This refers to the cover story The Master’s String (Dec 18). From Randeep Surjewala’s “Janeudhaari Hindu” remark to Mani Shankar Aiyer’s “neech”, Congress surely scored some self-goals in the run-up to the Gujarat elections. Though Rahul showed some oratory capability during the recent campaigning in Gujarat, most of the subject matter was still PM Modi. The Congress scion could have taken up more issues out of local politics. That would have made him a more credible figure in politics. His token gestures—the serial temple visits, declaring himself a Shiv-bhakta, and being branded as a thread-wearing Hindu in the Hindu-majority state—were too obvious, proving to be counter-productive eventually. The politics of ‘janeu’ (directly casteist) and the unrelenting targeting of Modi are unlikely to be advantageous for the Congress in the 2019 general elections.
It is sad that the yajnopaveeta has come to be the symbol of upper caste suppression (To Unknot the Yajnopaveeta). As the author notes, there is some evidence pointing to the fact that even women and the “fourth class” could wear the sacred thread in the initial period of its evolution. Over centuries, many symbols of Hindu culture have come to be connected with the suppression of lower castes, and for good reasons. A way forward for the vexed religion could be the reform of these symbols rather than their outright rejection.
Avinash Dharne, On E-Mail
Feroze Jahangir Gandhi, who married Indira Nehru, was a Parsi. In almost all religions, the sons inherit the religion of their fathers. So Rajiv Gandhi was also a Parsi and so is Rahul Gandhi. Randeep Surjewala, spokesperson of the Congress has stated that Rahul is a janeudhaari Hindu. If it is true, when did Rahul Gandhi convert to Hinduism? Why as a high caste Hindu? Why not as Dalit or OBC, groups he has shown token gestures towards in full public eye? This episode of identity recalculation only exposes the soft Hindutva pursued by the Congress and the sham of secularism practised by them.
According to Hindu Brahmin tradition, it is the father who initiates his son into formal education of the Vedas and the Upanishads by performing his Upanayanam or sacred thread ceremony (Weight Of The Poonool Wearers, Dec 18). Tamil BJP leader S.Ve. Shekher injects a strong dosage of humour into the Periyarists’ ‘poonol for pigs’ programme by making this point—saying it is the father who always puts the poonool on his son! In a counter to the programme, followers of Swami Nithyananda draped a pig with a black shirt. To me, a Vishnu bhakt, the tying of ‘poonool’ to pigs by the Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam (TPDK) does not sound blasphemous. As Varaha, pandri or pig is the third avatar of Vishnu. When the demon Hiranyaksha stole the earth (Bhumidevi) and hid her in the ancient oceans, Vishnu took the Varaha avatar to slay the demon, lift the earth on his tusks, and restore her. The temple for Bhuvaraha Swamy in the Cuddalore district is a superfine specimen of South Indian temple art, where the chief deity, Varaha, wears a sacred thread.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Does the BJP have some monopolistic right to visit temples and use cheap language? Narendra Modi is known to use sarcasm and insulting innuendo to belittle Rahul Gandhi, the Congress and minorities. Who else started referring to Rahul being a “shahzada” and gave the ‘Hum Char, Hamare Pachees’ slogan back in 2002 to ridicule minorities, and who recently brought up the ‘Aurangzeb and Pakistan’ rhetoric! It is the BJP that has gradually brought down the standards in public discourse. And when their opponents started repaying the compliments in the same style, the BJP is getting itchy. All the same, the Congress should avoid making intemperate statements, like Mani Shankar Aiyer’s ‘neech’ remark.
M. N. Bhartiya, Goa
This so-called sacred string that aims to divide Hindus into humans and subhumans is deeper than the Radcliff Line. Alas, dwija or twice-born are also twice-dead. First, they don’t quite make the cut to be human when they treat fellow humans as inhuman. The other time is on the funeral pyre.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
No one who fights against the BJP should be visiting the Somnath temple—from where L.K. Advani’s notorious rath yatra was launched—without taking a stand against the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Rahul Gandhi’s secular credentials, which are advertised by the Congress every now and then, lie exposed.
C.S. Balakrishnan Iyer, On E-Mail
Even though I wear a yajnopaveeta, I knew nothing of these details; thanks for the cover!
Masa, On E-Mail
Shashi Kapoor may no more be with us but the most handsome actor’s Prithvi theatre will always keep his legacy alive (Bollywood’s Own Shakespeare Wallah, Dec 18). In Mumbai, it has for long provided top artistes like Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak, Nadira Babbar and Dinesh Thakur. Only that from now on we’d miss the presence of Shashiji on his wheelchair, smiling and allowing selfies.
M.S. Khokhar, On E-Mail
Bigger stars have dominated Bollywood, but Shashi Kapoor’s place in the annals of cinematic history is undisputed. A Dada Saheb Phalke awardee, his achievements are multifarious, stellar and not just limited to acting. He was India’s original crossover star, having acted in several Merchant-Ivory productions—and his last memorable performance was in a movie of the same genre. Having begun his film journey as a child actor, he went on to act in over 100 films. His international films such as Shakespeare Wallah and The Householder, saw him break away from the image of the conventional hero. He went on to put his money where his heart was—and championed alternative cinema. Junoon, Kalyug, and 36 Chowringee Lane are some of the cinematic gems he produced.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
Apropos Ram Redux (Dec 11), I remember the late Kunwar Narayan’s poem Ayodhya 1992, which imagines how Lord Ram would’ve felt on December 6, 1992. Roughly translated it goes thus:
Hey Ram,Life is a bitter truth and you, an epic. You can no longer win over the irrationality that has not just 10 or 20 but lakhs of heads and hands now! And, who knows whose team Vibhishana is in these days? Is there a bigger misfortune than your kingdom having shrunk to a disputed site? This Ayodhya isn’t your Ayodhya,but now a Lanka for warriors ‘Manas’ is no longer your ‘charitr’, but a trumpet for fighting elections! Hey Ram, here is this time, where is your ‘Treta Yug’ Where are you—the ‘Maryada Purushottam’ here there is neta yug! I request you to return to some purana, to some religious epic safely with your beloved wife because today’s forests are not those in which Valmiki used to roam about.
Richa Juyal, Dehradun
This refers to your story from Kashmir, Keeping the Boys Off the Courts (Dec 18). The news of withdrawal of cases of stone-pelting against first-time protesters is a consolation for them and their parents. Though withdrawal of cases has been done earlier too, it is nonetheless a positive sign. But it is no amnesty bought by ‘sacrificing national interests’ as some would argue. It is simply a softening of the stand to give protesters a chance to devote their time to studies, families and career, instead of indulging in stone-throwing, which brings them no gain but only pain, jail and court visits.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
This refers to an earlier issue on the criminality of godmen (Goddamn, Sep 11). It’s about time that these frauds were exposed and brought to justice. I have personally had a very negative experience with one such ‘spiritual’ organisation that was not mentioned in the story. I cannot describe my experience here. In the garb of promising spiritual bliss and deep contentment, the group actually brought in a barrage of negativity in my life.
Zora Shroff, On E-Mail
Madness is not the right word to describe the inhuman killing of innocent people witnessed in recent times. It is sheer barbarism. Our efforts to revive our past culture and glory are perhaps taking us back to the Stone Age.
M.A. Ahad, On E-Mail
This is the classic Nazi template pioneered by Hitler in Germany in the 1930s. Hitler knew very well that hate propaganda could easily divert people’s attention away from misgovernance. In Mein Kampf, his autobiography, Hitler went to great lengths to spell out the art of propaganda, and how it is to be tailored to the lowest common denominator. At the heart of this propaganda is an enemy, identified to be blamed for all problems. In Germany of the 1930s, the handy scapegoats were the Jews. In modern day India, it is the Muslims population that is projected as the other. The whole ‘love jehad’ claptrap isn’t new—it follows in the footsteps of Nazi propaganda that depicted Jews as lecherous men seducing Aryan-German women.
Biswapriya Purkayastha, On E-Mail
The correct name of the holy place is Gurudwara Panja Sahib, not Puja Sahib, as published under the headline Major Event For Pakistan Army (In and Around, Dec 18).
Intest Sodhi, On E-Mail
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