America's shame

Published : Oct 21, 2005 00:00 IST

Katrina, Rita, the tsunami are nature's retribution for humankind's arrogance (Cover Story, October 7). Bush's arms were no match for nature's fury. Man should remember that in pain, suffering and death, all people, irrespective of the country they belong to, speak the same language. Instead of fighting with one another, nations should wage war against poverty, ignorance and suffering.

S. Raghunatha PrabhuAlappuzha, Kerala

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The title "America's shame" would be offensive to the other sovereign nations on the two American continents. Countries such as Canada and those ranging from Mexico to Argentina would surely not like to be branded as "American", at least in this context.

The United States has been persistently using the term American to describe itself for want of an alternative adjective (or possibly out of more sinister motives like those of the Project for the New American Century). U.S. legal pundits who have created phrases such a collateral damage are definitely clever enough to come forward with a suitable new name for their country, amending their Constitution if necessary. There are plenty of precedents such as Persia (Iran) and Burma (Myanmar). Until then the rest of us should perhaps use some term like U.S.ians to refer to U.S. citizens and discourage the semantically questionable proliferation of usages such as American embassy, American passport, American empire and American way of life. Some other nation, say Honduras, may be equally justified in calling itself America officially.

T. TharuChennai

Adoor Gopalakrishnan

The Dadasaheb Phalke Award conferred on Adoor Gopalakrishnan is indeed a great moment in the annals of Malayalam cinema ("A constant process of discovery", October 7). This award, generally conferred on personalities who are no longer active in their trade, is definitely a surprise as Adoor is still going strong. "South India's Satyajit Ray" has showcased Malayalam cinema not only to the national audience, but made the international film fraternity sit up and watch his immortal films such as Elippathayam, Swayamvaram and Kathapurushan. In the present age of cult violence and sex, Adoor's films are exceptions. It is unfortunate that good films like the ones produced by Adoor do not succeed commercially. Instead of encouraging producers of non-commercial art films, the government extends all sorts of help to commercial cinema producers. Taking a leaf from Adoor's "Chalacharitra", a production-cum-distribution centre for personal films outside the commercial sector, at least now the government should correct itself and extend all help to the non-commercial (art) films.

H. SrinivasanChennai

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Ethics is as important as aesthetics to Adoor Gopalakrishnan. His works are both simple and complex. He communicated his ideas on his own terms, respecting the intelligence of the viewers.

T.V. JayaprakashPalakkad, Kerala

Rajasthan farmers

The new waves of struggle across the Hindi belt are encouraging ("Farmers' triumph", October 7). The new status of the Left in national politics has attracted many people who are fighting against the anti-people policies of the rulers. It will be definitely a turning point in the political arena if the struggles of various sections of people acquire a political character.

HariViridhunagar, Tamil Nadu

NCF 2005

This is in response to K.M. Shrimali's comments about Ronald Inden's book Imagining India ("Another retreat of reason", October 7). The historian's attack on the book and its author is not correct.

Indeed the expressions "Hinduism epitomises the Mind of India", "Dravidian Mind" and so on occur in this book, but as "quotations" from earlier authors whose "imaginings" of India Inden analyses and criticises. Indeed on page 130 of the book he clearly states: "... we would have to give up the major presupposition of this discourse - that there is some essence called the Hindu mind that can be captured and summed up in a `non-Western' civilisation or world religions course syllabus. Conjointly we should also want to get out of the habit of equating Indian thought with Hinduism and equating Hinduism with... Advaita Vedanta."

And "Muslim Turks" were indeed Muslim, and they indeed brought about the "collapse of Hindu Kingship" in north India in the 13th century, as is well documented. As for the claim that caste acquired its later contours after this, while this may be disputed, there is nothing inherently implausible about it.

Debraj ChakrabartiMadison, U.S.

Alice Thorner

Two facts mentioned in my article need correction ("End of an engagement", September 23). Indian newspapers had carried a news item on Charles Bettelheim's death and I had also referred to it in my piece. The news is not correct. A scholar from Europe informed me that Bettelheim is hospitalised at present with serious health problems.

Dr. Ashok Mitra pointed out that Alice was born not in 1918, but in mid-November 1917. She was proud to say that she was born on the last day of the Russian Revolution of 1917, referring no doubt to John Reed's Ten Days That Shook the World.

Utsa PatnaikNew Delhi


Citing from the book India in the Mirror of Foreign Diplomatic Archives, A.G. Noorani writes that "Jagat S. Mehta, then Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs at the China Desk, who became Foreign Secretary", told a British diplomat in the aftermath of the Nehru-Zhou summit of April 1960 that Nehru could not have intended to negotiate with the Chinese as he had not studied the brief prepared for him by his advisers ("Our secrets in others' trunks", July 15). This is incorrect. Max Zins cites a British diplomatic dispatch that this information was conveyed by "K.L. Mehta". I have seen the document under question and can confirm it. K.L. Mehta was the Joint Secretary, Eastern Division in the MEA whereas J.S. Mehta was a Deputy Secretary in the same division.

Srinath RaghavanKing's College, London

A.G. Noorani writes:

It is a fact that Jagat S. Mehta was actively involved in the border talks as Director, China Division, and not as Joint Secretary. He was the leader of the team of Indian officials set up under the Nehru-Zhou agreement at the April 1960 summit to study the documentary material on the border with China's officials. It is this fact, which at this distance of time, let the error creep in, which is regretted. The error was all the more understandable because the remarks attributed to Jagat S. Mehta are, as anyone who has heard him know, very much in character.

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