Letters | May 05, 2003
  • Crocodile Tiers
    May 05, 2003

    It is said, "If you live by the banks of a crocodile-infested river, never make them (the crocodile/s) your enemy." So it was with Haren Pandya (The Ellisbridge Factor, April 21) who, bereft of a minister’s security cover, paid the price for his outspokenness with his life. Gujarat—indeed, all of India—has been deprived of an honest leader. Wonder if the crocodiles, assuming they didn’t come from a distant river, will ever be identified.
    R.N. Vaswani, Mumbai

  • King George II and the Folly of His Arabic Numerals
    May 05, 2003

    Apropos Amitav Ghosh’s Nana Sahib and the Texas Detour (April 21), when gas prices collapse to $1.20 and companies like Halliburton and Bechtel get multi-million contracts for rebuilding Iraq (with the attendant benefits of more employment and prosperity for America), all this hifalutin talk of Americans having no stomach for an imperialist rebuilding project will disappear. America is the engine of global growth, what with Europe beset with leftover socialist policies, and Japan grappling with fundamental demographic and structural changes dooming it to an economic has-been status. Such vast rebuilding projects as Iraq are risky and expensive, and there is much that can go wrong with it. But we should realise that when America prospers, the world prospers.
    J. Shah, Wisconsin, US

    Now that Emperor George II of the Bush dynasty has given us an exhilarating exhibition of his geo-political leanings, all that remains for him to bring back the glorious days of the Roman Empire is to appoint Antonius Blair as Proconsul of Mesopotamia, Jack Straw as Procurator of Syria and Geoffrey Hoon as the region’s Chief Sanitary Inspector. Let us not forget that the Brits too—despite the fact that this trio belongs to the Labour Party—have an old chaska for empire.
    Aminuddin Khan, Hyderabad

    I believe the war on Iraq was planned by the gang of five—Cheney-Wolfowski-Perle-Rumsfeld-Rice—well before George W. Bush’s election, as a countdown to his re-election campaign. Once one accepts this premise, all the pieces fall into place, giving us an indication of what to expect in the future in West Asia and elsewhere. However, as the cliche goes, about the plans of mice and men...
    Charu Khopkar, Sydney, Australia

    Salam Baghdad (April 21) was a very informative piece on Baghdad and its history. However, there’s one correction. The ‘Arab numerals’ were not invented by the Arabs but invented and used in India. They’re called thus by the Europeans because they were adopted and used by the Arabs, from whom they were transmitted to Europe. The first sign that the Indian numerals were moving west comes from a source which predates the rise of the Arab nations. In AD 662, Severus Sebokht, a Nestorian bishop who lived in Keneshra on the Euphrates, wrote: "I will omit all discussion of the science of the Indians...of their subtle discoveries in astronomy, discoveries... more ingenious than those of the Greeks and the Babylonians, and of their valuable methods of calculation which surpass description. I wish only to say that this computation is done by means of nine signs. If those who believe, because they speak Greek, that they have arrived at the limits of science, would read the Indian texts, they would be convinced...that there are others who know something of value."
    Mark G. Chicago, US

    Vinod Mehta in his Delhi Diary (April 14) says that Outlook had tried very hard to get a pro-war opinion, and looks like he finally succeeded. Shreekant Sambrani’s Uncle Sam’s Right, Very Right! (April 21) was just that, though his opinion had no backbone, just like the US justification for war. The author, an "economist and strategic advisor", says the main reason for America’s war was the threat of wmds. Well, now that the US/UK forces have almost complete control over Iraq, where are these wmds? Hard as they might try, no intellectual can justify this war. I wish you luck Outlook, try finding a better justification than this one.
    Abhijit Patil, Albany, US

    Sambrani is clever, very clever. His title even ends with an exclamation mark, as if to make his point clear. We got it, Mr Sambrani, but you don’t fool us. The only reason you give for the US being right in waging war is that India can do the same to Pakistan. Once Indian policymakers didn’t want to act like Americans, now they just follow their lead.
    Manjit Bhatia, Adelaide, Australia

    Pathetic, convoluted logic! The idiot wants a green card. Ask Robert Blackwill to give him one and spare us this claptrap.
    Rakesh Krishnan, Auckland, New Zealand

    America brags that it did the haggard Iraqis and the world at large a big favour by ridding it of a cruel dictator, who killed his own people. In 1988, the Americans accuse, Saddam razed hundreds of villages in northern Iraq and used chemical weapons to kill thousands of Kurds. The next year, the US government showered him with a $1 billion aid in addition to high quality germ seed for anthrax, as well as helicopters. So we know, while the ‘butcher’ of Baghdad was busy making salamis of his opponents, the angels in London and Washington were quietly honing his knives. How and why does he get bad now? He has been like this all his life. What made the US support him when he murdered his adversaries and democracy alike? They even helped him overtly in the Iran-Iraq war. It is not about wmds, it never was. It is actually a sly brew of oil, global dominance and about dictating a flawed arithmetic to a bedazzled, hapless world.
    Sameer Bhat, New Delhi

    It was good to read a clear-headed and honest analysis of the Iraq war in the context of foolish and biased pundits divining evil intent in Bush’s actions.
    Vishal mangalwadi, Princeton, US

    Sambrani’s argument baffles me. I understand it’s pro-war and based on the premise that the Pentagon hawks are the epitome of puritan ethics. I’m an economist and understand Sambrani has in mind the invisible hand where each doing good for himself does good for society as a whole. Here we have a visible hand with a gun, Mr Sambrani. And your condescending stance towards India reeks of a possible nri status. Being one myself, I know the taste of this curry by its very smell. A query: what’s your specialisation in economics?
    Tilak, New York, US

    I agree with Sambrani. India and Israel have had this problem of terrorism for long but it is the US which has taken the bull by its horns. We shouldn’t criticise Uncle Sam just for the heck of it.
    P.V. Chandra, Bangalore

    I didn’t get the part where Sambrani says Bush will face a hostile electorate if bodybags arrive. Did he expect that after UN inspectors ensured Iraq was a sitting duck for "the mother of all one-sided battles"? Also, having been here for three years, I know how ‘hostile’ the media gets towards Bush’s cabal of right-wingers. Its idea of ‘patriotism’ is pure sycophancy for a man who rode roughshod over a Third World country.
    Nihar Panda Patchogue, US

    Sambrani says war is the "hardest" decision for any administration after Vietnam. It certainly is, but the US has been making it time and again since Vietnam. He says, "American people agonise over bodybags, unlike Indians who seem to exult in their dead heroes." Yet it is the US that has gone to war consistently nearly every year since WWII. And to minimise the bodybags, it has developed the most lethal weaponry as also the willingness to bomb relentlessly. It has dehumanised war—a tragedy Sambrani doesn’t recognise. A few dead heroes India "exults" over are preferable to the carnage and destruction dealt out by the US just to keep a few soldiers safe.
    Rama Ratnam, on e-mail

    Only the dumbest would believe the US just wants to destroy wmds, not control Iraq’s oil. Accepted, the war on Afghanistan was a direct outcome of 9/11. But Iraq? Why not North Korea or Pakistan? Sambrani mentions the possible use of bio and nuclear weapons by terrorists patronised by nation-states. Which nation would endanger its security by giving terrorists free access to its weapons! Galling to see Outlook publish such a childish piece in the company of other good ones.
    Sumiti Yadava, Gurgaon

    If you read US magazines a lot, you tend to develop some sympathy for them (a bit like the Stockholm Syndrome). That’s what ails Sambrani. Even the US media agrees it brainwashed its readers into believing in the war. I think the war has just begun for them. It fired the first salvo. Now it should wait for the ricochet.
    Prithvi,San Fran

  • Not Her, Puhleez
    May 05, 2003

    I get enraged with Outlook’s pro-Congress attitude frequently, but when I see your reader feedback, I realise that the dangers of Hindu fascism aren’t all in your mind. It would be nice to see you more balanced though. And no, Soniaji is not the answer.
    Nayanika Barat, Toowomba, Australia

  • The Better Mission
    May 05, 2003

    India only wants to send an unmanned mission to the moon for now (Over the Moon, April 21). However, to get rid of self-seeking politicos and communal fanatics, we should have one-way manned flights to the moon, with these people aboard. Russia had sent dogs and rats initially, but we can’t do that because it might upset Maneka and her animal-loving ngos. Otherwise, I’m one with the sceptics over our mooning.
    K.P. Rajan, Mumbai

    The sceptics are idiots. The fundamental science research of today enables the technology of tomorrow. The communications revolution that’s now unfolding in India is the result of research done in the ’70s. If done inhouse, one can learn more from such research and apply it to the basic problems of India. What is required is a can-do attitude and risk-averse programming.
    Dhaval Shah, Jorhat

  • Off the Mark, Sir?
    May 05, 2003

    I am sure all Delhi-based journalists feel indignant at Mark Tully’s suggestion (Chhattisgarh Diary, April 21) that most of them would not know that Chhattisgarh is bigger than Tamil Nadu. We not only know that it is bigger than TN but also know how a red carpet and a meal at the CM’s house can help change perspectives. Tully has unfortunately woken up only three years after the state came into existence. The salesman called Shailesh Pathak has been peddling the same lines for god knows how long and Tully must be the 2313th recipient of state government hospitality and he has promptly gone ahead and parroted what he was taught. Sadly for Delhi-based editors, unless someone like Tully experiences all this and writes about it, none of this matters and that’s why they don’t even have correspondents in a state bigger than Tamil Nadu. I am deeply disappointed with Tully being so taken in by the propaganda machinery of a state government. If he has lost it, then we are lucky he was not in Baghdad.
    S.P. Singh, on e-mail

    If Mark Tully can fall prey to a vicious propaganda machinery, then who can we trust? Ajit Jogi certainly has achieved some great things during his tenure as CM and perhaps his greatest coup is his director, public relations, Shailesh Pathak, who incidentally is facing serious charges in the Gwalior high court.
    Ramesh Sahu, Gondia

  • He’s Like That Only
    May 05, 2003

    I am disconcerted to read of all people Karan Thapar’s review of Khushwant’s book The End of India (Tungsten Vision, April 21), judging it as a new work when it is obvious that it is a collection of excerpts from the author’s old writings that came in The Illustrated Weekly and elsewhere. Khushwant shares his weakness with several other journalists wishing to preserve some of their writings in book form if a publisher is available. And he has no dearth of admirers to anthologise and publishers to publish him. Incidentally, it’s no use calling him names. He enjoys it more than his worst detractors. Doesn’t he call himself a "hack"? "The dirty old man" is one of the cleanest men around.
    K.S. Duggal, New Delhi

  • Spare Us the Nautanki
    May 05, 2003

    Your coverage of the World Cup and the war in Iraq have been quite impressive, rating almost 9 on a 10-point scale. I only wish you’d publish less of nautankiwallahs (netas, filmwallahs and gangsters on your cover) and have ordinary people instead.
    Souri Sengupta, on e-mail

  • The Many Hazards of Being Fly Ash
    May 05, 2003

    Your story on Aishwarya Rai (Ashes to Dust, April 14) was quite the opposite of what I expected from the media, considering that her grouse was against Salman, who has never been a media darling. Ms Rai, who can at best be described as a mediocre actress, seems a wonderful combination of ambition and beauty. Add a touch of ruthlessness, with two warring men thrown in, and you have a potboiler. I’ve no great sympathy for any of them except for Vivek Oberoi, who like so many before him has made the mistake of trusting a woman to prioritise his love for her over the love she has for herself.
    Mansi P. Kumar, on e-mail

    Methinks this is one hell of a crappy story, written only with the intent to bash up Ash, (in a different way from Sallu mian!). OK, even if we admit Ash did all she did, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Salman is a moronic and obsessive jock, an almost-40 brat who thinks he can get away with anything. Ask Somy Ali, of the cola-soaked hair, and his other exes.
    C. Sashi, Bangalore

    "Do you trust this face?" You can almost hear yourself reading aloud from a corny movie mag. A magazine like your s should know better.
    Reena, Bangalore

    I feel that Manu Joseph is hell-bent on finishing Aishwarya Rai’s career. He has written about Ash as if she is a has-been. Agreed her personal life is in a shambles, but professionally she is touching a new high.
    S. Nambudiripad, Kochi

    A very well-written article, clearly bringing to light the other side of Ash. She’s come a long way since her Miss World days. You still have your external beauty, Ash, but where is your inner beauty?
    Venkat, Phoenix, US

    Really disgusting article! It is very difficult for anyone to stand up in public and say they were abused, especially for someone as famous as Aishwarya Rai. She has inspired scores of women to speak out without worrying about ‘losing’ their respect in a society where people still point fingers at the abused rather than the abuser. Moreover, when did being 30 become the end of the road for anyone? Madhuri has given some of her best performances after 30. And however much you dismiss the Miss World title, it does require poise and a certain presence of mind to win one. I am saddened to see Aishwarya being portrayed as a gold-digger. No wonder women still find it difficult to grow in India.
    Shalini, Chennai

    One perceptive and witty article. Glad to see a different point of view unlike the pity-party stories one sees all around.
    Nandini Ravi, Arlington, Texas

    As yellow as journalism can get...grow up!
    Prabhat Gupta, Bangalore

  • It Was Sam First
    May 05, 2003

    In his letter (A Sure Misfield, April 28), N. Khosla says Gen Cariappa, not Sam Manekshaw, was India’s first field marshal. Cariappa was senior both by age and hierarchy but Manekshaw became field marshal in ’73, Cariappa in ’86.
    Dr Shernaz Cama, Director, Parzor Project

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