Importance of punctuation in English

Mr Khushwant Singh’s article “The importance of punctuating thought” (Windows, Feb 21), is indeed a very interesting piece of reminder to oldies, my tribe, and a sound advice to the younger lot, who are always in a hurry to coin their own brand of verbal and non-verbal language.

The example given by him relieves an identical piece of advice given by an Urdu teacher in the early forties to us, as students in a Mission school, in the Sialkot District (now Pakistan). The simple sentence in Urdu was a missive — ruka — reading “Roko Mut Jane Do”, stated to have been sent to a check barrier, in advance of an expected convoy from the opposite direction.

The equivalent of a comma or its equivalent in Urdu script after the world “Roko” lent one meaning. And in case the above symbol was inserted after the word, “mut”, the context totally changed.

The eminent columnist and author is absolutely right. The e-mail and Internet bypass the book of rules of the English language. A day may not be far when similar shortcuts are seen in Hindi and the other regional language written expressions.





Khushwant Singh’s article was timely and well meaning focussing on the importance of punctuation. Punctuation is indeed an art of dividing a piece of writing by marks to make its sense clear. Even while speaking, we pause at certain points for the sake of clarity.

Moreover, today’s English language reflects many centuries of development. The beauty of the language lies in its strangers. Undoubtedly, punctuation plays a vital role in the written English.

Khushwant Singh has been contributing tremendously to the growth and enrichment of the language for decades. I hope he will keep writing more on the language, particularly highlighting its innermost complexities.

ARIF QURESHI, Sunder Nagar (HP)

Sandgrouse winter visitors to India

IN the article “Gateway to avian encounters” (Spectrum, Feb 29), the writer says that the northern pintail can be confused with the northern shoveller. The structure of the tail of the former with its long pin-feathers is just too obvious and far from confusion with the stubby tails of all other species of marsh ducks.

The shoveller’s glossy-green head stands out in contrast with its bright chestnut flanks and belly whereas the pintail is melon greyish-brown with a chocolate-brown head.

Secondly, the red-crested pochards do visit India but to the best of my knowledge there just is no species in the world by the name white-crested pochard. And the imperial sandgrouse (now called the black-bellied sandgrouse) are strictly winter visitors to north-west India but does not breed here.

The caption “Migratory birds on the shore of Gajner Lake” does not match the birds in the photograph. Going by the overall structure of the white birds, the black colour of their beaks and legs, these would be the intermediate egrets which are resident birds of India.

Lt-Gen Baljit Singh, Chandigarh


A brave community

With reference to Mr V.I.K. Sharma’s letter “Resilience of a brave community” (Jan 18), he has described that Todar Mall became bankrupt after he spread Ashrifis for the last rites of young sahibzadas.

One wonders how such a rich personage, having great influence with the Mughal authority, can become bankrupt. Alas! This brave person could not use his influence to save the innocent children. On the contrary, Safdar Khan and Munir Khan (both brothers) appealed for mercy to sahibzadas.

The Indian history is full of heroes who invited the invaders to plunder the country. During the Muslim rule, specially the Mughal period, our brave Hindu community was so much degraded and demoralised that the brave Rajputs felt proud to give their daughters in marriage to Muslim rulers. Jahangir, Shahjahan and Dara Shiko were all born to Hindu mothers.

Things of beauty — be it a building, garden, horse, child or woman belonging to Hindus — were taken away by force by the Mughals. With utmost respect to Mr V.I.K. Sharma, I would plead that what Bulle Shah remarked about Guru Gobind Singh is true.

HARDIAL S. OTHI, Othian (Amritsar)

Beeline to parlours

This has reference to the article “Punjabi male sheds the macho image” by Ms Ruchika M. Khanna (Windows, Feb 28). Finally, the Punjabi male has decided to walk down all lanes of married life, i.e. supporting his wife in upbringing of the family and many more of such household duties, thereby leaving no question of contrast between the duties of the husband and wife. This would certainly lead to the strengthening of bonds between the two.

However, one thing which perturbs me is the Punjabi youths’ beeline to beauty parlours. They are all set to lose their well-built natural physique and ruggedness bequeathed to them by their forefathers, who did not have the faintest idea of predicures and manicures.


Passage of time

This has reference to the write-up “Rites of Passage” by Mr Ashwani Bhatnagar (Windows, Jan 17). No single question can arise about the passage of time as it is impersonal. Time is a continuous flow — indestructible and immutable. So, it is wrong to say that the right time has not come.

Time can never be bad. It is rather our own reaction to the circumstances which create good or bad results. As the repetition of seasons is the part of nature, so is with the life cycle of births and deaths, of arrivals and departures. Thus, when there is an end of anything, there is a new beginning. Similarly, the passage of time is marked by repetition, i.e. ending and beginning. Time is a great factor which allows us to continue.

ANJU ANAND, Chambaghat (Solan)

Death for rapists

The protagonists of capital punishment in rape cases should first justify why rape is committed and then support their case for amendment in the penal law for awarding death sentence to the rapist.

Most rape cases are false and are registered by the prosecution on pressure from the girl’s parents or for reasons like monetary gain or rivalry, though it may be on consent or, at times, even a clandestine love affair. That is why, the conviction rate in rape cases is very low. Once the case is on trial, these facts come to light resulting in the acquittal of the accused by the judge who is bound by the law.

But the crusade for the amendment providing death sentence and against low conviction rate may bring all agencies responsible for maintenance of law and dispensation of justice under pressure resulting in the conviction of innocent persons. Thus, the penal law should not be amended just because there is a demand for it.

ARVIND KASHYAP, Advocate, Ropar

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