• Crash Diet
    Feb 19, 2001

    Why is vrs in PS banks Shear Madness (February 5)? It’s a golden opportunity for them to close unprofitable branches and restructure, in line with advances in IT, atms and the Net, besides changing consumer needs. Private banks have already incorporated some of these changes, PS banks should follow suit.
    S.L. Agarwal,
    New Delhi

  • Utter Truths
    Feb 19, 2001

    Apropos Utterances of a Nation (February 5), secularism isn’t something detached intellectual observers like Rakesh Kalshian have suddenly discovered from first principles. Nor did it take birth with the framing of the Indian Constitution and with Nehru. It’s inherent in Hinduism. By popularising Sanskrit, you are strengthening Hinduism by reinforcing not fundamentalist principles but its liberal impulses.
    Sarat Komaragiri,

  • No Full Stops
    Feb 19, 2001

    Congratulations to Sandipan Deb for penning a 303-words-long sentence to describe the Kumbh Mela (Kumbh Diary, February 5). It certainly matches the gigantic congregation of humans at the mela. The mega sentence can also be a good example of a complex/compound sentence in English grammar.
    K.V. Rupchand,
    on e-mail

  • Do Unto Others...
    Feb 19, 2001

    In his letter, C. Antony Louis (Dragons in Dreamland, January 29) laments that he no longer sees the culture of politeness in Kerala. I’ve been in the north for 13-14 years and miss this very decency and helping nature of Malayalis. Perhaps Mr Louis’ own behaviour accounts for the treatment he gets.
    Manoj Nair,
    Banswara, Rajasthan

  • The Chosen Ones
    Feb 19, 2001

    While it may be appropriate to confer lower national awards like the Padmashri and the Padma Bhushan on individuals having shown laudatory and prolonged excellence in a specialised field, it’s essential to follow stern standards for conferring higher awards like the Padma Vibhushan and the Bharat Ratna on those having done exceptional service. Does excellence in any one fine art (music, dance, drama or art) amount to exceptional national service? And isn’t continuing or higher excellence a prerequisite for upgrading awards? In which case, besides Dr Ranawat and Aroon Purie, the names of retired film actors in the higher awards casts doubts over the government’s intentions.
    Mohan Siroya,
    on e-mail

  • Feb 19, 2001

    The drought-like conditions in MP are not due to the failure of monsoon (Dryness of Being, January 29). It’s because we do nothing for rainwater harvesting and everything to overexploit groundwater. Subsidised, stolen and free electricity only encourages the colossal waste of this precious resource.
    Dr Alok Sharma,

  • Touch of Faith
    Feb 19, 2001

    Macaulay’s children a la Prashant Panjiar and Sagarika Ghose can’t fathom the depth of faith of millions of Hindus (Rites of Duality, January 29). Which is why they can reduce the Mahakumbh to the great unwashed and naked Nagas. Thankfully, Hinduism shall survive such superficiality and ignorance.
    Ashok Gupta,
    New Delhi

  • True Storey
    Feb 19, 2001

    I don’t know how your correspondent thinks the new embassy building in Berlin will shift the focus to a successful India from the ‘poor’ and ‘backward’ one she says the German media portrays (The Vaastu Overture, January 29). As far as I know, the seven-odd correspondents here do stories ranging from India’s N-tests and Bollywood to its democracy and IT prowess. Of course, as long as there are dowry deaths, as long as there are slums, they will be written about, even if it offends the sensibilities of those excited by a DM 40 m building.
    Padma Rao, South Asia bureau chief, Der Spiegel

  • The Waning Sex
    Feb 19, 2001

    It’s a pity that just as the ‘weaker’ sex is becoming more demanding, the stronger sex is getting weak between the knees (He Sleeps Like a Baby, January 29).
    T. Ramaswami,

  • Excavating the Present: Facts from Gujarat
    Feb 19, 2001

    I’d like to thank all those who are with us in this hour of need (Seismic Shock, February 5). On the one hand, we have humble coolies at the Ahmedabad station contributing Rs 50 per coolie per day and providing fleeing survivors a decent meal. On the other hand, we have politicians seeking mileage from tragedy. What happened to the millions that poured in in the aftermath of Latur? The victims are still living in Mumbai slums while committees have been sent abroad on that money to study disaster management! Why should taxes be hiked to fund relief, why can’t politicians sacrifice their perks for a year?
    Prakash R. Iyer,

    I’m a resident of Ahmedabad and stay in the Satellite locality. My property too has been damaged in the quake but not enough to attract assistance or attention. I’m a salaried person with a pan number. The government, in a typical kneejerk reaction, has levied a tax surcharge of 2 per cent and promised more. Where does that leave people like me? I have to pay for the repairs of my house and also pay extra tax. Why can’t the government leave out people from the quake-affected areas from paying this surcharge?
    Rajeev Matta,

    Congratulations on doing a cover on the earthquake in so short a time. But it was surprising to see you put the quake’s magnitude at 8.0 on the cover when the US and Japan put it at 7.9 and our meteorological department at 6.9. Was it to make your cover attractive or were you not satisfied with either of the seismic data?
    Jyotirmoy Maity,
    on e-mail

    Neither. We went by the usgs. In fact, the final figure, averaged from 200 observatories, has been revised to 8.1—Editor.

    Thank you for the immediate appraisal of the earthquake. I stay at Dabhol. I got my copy of Outlook on January 30 and was amazed to see the cover photo taken on Saturday, 3 am, as also detailed information along with photos in the inside pages. This surely speaks of hard work on the part of the Outlook team.
    Sudarshan Supe,

    If ever any proof was needed of you and your team being "livewire", your February 5 issue was it. You had the tenacity to change your regular edition and still have the magazine delivered on Monday, less than 72 hours after the quake. And with no shortchange on content or coverage. India Today’s truly been beaten. Their issue on babudom has become a sad reflection of their office.
    Kirit Shah,

    The January 26 earthquake was one of India’s worst tragedies ever. Outlook’s done a commendable job in featuring the earthquake as a Stop Press item.
    on e-mail

    Judging by the reports coming in from Gujarat, it’s clear that a large part of the relief aid, such as blankets, etc, will end up elsewhere and the victims of the earthquake will be left high and dry. It won’t be long before this aid material finds its way into the black market. Isn’t that what happened to the sufferers of the Orissa supercyclone?
    Vijay Kapre,
    on e-mail

    Medha Patkar rightly accuses the Gujarat and MP governments of being corrupt and failing to rehabilitate the displaced. The Gujarat government does not even wish to recognise the enormity of the problems in Kutch, leave alone furnishing relief and rehabilitation here. By citing lower figures for the dead in villages and towns, it wants to divert funds from foreign organisations to big cities like Ahmedabad, to help the corrupt line their own pockets.
    Ashok T. Jaisinghani,

    It’s my fervent appeal to people, world leaders and governments outside not to send aid in cash as their well-intentioned help will reach our leechlike politicians who think nothing of cadging off the hard-earned money of fellow Indians.
    Ahmed Zeeshan,

    It was shocking to see the drama of death unfolding in the wake of the Gujarat quake. Even sadder were revelations about the politician-bureaucrat-builder nexus. Isn’t it time we had a proper disaster management policy alongside a potent anti-corruption drive? If we don’t wake up now, when else?
    Abhay Chaturvedi,
    on e-mail

    Why don’t all members of the Lok Sabha and the vidhan sabhas adopt two orphaned/homeless children from Gujarat’s worst-hit districts and thus save the lives of some 3,000 quake-affected children? vdis too could be linked with relief.
    T. Madhav Raghavan,

    By levying further taxes on the nation, the PM will only stir anger where there is sympathy. We pay enough taxes throughout the year; the call for a Gujarat cess is unwarranted. I, as a majority of one, protest it.
    Smita Nirula,
    on e-mail

    If there was adequate insurance against earthquakes, some of the new reconstruction tax burden would have been eased. But it’s impossible, given the abysmal marketing and poor services of the socialist public sector insurance monopolies. Liberalisation hopefully will enable national private sector companies like hdfc and mncs to market insurance widely.
    Gopal Kamat,
    Sydney, Australia

  • Excavating the Present: Facts from Gujarat
    Feb 19, 2001

    It was depressing to see people and militarymen trying to dig out people with bare hands. Why can’t every state have a trained rescue squad, equipped with heat sensors, sniffer dogs, choppers and specialists in trauma medicine? After all, we have the money, the technology and the people.
    Dr Jawaid Quddus,
    Ann Arbor, Michigan, US

    Along with banning high-rises, demolishing existing ones and rebuilding them out of less life-damaging materials like plastic and fibreglass, and setting up a natural calamity action department, research into early quake detection has to be undertaken. Indians have the brains; they only have to be encouraged to use them.
    Maries Joseph,
    Al Ain, uae

    The recent earthquake has
    underlined the need to build a special task force to handle tragedies of such magnitude. Although the army did play a commendable role, the enormity of the crisis caught the government off-guard. The resultant lack of direction and coordination perhaps accounts for the higher toll.
    Abhik Siddiqui,
    New York

    It’s not entirely fair to blame the government for its slow response. For one, it was a national holiday and two, all the metros were on high alert due to terrorist threats. But the nda government should now concentrate on putting together a task force to provide faster relief during emergencies.
    Vikas Sahay,
    on e-mail

    A week before the quake, Gujarat dailies Sandesh and Loksatta reported salinity and marine mortality due to sea ingress following the damming of the Narmada. The temporal sequence suggests a causal connection between this quake and sustained high levels in the dam. And should the dam break in the event of aftershocks, it would cause untold damage to Bharuch and other downstream areas.
    Dr Ravi Kuchimanchi,
    Deonar, Maharashtra

    It’s true that when the Indian plate collides against the Eurasian one, it develops stress released through numerous cracks or faults. But considering quake statistics since 1988, India’s been rocked by six major earthquakes. It seems stresses have developed all along the Indian plates and are being released periodically. No one can thus predict the place or timing of a quake and like uncertainty about death, we humans will have to live with it.
    Suja Nambiar,
    on e-mail

    Isn’t it a shame that money continues to be spent on meaningless ‘events’ like the Miss India contest and game shows like kbc and Chhappad Phad Ke when thousands have been rendered homeless?
    Dr Jamshed M.,

    No more teleshows and game shows for a while please. Have a national mourning instead. Or do the lives of 20,000 dead mean nothing any more?
    Ritesh Kishore,
    on e-mail

    Karnataka ex-minister T. John said the Gujarat quake was divine retribution for the ill-treatment meted to Christians in the state. The Lashkar said it was Allah’s punishment for atrocities committed by the Indian army in Kashmir. How many churches were destroyed or Christians persecuted to justify tens of thousands dead? How many atrocities does it take for entire villages and towns to be buried alive?
    Sarika Desai,

    The relief effort of the rss is commendable. I’m sure India will benefit immensely if the rss were to drop its sectarian agenda. There have been heartwarming stories of Muslim youth donating blood for injured Hindus in Ahmedabad.
    Saurav Sen,
    on e-mail

    Time now for secular camps to take a cue from the rss in providing relief work.
    Sanjoy Banerjee,
    on e-mail

  • Wages of Sin
    Feb 19, 2001

    Kapil Dev, for allowing himself to become the target of a mudslinging snake in the grass like Prabhakar; Narasimha Rao, who killed any little hope Indians might have had from their PMs, political parties and polyglots; and Bibi Jagir Kaur, who has put all mothers to shame.
    Dr Rita Thapar,

    Arundhati Roy, for being disloyal to India’s interests to become a darling of the western world; Vinod Mehta, for providing her with a readymade platform; and myself, for being a dumb Outlook subscriber.
    Chetan Pandit,
    on e-mail

    ...And the Rs 1,001 go to Deepali Pawaskar from New Delhi, L. Thomas Olakkengal from Thrissur and Chetan Pandit.

  • Fiefdoms of Language
    Feb 19, 2001

    I have seen the review (Rhythm, Interrupted, February 12) by Sohail Hashmi of my translation of the selected poems of Kaifi Azmi. I am not unfamiliar with the kind of views expressed by Mr Hashmi. When, over a decade ago, I wrote my biography of Mirza Ghalib (which incidentally also contains a considerable volume of Ghalib’s Urdu Dewan translated by me into English), there was in many quarters a similar sense of resentment that a non-Urdu-speaking person, who did not belong to the shrinking and incestuous circle of those who claim to be the custodians of Urdu and of Ghalib’s poetry and legacy, had ventured to write the great poet’s biography. An identical argument was parleyed even then about those from across the "socio-cultural divide", more familiar with English, seeking to trespass in the world of Urdu. Well, Urdu, and the glorious culture and heritage it is synonymous with, is no one’s private property or personal fiefdom. My biography of Ghalib (also published by Penguin) has gone into more than half-a-dozen reprints, both in hardback and in paperback, and is still in demand. It has been translated into a very successful edition in Urdu. And currently, Sahitya Akademi is translating it into several Indian languages.

    I won’t react to Mr Hashmi’s somewhat intemperate comments about "brave souls crossing the linguistic barrier along with the cultural one", but want to put on record my response to one specific comment he’s made. He refers to Kaifi Saheb’s famous song from Haqeeqat, which has the line "Baandh lo sar se kafan saathiyon". Naturally, I’ve translated the word ‘kafan’ as ‘shroud’. I don’t need Mr Hashmi to tell me that. My original manuscript and the typeset version Penguin India has translates it so. However, in the final print, ‘kafan’ appears as ‘coffin’. This, my publishers inform me, is due to printer’s devil. Penguin accepts full responsibility for this inadvertent error and will make the correction in the reprint.

    In the end, may I say I am sorry I do not have the credentials of Mr Hashmi’s socio-cultural background. But I am not daunted by this inadequacy, nor do I need to be. For me, what is of abiding satisfaction is that Kaifi Saheb himself was delighted with the translation and had the generosity to say so unambiguously in the Author’s Note. But perhaps Kaifi Saheb’s own views are of no consequence for Mr Hashmi in the face of his own sense of "cultural" superiority, and his undeniable ability to quibble about the exact meaning of words such as jugnu.
    Pavan K. Varma, New Delhi

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