Sunday, September 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Religion’s main concern is to realise God

Apropos of Mr Chanchal Sarkar’s article “A nasty aberration in our time” (Sunday Oped, Sept 7), it is not only the conventional religions but also the neo-religions as Communism and “secularism” that have failed us. The latter have rather added to the misery brought about by the former.

It was bound to be so. Religion as far as its aspect of dogmas and bigotry is concerned is one of the worst enemies of mankind because it makes man close his mind and stick to what is no longer relevant. Any religion which exhorts its adherents to increase their number is bereft of any trait of holiness. The primary concern of religion is to realise God.

The mission of God or self-realisation needs no collective effort. The numbers are required only to grab pelf and power. In this respect, Communism and “secularism” are very clear. They are born out of desire for money and political power and are clearly seen as such. The conventional religions, however, are able to camouflage their intentions and thus hoodwink people.

Let religion be confined to the privacy of man and it may then be of some help to man.

Chaman Lal Korpal, Amritsar


Varsity finances

In his article on “Universities should fund themselves” (Perspective, Aug 10) Professor H.S. Deol has forcefully and convincingly urged upon the industry to play its role for funding the universities, especially in recognition of their role in providing it the professional and management personnel trained by the temples of learning. It is amply demonstrated by the various industrial establishments visiting the universities from time to time to give up the best amongst the students on the verge of completing their courses, with offers of lucrative appointments for them. Not only the Indian industry but also multinational companies compete with one another for offering assignments to Indian professionals, especially for the IITs and specialists in software, IT etc.

The government has asked the universities to make up the financial crunch by mobilising their own resources. But the university authorities have resorted to hefty hike in admission, tuition, examination fee. As a result, students of poor and middle class families were deprived of seeking admission. This led to students’ protests, rallies and demonstrations. This has also forced the government to rollback the fee hike. Though confusion still prevails in some educational institutions on which fee structure should be followed — old or new? follow the old fee structure, there is need for a clear-cut decision.

The universities can easily augment their revenue by resorting to other steps like asking the industries concerned to make liberal donations and the government to release some percentage of their profits to the universities through some legislation.

The alumni of various universities, especially those settle abroad, would be too pleased to offer substantial amount of money to them for improving the infrastructure. Constant touch with the NRIs is necessary in this regard.

Prof D.R. Sachdeva, Patiala

Education as commerce

I appreciate Ms Nanki Hans’ article “The great education bazaar” (Spectrum, Sept 7). Education has become an industry and not a mission. Whatever the system it may be, the fault lies both at the parents’ and teachers’ level. Parents are preferring to pay high coaching fees.

Those who can afford costly education is alright, but what about the poor families who cannot think of sending their wards to any of the disciplines for higher studies? At the same time, a teacher in school/college is not giving the right coaching whereas the same teacher in a private institution is imparting good coaching through special guidance notes and so on. When a private teacher can prepare notes, why can't a school/college teacher do so? Why can't the syllabus prepared according to the requirement of the entrance tests? The reason is simple, the parents are ready to pay and the teachers are after minting money. Consequently, a teacher, who is termed as a Guru, is losing his/her image.

This alarming situation can be tackled in two ways: first, the government should increase the budgetary allocation for education so that the teachers are paid well and they do not think of private tuitions. And second, the syllabus should be strictly in conformity with the professional college entrance tests.

Harish K. Monga, Ferozepur

Of good memory

Mr Bibhuti Mishra’s “The art of forgetting” (Spectrum, Sept 1) was interesting. Over the ages, people have tried novel aids (associations), various regimes (repetition for better long-term retention), even all sorts of herbs (brahmi, shankhpushpi etc.), elixirs and concoctions, to enhance their memory. Some seem to have succeeded where others have simply failed. Surely, they must indeed be fortunate people who are blessed with the gift of a good memory. I’m sure it must be a powerful and wonderful feeling to be so blessed.

The wise counsel us to forgive and to forget. This distilled wisdom is worth more in value vis-à-vis all the riches of this world. Indeed, were it within the grasp of mere mortals to be able to abide by this as the rule of the thumb, wouldn’t we all be saints and this world a much better place to live in? Because it is not everyone’s cup of tea to quite so readily forgive, that forgetfulness acquires a redeeming influence in matters involving human relationships.

Were it not for the redeeming power of forgetfulness, take it for granted that human beings would have gone completely berserk. Stressful situations, taxing circumstances, unpleasant instances and seemingly unforgivable people one often comes across in life, all these make it sine qua non that occasional lapses of memory come to our aid. At times like these, when one would rather not remember, but can’t seem to forget, I am sure, good memory is nothing short of a curse.

The human mind, it appears, has evolved to develop of necessity, a natural defense mechanism in the form of forgetfulness, which comes to its rescue. By shutting out of one’s mind, unpleasant and painful instances from one’s past, one is perhaps able to survive hostile environments and challenges of the world and still be able to carry on with routine, even meaningful and purposeful life.

At times when one would really wish to be able to forgive and forget, a memory akin to that of computers' random access memory (RAM) or the “hard drive” would certainly be desirable. It could then be “washed” selectively clean at will, maybe even “reformated and rewritten” with the desired forgiving and loving thoughts. Wishful thinking...n

Vivek Khanna, Panchkula


The lofty poetic images of America

"An American poet’s passage to Punjab” by Darshan Singh Maini (Spectrum, Sept 7) is, indeed, a scholarly and erudite piece of writing in so far as elucidation of the “heart-pulse” and “soulscape” of Walt Whitman and Professor Puran Singh (who had providentially come across Whitman's Leaves of Grass) are concerned. In this connection, I may add that basically new in thought and style, Leaves of Grass was savagely criticised when in 1881 it was brought out, so much so that Whitman, “America's most radical poet”, was even called a “criminal monster” who was “as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics”.

A kinder and more perceptive review called the book “a mixture of Yankee transcendentalism and New York rowdyism”. Barrett Wandell (1904) found Leaves of Grass “confused, inarticulate and surging in a mad kind of rhythm which sounds as if hexametres were trying to bubble through sewage”. Even Chukovsky’s second translation in Russian was banned in 1914, and it appeared only after the October Revolution in 1918. However, to top the irony, the ban on the book pushed its sales.

Whitman (1819-92) later remarked: “I expected hell, and I got it”. This despite Emerson’s famous speech, “The American Scholar”, which led to the problem of national literature acquiring a more pronounced democratic ring.

Thus, the aesthetic awareness in the United States that began during the War of Independence, reached this high point with the appearance of the greatest works in American literature, such as Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Melville’s Moby Dick, Thoreau’s Walden and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, finally to Allen Ginsberg, who emerged as successor to Whitman and William Carlos Williams. In his “A Supermarket in California”, Ginsberg inter alia says: “Where are we going Walt Whitman?... I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd”.

In the twenties and thirties of the 20th century, Whitman’s followers, Carl Sandburg and Archibald MacLeish, demonstrated the topicality and significance of his poetic system. Whitman’s thought contains elements drawn from many sources. “I was simmering”, he said: “Emerson brought me to a boil”. The range of Whitman’s subjects is remarkable. He set out to include and celebrate everything. He declared that he was a poet of the body as well as of the soul. He evolved his own type of free verse for his own type of expression, but he was neither careless of technique nor indifferent to it. He was in the habit of using vignettes — snapshots, as some critics have called them — brief pictures, often complete in a single line.

Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman and Robert Frost represent the three high points in American poetry. Whitman’s and O. Henry’s kind humour bring out the lofty poetic images of America. It has to be noted that genuinely artistic, poetic works, dealing with the drama and tragedy of life, as experienced by the American blacks, were written by such white writers as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Herman Melville.

Deepak Tandon, Panchkula


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