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Sunday, May 2, 1999

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The fault is not in our stars...

THE Chamoli earthquake, by any yardstick, would be reckoned as one of the earth-shaking (pun certainly intended) events of 1999. Close to a hundred people died, several times that number of houses were destroyed and the entire north-west India was rudely jolted. And yet in his forecast for the year March 14), Sansar Chandra did not have a word to say about it. He could not even predict a geo-physical event on which planetary bodies should, because of similarity of constituent elements, have had a direct bearing. And he claims that he can foretell the destinies of men and nations, abstract notions and far removed from physical reality as they are.

Sansar Chandra of course, is only one of the tribe who peddle a trade popularly known as astrology. Clothed in all their mumbo-jumbo about planets and houses, and ascendants and descendants, what they offer is nothing more than inane generalities that any person with average intelligence can forecast. Soothsayers seldom predict specific events. And if they do and turn out to be wrong, how many people really remember what they had said.

Did any astrologer forecast the Khanna train disaster? Or, the Charkhi Dadri air collision? Or the Rohtak floods in the early part of this decade? Read the columns preceding these disasters and there will be no mention of them at all. What will be found, as in Sansar Chandra’s article, is something like "either World War III or a nuclear war stand rules out altogether." Anyone could have said that. And, still, if it does actually happen there will be no one around to recall that the learned sage had predicted otherwise.

There are some more gems in the article: "There will be a change in the existing power structure, thus causing a steep deterioration in the administrative set-up and the law and order machinery." Really? Then he states: "Jammu and Kashmir will remain a trouble spot for a longer time." And, "Corruption, nepotism, misapproriation of public funds and amassing of wealth disproportionate to their means will be rampant." Further, " Congress on the other hand shall be on its way to recover lost ground." So, what else is new? What can astrologers tell us that any person who follows news regularly cannot?

To put their prognostications beyond the pale of human understanding and to cover them with mystique, all predictions are packaged in unintelligible verbiage.

No less esoteric are these lines: "Capricorn, the sign representing India, is ill sighted (by Mars and Saturn both) and malefic (trounced by a trio consisting of Uranus, Neptune and Ketu)." This kind of hocus-pocus is the leitmotiv of astrology. Invoking planets as determinants of destinies of people on the Earth is a part of the attempt to give it the veneer of science. But unless a cause and effect relationship can be established nobody of knowledge can be considered a science. Can anyone say how a mass of gases, rocks, minerals and congealed lava — which is what the planets and stars are — can determine when a person will fall sick, marry, travel, prosper, or die? How can they regulate the fate of societies and nations?

At this point the forecast trade comes up with a very ingenious explanation — gravity. This seven letter word is supposed to be the basis of all astrological calculations. The theory goes something like this. This position of the planetary bodies, which includes the zodiac constellations, at the exact moment of a person’s birth (why not before or after?), by virtue of their gravitational pull, determines his or her fate.

When twins are born, the planets are in the same position for both of them. Then how is it that their lives follow such different courses? Because, "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars ...."


Struggle without a pause

Apropos of Anupama Mahajan’s write-up "Struggle without a pause" (April 4), although the Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959, most Tibetans remain devoted to their leader and long for his return. A deeply religious people, they are almost always at odds with what they consider as crude meterialism and cultural superiority flaunted by their rulers. Indeed, half a century of Chinese rule has apparently done nothing to weaken their sense of nationhood.

Regardless of Beijing’s rigid stand, as reflected in the last year’s White Papers, leaders of the Tibetans in exile insist that the Dalai Lama is ready to negotiate with the Chinese leadership to resolve the future status of Tibet. In fact, in 1988 he had announced, in his Strasbourg proposal at the European Parliament that he would be willing to concede Chinese sovereignty over Tibet if China guaranteed self-government in Tibet. But Beijing did not respond to the Dalai Lama’s constructive and conciliatory proposals, including his offer to visit Tibet and giving the Tibetan people their fundamental human rights.

The Chinese government is highly critical of the Dalai Lama. It accused him of vilifying and attacking the development and progress made in new Tibet and fabricating statistics to confuse world opinion. After the Dalai Lama rejected the conditions laid down by President Jiang Zemin, China has firmly shut the door on negotiations. Jiang’s conditions were acceptance of Tibet as an inalienable part of China, abandonment of the demand for independence and stopping all activities aimed at "Splitting the motherland" coupled with a warning to outside forces against meddling in his country’s affairs.

The conditions poured cold water over the efforts of well-intended mediators not interested in dismembering China.

A point that has been made repeatedly by the Dalai Lama is that the Chinese government is pursuing deliberate plans to change the ethnic composition of Tibet by settling Han Chinese in large numbers and allowing them to dominate the economy and the services. According to him, ethnic Tibetans have already been reduced to a minority in their own land. The allegation has been refuted by Beijing.

Thus both sides put out different versions of the reasons for breakdown of the dialogue initiated some years ago. This causes dismay to those who favour the settlement of the autonomy issue without questioning China’s sovereignty.


Discipline yourself

This refers to Taru Bahl’s article "Discipline as an act of love" (April 18). Everyone wants their children to grow into responsible youth who should be a positive asset to society. Naturally, no one wishes their wards to be indisciplined, brute, rough and aggressive. Nor do people desire to have timid children, exploited, dominated and bossed over by everyone else. Everyone hopes to develop a balanced attitude of mind in their children.

Despite all this, most of us have a lopsided approach to discipline verging on the extremes. Either we are dictatorial and tyrannical or we have a too lenient and liberal viewpoint. Sometimes with ruthlessness we adhere to routines, while at others every decision is judged on the norms of individual freedom, equality and human rights Naturally, extremes lead to decadence, and finally heartbreak.

As parents, teachers and guardians we must realise that every child has an independent entity. He is equipped with his own capabilities fancies, whims and understanding of his surroundings. Discipline should not imply imposing on him any particular set of dos and don’ts. Rather our efforts should aim at helping him to understand and channell his strength and wisdom to handle crises with creative determination. Every child, as every situation, determines his own norms of discipline.



Your pullout on the Tercentenary of the Khalsa (April 11) was superb. Please accept our compliments.

(Received on the-mail)

Culture is supreme

Pratibha Chauhan’s article "For them culture is supreme" (April 18) provided an interesting insight on marriages by Tibetans outside their community the most celebrated of such marriages is actress Mandakini (of Ram Teri Ganga Maili - fame) who married Rimpoche, a Tibetan monk from Mysore, six years ago.

Despite the Tibetans living in exile at Dharamsala for 10 years, there have been only a few cases of a Tibetan marrying an Indian or a foreigner because the Tibetans in Dharamsala and elsewhere in India mostly live in separate settlements. Each settlement is headed by a Tibetan settlement representative, appointed by the Tibetan Government-in-exile at Dharamsala. The Tibetans live in these settlements as a close knit community, not interacting much with outside people.

However, in Arunachal Pradesh a large number of Tibetans are living outside the Tibetan settlements alongwith the local population. There have been several instances of Tibetan girls marrying local youth. Because these girls are unable to find a suitable employed match within their own community, they prefer marrying Indians Arunachal Pradesh the Tibetans are fast losing their unique cultural identity and getting integrated with the local population.


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