Letters | Jun 14, 2004
  • Sonia’s Goodbye A Halo To Sainthood? No, Just Arrivederci
    Jun 14, 2004

    In saying no to the crown (The Power of No, May 31), Sonia Gandhi has proved she’s a complete foreigner in India. Not one among a billion Indians would’ve done that.
    Rajiv Chandran, on e-mail

    All the commotion about Sonia sacrificing the PMship is such codswallop. She is just aware of her limitations, linguistic and otherwise. So she chose wisely now rather than be embarrassed later.
    K. Singh, on e-mail

    A perfect example of reading too much between the lines—interpreting an absolutely selfish gesture as a saintly one.
    Vijayender, Hyderabad

    Sonia must have felt exactly like a first-time bungee jumper looking down from the Petronas Tower. She must have felt dizzy and her stomach must have churned a bit. Look at what she was getting into: a coalition government with allies to be relied on as surely as you can skate on thin ice; foes completely out of control and out of mind baying for her blood; a fractured verdict—more anti-bjp than pro-Congress—making any meaningful governance impossible. She could have ended up with a lot of egg on face. One then didn’t need to be a saint to take the decision she has; she’d have been a saint had she become PM. Her "inner voice" was very wise counsel.
    She has total authority over
    the government but not full responsibility for its actions—the egg would not all be on her face. She’d be able to face people and seek a clearer mandate next time.
    B.V. Raghavan, Gurgaon

    To even suggest that India gave a mandate for Sonia Gandhi to be the PM when she led her party to win less than one-third seats in parliamentary elections is as weird as the idea that communal riots are acceptable because Narendra Modi won the assembly election by two-thirds majority.
    Ashok Agarwal, Calcutta

    Sonia has denied herself the immediate pleasure of becoming India’s PM for ensuring long-term gains for her children and the Congress. This concept is called delayed gratification by psychologists and tyaga by the millions of common people of India who practice it daily in providing for their children and grandchildren.
    N. Saraswati, Secunderabad

    Hey, now I know why Outlook’s decided to confer sainthood on Sonia. It is to apologise and get close to the new administration which as per its opinion and exit polls was set to lose. Well, if you can’t back a winning horse before the race, might as well cajole it after the race is won.
    Sunil N. Rangaiah, Nanjangud

    What’s all this ranting about Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins? This country has a history of foreign rulers, most of them invited by us. Starting with Muhammad Ghori who was invited by the Rajput rebels of Prithviraj Chauhan to attack India in the 12th century. AD 1526, enter Babar, again egged on by distraught elements in Ibrahim Lodhi’s regime. Since then we’ve had a fair share of our own Mir Jafars plundering India with foreign collaboration. But now we’re a democracy. So all those irked by Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins can try their luck five years from now.
    Saif ul Islam, New Delhi

    It’s debatable whether Sonia Gandhi refused to become PM out of any spirit of renunciation. What’s praiseworthy though is that unlike other politicians she knows what her limitations are.
    Prashanth Pai, Mumbai

    Let us hear no more of Sonia’s foreign origin; she has more patriotism in her little finger than the power-hungry Sonia-baiters in all their bodies.
    P.D. Gupta, New Delhi

    While we rush to canonise and ‘Indianise’ the Lady, let’s be alive to the fact that the western media is projecting her as some sort of an Indian version of Lawrence of Arabia.
    Vinayak Sathe, Goa

    It’s the irony of democracy that a man who has been voted out of power (P.M. Sayeed) has become the power minister!
    Abhilash Thadhani, on e-mail

    Amidst all the noise regarding the rights of Indian citizenship surrounding Sonia Gandhi, let me piggyback the disgraceful fact that the average Indian citizen does not have the simple right to buy an acre of rural land to settle down anywhere in the Himalayas or a dozen other regions across the country. As an example, I’m not allowed to buy rural land in Meghalaya, even though I was born there as were several generations of my paternal ancestors because I’m not a local ‘tribal’.
    Shankar Barua, on e-mail

    Isn’t Manmohan Singh the same man who, as finance minister, allocated Rs 100 crore for the Rajiv Gandhi memorial fund on Sonia’s request? She doesn’t have anything to worry about; the ‘family’, if not the country, is in safe hands. As one Malayalam channel pointed out, earlier we had rubber-stamp presidents, now we have a rubber-stamp PM.
    Venugopal, on e-mail

    We have to admire the Left. It allowed the Congress and others to grab the plum ministries. And since these new ministers—back in power after a long time—will be loath to give up its trappings, they will allow the Left and trade unions to set the agenda for governance. With 60 MPs, the Left will rule the country.
    Anand and Swati Sriram, Mumbai

    Reading about the new government’s foreign policy (Be Global, Act Local, May 31) was disturbing. As far as external affairs was concerned, the nda government had a bold, mature and pragmatic policy. The Left, on the other hand, is stuck in a time-freeze, its mindset changed little from the ’30s and ’40s. And with the Congress mired in the Cold War-nam era, we are definitely headed for the backrows of the global arena.
    Thomas V. John, Chennai

  • Sonia’s Goodbye A Halo To Sainthood? No, Just Arrivederci
    Jun 14, 2004

    Dr Arvind Panagariya seems to be good with enlightened afterthought (Don’t Prick the Bubble, May 31). Forget reforms with the cpi and cpi(m) calling the shots. The Congress’ priority will be to keep the coalition going, which will leave them with only one option: compromise, compromise and more compromise to satisfy the Left. Take a good hard look at the content of the Congress cabinet, it’s a classic case of old wine in old bottles. The party’s bane is the fuddy-duddies that run it. What happened to all that new blood? And finally, by percentage of votes, the bjp is the most popular party in India. Please do not write them off so quickly.
    Joseph Pereira, Karachi, Pakistan

    Apropos Swapan Dasgupta’s column (May 31), the only thing Sonia’s "inner voice" told her was that it was more important to keep the party in power for a full term than follow any potentially short-term ambitions. Manmohan Singh’s job is purely to keep the PM’s seat warm until Rahul/Priyanka are groomed for the job. He is nothing but a caretaker PM. Dynastic power is simply as harmful as religious fundamentalism. The tragedy is, India can choose only the lesser of the two evils.
    Rustam Roy, London

    Although I agree with most things Dasgupta talks about, I wouldn’t call Sonia Mother India ever. Macbeth of India maybe.
    T. Lakshminath, Hyderabad

    Is there any other country more secular than India where 80 per cent of the population is Hindu, the President is a Muslim, the PM is a Sikh, the power behind the PM is a Christian whose father-in-law was a Parsi?
    N.B. Grant, Pune

    What’s next on the bjp agenda. The reservation of the top post of PM for Hindus only?
    Pinaki Chakraborty, on e-mail

    Anita Pratap’s assessment in Some High Road Chinks (May 31) is correct. However, it’s a tad too early to completely disregard Vajpayee’s contribution. True, Vajpayee did not yank Modi out, but his discomfiture and sadness were all too evident. Unfortunately, his head ruled over his heart, bowing to the rss derision towards liberals in their midst.
    Anupam Dasgupta, Jaipur

    It’s too early to even discuss Vajpayee’s place in history and least of all by one like Anita Pratap. She is a Nehru-Gandhi family sycophant who recently wrote a vapid column about the Gandhi children "leading" India.
    Suren Sukhtankar, Michigan, US

    Earlier on, I would find myself disagreeing, even vehemently disliking Prem Shankar Jha. But having read his eulogy, A Little Hindu Fable (May 31), I am convinced that the gentleman is suffering from schizophrenia and needs immediate psychiatric help.
    Vikrant Nath, Lucknow

    We Indians delight in melodrama, kitsch and jingoism. No wonder, politics, cricket and Bollywood are an integral part of our daily lives. Sonia Gandhi’s ‘act’ has evoked outright schmaltz, panegyric and, as is the wont of such a democracy, a great deal of cynicism. Jha is one such case in point. An erudite, often impassive analyst, especially in case of the Iraqi situation, he gets all emotional and Hindu over the issue of Sonia Gandhi. Hopefully, it’s just the child in him and not merely a way of ingratiating himself to the new government.
    Krishna Nair, Jabalpur, MP

    Jha should know that Lord Rama and Buddha completely renounced power, as did the Mahatma. They also renounced worldly possessions. Sonia Gandhi has done no such thing. She has rejected the premiership, but retained power. Her ‘renunciation’ is more a political drama than a godly act.
    Sidharth Bhatia, New York, US

    Apropos Vinod Mehta’s Delhi Diary (May 31), Outlook is scaling new heights of Sonia worship and anti-bjpism. What shocked me was the use of terms like "Hindu nationalists", "racists" and "xenophobes". Since when have Indian journalists started using terms used by the western media to paint a picture of India and its government? Isn’t it high time our media shed its ideological associations and reported objectively?
    Abhishek Dhama, on e-mail

    Vinod Mehta gives a very apt description of our ex-PM. He was always concerned about keeping his image clean and never about doing what was right, especially in the case of Gujarat. Well, he can’t win people’s hearts by his poetry alone!
    Mohita Bhansali, New Delhi

    The devotional outpourings of Vinod Mehta and Prem Shankar Jha have made me realise that Sonia Gandhi is Gautam Buddha, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Kalki avatar and her own divine self rolled into one. Hallelujah.
    Atin Gupta, on e-mail

    Once your magazine is done with praising Sonia Gandhi, it should write something about the legal issues that would have arisen in Sonia becoming the PM.
    Hasika Sujay, on e-mail

    I have a serious suggestion for you, Mr Mehta. With the elevation of Jaipal Reddy and Kapil Sibal, there exists a vacancy in the ruling party—the Congress—for a spokesperson. It’s a post you and your journalism would suit most.
    B.K. Agrawal, on e-mail

    Our elections have once again proved to the world that we are nothing but a DAMN-MOCK-Cracy.
    H.P. Pande, Bangalore

  • ‘Friendly’ Fire
    Jun 14, 2004

    Manu Joseph’s article Night at Jinn’s (April 12) was in bad taste. It presents a distorted picture of the urban society in Pakistan and takes a cynical view of the expression of hospitality by the people the author met. While most sportswriters were appreciative of the people going out of their way to be hospitable to the visiting Indian cricket fans, Mr Joseph in contrast has adopted a biased attitude. Mr Joseph inter alia tries to convey the impression that the consumption of alcohol is common among the urban youth. This is a travesty of fact. He charges hotel owners with "shamelessly ripping off several Indians" and disdainfully describes the expression of goodwill by his interlocutors as "endless sermons on brotherhood and peace". It is generally felt that the media has played a great role in the promotion of goodwill between Pakistan and India after the resumption of the peace process and the holding of the cricket series. Mr Joseph’s article is a regrettable exception.
    Kamran Ali Khan, Press Minister, Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi

  • Term Of Enslavement
    Jun 14, 2004

    Apropos Red Curry Feels Good (May 31), do you really have to use the ‘Hindu’ rate of growth jibe of colonial vintage? When will you realise that such loose comments turn away liberal Hindus who may otherwise subscribe to your views.
    Venkat Subramaniam, on e-mail

  • Sick Bay
    Jun 14, 2004

    The images of US brutalities at Abu Ghraib prison (Newsbag, May 17) are horrific. But I don’t buy the excuse of the US army that it was a leadership problem. The reasons are embedded in two facts of American psyche. One, the nation is one of immigrants who cannot transcend the call of the wild west and its culture. This is reflected in all aspects of behaviour in society—to bully and bluster is their patented method. Isn’t it so apparent in their foreign policy? Two, GI Joe cannot be blamed. He just followed the cold-blooded army doctrine of R2I. The problem really is that these instructions violate the Geneva Conventions. The fault lies with the leadership of the defence secretary and the chief of the army staff—they can violate all norms of society, and who are we to question them?
    Lt Col (Retd) Ranjit Sen, Gurgaon

  • Lost In Translation
    Jun 14, 2004

    Kuldip Nayar could have done better than cite Jinnah’s example in his column Abhor Singularity! (May 31). That was a very poor example and to this very day makes very little sense considering the politics and bloodshed which preceded and followed it! Jinnah did not singularly constitute the Muslim League and, silently or not, did condone the actions of his more communal followers. Second, as far as Sardar Patel is concerned, maybe Nayar will do himself and us a favour by reading the unabridged version of Maulana Azad’s India Wins Freedom. It’s a contradiction to use the Maulana and the Sardar as examples in one and the same sentence, especially in the present context.
    Raveesh Varma, Michigan, US

    Nayar’s logic is logic-defying. Instead of estimating the harm pseudo-seculars have caused to the composite culture of this country, he simply closes his eyes towards minority appeasement in the name of secularism. Now that a debate has started in the country about secularism, one can easily understand the discomfort of pseudo-secularists.
    Sachin Dixit, Mumbai

  • Harmful Benevolence
    Jun 14, 2004

    We’re a secular, democratic development agency committed to the empowerment of working and other marginalised children through child rights and participation. This is regarding the article Lunch Break’s Up (May 10). We understand it’s an attempt to make quality education accessible to children who may not be able to afford it. The very first area of concern we have, as an organisation working with children for over two decades, is that children from marginalised sections will feel further marginalised and vulnerable amidst their elite counterparts. The forceful integration may end up placing children in humiliating and demoralising circumstances. The second area of concern is that public schools, having accepted a verdict they don’t necessarily approve of, may create an environment which makes it impossible for children from marginalised communities to cope with.
    Kavita, The Concerned for Working Children

  • Star-Crossed Billings
    Jun 14, 2004

    As a regular reader of your magazine’s film reviews, I must say that your yardstick for judging films has left me completely baffled. How else would you explain "must see" tags for ordinary films like Main Hoon Na and Kal Ho Naa Ho and "avoidable" ones to Kamal’s Anbe Sivam and Virumandi. Even a refreshingly funny film like Munnabhai mbbs managed only a watchable tag. As has Yuva, now that I open the latest issue of your magazine. Instead of judging films, I suggest Outlook can just review and leave the decision of watching it or not to the intelligence of the filmgoer.
    Varun Venkateswaran, on e-mail

  • Sorry, I’m Late
    Jun 14, 2004

    A late submission to Vinod Mehta’s call for killing cliches. Nausea overtakes me whenever I come across the phrases "this time around" and "the story doing the rounds". And you, Outlook, are also guilty.
    D. Venkatesan, Chennai

    More than cliches, it’s the constant code-mixing and code-switching by politicians that’s most irritating.
    Seyies Whiso, on e-mail

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