Letters | Dec 27, 2004
  • Whose Prose Is It Anyway? Purple Twist To The Tale
    Dec 27, 2004

    The ability to cultivate self-mastery and the power to guide; to acquire wisdom, insight and understanding; to access enlightenment and illumination and to practice respect, radiance and compassion and thereby govern the expression of spiritual power—and not the mere accession to an institutional position of leadership—that is the hallmark of a seer. Jayendra Saraswati may have aspired to such a life dedicated to spiritual development and service to humanity. If the charges against him are true, however—and he knows very well the extent of their truth or otherwise—then he has greatly fallen short of his goals (How the Gods Fall, Dec 13). So if he wishes to press on towards them nevertheless, then he must articulate the truth for all to hear, relinquish the institutional positions he has shown himself currently unable to handle and spend time regaining the spiritual skills he lost or never really attained. May he learn from the profound humiliation of his failure.
    Nirmalan Dhas, Colombo, Sri Lanka

    I don’t know about the other allegations but have come across instances that establish the Kanchi seer’s bias towards the Brahmins. A relative of mine who worked in a cement factory long back told me that once Jayendra Saraswati had visited the factory for a religious function, where he asked for the services of a doctor to inject insulin. He did not allow the Christian medical officer to do so and instead asked the manager in attendance to look for a Brahmin doc outside the campus. Having failed to locate one, a Brahmin compounder finally did the needful. Then, when a vvip from Malaysia visited the math, the seer apparently spent three-fourths of the time enquiring after the Brahmins in Malaysia, leaving the dignitary thoroughly disgusted. A popular Tamil journal also once wrote of how when Jayalalitha had to step down temporarily from the post of CM after the Supreme Court verdict, she had consulted the seer, inter alia, about a stand-in and he asked her whether there was no Brahmin legislator.
    R. Ramakrishnan, Chennai

    Is it Hinduism alone that is available for post-mortem by Outlook or do you not have the guts to investigate other religions with the same vengeance? Attacking Hinduism is akin to hunting an injured antelope, it takes a lot of courage to go in for the wild cat.
    Navin Batta, Muscat, Oman

    Like the Kanchi seer, there are many other godmen in the country who take advantage of people’s admiration for them. In one such godman’s domain, two youngsters were shot dead but given the political clout he has, no investigation followed. And so he still uses his ‘divine’ power to pull a diamond necklace out of the air and produce crystal shivalingams from his mouth. Yet another religious leader was said to have been dismissed in his earlier avatar as a government servant. Today, his past lies buried firmly in the past and he has a huge following, including several central and state ministers.
    P. Raam Kumar, Chennai

    Your Chennai correspondent, S. Anand, has missed his calling. He ought to have been in the entertainment industry. He has been regaling readers with entertaining fiction on the Shankaracharya for the past few weeks. His December 6 story (10 Minutes in a Life) was a hypnotic account of the Shankaracharya’s "confessions". It ascribed to him the statement—"To powerful ministers and industrialists, I was a ladder, now the ladder’s broken. I held the Brahmins of this land together like a sack, that sack’s torn; to the Dalits I was a vessel that offered them water, that vessel’s broken." Note: the Shankaracharya does not talk or write like Arundhati Roy. His speech is serious, solemn, staid. No purple patches, no soap opera stuff. Far less exciting than Mr Anand’s prose. Whoever fabricated the Kanchi seer’s ‘confessions’ should have read his writings first. The Shankarachrya has emphatically denied any confessions. He asserts: "When I have done nothing wrong, what’s there to confess?"
    S.R. Madhu, Chennai

    The Tamil Nadu government announced a solatium of Rs 5 lakh to Sankararaman’s kin and chief minister Jayalalitha personally handed over the amount in the TN Secretariat to the family of the deceased. The next day the family was asked to identify the killers. SP Prem Kumar roamed around in a Cessna aircraft owned by the TN government to apprehend the killers. The Kanchipuram SP was in direct contact with the CM on the issue ignoring the digs and IGs. Suddenly all killings in Kanchi are being investigated for links with the Kanchi seer. Of course, when the major sections of the media are vying with one another to applaud Jayalalitha for her secular values and her statement that the law would take its course, she has nothing to fear. Of course, one should forget incidents like the acid attack on Chandralekha, corruption charges ranging from the tansi land deals to the disproportionate assets case and what not. Jayalalitha, it seems, has emerged as the new darling of the left-liberal secular media.
    S. Gautam, New Delhi

    Does Outlook have any evidence for all that it publishes or do its correspondents just shoot their mouths off (The Saintly Soul and the Material Man)? How can you prove that the Kanchi math is a Rs 2,000-crore empire? And why doesn’t it bother you that Christian missionaries are sending in huge sums of money just for conversions in India?
    Subramaniam, Chennai

    When it was ‘tainted’ ministers, the bjp and its allies went to town demanding their resignations. But now that it’s ‘tainted’ seers, they have the gall to act affronted. Are they for real?
    B.R. Iniyavan, Chennai

    bjp worthies including Vajpayee, Advani and Sushma Swaraj who made a spectacle of themselves sitting on a dharna for this most immoral character should hang their heads in shame after reading your stories.
    Dilip Vaidya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    Do we have to believe Sankararaman’s letters and words because he is dead? Why do we have to make a martyr out of him? His death seems to have become a convenient tool for the others to nail the Shankaracharya.
    G.S., Guntur, Andhra Pradesh

    I was surprised that our great netas like A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani didn’t call for a ‘Bharat bandh’ when the Hindu forest brigand died in an encounter death, as he was a better Hindu than the fallen gods of the Kanchi math.
    O.A. Rajappan, Ernakulam

    Storywriter Anuradha Ramanan may have sold her story ‘If you cooperate, I can extend you all benefits’ for a few lakhs, a lot of money for a 56-year-old widow suffering from various ailments. Along with the money, she could also be hoping for the national recognition that’s eluded her via her story-writing. Most important: why did she go to Kanchipuram to inaugurate the math’s children’s hospital in 2003?
    Shobha Ramesh, on e-mail

    If Anuradha Ramanan’s courageous story is indeed true, it is absolutely shocking.
    Divyesh Raythatha, Dover, US

    Being a fiction writer, let’s say Ms Ramanan has a natural flair for it. Besides, she seems to have spent 12 years writing it and chosen excellent timing to release it!
    K. Vijayan, Chennai

    With the Jayalalitha government backing her to the hilt, one wonders what the real story behind Anuradha Ramanan is. What are the advantages she is getting for telling us this story 12 years after the event happened?
    R.S. Aiyer, Charlotte, NC, US

    The Kanchi seer controversy has shattered the world of lakhs of Indians much like match-fixing did some years ago. But like the match-fixing revelation cleansed the game of the plague, so will the Kanchi seer’s trial bode good for Hindu religion as a whole as it will come as a caution to other religious heads and institutions. The Shankaracharya’s misdeeds remind me of the Monk in Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. To a religious devout citizen who questions his misdeeds as the head of a religious institution, the Monk says: "Don’t do what I do, Do what I say."
    S. Chakradhar Raju, Hyderabad

    Many of your readers are accusing you of editorialising on the seer issue and giving your own touch to the stories. I see nothing wrong with that. Readers should be made aware of the unholy goings-on in a revered place such as the Kanchi math whose tradition is impeccable and glorious. Indians hold that tradition dearer than anything else. Nobody, whoever he or she maybe, should be allowed to blemish a tradition that is the soul of the nation.
    G. Jayan, Thiruvananthapuram

    I am convinced the Kanchi pontiff is directly involved in the murder of Sankararaman. Let the courts punish him for it. Why do you have to dig up more dirt to dish it out to your readers?
    Dinesh Kumar K.S., Bangalore

    We need a strong system to clean up this mess and make every religious institution more accountable and religious leaders less powerful.
    Vani Shankar, Minneapolis, US

    Balbir Punj in his column Hanged before Hearing (Dec 6) hides the whole pumpkin in a heap of rice on a plantain leaf.
    V. Sankaran, Madurai

    Your cover story was a good read after the sanitary coverage by English language papers.
    Gita Ramaswamy, Chennai

    If this were a Hindi film, the only thing remaining would be for Sankararaman to emerge, utterly alive.
    Rajneesh Batra, New Delhi

  • Flight Of Imagination
    Dec 27, 2004

    The air chief should think of the well-being of the air force before ‘leaking’ such ridiculous allegations as in Air of Uncertainty (Dec 13) against avms Harish Masand and T.S. Chhatwal. Those who watched Masand flying in Delhi from 1987 to 1989 and later in Poona appreciate his flying skills. As an aviation enthusiast, I know Masand took over the Poona air force base after air officer commanding, Air Cmde C.D. Chandrasekar, died in a tragic MiG-29 crash in 1997. The young, rookie MiG-29 pilots who saw the crash happening before their eyes had lost all faith in the machine. It was Masand who was able to bring back their confidence by performing aerobatics to dispel any doubt about the capability of the aircraft. This is proof enough of his man-management skills. Su-30s too were inducted and made operational under his command. I have friends who tell me that the whole air force respects avm Masand and was saddened that a most deserving officer was not promoted while other sycophants were.
    Rajnish Sharma, New Delhi

    Having seen the iaf’s culture of sycophancy first hand, I can assure you that in any system that places review by senior officers as a condition for promotion, personal scores will be settled and promotions will never reflect true merit. The two avms might be guilty of what they are accused of, but how do we know the officers who were promoted were not guilty of equivalent misdemeanours, or worse? Any officer who wants promotion to a higher rank in the services better stay on the right side of the powers-that-be, otherwise it’s all too easy to screw up his career, especially with promotion policies such as these.
    Biswapriya Purkayastha, Shillong

    The air chief is but obviously trying to hide behind "the policy approved by the government". His own acts of misdemeanour should be investigated—along with why he was awarded a ‘displeasure’ while he was assistant air attache in the UK and a censure during his stay with the south western air command.
    Ashok Chhibber, Pune

  • Papa’s Boy
    Dec 27, 2004

    If you look back 7-10 years, Dhirubhai was an unsavoury name who bribed all and sundry to get rich. That same man today is being deified as the guy who changed the face of corporate India. The Congress, and Congress supporters like Prem Shankar Jha who can today pen a piece like Abort the Family Way (Dec 13), would not have had the intelligence or the guts then to acknowledge him as a pioneer.
    Rajesh Chary, Brighton, UK

    Anil Ambani’s entry into politics started his downfall. Dhirubhai used political parties to his advantage by bribing his way up. Anil probably thought he’d save some money, that he could avoid paying bribes if he was in political power himself. His plight should be a lesson for Sahara’s Subroto Roy. Indians are just not used to the idea of ‘establishments’. They need individual demigods. It’s a cultural thing.
    VSR, New Delhi

    Kudos Outlook. With Nita and Tina, you have turned a professional battle into a vaudeville act.
    Yugal Joshi, Delhi

  • Fatal Abstraction
    Dec 27, 2004

    I’m mystified by the short-sighted evaluation your article Is Oesophagus the Pharynx (Dec 6) makes of the Class 12 microeconomics book I’ve authored. Four "irrelevant" topics are cited (out of possibly more), all of which are issues and applications about the functioning of a market economy—dealt in microeconomics. Aren’t famines, technology change, etc, pertinent issues? How are these irrelevant? It is their absence that’s wrong. Do we want a book minimising issues/applications and maximising abstractions and drudgery? Spelling and other such slips do occur in the initial printing of ncert books. But they are easily rectifiable and by no means a reflection on the overall quality of the book.
    Satya P. Das, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi

    Thank God the last BJP government didn’t think geography was history and so expected you to refer to history textbooks!
    Filzer T., Kannur

  • No NRI Syrup Please
    Dec 27, 2004

    While stories on returning nris are welcome (Pilgrim’s Progress, Dec 13), one wonders whether this ‘community’ is hogging more than a fair share of media coverage. What is just plain obligation is portrayed as ‘sacrifice’. If you have at some point been associated with a Citibank, a Morgan Stanley or a nasa, earned enough money and then given it all up to return to swades, there is no patriot like you. The fact that you have a Western education somehow makes you more qualified to lift the "toiling masses" of the morass they are in. Why can’t filmmakers trace a day in the life of a traffic cop, a coal miner or a soldier in Kashmir? Why not focus on the educated Indian who never went abroad in the first place, but selflessly chose to do his bit without expecting much in return?
    Manu Rajan, Bangalore

    If the nris had any sense, they’d wait and watch before burning all their money in a spirit of patriotism, nris would be well advised to keep their money outside India instead of letting the thieves who run the country walk away with them and use them for funding "free dhoti" or "free electricity" schemes to buy votes next elections.
    Karvin K., Chennai

    How come your story Rooster’s Call made no mention of doctors coming back to India? Are there none who came back? Was the future not bright enough for them?
    Simran Bagai, Chicago, US

    I wonder how nasscom could know the number of returning Indian IT professionals when even the excise and customs department has no clue!
    Anjali, Bangalore

  • The Crows Of My Village
    Dec 27, 2004

    Despite all the candy-floss attempts to extol the ‘Return of the NRI’, not one film till date has managed to address the real, disconcerting issue in there (Pilgrim’s Progress, Dec 13). And it is not just about the nri’s unflinching desire to feed the doves in his village nor in keeping alive the flame of the old-world bharatiya traditions or in exporting Indian bahus for their wayward Americanised sons. It’s about being a responsible citizen, in fully understanding one’s duties towards India, in being selfless, in being patriotic in action rather than in word and in trying to solve out our problems that are more rooted in the soil. So, as Ashutosh Gowariker rightly says, "Go ahead if you get a chance to work abroad but do look back at what you have left behind." That rightfully explains the nri predicament. Waiting eagerly for Swades.
    Neelima Kiran, Bangalore

  • Dec 27, 2004

    In Making a Difference (Dec 20), S.V.M. Satyanarayana’s phone number was wrong. The correct number is 094443-46247. We regret the error.

  • Vanity Unfair
    Dec 27, 2004

    The Indian scenes in Vanity Fair are gratuitous, jarring and historically wrong perhaps (Glitterati, Dec 13). The image of India is made to conform to Western expectations and stereotypes. Perhaps Mira Nair, like other nri and Indian-foreign hyphens, now accepts Western definitions of India as the real ones and turns a rich reality on its head.
    Nitin Kibe, Washington DC, US

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