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Your special issue on COVID-19 (All We Know. All We Don’t, June 22) is comprehensive, but did little to clear the air about how to deal with the pandemic. Stories like Does India not have a milder epidemic? and Asymptomatics: Can they infect? left the questions unanswered. Agreed that the virus is still in the process of unravelling itself—it is not following a fixed pattern across the world and there are many unknowns—but busting the growing myths associated with the disease that cause unreasonable fear and panic would have served us better, rather than knowing about the presence of zillions of viruses on earth. Eventually, the issue didn’t turn out to be the informative and exciting read that the cover promised.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
This refers to the cover story Can Indian Become China 2.0? (June 15). It is merely a fantasy to think of India as the China of the post-COVID-19 world. Despite the reduction in trade deficit with China by $10 billion to $53 billion in 2018-19, it remains high. Even the Sardar Patel statue was made in China. It spends 2.19 per cent of its GDP on R&D, whereas India spends a meagre 0.85 per cent! This reflects in their institutions. China has about 2,000 universities, out of which eight are listed among the world’s top 200, whereas India has 836 universities and none of those found a place in the prestigious list. On top of that, this government is determined to destroy India’s best: JNU. Transnational companies go to countries with greater ease of doing business, not where hate, animosity and mayhem are the order of the day. This reflects on the silken streets of India, where millions of tired, wounded and frustrated souls are limping back to their villages. Such a shameful spectacle was not visible in China!
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
China’s disastrous incursions into Indian territory were imminent. These prove that it cannot be trusted. Now that Chinese bellicosity has come out in the open, we cannot rely on peace talks to improve our relationship. China might be superior in military strength, but India is also strong. It could not force India into submission and was surprised at the quick mobilisation of troops along the LAC. However, both countries must realise that we need each other—neither can afford friction. No one wants wars, which are extremely destructive. Both countries should take immediate steps to end the conflict.
Ramani Subramaniam, Navi Mumbai
This refers to your snippet on Corona Devi (Worship Goes Viral, Mixed Shots, June 22). It was fun reading about the new goddess in Bihar. Today, amid the gloom and challenges that we face, daily routines, companionship and gossip—all those immeasurable things that make life interesting—have gone for a six, causing anxiety. Temple visits are not just to appease gods. It is a wholesome package of worship, social contact, tasty treats—a pleasant excursion before one returns to the drudgeries of life. I wish these devotees well on their visit to their new deity. I hope Corona Devi will provide succour to them and keep them sane.
Abhimanyu K., New Delhi
I think it was from the March 16 issue onwards that COVID-19 began appearing on the cover of Outlook. A lot has been said about the disease during these three months. Now, a study of the Indian Council of Medical Research suggests that the lockdown shifted the peak of the pandemic by an estimated 34 to 76 days, which might now be in mid-November.
I have a complaint regarding the Letters section. You first slashed it by half—from four pages to two—and with your editorial obstinacy, refused to accommodate the request of readers to revert to the old page count. Outlook was a magazine where I never had to worry about the size of my letters. I felt free to express my view in as many words I wanted and the letters were published. Those days, however, are gone. Many letters are now pruned drastically and are often not published. The column has lost its sheen after the unimpressive redesign last year. From the Daak Room has further eaten up the space. The old letters featured in Daak Room may have archival value, but they must be published separately. The long letter written in 1918 by a man in Plymouth, USA, during the Spanish flu has consumed about half a page in the June 22 issue. So many topical letters could have been accommodated instead of that!
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
This refers to your write-up on Basu Chatterjee (Middling Perfection, June 22). Indeed, nobody celebrated the middle class—its overseers and office clerks, its primary teachers and supervisors, its scores of ordinary folk and their uncomplicated joys—like Basu Chatterjee did. He was a master of middle-class minutiae and his movies had none of the staleness or tropes of regular Bollywood fare. That was a time in cinema when stories would revolve around either ‘Paatal Lok’ or ‘Swarg Lok’. It goes to Basu da’s credit that he brought in people from ‘Dharti Lok’ with their first rush of love, their first raise, their tight budgets and all those consequential and inconsequential moments that lend colour and gravitas to life. He truly was a raconteur for the common person, depicting them beyond black and white. RIP Basu da!
Sangeeta Kampani, New Delhi
This refers to Balloting A Pandemic (June 22). The Bihar elections will be the first democratic exercise after the pandemic. The COVID-19 scare could see the implementation of many precautionary measures that could disrupt campaigning. With spectacular showmanship difficult to achieve due to the restrictions, poll expenditure could be drastically reduced. This could give rise to a level playing field and offset the advantages of parties with overflowing coffers. It would be interesting to see if caste arithmetic still play a dominant role in the selection and victory of candidates. All in all, the elections will be interesting to follow.
Kamna Chhabra, Gurgaon
Translated excerpts of a letter Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, wrote to her first husband’s brother six hours before her beheading. Her first cousin, Elizabeth I, Queen of England from 1558-1603, had her executed.