Friday, February 14, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Aftermath of Columbia tragedy

Apropos of Mr Hari Jaisingh’s article “Aftermath of Columbia Tragedy” (Feb 7), he has aptly raised the pertinent point of MiG 21 crashes to waken the rulers from their slumber. The MiG 21s, dubbed “flying coffins,” are crashing with unfailing regularity resulting in the loss of valuable lives of pilots. Every time a MiG crashes, the machine is given a clean chit. Lame excuses are made to cover up the lapses and human error is made the scapegoat. No serious thought is given to the grounding of the MiG fleet to ascertain minutely whether the aging aircraft are air worthy. That shows the indifferent, casual and non-chalant approach of the authorities concerned towards the chronic problem. Inquiries are initiated. Financial assistance is announced. After that the real issue is consigned to the dustbin until another disaster sends a reminder. This lackadaisical attitude is regrettable and ought to be changed drastically.

Look how the entire US space machinery has swung into action in the wake of the space shuttle tragedy. India surely has a lesson or two to learn from the American approach keeping in mind that actions speak louder than words. We should care for the men who run the risk of losing their precious lives because of the faulty MiGs. I wonder why we are obsessed with the deadly jets. How long will the spectre of death continue to stalk our pilots who fly MiGs? Only the powers-that-be can provide the answer.



Valentine’s Day — Indian style

This refers to Mr R. P. Malhotra’s “Valentine’s Day: is it our culture?”. While I agree that the Valentine’s Day may run somewhat contrary to Indian culture, I feel I have to say, as a person born and raised in the West that the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated in India is patently Indian. Indians celebrate Valentine’s Day in precisely the same way they celebrate Holi and Divali. Some people lose their inhibitions, dignity and common sense. Respect for others, including respect for women, goes out of the window.

While I would agree that Indian festivals are not always celebrated today in the original meaningful spirit. I feel we are wrong to blame it all on the West. Anyone who has spent any time in the West will know that Valentine’s Day is a very quiet festival by and large. Nobody is going around bothering strangers or offering strangers flowers or chocolates. The day passes by largely unnoticed. There is no doubt that MTV culture has a powerful influence on Indian youth, and I agree that it’s not positive, but MTV is not a true reflection of how westerners behave. MTV, like Shaktiman, is not real. I wish people would realise that.

P. James, Panchkula


Valentine’s Day & ‘desis’

Another Valentine’s Day and another opportunity for the so-called Yankees and some of those who take pride in calling themselves “Desi” (just in appearance, not in heart) to feast on some new-comers (specially girls who want to assimilate into the crowd to get a cool feeling!). Having witnessed the geri route rush during my days in the City Beautiful (and I very well remember how we taught a lesson to one of the so-called Desis when he laid his hands on a girl riding a scooter), I am of the opinion that the route should be manned by police personnel all along and strict action taken against the ones found crossing the limits (moral limits, not those set by the IPC).

A night at Sector 11 police station might be helpful to relieve them of the Feb 14 hangover. I have a suggestion to the girls who are against any police presence in that area just talk to a few of your fellow friends some of whom might have memories of this day and I think not many would have pleasant ones.



Dispassionate look

The piece on Columbia disaster provides the much needed look at the futuristic dimension. The issues raised therein clearly escaped the notice of those at the helm in India and more importantly, even of the army of “perceptive,” commentators. It is truly the first dispassionate look at the tragedy from our national perspective, and the relevance of the piece to the contemporary Indian mess can hardly ever be over-emphasised. And of course, as a lover of the language, I cannot resist being swept off my feet by the semantic brilliance of the article, especially in the last para.


Haryana’s darling

“The Other Face of India” by M.V. Kamath has a chapter dedicated to Haryana. While reading it the following line caught my attention: “Give Haryanvis a chance, they seemed to say, and they will prove their mettle.” In the present context this line seems very appropriate. Today we are proud of our Haryanvi daughter Kalpana, who not only dared to dream the impossible (for most of us), but went ahead, facing all the odds boldly to make her dream come true. She proved her mettle and has become a source of inspiration to all of us who dare to dream. Dreams do come true, what all is needed is grit and determination like that of Kalpana.


Continue the quest

The mission failed in the last 16 minutes and the seven persons who were made for space have now become an indistinguishable part of this eternal cosmic. But the quest should go on as they have given their lives for the sake and progress of human beings. Such missions meant to explore the beautiful world around us should move on with the same pace. However, the people of this world will never forget the contribution of these seven stars who are now shining on the sky where they had gone!


Talent lost

Apropos of the editorial “Up among the stars now!”, (Feb 3), the untimely death of Kalpana Chawla and six other astronauts is too deep for tears. It is very unfortunate that the world has lost such talented astronauts.

Soon after her first space journey in 1997, she had said in an interview: “This was just something I wanted to do. It was very important for me to enjoy.” And added: “I’d love a moonwalk. But seriously I hope to have another flight again. Actually the list of what I want to do is so long I would need a few life times to achieve them.” That was Kalpana Chawla. NASA in 1997 called her “a terrific astronaut.” It has been well said that talent does what it can, genius what it must.

Kalpana became a martyr to the frontiers of space science. The true tribute to her by the Indian people would be to carry on her legacy by producing a hundred Kalpana Chawlas.

ANSHUL JOY Chandigarh

Saga of sacrifice

Your editorial “Karnal’s Kalpana” (Feb 4) echoes the sentiments of the common people of Haryana. Her unfortunate and untimely demise moved our nation as a whole; every school, college and government office in North India solemnly remembered this great Indian woman.

Kalpana Chawla’s death made us forget our castes and communities and inspired us to behave and think like true Indians. This peerless Karnal girl has shaken us out of our slumber and made us pontificate that the Indian women are capable of doing everything under the sun. The rich and the poor, eminent politicians and even small kids have offered their floral tributes to Kalpana cutting through narrow barriers of region, religion and caste. Her saga of sacrifice will be written in golden letters in the annals of world history.


Like my KC in the sky

Kalpana did not fail India. As if to repay her debt to Mother India she sponsored two students from her Karnal school every year and assured them a VIP treatment at NASA. But, regrettably, it is we, in India who failed Kalpana. It would have been in the fitness of things if Vajpayee had talked to Kalpana and if the government had bestowed on her a suitable Republic Day honour while she was still in space. 

It was moving to see Kalpana speak of the small and fragile looking earth as the only place in the entire universe that supports life and yet so tiny which could be encircled in just 90 minutes.  Man has such a “small ribbon of life” and yet he spends it in destroying and fighting, she grieved. Shall we pay her a tribute by having a re-look at the way we are using our “small ribbon of life” and correct our course on the trajectory of our life-time? I draw comfort in imagining a small child gazing at the stars at night, chanting: “Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are: Up above the world so high, Like my KC in the sky”


The shining star

The old Persian words “kasab-e-kamal kun, keh azia-e-jahan shavi” (Achieve something outstanding in your life so that you become the idol and darling of the world). Kalpana has become that shining star on account of her achievement.

R.N. PAL, Hisar

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