Of President’s palaces

THE article “Palaces of the President” by J.N. Vohra (Spectrum, July, 8) made for interesting reading. Originally called Oaklands (and Larty Sahib ki kothi during Lord William Hay’s tenure), the Retreat was secured by Lord Elgin in 1863, getting it’s name, as it was meant for ‘week-end-retreat,’ providing refuge from the ‘tiring gaiety of Simla!’

Lord Minto tried to close the public path in the estate, much to people’s resentment, who agitated against it, ultimately ‘1910 right of way’ being imposed.

Half a mile from Retreat lies Wildflower Hall (now an Oberoi hotel). Due to soured relations between Viceroy Lord Curzon and Lord Kitchner, Commander-in Chief, over administrative control of the army, the latter secured lease of Wildflower Hall in his favour. The highly egoistic Kitchner delighted in special levees here, especially as it was 200 feet higher than Retreat which was Lord Curzon’s official residence!

Lords Elgin, Minto, Curzon, Hardinge, Chelmsford, Reading Lytton, Edward Buck, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, etc. have stayed here. Reportedly fresh fruits and vegetables are regularly sent to Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi, from Retreat’s estate.



Back to the Beas

I read the article, “India’s win in 1965 war” by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (retd) and in particular to the ‘Back to the Beas’ imbroglio (Perspective, July 8).

I served as Aide-de-camp to Gen P.P. Kumaramangalam, PVSM, DSO, 
throughout his tenure as Chief of the Army Staff and got to know him very 
well. During the 1965 war, he was the Vice Chief of the Army Staff, controlling the Operations and Intelligence at Army Headquarters.

Many years later, when this ‘Back to the Beas’ debate started to make 
the rounds, he remarked: “Why do people indulge in such a mendacity? When Gen Chaudhuri returned from HQ Western Command, I was the first he met and he never said a word about any such discussion. In any case, even if HQ Western Command was to have implemented such a move, the final authority for the conduct of the same was vested with us at New Delhi. Not a whisper on the subject reached us”.

Lt-Gen M.S. SHERGILL (retd) Jalandhar Cantonment

Mirror to all

Khushwant Singh’s Ant & grasshopper (Saturday Extra) was a very good piece of satire. It holds a mirror to every one of us. The media, the politician, the NGO, the lawmaker and, above all, the busybody—all are shown their place. The piece is commendably imaginative and delightful.

Such writings serve a useful purpose as they expose the hypocrisy of those who are wearing the mantle of greatness. They contribute to the awakening of the gullible populace to see how they are being cheated by big slogans.


Welcome move

The article “Lifeline for Mother and Child,” (Spectrum, July 1) was thought-provoking. The decision of the Tamil Nadu government to introduce screening for gestational diabetes is appreciable. It will help reduce still births, infant mortality rate and other congenital anomalies.

In a conference on diabetes and pregnancy in Istanbul (Turkey), a number of representatives from different countries such as Spain took copies of the orders of the Tamil Nadu Government to set up a similar system.

Punjab Health Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla should take steps to introduce screening for gestational diabetes mellitus in government-run hospitals in Punjab.

Dr AJAY BAGGA, Hoshiarpur

Social neglect

Amita Malik (Saturday Extra, June 30) has exhorted TV channels to take up social issues and reinforce efforts made by Doordarshan in this direction. Fifty years ago when television was introduced in India it was for social, educational and agricultural purposes.

With time and technological advance, only information and entertainment dominated. With emphasis on consumer-focussed ad campaigns, the youth are bound to be misguided. Malik should provide much-needed advice to the media gone astray. n



Iqbal’s influence over young writers

In his weekly column, “This above All” (Saturday Extra, June 30) Khushwant Singh writes that Iqbal was proud of his Brahmin descent. This is incorrect. He wrote Koi Pandit mujhey kaihta hai to sharm aati hai.

Iqbal’s earlier poems breathe intense nationalism. It was the subject-matter — patriotic, philosophic, humanistic and Islamic — that appealed to his audience.

He rejected the doctrine of composite culture, appalled as he was by the differences between the profession and practices on the part of the Western democracies. He believed that nations have been destroyed due to discrimination on the basis of creed and custom.

He presided over the All India Muslim Conference in 1932, and pleaded for self-rule in a unit comprising Muslim majority provinces.

It is not easy to deny Iqbal’s influence over young writers, who share neither his prophetic burdens, nor his imagination and communicative powers.

Deepak Tandon, Panchkula



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