Lessons from Literature

Krishnan Balasubramanian’s “Lunar Lunacy” (India Currents, November 2008) is one of the finest articles that the magazine has published, and I look forward to more of this kind. The article is scholarly and full of important historical perspective that would benefit everyone living in the United States. Tamil literature is particularly relevant as it contains important clues to our cultural beliefs. An important aspect that it brought out was the sectarian commitment that ancient Indian society exhibited, such as tolerance of other beliefs and religions. This is an important take-home message as today there seems to be greater sectarian intolerance. Music and dance teachers in the U.S. today will find treasures in Tamil literature concerning the principles, techniques, and significance of the arts.

The fact that so many international scholars are interested in Indian literature and culture should communicate to us the importance of learning our languages and our roots. Balasubramanian must be commended for a great job.

R. Subramanian, via the internet

Backing the Right Horse

I want to respond to Rajeev Srinivasan’s Forum column in which he argued that “desis should hedge their bets with Republicans” (India Currents, October 2008). I hope Rajeev Srinivasan does not peddle gambling advice, since his clients would not do very well. Srinivasan ended up backing the “wrong horse” himself. I was happy to see the overwhelming majority of Indian Americans backing Barack Obama for President.

Indeed, many Indian Americans are no longer among the “huddled masses,” and many are highly educated and earn high incomes. But the failed McCain-Palin ticket reeked of anti-intellectualism and ignorance, particularly the Palin half of the ticket. The majority of American voters exercised common sense by putting an end to a continuation of the disastrous Bush policies that McCain would have likely continued.

Ednan Khera, Cupertino, Calif.

Transported by Travelogue

Reading D.K. Bhaskar’s article “Amidst the Kerala Canals” (India Currents, October 2008) was a magical experience for me. I was transported by his skilful prose to God’s Own Country. Indeed, the piece was so evocative that I imagined myself drifting along those scenic backwaters of Kumarakom, enjoying the vibrant and languorous lifestyle aboard a kettuvallam.

Bhaskar is a great travel writer—he paints such vivid word pictures of the verdant and lush canals and riverways of Kerala that he made me want to pack up and buy a ticket on the next available flight there! This was one of the most enjoyable armchair journeys I have done in a long time, and I hope it won’t be the last.

Radhikaa H.Singh, Fremont, Calif.

Tyranny of the Majority

While we celebrate Obama’s victory as a victory for democracy, we also have learned how terrible democracy can be, as evidenced by the passage of Proposition 8 in California. We Americans have invaded other countries to give them the supposedly perfect gift of democracy. In reality, democracy is the government of the majority, by the majority, for the majority. To that end, democracy can mean the tyranny of the majority over the minority.

Jesus and Socrates were put to death by a majority vote. Hitler killed 6 million Jews with a majority vote. Women were burnt alive because they were declared to be witches, all with a majority vote. Slavery was legal. Women and minorities were not allowed to vote. Interracial marriage was illegal in some states as recently as 1967, just as we have made gay marriage illegal with proposition 8.

With Proposition 8, we ironically saw “minorities” like Indian Americans and African Americans participate enthusiastically in depriving another minority of their rights. It pained me to see many in the Indian community vote along with rural voters and those backed by the Mormon Church. $60 million was spent by religious fanatics in misguiding the public. And too many of us took the bait.

A democracy can make or suspend any rule. In case of proposition 8, we suspended the golden rule from the Bible which says “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Imagine if proposition 8 had made heterosexual marriage illegal, while keeping gay marriage as the only form of valid marriage?

Fortunately, the younger generation will take care of this injustice. We just may have to wait for a few more years.

Vinod Bhardwaj, San Jose, Calif.

Our Shared Grief

I was full of emotion when I read “Long Distance Grief” by Sanjana Parikh (India Currents, October 2008). It brought back memories of when, as a teenager, I lost my own grandmother, and I just could not hold back my tears. Grandmothers are so loving and caring that it is hard to replace them; they play an important role in your life while you are growing up. Sanjana sincerely describes her feelings for her grandmother, who was her greatest inspiration, teacher, and friend.

When I lost my father, I was here in the United States and was unable to see him during his last moments.

Long distance grief is something that affects all of us who live thousands of miles away from our loved ones.

Aparna Bhatia, Sacramento, Calif.

Engaging Society

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan’s editorial “Model What?” (India Currents, September 2008) was a well-written piece that described a key opportunity for the next generation of Indian-Americans to engage American society at all levels, especially with regard to the disadvantaged and helpless. The civic-minded Indian-Americans who serve our communities know the gnawing helplessness and poverty in America’s largest cities. As the economic crisis takes a toll, we are seeing more Indian families who also need assistance dealing with layoffs and life adjustments. Volunteering between jobs is a great way to get back in the job stream; I know employers who would jump at the opportunity to get people with that additional dimension to their resume.

Vinutha Gopal, Agoura Hills, Calif.

Importance of Third Parties

Ummon Karpe’s “The Argument for Ralph Nader” (India Currents, October 2008) was a well-written article that led me to ask why it took so long for India Currents to even mention our third-party presidential candidates? The front cover of the issue (“You Decide”) featured images of Obama and McCain, and I decided that India Currents, along with the majority of our mainstream media outlets, is responsible for shaping our consciousness that our only two choices for a President are from the Democratic and Republican parties.

The majority parties, along with backing of their corporate masters, have spent billions of dollars and years of manipulation to systematically oppress the third parties from emerging. Preventing Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney from participating in debates is just one of the many tactics used by the “Demican” and “Republicrats.”

Kudos to Karpe for writing his op-ed. It is inspiring to see today’s youth pulling back the wool over our eyes.

Nilesh Solanki, Sacramento, Calif.

Deplorable Service

I completely agree with M. Chinna of San Jose, Calif., who wrote a letter (India Currents, October 2008) regarding customer service in Indian establishments. I live in Southern California, close to Little India, where my friends and I have experienced bad customer service several times. Not only do many people working at Indian stores not say “hello” or “thank you” but, in our experience, they actually look at you as if you are invading their personal space. Can they not at least smile, or nod in acknowledgement of the customers?

When you go to pay, some cashiers even keep talking on their cell phones. Basic human courtesy is lacking. And god forbid you go to return something; they ask 50 questions and make you feel like you are doing something evil.

While lack of customer service isn’t just an Indian issue, at least with other stores you have the choice to shop around. Sometimes there are only one or two Indian stores which sell what you need, which forces us to shop there.

Bharti Shah, Cerritos, Calif.

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