L E T T E R S    T O    T H E    E D I T O R

Orissa lady’s dash for Mt Everest

In “Dash for the Everest (Spectrum, Oct 5), Eliza Parija has paid encomium to the adventurous spirit of Kapana Dash. A woman from a small town like Dhenkanal in Orissa, a state that rarely gives priority to the promotion of sports and sportspersons, pursuing an extreme sport like mountaineering would surprise many.

Moreover, mountaineering is considered a predominantly male pursuit due to the tough and trying preparations involved. But Kalpana asserts, “I imbibed love for mountaineering for my father, Om Gunanidhi Dash. He would scale all the hills and mountains around our hometown and I used to go long with him”.

The ace climber is a lawyer by profession and pursues mountaineering as a hobby. Incidentally, Kalpana was the only Indian among the nearly 500 people who were slated to attempt to scale the summit this year.

She is also the first Indian woman and the third Indian climber to have reached the summit of the great peak. Her achievement becomes all the more commendable, as she has never enrolled into a professional mountaineering course.

She is every inch a mountaineer, as her initial two failures did not dampen her determination. She seems to be filled with Tennyson’s spirit “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”.

Prof. VIJAY SHEEL JAIN, Ludhiana

Epitome of virtue

Nun so blessed” (Saturday Extra, Oct 11) by Kurian C. Muttathupadam was an engrossing and gracious account of the life of Sister Alphonsa, who became the first Indian woman saint of the Catholic Church when Pope Benedict XVI conferred sainthood on her. It is some quirk of fate that her canonisation has come at a time when the Christian community in certain states of secular India has been targeted by religious bigots and fanatics.

It will be a rich tribute to the noble soul, who died young 62 years ago, if people stopped quarreling in the name of religion and followed the path of peace and harmony. From the detailed article it can be inferred that Sister Alphonsa was a pious lady who was rich at heart.

Rather she was the embodiment of love, sympathy, courage, persistence, compassion, benevolence, charity, unselfishness and a caring attitude towards humanity. She was at peace with herself and spread peace around her.

Despite her disability she was endowed with the divine virtue of sympathy which is God’s greatest gift to man. It is more precious than gold as a person in trouble, distress, affliction and adversity needs sympathy more than gold. Money can be repaid but sympathy can’t. May her tribe increase!


Correct version

In “Never lose heart in distress” (Saturday Extra, Oct 25), Khushwant Singh has erroneously claimed that the Guru has entirely used Hindu terminology. The Sikh gurus have not used the entire Hindu terminology. Secondly, Khushwant Singh has wrongly narrated the shabad of gurbani but he has not used the correct text of the said shabad.


Right selection

I have read the piece “Well written but not well said” (Saturday Extra, Nov 1) about Aravind Adiga’s novel The White Tiger. I don’t agree with Khushwant Singh that the book presents only one side of the picture and ignores all positive points of Delhi. On the whole, the novel, which won the Man Booker Prize, is a good selection.

The chairman of the selection committee, while reading the work, was moved to tears to know that 400 millions Indians live in extreme poverty even after 61 years of Independence, there is no charm for the poor people to see the monuments if they do not get two square meals a day.

I, too, am disillusioned about the selection of Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai for their less important literary works God of Small Things and Loss of Heritage, respectively. Comparatively other works like Lajja and Suitable Boy have gone unnoticed for the Booker Prize.


Bullying tactics

In “No place of pride for Thackerays” (Saturday Extra, Oct 11), Khushwant Singh shares his pain when he mentions that during his stay in Mumbai he could not write against the crude and unpatriotic behaviour of the Shiv Sena workers for fear of getting roughed up by them.

Khushwant Singh rightly condemns the ways adopted by Bal Thackeray and his kin to force Marathi on people from other regions in Maharashtra. In fact, they are virtually spreading terror and are worse than those who plant bombs. Thackerays are no less than dictators and should have no place in a democratic set up.

It is unfortunate that even a national party like the BJP does not have the guts to condemn such acts for fear of losing its vote bank. It is really a very sad commentary on the character of the national party.


Valuable addition to the literature on Holy Scripture

The book Guru Granth Sahib — the Guru Eternal by Mohinder Singh (“Message of the Gurus” by Roopinder Singh, Spectrum, Oct 26) is a valuable addition to the literature on the Holy Scripture. The book review, though well written, has missed the following points which need to be highlighted:

The present version of Guru Granth Sahib (bir) was prepared at Dam Dama Sahib by Bhai Mani Singh under the direction of Guru Gobind Singh (after the battle of 1704), in which the hymns of Guru Teg Bahadur were included. Though Guru Gobind Singh himself was a great poet, he did not include his own bani (hymns), which forms a separate text called Dasam Granth.

The hymns are arranged, not by the authors or subjects but by 31 ragas in which these are to be sung. A section of the text is devoted to Ragamala, giving classification of the ragas prevalent at that time.

Singing of the hymns has a special significance, with instructions to the singers (ragis) to avoid display of musical virtuosity but render in such a way so as to convey the meaning of the words (message) clearly to the listeners.

At present the musical instruments used commonly by the ragis are harmonium and tabla (for rhythm), but the Gurus used and patronised musical instruments of their choice i.e. Guru Nanak (rabab played by Bhai Mardana), Guru Angad and Guru Arjun (sarinda), and Guru Gobind Singh (dilruba).

Bhai Mansa Singh Raagi was attached to the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Bhai Santa Singh and Bhai Samund Singh have been the eminent exponents of Gurbani singing. Recently, SNA awardee classical vocalists Singh Bandhu and ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh have brought out their album of Gurbani.

V.K. RANGRA, Delhi

Deadly malaise

In “Blunted poll weapons” (Sunday Oped, Oct 12) Vijay Sanghvi has put his finger on the right points and has brought out correctly that the policies and schemes of the government will not provide leverage for good results in the general elections. But he has not discussed the main point of corruption.

Corruption has become so much ingrained our system that no work is possible without greasing the palms of the men concerned in different departments. Every programme intended for the common man misfires due to corruption.

The schemes meant for the uplift of vulnerable sections of society are praiseworthy, but these don’t prove advantageous due to corrupt implementers. The middlemen usually pocket the funds sanctioned.

Along with corruption there is also a disregard for the rule of law. This brings about indiscipline and injustice. In fact, these are the root cause of deep-seated maladies of our system and unless these are tackled, no policy or strategy can produce the desired results.


Ills of smoking

I disagree with Khushwant Singh (Saturday Extra, Oct 18) where he writes “I also know smoking in moderation is harmless”. He “believes” it that way, but certainly does not “know” about this subject. As a scientist, I feel my responsibility to correct his mistake.

What is harmful in smoke is nicotine and some other carcinogenic substances in the char that is produced by burning of tobacco. At cellular level, nicotine hijacks the machinery that controls cell division by messing up with multiple genes on chromosomal DNA. Uncontrolled division of cells results in cancer. This harm can be done by the slightest exposure to nicotine.

Even passive smoking, or chewing of tobacco can induce that effect. Unborn babies exposed to nicotine develop birth defects. Adolescents develop changes in their metabolism and genes that controls their behaviour.

Some of those changes are irreversible. Doctors agree that nicotine kills more people than any other single factor including road accidents. So readers please understand that no amount of smoking is safe. There is no quantifiable measure of moderation.




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