Of changing times and attitudes

Our intellectuals and politicians are missing a major shift in the paradigms across democratic nations. President Bush would not have been normally elected in the liberal US or anywhere with intelligent voters. However, Bush was never apologetic about his original constituency and stuck to it.

Just before the election, even the diehard opponents of President Bush admitted that he had to win the election or else it would be caving in to the terrorists. This time his landslide victory is a clear indication of the changing times. After Sept 11, the attitudes in the US and Europe have dramatically changed.

Even the Western concepts of liberal values, human rights, free speech, secularism etc., have become obsolete and are being dumped to the nearest garbage dumps. Gradually, the US and European nations are enacting subtly religion-specific and country-specific laws without naming Islam. It must be apparent to those who travel to different countries. There are dramatic changes in attitudes too. Even our comrades must have noticed these shifts whenever they manage a trip to these countries.

In India, in 1999, the BJP and the NDA had won on issues of national security and Kargil. When Vajpayee tried to get out of BJP's ideological mould, the BJP and Vajpayee's NDA lost the elections. Even the ardent supporters of the BJP were confused with his flip-flop policies regarding Pakistan and Pramod Mahajan's seven-star hotel election campaign. In many places, most of them stayed away.

Low voting percentage is an indicator of this trend. Also, Vajpayee had the disadvantage of his age. Only, in our country leaders even over 80 years of age, think that they are "leaders" fit to be Prime Minster.

When Vajpayee tried his antics and dramas recently in Parliament, he got the title of Vintage Vajpayee. These days Na ghar ka na ghat ka is the right description for Vajpayee's predicament. Changing times and attitudes should become a wake up call to our "intellectuals" and politicians.

R.K. MANI, Mangalore (Karnataka)



Too little aid

This refers to Sunanda K. Datta Ray's article "Tsunami: US can do more" (Perspective, Jan 9). It was extremely shocking that the US has not extended substantial help to the tsunami victims. The US can, certainly, do more as it has huge resources at its disposal to extend help to the needy and suffering victims.

Mr Datta-Ray has aptly said that no lashing storms rearing tidal waves or upheavals under water can wipe out two of the most shaming images of 2004 Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay maltreatment with the Iraq prisoners. President Bush must leave Iraq to rebuild on its own resources and extend all possible help.


Reliving nightmares

This refers to Khushwant Singh’s writeup: “Two nightmares”.

I agree that no writer has ever mentioned about those people who were brutally murdered by terrorists during the early 1980s in Punjab. Many lives and homes were ruined. Killings of Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians or any other community in any part of the world must be condemned.

It is human blood that is shed and no particular community matters. Communal riots and the killing of innocent people are a blot on humanity and no religion allows such heinous crimes.

R.C. Sharma, Kurukshetra

Charisma of Kalam

Apropos of Smriti Kak Ramachandran’s article, “The Kalam effect” (Saturday Extra January 15), the writer’s observation that ‘rare is the public figure who has struck such a rapport’ is apt.

Indeed, Kalam is the only Indian President, who has ventured out of the plush environs of Rashtrapati Bhawan and tried to strike a rapport with the masses. The respect he commands, both nationally and internationally, is unparalleled. He is a visionary par excellence and has carefully charted out the nation’s development for the next decade.

He has rightly targeted youth for long-term development of the nation. He reminds one of the great Indian educationist, Swami Vivekananda. who believed “Education is not the amount of information that is put into the brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building and character-making assimilation of ideas.”

Rajiv Bhalla, Chandigarh

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Harihar Swarup's profile on Dr Tanveer Ahmed Alvi (Sunday Oped, Jan 9) is very interesting and contains useful information. But it has a surprising slip in it — surprising especially because it occurs in a piece which is so much concerned with Urdu.

In its introductory paragraph, the name 'Bahadur Shah Zafar' appears correctly but in the body of the article the pen-name (takhallous) ia misspelt as 'Jafar' at two places.

There is, of course, no doubt as to the correct spelling: in the original Urdu poetry the pen-name is 'Zafar' and 'Zafar' alone, and not 'Jafar'. (Also like pen-names of other poets, 'Zafar' is a word with a definite meaning (victory or conquest) while 'Jafar' is no word at all in the language). This is a simple point to raise but it sticks out like a sore thumb.


Ghalib, the passionate poet

This refers to “Ghalib that Gulzar found” (Spectrum, January 16 ). A student of Urdu and Persian during my school days, I wanted to consult the person who knew more about Mirza Ghalib. Fortunately for me, my teacher late Munshi Karam Chand Alam Fazal, himself a poet, was considered an authority on the works of Ghalib. Most of the students became poets in their own way, notably among them “Poet Jalarivi”, now in his late seventies. A moment of glory in my life was when I was transferred from warship INS Tir to a shore establishment, INS India at the Naval Headquarters, New Delhi, in 1959. The first thing that I did was to visit Balli Maran Mohalla where Mirza Ghalib is said to have lived for about 50 years until his death on February 15, 1869.

During the late 1950s, our ship participated in the joint naval exercises at Trincomalee in (Sri Lanka) under a British Admiral. On every year on August 14 and 15, it was customary for our captain and the Pakistani captain to invite the members of each other ships, on our Independence days. Since I knew both Urdu and Persian, I always found a place in the team of visiting Pakistani warships.

In 1958, an officer of the Pakistan Navy asked me to recite a verse by Ghalib that could touch the heart of every one and I found this one:

Marne ke baad bossa-e-jaana, hua, naseeb

Matti ka jab kumhar ne saagar banna diya

I was not only cheered but lifted sky-high. I could see tears in many eyes as their loved ones were still in India.

Multan Singh Parihar, Jalari (Hamirpur)


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