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After having observed efforts at grassroots development by the people for about 20 years, I can say with some conviction that idealism is well alive and kicking, albeit at the micro-level where a few individuals are challenging the world and the stereotyped notion of development (Idealism, Aug 21). Through their sheer grit and determination, these people are going against all odds to achieve their own practical and egalitarian version of idealism. I must add here that at the macro-level, idealism indeed has metamorphosed to ideology—unfortunately, that’s the ideology of grabbing power and pelf at all cost.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
A full seven decades after the birth of the Indian republic, the concept of ‘idealism’ has undergone a sea change. In 1947, we began with a blank slate as a modern nation and drew many ideals for the future. The British had finally left us to create our own ideal world. But the departure of the outsider enemy gave way to the enemy within. Soon, the ideals the old generation withered away.
George Jacob, Kochi
Idealism in the modern world, or in modern India, is only that; it’s impossible to achieve, since politicians—whose duty it is to work for the betterment for society—are only interested in clinging on to power by any means. Truly, to serve the country is no longer a goal of politicians. We are only in the grip of vote-bank politics. That’s just luring people, dangling the niceties of socialism before them.
Mahesh Kumar, On E-Mail
After all the debates and experiments with all kinds of ‘isms’, it has finally boiled down to two—individualism and Communism. If all individuals are perfect, society will become perfect too—like a fine wall, all parts will stand together. Yet, we see individuals fighting over religion; ironically, all belong to faiths that preach tolerance and goodness. It’s a great fear among many of us that the Modi government will soon declare India to be a theocratic state. But history tells us that it has failed all over the world, but not before bringing untold misery to people.
Nasar Ahmed, Karikkudi
An assault on the ever-changing human consciousness is the great peril of idealism.
Vijay S., On E-Mail
This refers to your very special issue for Independence Day on the journey of Idealism. The issue is a treasure house of information and worth preserving. The article ‘Ideals know no boundary’, by Infosys co-founder N.R.Narayana Murthy, is worth a mention in particular. Murthy is right in saying that business with a humane touch is absolutely essential for progress. Infosys is the classic example that shows how adopting a positive approach and social obligation towards the society gives rich dividends. All in all, it is honest entrepreneur Narayana Murthy, backed by supportive spouse Sudha Murthy, who has taken Infosys to great heights in such short time period. In this free-market world of unethical, cut-throat competition, Infosys is a ray of hope.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Apropos In the Singular: Hum Ek, Hamare Shoonya (Aug 21), I don’t agree with the belief that single and unencumbered politicians can work with more commitment and integrity as, in the absence of any beneficiaries, they may not be tempted to amass wealth through corrupt means. Barack Obama, former President of the world’s most powerful country, is a family man. Do you think having a family made him any less committed in office? Could he afford to be otherwise? Had his predecessors lacked commitment and focus? Most global leaders and monarchs are married, not all of them are corrupt. As for the temptation to amass wealth, marital status has nothing to do with it. Mayawati and the late Jayalalitha, despite being single, allegedly amassed humongous wealth for themselves.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
Malappuram Isn’t Mini Kashmir (Aug 21) is one of the best write-ups I ever read in recent times. Living in Palakkad district adjoining Malappuram, I authenticate the facts mentioned in the column. I too grew up hearing the judgement wisdom of Thangal. Moreover, there is coexistence of faith. My neighbours believe in a different faith, but that has never been of concern to our family.
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
The inhabitants of Kerala are noted far and wide for their proud record of communal harmony. It isn’t any different with Malappuram, which has 70 per cent from a religious community that is otherwise minority in that state. The Hindus and Muslims of Kerala have been friends ever since the Arab traders first brought the message of Islam to its shores. They stand as a role model in an age when communal forces are fast gaining ground across the length and breadth of the country. Malappuram is one of the strongest citadels of secularism and composite culture and, therefore, the target of the communal forces that are hostile to the idea of nation as enshrined in our Constitution. They cannot stand the sight of the followers of Hinduism and Islam sharing strong personal bonds. When people holding different creeds live cheek by jowl on harmonious terms in Malappuram, attempts to sowing seeds of hatred on such a peaceful soil is both deplorable and disquieting. It reveals the height of desperation of the individuals and outfits that have resorted to the shortcut of inventing communal conflicts to grab votes. It also demonstrates to what extent these elements can go.
Samiul Hassan Quadri, Bikaner
Outlook’s Independence Day special issue on Idealism was a great read, and I write in reference to Irfan Habib’s informative essay (On Parallel, Shining Paths, Aug 21). Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were idealistic leaders and envisioned India’s freedom, but the Partition happened in spite of their presence and, as a result, India still suffers from its scars and from the hostility from Pakistan. Indira Gandhi did take some right steps in the early part of her premiership, but undid all through the excesses of the Emergency. Manmohan Singh, as FM, opened the way for globalisation, but left a legacy of India being a corrupt state. Narendra Modi is a patriot and is trying various things for greater development, but a ‘Hindu rashtra’ is very much on his agenda, and that militates against the idea of India being secular. Pitiably, all our tallest leaders suffer from some grievous fault or other.
Sanjiv Gupta, Perth
This refers to your leader comment Why I am a Gandhian (August 21). Though I can’t find any fault with MK Gandhi, we would have been better off had we not been burdened with the Nehru dynasty, but blessed instead with the national leadership of C. Rajagopalachari or Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Nehru’s big betrayal was in making his inexperienced daughter Indira Gandhi the Congress president. She influenced the dismissal of an elected government and, later as PM, failed to insist on the return of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to India after the 1971 war, in exchange for the 93,000 Pakistani prisoners of war. No doubt Nehru was the builder of modern India, but his legacy is also marked by a common syndrome—the founder’s folly. The country is still paying dearly for it. There would have been no Partition if Nehru had agreed to support Jinnah as the first PM of united India. Surely, the British are to blame for India’s bifurcation, but it’s not as if Nehru was serious to avert this human tragedy. Had he not agreed to special status for Jammu and Kashmir, there would have been no Article 370 and the state would have been part of the Indian mainstream. In fact, there would have been no Kashmir problem in the first place if Nehru hadn’t taken the matter to the United Nations. Our armed forces would have taken all of PoK in a few days. And we would not be begging for our rightful seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC) if Nehru had taken the seat offered to India, instead of letting China in—and now China is stone-walling our claim! We would also not be burdened with uneducated ministers if Nehru had accepted the advice of our first President Rajendra Prasad and insisted on minimum qualifications for all people’s representatives from panchayat to Parliament. When Nehru died in 1964, I was a subaltern serving on a ship navigating the Red Sea. I remember feeling a sense of immense loss despite his many follies. As efforts are afoot by the BJP-led regime to sideline Nehru’s contributions, nobody should be allowed to denigrate the first PM of Independent India.
L.J. Singh, Amritsar
Our epics are ancient treatises of trickery and chicanery, duplicity and hypocrisy, shameless opportunism and spineless ideologies in statecraft and warfare. Gandhi’s idealism is practical for any person of character. He practised what he preached. Comparing anybody to him is an insult to his greatness.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Your Comment, Why I am a Gandhian, is truly a heart-warming read in these times. So are the accompanying articles in your magazine’s ‘Idealism’ issue. I hope Outlook continues to pique curiosity among its readers in the coming weeks. In the August 7 issue on bimaru states, I found Babu Rajendra Prasad Bhaskar’s piece (Rennaissance From the Bottom) quite insightful. B.R.P. was an old colleague at The Statesman; he must have joined the paper in Delhi around 1959 and he showed his mettle with his taciturn, at times, jocular manner. He went over to Patriot as news editor in the 1960s, and later to Deccan Herald as assistant editor in the mid-1980s or thereabouts. His full name is evocative in its own right. I remember being greatly impressed by it and asking him what his initials stood for.
Although I came to Delhi in 1954, I knew some of the best journalists from Kerala on the Delhi scene. One of the finest was K.N. Prabhu of ToI; he was possibly the best cricket writer of his times in 1950s and till much later. Before my time, I had heard at The Statesman, Delhi, that a man, Unnikrishnan (a common name), was possibly the best writer around; but he died young, in Moscow I think, and left strong memories behind.
Would you consider Outlook doing a book on your Comment theme—Why I am a Gandhian? With many great writers already contributing to Outlook and the invaluable archives of your old issues, it shouldn’t be tough to do so. Mahatma Gandhi was possibly the best Indian journalist of all time; this could be seen from the time he published Young India. Some of those pieces might be worth including in your book.
I look forward to your thoughts on my suggestions.
Lalit Sethi, New Delhi
This refers to Dr R. Balashankar’s column Recto Spective (August 21) in the idealism of the Sangh parivar. How many people know about the idealism of the RSS and the BJP? Were the people who voted for the BJP in the last general election aware of it? Can the Ambanis and the Adanis be keen to back the Sangh’s idealism and ideology? I think they are essentially apolitical and, if the Congress seems a better prospect in the future, then they will back it instead of the BJP. It is true that Sangh members are disciplined and driven by a positive sentiment for the country. I am sure there are Muslim organisations too that feel positively about India. The Sangh has the ability to admit to its own shortcomings and overcome them. The BJP today has a large number of members who were earlier in the Congress. And the BJP-led government at the Centre will not unleash the CBI probe on the AIADMK, as it seems they are going to be allies. Can people like Rita Bahuguna Joshi and E.K. Palanisami devote themselves to the ideals of the BJP? A politician may enter politics abhorring bribery and corruption, but the reality of the Indian political scene makes him feel corruption is not bad, and that the electorate accepts it.
Aditya Mookerjee, Belgaum
A robust secularism is the need of the hour in India that is currently going through a great strain in its polity (On Parallel, Shining Paths). In this environment of hatred, we must heed Gandhiji’s teachings, that violence and murder are not the solution. But his non-violent creed and his tolerance for all religions came to a naught during his own lifetime. The bloodbath during Partition dealt him a bitter blow. In this India of ours, where we see a state trying to order citizens about what to eat, say, live, we can only hold steadfast to our Gandhian ideals.
Sabi Khan, On E-Mail
Is celibacy or singleness a prerequisite to seek an ideal world? If this was the question the article was supposed to answer, God’s Marital Status (Aug 21) least sought to discuss the matter; instead went on a different tangent. It bore no coherent narrative till the end and I got no idea what the author was trying to say.
Akash Verma, Chennai
China can’t be dismissed by saying, “the grotesque does fascinate” (China Diary, Aug 14). The writer says the West “did build a lot of myths” about the oriental giant, “we’ve all swallowed without demur”. But China itself is the product of a history and culture that has little or nothing in common with that of the West. The underlying antipathy between India and China is not just due to the troubled history for the past 55 years. The two are among the world’s oldest and richest civilisations. We should look at Chinese architecture, philosophy, science and compare notes. Why not view China more holistically, explore common philosophies? It is time to rescue the Indian reading of China from defence analysts, security experts, foreign policy specialists, technocrats and sentimentalists. China is not just Peking Duck and creepy-crawly recipes.
Col C.V. Venugopalan (Retd), Palakkad
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