Letters | Jun 09, 2003
  • Atom Bombs, America, Dams and Democracy
    Jun 09, 2003

    Arundhati Roy always evokes powerful emotions in me—whether she is writing on the Narmada dam or on the contempt of court case against her or against America as in your latest cover story (Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy, May 26). The way she takes on the fight for half or fully lost causes is amusing, to say the least. Why, for example, should she insist on America being reprimanded over Iraq? Will a boycott of US goods help? I wonder when she will, like the rest of us, come to accept that the US is the world’s sole superpower—and can do whatever it pleases. And learn to live with it.
    Parthasarthy B, Chennai

    Thank you for summing up this moment, this dark moment brought on by the American power elite in its push to control the world, and the possibility for reversal that we, the people, still hold in our hands. May we not miss this chance!
    Christina Svane, Hatfield, US

    Arundhati Roy’s attempt to anoint herself as a political philosopher and intellectual historian is unconvincing. Her self-righteous tone and shallow grasp brings to mind those denizens of Hollywood who seek to add credibility to their glittery, fairytale lives trying to engage in celebrity discourse. Alas, like many of her celeb cohorts, Ms Roy punches seriously outside her weight category even if she distinguishes herself from them by using a colourful array of multi-syllabic words. Though her speech was peppered with parenthetic bits of impish humour and self-conscious historical references, her well-dressed diatribe cannot be confused with reasoned argument.
    Christopher Lingle, Atlanta, US

    Peace is gradually getting precedence over war in the minds of people. But ordinary people like me can make efforts in this direction only at a personal level since a certain quality of voice is needed to be heard globally. It’s great to see people like Chomsky and Roy using theirs for the benefit of all.
    Rupesh Bhandari, Amritsar

    Why does Ms Roy restrict her ‘boycott’ to a few mncs/American companies, why doesn’t she go the whole hog and boycott ibm, Microsoft, Ford? Why don’t we ban all Indian students wanting to go to the US since in a few years they too will be serving the interests of the Empire? Why don’t we boycott the fruits of the Evil Empire that we third worldies so eagerly savour—the inventions and discoveries that have given us TV, computers, airplanes, cars, phones, electricity?
    Rahul Sharma, Pune

    Ms Roy has effectively revealed the nefarious motives behind the war and focused the world’s attention on the rape of humanity in the name of democracy, freedom and equality.
    Balakrishnan M. Iyer, Al Ain, UAE

    Ms Roy expresses what ordinary people like me feel. But unlike her I don’t expect American civil society to act as an engine of social change. Having been in the US for some time, I can say it is totally eaten up by the consumerist culture. It does not have a spiritualist tradition of its own nor is it open to borrowing ideas from others. This is particularly true of the white sections of the civil society. Of course, there can be hope from the minorities of the country, particularly the blacks. Their community is a case study in itself. They permeate every sport and a lot in arts and entertainment. But when it comes to intellectual workers, they cannot be seen. And the representatives they do have in the government—like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell—well, the less said about them the better. What we need is a leader of the stature of Martin Luther King II.
    Gopal Krishna, Durham, US

    So, the fiction writer writes yet another piece of fiction. Yet another time, she riles against capitalism, neo-imperialism and all that’s stock-in-trade for communists. And true to script, Lenin happens to be her inspiration. Lenin, the original tyrant, was chiefly responsible for all that went wrong with the 20th century. Would Ms Roy care to read Dmitri Volkogonov? It’s only in India that Communism in various forms continues to have some influence. However, when would the mother of all causes turn her attention to the menace of Islamic fundamentalism?
    Vivek Khaitan, on e-mail

    If America has a populace that will re-elect Bush & Co next year, has a judiciary that declared him elected after what happened in the polls, and has a media which is allowed to manufacture public opinion to order, then it is the failure of the nation as a system. Nothing less.
    Krishna Sriram, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

    I remember Vinod Mehta comparing the US and allied forces’ attack on Iraq like "swatting a fly". Don’t Vinod Mehta and Ms Roy know that the fly was carrying the germ of a deadly epidemic. It was swatted well in time.
    Pravin Desai, Cleveland, US

  • Atom Bombs, America, Dams and Democracy
    Jun 09, 2003

    The fact that Arundhati could deliver her speech in New York shows that the concept of free speech is alive in the US.
    M.J. Mansharamani, Nagpur

    Lo and behold, the lady has risen phoenix-like from the ashes, a diva hitting the high Cs; her overwhelmingly Western audiences sitting through her bravura performance absolutely mesmerised, lapping up her profound platitudes like they were the very Gospel truth. The closest parallel history has to offer is the joyous radio messages that raced across the world heralding the return of Churchill to the helm of affairs.
    Ranjith Thomas, Bangalore

    Vinod Mehta’s eternal bias against America and unending obsession for Arundhati has once again forced this diatribe on us. From the Atom Bomb to America, from Dams to Democracy, from Gujarat to Iraq—Ms Roy has churned out her preoccupations with regularity on the pages of Outlook. Her heart which bleeds so profusely for those killed in Iraq or in Gujarat by the so-called "American imperialists" or "Hindu fundamentalists" has no drop of blood for the 70,000-odd Indians killed so far by the Islamic jehadis. If they are really honest about their intentions, Outlook and Arundhati should write a piece with equal vigour on Al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Toiba or the Hizbul Mujahideen.
    M.C. Joshi, Lucknow

    Ms Roy, please return the Booker. We despise the empire yet yearn for recognition from their institutions,which, it can be argued, are also free market instruments.
    Siddhartha, on e-mail

    The problem with writers such as Ms Roy is that they’re always dreaming of a utopian world. Unfortunately for them, and indeed for the rest of us, that’s not quite how it works. I would be glad to read her if she dropped the philosophy, presented an analysis based on facts and suggested practical solutions.
    Arjun Mukherjee, Delhi

    Man, I’m in love with Ms Roy! That was some Literary Bomb she hurled at America!
    Faezal, Delhi

    I totally agree with Ms Roy’s speech. Not, however, the part where she proposes to fight the Empire. Empire is not going to listen to reason when it is in conflict with its interests. Empire only listens to strength. Can the Empire ever do the same to China in the name of democracy?
    Pravin Sinha, Mumbai

    I think Roy’s God of Small Things was really small. It would never have got my local Palakkad School prize. But in her Harlem lecture, she has not only exceeded herself but also her many illustrious predecessors listed by you at the end of the article.
    S.S. Venkataramanan, Delhi

    A moving speech but with no effect. The problem is such self-styled activists start chanting the slogans of democracy and human rights only when America is involved. It’s true the US has always acted in its own national interests and that’s not wrong given the practices of international politics. But where was Arundhati when thousands of Kurds were being slaughtered in Iraq or citizens were bing killed in Africa, Asia or Yugoslavia?
    Tejas Patel, Brisbane, Australia

    When I see Arundhati Roy on the cover of Outlook, I know that’s one issue I don’t want to buy.
    Shivam Vij, Lucknow

    Arundhati is right—democracy is America’s whore. But why does she forget the pimp, Israel? In the name of the whore, Ariel Sharon rolls into the Gaza Strip—on killing machines imported from the US—shoots, bombs and massacres children, pregnant women and other innocent Palestinians. That’s dubbed a war against terror. But when the Palestinians retaliate and blow themselves up—in rage, revenge, anguish at losing their loved ones and reclaim their occupied land—it is called a terrorist attack!
    Gajendra, New Delhi

    Ms Roy is the only one of repute to air the views of common men and women of this world. Are all the other so-called intellectuals and leaders so spineless as to keep quiet about the draconian acts of the US and UK in the name of terrorism? Both these countries have marked a return to the Stone Age.
    A.M. Manohar, Madurai

    If the US invading Iraq and saving Kuwait is imperialism, what was Saddam Hussein’s invading of Kuwait? Secularism?
    Jai Shankar, New Delhi

    I’m now thoroughly convinced that a great storyteller should not be let loose on serious subjects which require more research. It seems the so-called ‘peace-loving’ citizens were just lurking around the corner to point an accusing finger at the US for plundering Iraq’s oil-wealth. Ms Roy also claims that the people of Iraq have been brought to the brink of starvation. Anyone will agree that a bit of anarchy for a few months is certainly better than a certain Saddam Hussein and his family amassing Iraq’s oil wealth for decades on end.
    Sanjiv Padmanabhan, Mumbai

    Arundhati’s speech is all very good to hear. But life will go on. The impotent UN will organise more speeches in the General Assembly, sitting right in the middle of the evil empire. Remember, Americans will only respect strength, the type which Mao Tse Tung said "flows from the barrel of a gun". That is why America is more wary of China and hardly ever messes with that country.
    G. Vijayaraghavan, Chennai

    It is sad that the US government is subject to the incessant lobbying of corporations and the right wing. The Democrats too have been a party to this situation and have unfortunately capitulated to the Republican agenda.
    Anu, Cleveland, US

  • It Don’t Work That Way
    Jun 09, 2003

    Brajesh Mishra’s stand on "terrorism against innocent" is political doublespeak (Lost Tribes, Reunited, May 26). It narrowly defines terrorism and then extends it to any fight put up by "freedom fighters". Does he imply that government oppression, corruption and misdeeds can and should be answered only by voting at the polls? It would be nice but history shows that oppression by the powerful is always answered in the end by violent revolutions.
    Narain Bhatia, Lexington, US

    India’s willingness to form an Indo-US-Israel axis to fight against "terrorism" will only put India in the line of anti-US sentiment prevailing not only in the Gulf countries but also in some countries of Europe, Asia and Africa.
    Quamar Ashraf, New Delhi

  • Positive Turnaround
    Jun 09, 2003

    The article The Idea in Repose (May 26) was very evocative. As a Punjabi Hindu, the issue of Khalistan is a very emotive one for me as it conjures many vivid and ghastly images of horror in my mind. The Khalistan movement not only alienated the Sikhs from the national mainstream but it also created a schism between the Sikhs and the Punjabi Hindus. In the end, the sufferers were the Punjabis, Hindus and Sikhs alike. If good sense has prevailed upon these former militants about Khalistan being a lost cause, it is very good news for Punjab. Only amity between Hindus and Sikhs can spell prosperity for the state.
    Rajat Ghai, Vadodara, Gujarat

  • Ego Problem?
    Jun 09, 2003

    It’s surprising to see a seasoned journalist like Prem Shankar Jha giving a lopsided picture of the Narmada project (A Way for the Dammed, May 26). Was it his personal sympathy with Medha Patkar and Arundhati that clouded his judgement; or is it that seeing the dancing, smiling faces of the poor and downtrodden welcoming the Narmada waters rubbed salt in the wounds of the publicity-seekers who have been proved wrong?
    Shalini Gupta, New Delhi

  • Bridal Jitter
    Jun 09, 2003

    I’m a US resident and have been reading about the bold step taken by Nisha Sharma (Difficult Customer, May 26). Not only do we laud this girl but also the role of the media. That is what one expects Indian media to do—tell the story of everyday Indians and things important to them. Let this case become a precedent for other dowry-demanding families. May we also learn to educate our daughters rather than collect dowry for them.
    Hema Shukla, Sacramento, US

    Though I wouldn’t approve the practice of asking for dowry, how conveniently, in the search for new heroes, have we forgotten that giving dowry is an equal offence under the law.
    Surya Prakash B, New Delhi

  • Grass Misjudgement
    Jun 09, 2003

    Is Calcutta a courtesan? Never. Is she a Naayika? Yes, definitely. Coming from P. Lal (Books, May 26), this mistranslation is more than just infelicitous. Or, is it another sample of his "transcreation"? As for Gunter Grass, we need not grudge him the Nobel. The Nobel has been bestowed on fascists and mass murderers too. One of them, responsible for the deaths of millions in Asia, Africa and Latin America and still alive, advises governments all around on how to torture and slaughter rebellious natives. Another mass murderer supervises and suborns elections all over the world except in the US. As for Kolkata, whichever way you spell it, she remains the mother goddess, nurturing creativity and nourishing talent every way. This puts paid to the notion of Calcutta dying (mumurshu), Grass’s anathemas and imprecations notwithstanding.
    I.K. Shukla, Los Angeles, US

  • Stone Age Instinct
    Jun 09, 2003

    "Answer terrorism with terrorism". I was astonished to read that statement in your letters page (May 26). You’d think people would at least have ‘evolved’ a bit after all these years. But it seems they treat war and violence like some cricket match to be aired soon. I guess it’s easy to say "blood for blood" when it’s not your blood being spilt. Sometimes I wonder if our country is in the state it is in because of the old dinosaurs who are governing it?
    Shehla Hussain, on e-mail

  • TAMper Tantrum
    Jun 09, 2003

    I recently read the article Turbulence in the Air (May 26) in your magazine. While I liked the article, there is an inaccuracy about the BBC which I hope can be corrected for the benefit of your readers. In the story, the figures quoting the tam A.C. Nielsen research, bbc World’s viewership is put at 0.02 while CNN is at 0.05. Actually BBC World and CNN were both at 0.17 each for the month of April for all C&S (cable and satellite) homes, across all programming, according to tam. However in the previous months, BBC World’s viewership had actually been ahead of the combined viewership of both cnn and cnbc. In fact, in April itself bbc World’s reach was at 18.8 million people while cnn was at 13.3 million people.
    Meenakshi Gupta, BBC, New Delhi

    Editor’s Note: The figures quoted were for the cities of Delhi and Mumbai.

  • Colonial Relic
    Jun 09, 2003

    This refers to your report that the judges and lawyers of the Gujarat High Court won’t be holidaying this summer (Newsbag, May 26). Summer vacations in the courts are a colonial hangover that we seem reluctant to give up. But it is certainly something we can’t afford given the number of cases pending in our courts. Only by hastening the working of our courts will we be able to change people’s attitudes towards our law courts.
    K.P. Rajan, Mumbai

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