Thursday, February 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


No one thought of Kalpana at Pravasi Bhartiya Divas

Kalpana ChawlaKALPANA exhibited a rear feat and showed fellow Indians that sky is the limit for people with right attitude and hard work. Hailing from one of the most corrupt states in India where there is gross disrespect for women, she crossed all hurdles and proved to the world in general, and India in particular, that anything is achievable.

It took her over two decades of hard work, training and dedication to accomplish the desired mission. Every Indian has the right to mourn the death of a hero. It seems that the story-hungry Indian media made a mockery of her death to optimise the mental health of the country damaged by India’s cricket defeat in the hands of New Zealand.

I must mention that India celebrated Pravasi Bhartiya Divas on January 9, 2003 and Kalpana’s name did not figure amongst the NRIs honoured by the Prime Minister. Only after her death, politicians and the media found the right stuff to suit their objectives, goals and agenda. It was an insult to Kalpana and thousands other professionals working in different fields when Haryana granted two days off (to mourn/celebrate the tragedy) when Indians already enjoy the highest number of holidays in comparison to any civilised society in the world.



I am sure no right-minded person will endorse what politicians and the media are doing to get political mileage and favourable ratings out of her death. This must stop. The media should educate the aspirants to show the means and resources available to achieve their personal goals in life as Kalpana did despite belonging to the era of corruption priests of Haryana and India.

RAJ HUNDAL, Calgary, Canada

Why holidays?

First, high praise was bestowed on the India-born astronaut for her achievements and the position she had reached by her sheer efforts. Then there was a report about the Haryana Government declaring two-day state mourning and closing all schools and offices.

Then there was a so-called astrologer declaring that the number seven was the root evil.

I and my colleagues were left wondering if Lady Kalpana had been in India, what would have been her achievements? Instead of learning from her efforts and her sheer hard work and determination and moving forward, we are bringing the entire state machinery to a grinding halt, leading to a loss in productivity.

Similarly, instead of making students aware of this lady and her achievements, the schools were closed.

And to add to the shame, this so-called astrologer blames the number. If he had his way, there would have been an astrologer consultant to monitor NASA programmes. We are a class of nincompoops and hero worshippers!


What did you do for her?

While the entire world is singing praises and also mourning the untimely death of our gutsy heroine, Kalpana Chawla, she could justifiably ask (if she were alive today) what her country and countrymen did for her in the way of recognising her historic achievements when she was a living legend?

One wonders what our government of the day, the netas and the babus manning the system of selection for the prestigious Republic Day Padma awards, would have to say in reply since merit does not seem to figure in our scheme of things.

Lt Col M.M. WALIA (retd), e-mail

ABC News coverage

I would like to bring forward the “image-tarnishing” of Kalpana Chawla being done by US media giant ABC News, at this tragic moment.

It says that “On the only other spaceflight, in 1996, she made mistakes that sent the science satellite tumbling out of control. Other astronauts had to go on spacewalk to capture it.” What kind of tribute ABC News is paying to a scientist who left her country and adopted a new country for the cause of scientific advancement. Kalpana’s achievements are clearly displayed in NASA’s biography. You can see it by clicking on the link below:

When every Indian is sad to lose a good human being, the USA should be sad to lose a good scientist. I am really sad about what’s being projected about Kalpana in the US media. I am very upset about it. This is not the way one should report about a person who risked her life for the betterment of that country. At this time of tragedy, one shouldn’t misinterpret the contribution of Kalpana.

NARESH, e-mail

Open loot by PTU

THE fees charged by the engineering colleges affiliated to PTU, Jalandhar, are said to be the highest in the country. Development charges paid by the students are approved by the AICTE, but the tuition fee and other charges are recommended by a committee constituted by the state government. How these rates were approved and what was the role of the previous V.C. of PTU who is said to be involved in a scam must be clarified by the present government.

The fee for the second semester of B.Tech in PTU colleges is around Rs 18000 but the colleges are charging Rs 21,000. The parents are helpless and nobody is there to protect their interests.

We don’t expect much from PTU because Rs 7,500, charged at the time of first counselling and supposed to be adjusted in the fee of the first semester, was not adjusted even in the fee for the second semester because PTU has not transferred the money to the respective colleges yet.

Is there anybody who can check this open loot?

K.C. DUTTA, Nakodar



Gayatri mantra

“Gayatri mantra: a song of humanity” by V.N. Datta (Jan 23) has impelled me to write this note. The learned scholar has confounded the confusion that already exists in plenty on the subject. His averment that “the Gita is a great philosophical poem” shows that he cannot distinguish one mode/realm of knowledge from another. Spirituality is an autonomous, holistic experience of ultimate reality in a fitful flash of self-realisation. It is one of these: metaphysics, mythology, the muse (poetry), or mysticism. Metaphysics, a branch of philosophy, that deals with truth, is a premises-conclusion product of rationative cerebration. Mythology is the purest creation of human imagination. The muse (poetry) is an intellectual construct of reality in word-pictures.

Mysticism as religion of the elite is too esoteric to access, much less to make sense during workaday experience. I implore Mr Datta to understand these fundamentals before dilating on the holy mantra which, if one accepts his positions — “ comparable to Dante’s Divine Comedy” — is reduced to human tragedy by (Brahma)rishi Vishwamitra.

His piece is crowded with quotes from different personages, which by mutual self-contradiction, transform the work “sublime” into “sub-line”. It suggests that “life” is something to be quarried from under (sub) the many layers of “line” (stone) deposited on the collective unconscious by centuries of opinions and counter-opinions. Punjab, the land that gave birth to the Vedas, the Ramayana and the Gita, did not/does not stand in need of the Arya Samaj to be reminded of the timeless-universal value of the scriptures it has itself produced.

There is nothing to prove or disprove the tall claim of Maharishi Davendranath Tagore because mantra (master word or holy formula) is at best a catalyst in making spirituality manifest as an experience of ultimate reality. The Nobel Laureate Tagore is also off the mark when he calls “Gayatri the lyrical epic of the soul”. Lyrical means fitted to be sung to the lyre, a musical instrument like the harp. An epic is a long narrative poem that relates heroic events in an elevated style. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are epics Gayatri mantra is recited, not sing in remembrance of the deity addressed invoked and implored.

Aurobindo is a metaphysician, not a spiritualist. Ramakrishna is spiritual, but his understanding of the holy scriptures is interpretive, not creative. Kabir is spiritual, properly so called because he practised creative mysticism (my term in replacement of religion) with unconditioned spontaneity (sahaj) as a way of life. Swami Vivekananda is a marketing executive selling his brand of spirituality globally!

The sacrosanctity of spirituality lies in the authenticating experience of the “self” — the innermost chamber of an individual’s psyche — of ultimate reality when he lets go by jettisoning the praxis, the mantras and all learning in utterly unguarded moments of contemplative remembrance of God as Truth i.e. as someone who actually exists and is not a figment of human imagination. Spirituality (not spiritualism) is always face to face with divinity in humanity. Metaphysics, at best, merely sees unity in diversity. The former is an encounter, the latter is a concept (ie a mental construct)!

If the learned scholar still needs to read interpretation of the holy mantra, he should contemplate Allama Iqbal’s matchless translation of Gayatri: “Aaftaab”. I bet it will send him into trance!

Dr S.S. BHATTI, former Principal, Chandigarh College of Architecture

Cinema ticket and tax

Apropos the report “Punjab cinemas face closure” (Jan 19), an entertainment tax of 125 per cent is charged on 40 per cent of the seating capacity of the hall. That itself brings down the tax to the tune of around 70 per cent.

The approved rate of a cinema ticket in Punjab is around Rs 5. A tax of 125 per cent on the price of the ticket makes the cost of a ticket Rs 11.25 whereas the cinema owners openly charge the general public Rs 40 per ticket.

The cinema owners are giving Rs 5.25 as tax (if even concessions are not taken into account) out of Rs 40. So, the effective rate of entertainment tax comes down to 13% only. Is it a loss of the cinema owners or a state loss?


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