 episodes), I and my family lost patience and stopped somewhere midway the saas-bahu sagas revolving around the same theme of family conspiracies and revenge. We skipped most of them. In the new trend of irrational and supernatural serials, Balaji’s Naagin is reported to be number one, but our household couldn’t even bear a single episode of it. We didn’t even watch Yeh Hai Mohabbatein, left watching Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai somewhere midway and even lost patience with the unending Baalika Badhu. Song and dance reality shows have taken over our Saturday-Sunday evenings and we enjoy them, strictly barring from that list Khatron ke Khiladi, Comedy Nights With Kapil, and Big Boss.
In the good old days, when Doordarshan was the only channel, serials had only around thirteen weekly episodes and most of them were extremely popular with viewers. Hum Log was officially the first soap, telecast on Doordarshan in 1984. It had just 154 episodes and ended in 1985. But it was quality content. The narration on the show was done by the legendary actor Ashok Kumar! Then came Buniyaad, a 105-episode serial aired in May 1986, that ended in May 1987, followed by the elaborate epic portrayals Ramayan, which was aired in 78 episodes, and Mahabharat, that ran for 94 episodes. The unforgettable opening ‘Main samay hun’ narration in Mahabharat was done by voice artist Harish Bhimani. What a time it was! We are nostalgic about these DD serials and do not forget to watch them whenever there is a repeat telecast on any channel. As for the unending serials of the satellite age, you can’t bear to watch those insufferables again. Also, don’t think any channel is interested in replaying those disposables.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
DMK president M.K. Stalin is on the horns of a dilemma (Turn On A Thousand Lights, Sep 10). In his acceptance speech, he exhorted his cadre to “teach a lesson to the Narendra Modi government”. This surprised many, as not only did Stalin attend Vajpayee’s funeral in Delhi, he also paid homage to his ashes in Chennai. The Congress, communists and other fringe groups will drop Stalin like a hot potato if he aligns himself with the BJP. The latter’s strategy is to split the Dravidian majors to gain political ascendancy in Tamil Nadu.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Refer to Lower Base to Higher Growth (Sep 17). On the back of excellent manufacturing growth, our GDP grew by a nine-quarter high of 8.2 per cent. This speaks volumes about India’s potential, as our finance minister rightly put it, amid a global slowdown. There is no doubt that the low base had its role in this high growth, as the economy had shrunk following the introduction of GST and demonetisation. What is also encouraging is that manufacturing, agriculture and construction all contributed to this growth—only services fell back. Now, the million-dollar question is whether we will be able to sustain such high growth in the coming quarters. Although the government is driving investment and growth in infrastructure, private sector investment on the whole is still not upbeat due to under-utilised capacity and leveraged balance sheets. But going forward, we will not have the luxury of a low base, so it is going to be all the more Herculean a task to achieve similar growth.
Bal Govind, Noida
This refers to your cover story on the Sangh Parivar’s parent organisation, RSS: Is the Threat Real (Sept 10). It’s easy to find out if an organisation is a threat to democratic values—you just have to find out if it adheres to the country’s constitutional values. How much the RSS follows those values is evident from its open call for turning India into a ‘Hindu rashtra’. It is an indisputable fact that RSS has found a notable place in mainstream politics and its influence is palpable like never before in the policies of the ruling party. But going mainstream doesn’t mean that the organisation has found acceptance among all sections of society. Dalits and minorities have a clear picture of the Sangh as it targets them on several occasions. Can the RSS ever come out of its saffron cell? As a cultural organisation run on the Hindutva ideology, it is near impossible for the RSS to get support from these sections. The question to RSS is that whether it recognises the core values of liberalism and secularism as the basic principles of Indian democracy.
P.A. Jacob, Muscat
The Hindu Right is productive and creative only when it comes to churning out agenda-driven nonsense, phrases which are routinely flung as abuse at all who do not agree with them. We have been hearing the word “pseudo secular” for a long while but so far no one from the Sangh has cared to tell us what it means. When people got tired of that, The term “anti-national” was produced. And now when that too has been countered on all fronts, we have upon us the stubborn, vindictive weight of “Urban Naxal”, being tossed around like toffee. It’s unfortunate that television journalists and even the Pune police are lapping this term up for their own frayed ends.
Mukul Dube, Delhi
I found your story to be biased on multiple fronts. It projects a lopsided picture of the Indian social. You make it look like it’s some Hindus who are trying to spread hatred amongst all. You give examples from the RSS, and most of them are Hindus. You could have named other organisations from other communities doing the same thing, but you have conveniently avoided that. Do you know that if the examples your story mentions get shared on social media, it will turn the general public against the majority!
Varun S.D., On E-Mail
As reported, it was indeed very shocking and disturbing to note that Congress president Rahul Gandhi maligned an established Indian cultural organisation while on foreign tour. He is only focused on the BJP and the RSS and forgets other organisations which are actually closer to the Muslim Brotherhood. This tactic will not fetch him any votes back home.
S.P. Sharma, Mumbai
It is time to accept the RSS as a mainstream organisation. They have been working at the ground level for long. I am a witness to the service the RSS did when the tidal wave hit the coast of Andhra Pradesh in 1977. The RSS doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religion in times of calamities, since they believe that everyone in India is anyway a Hindu, historically speaking.
Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao, Vijayawada
The content for your RSS cover is bland as khaki nikkers. The sarsanghchalaks may have replaced their chaddis with trousers but the long and short of the org remains the same. Abhishek Singhvi of the Congress conveniently traces the historical footprints of the RSS in Veer Savarkar and Guru Golwalkar’s inspiration in Adolf Hitler. Seshdri Chari of the RSS says “Rahul Doesn’t Know the RSS”, plainly to hit out at the Congress. Walter Anderson appears to get lost in his scholarly views, devoid of ground realties. The argument that 37 affiliates detailed in the ‘extended family of RSS’ are separate entities is not convincing. It is a clever ploy for marketing their ideology by having multiple signboards.
The headquarters is really Nagpur, those central Delhi quarters are just its branches.
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
This is about the devastating floods that have hit Kerala (Barrage of Bunglings, sep 3). It was a deluge of such magnitude that it will invoke comparisons with ancient watery cataclysms. On the night of August 15, when the rest of the country was asleep, citizens in Kerala was wide awake, striving to keep their heads above the water creeping up, triggered by the sudden release of water from the Mullaperiyar dam. The fast-flowing water took everything in its way. People of Kerala no fear the likelihood of another catastrophe. They fear the cracks that have shown up on the 123-year-old Mullaperiyar dam. If it breaks, that would lead to a tragic chain: the Idukki dam may burst too, along with others downstream. Tamil Nadu, the state that owns the Mullaperiyar has a cavalier attitude about the dangers facing the structure. Their unfeeling arrogance stems from that fact that if the dam does split open, the three million people living downstream are in Kerala. TN, which reaps the benefits from the dam, have nothing to fear. Kerala and Tamil Nadu can solve their half-century-old dispute justly by building a new dam 1,300 feet downstream at a cost to be borne by Kerala. Indeed, time has come for the two states to unite in investing in preventing disasters. Give up the war of words, protests and litigation. People’s lives are at stake—they are fellow Indians, even if they happen to speak a different language.
V.S. Dharmakumar, On E-Mail
The recent deluge in Kerala and Kodagu in Karnataka owing to incessant rainfall has thrown up a huge rehabilitation challenge. Your article carried several instances of heart-warming rescue experiences by local people and NDRF teams. The lack of preparedness during the calamity though is a cause for grave concern. And, since humans are increasingly finding themselves in conflict with nature because of the rampant exploitation of Earth, we need to be more disaster-prepared than ever. There is an urgent need to increase the fleet of helicopters for civilian purpose. It is also high time to take necessary steps to build helipads at prominent public/civil locations ideal for landing. Such a move will help reach the people in distress quickly.
I have been a long-time reader of Outlook. In fact, my existing subscription runs till 2019. In recent years, however, Outlook has lost much of its charm and energy. There was a time I used to wait for a week to lay my hands on a new issue—for interesting covers, special reports, well-written features and powerful opinion columns. Now, it’s just a compendium of regular news one comes across through the week in newspapers and on the internet in magazine form that is delivered late (not counting postal delays). Alternative and instant sources of news have emerged as a big threat to newsmagazines, but I think there are still people like me who don’t mind waiting for good content. I think it’s time for Outlook to reinvent itself, or else it would be reduced to irrelevance.
Nirupam Hazra, Bankura
I would like to express my appreciation for the selection of letters in the last issue, covering a vast variety of subjects. However, as a reader of Outlook since its inception, I want to make sure that historical facts are given correctly. The fall of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government by one vote (269 vs 270) occurred in September 1999, not 1996 as printed in two letters by M.C. Joshi and J.S. Acharya in the issue dated September 10. Elections were then held in October, and Vajpayee went on to form a government that would last until 2004.
H.C. Pandey, Delhi
Apropos of Bombay Bus Going Bust? (Sept 3), the BEST bus service can reduce losses if it can get more commuters on board. Wouldn’t it be great if commuters could just hail the bus like a taxi! But that is risky business. Immediate reducing of fares would be a welcome move though. All this Uber/Ola share business also works against the interest of the BEST’s future. What else…oh, the staff can be more courteous, that would make for good experience for city dwellers, which is a rare thing these days, and so more of us will want to board the bus. How about coming out with an app, which tracks the movement of buses for potential commuters via GPS?
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
I refer to your cover story Barrage of Bunglings (Sep 3). The heavy rainfall and devastating floods in Kerala have resulted in loss of life and property, as well as the dislocation of vast numbers of people. Various states have experienced such disasters over the past few decades, but have no lessons been learnt? The abuse of nature is one cause—as per research, such rains and floods are linked to global warming. Humans cannot fight nature, but can prevent the worst by planning for preventive measures. The government must set up adequate drainage systems to flush out floodwater. With time, this water will go under the earth and will be usable for agricultural purposes.
Mahesh Kumar, Delhi
God’s Own Country became the Devil’s Own because of a series of bunglings by mortal men. When I went to Kerala in 1991, it was a big village from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram: rolling paddy fields, with walls of coconut and banana, and the sea that would ingress at many places, flowing above the land—famous backwaters at one end and hills jotting in between, and more than 40 rivers criss-crossing the state. We were there again in 2016, and the one big village had become one huge metro with concrete stretching for hundreds of miles: multi-storey apartments, malls, multiplexes, metro and posh homes, occupying all riverbeds and floodplains, so much so that even Cochin Airport is built on the floodplains of a stream, Chengal—a tributary of the Periyar, Kerala’s largest river—and just 400 metres from it.
This insatiable greed to earn fast bucks, and an unholy nexus between builders, politicians and industrialists, has destroyed the future of India’s most beautiful state. Environmentalist Madhav Gadgil had warned against this sort of developmental paradigm for the country’s richest biodiversity zone, but short-sighted and greedy policymakers debunked it and didn’t even implement the watered-down Kasturirangan Committee report in its totality—and the result is very much here now!
This small state’s 43 dams are embodiments of destruction, not development—just as in Uttarakhand in 2013, when many dams released water from their overflowing reservoirs. The same game was played again in Kerala: the state’s largest dam, Idduki’s reservoir, was filled by July 31, and it released water when the flood was at its peak, and then the Mullaperiyar dam did the same!
Hence, it is not nature but our greed that has created this disaster, as we can never stop rivers flowing—and when they do, they wash away every impediment in their path; remember the Chennai flood of 2015 and the Uttarakhand flood of 2013?
Rakesh Agarwal, Dehradun
Timely action by the Kerala police and the aid provided by the armed forces and NDRF have controlled the situation to a large extent and avoided a bigger catastrophe. The fishermen who chipped in with their boats also played a major role and need to be applauded. As Kerala focuses on returning to normality, our prayers go out to them. We must all help in whatever way we can. The question remains: could it have been avoided? The answer lies in the indecision about when to open the dams to let excess water flow out, which coincided with the heaviest rainfall seen in many years. Hopefully, we have learnt a lesson and will be more prepared the next time around.
Col Deepak Kher, Pune
The massive 24x7 rescue and relief operation undertaken by all the agencies in the midst of the deluge and thereafter to save as many marooned people as possible was awe-inspiring. The unprecedented dedication shown by fishermen and local people, and the donations in cash and kind from across the world, are heart-warming. Let’s hope this zeal is also maintained by all agencies in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
The aftermath of a disaster is often focused on getting back to normal life. But there is a bigger ‘disaster’ perennially playing out in India—politics. Even as Kerala faces the task of rehabilitating its people and rebuilding the state, a huge debate has broken out over whether the floods qualify to be declared a national disaster or not. A national tragedy on this humongous scale has been politicised, treated cavalierly, made yet another channel for the bigotry and hatred sweeping across this country, and last but not least made a point of “national pride” in not accepting foreign donations. As help pours in from all corners of the country for this little state, conveniently dubbed “God’s own country” in good times (when it’s a tourist cash cow pouring shekels into the central government treasury) there are stories that come in, of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. From fishermen to administrators to entrepreneurs, from an old couple breaking their fixed deposits to a young woman who saved up for her heart surgery and then donated half of it. Politics over relief work is the worst crisis to befall a nation.
Padmini Raghavendra, Secunderabad
You are confused when you ask questions like “ Why does nearly every natural disaster hit us on such a scale ? What are we doing wrong? Who’s guilty? Kerala’s monster monsoon leaves us with a deluge of questions.” Natural disasters are happening in places like America, Europe, China and Japan. Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes are wreaking havoc in the most developed countries, culminating in the loss of human lives and property. The more developed we become, the more natural calamities we have to face. Kerala’s flood is another example of the fury of nature.
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