“Did She Ask For It?” by Pubali Ray Chaudhry (India Currents, April 2009) was excellent and should open our eyes to the reality underlying the life of the so-called modern Indian woman. I, too, was raised in India where I, too, underwent several humiliations. Once I was out walking with my husband and my two daughters when a man tried to touch me inappropriately. At the time, I instinctively looked down at myself to make sure that I didn’t look provocative. I was brought up to believe that, somehow, attacks on women are to be blamed on fate or women’s own behavior. But this belief appears to be prevalent in other countries, too. Recently, I read that women in Egypt are being assaulted on the streets, and, in most cases, the women were wearing chadors or burkhas.
Globalization and progress appear to have only increased feelings of insecurity in men. If we women don’t want to find ourselves back in the dark ages, we should fight against becoming “excuses” for bad behavior. Most importantly, we should bring up our daughters not to be afraid, but rather to stand tall and hold their heads high—to be not as good as any man, but the best humans they can be.
Lakshmi Palecanda, Bozeman, Montana
Euphemism Doesn’t Help
Pubali Ray Chaudhuri’s “Did She Ask For It?” (India Currents, April 2009) brings to mind the verbiage often used in Indian newspapers for male behavior targeted at heckling women, whistling at, calling out, and other actions intended at getting a rise out of women: “eve teasing.” This term is wondrously anachronistic and indicates permissiveness of such behavior within limits.
I grew up in an atmosphere that to some extent condoned these activities, and I think descriptions like “eve teasing” are partly to blame. If such behavior were reported as “sexual harassment,” as it rightly should, I think the impact would be different. Sadly, I find this term still in vogue in Indian newspapers.
Sumit Kishore, online
Inspiring Lesson from Tanzania
I enjoyed reading the heartwarming and inspiring article by Sanjana Shukla (“Lessons from a Teaching Safari“, India Currents, April 2009), in which she describes her fortnight trip with her mother and classmates from California to a remote village in Tanzania. I was born in Tanzania and grew up in Kenya, and I am familiar with the crying need for good teachers and basic classroom facilities in remote parts of Africa.
Oversized classes—in classrooms without doors, windows, electricity, supplies, or sports equipment—lack of clean drinking water, no nutritious meals, and no school uniforms are formidable obstacles for rural students. Sanjana’s article took me down the memory lane.
After being educated in London, I taught at Kenya Polytechnic for 10 years in the 1960s and ’70s. One class I particularly enjoyed teaching was for girls studying for a diploma in Hotel Management; I taught them “bookkeeping.” Most of the girls were from rural areas, and they lacked the exposure to the business world.
In addition to using many teaching aids to compliment “chalk and talk” teaching, I took them to places like the post office, commercial banks, and factories to expose them to the real business world. At the end of the year, they took the Royal Society of Arts exams. I was apprehensive about my teaching ability and their exam performance, but to my surprise, they all passed with flying colors!
Teaching African students was the most rewarding experience of my life. The students were highly disciplined, attentive, respectful, and keen to learn. I salute Sanjana, her mother, and classmates, as well as all those who can to go to developing countries to teach deprived and disadvantaged students.
Mahadev Desai, via email
The Authenticity Debate
I agree with Ranjani Rao (“Of Bookers and Readers of Books,” India Currents, March 2009) about the ongoing debate about the authenticity or validity of Indian-English writing. First of all, a work of fiction is just that: fiction. It is created in the mind of the writer, and NRI writers have as much right to write about India as anyone. Diasporic novelists are not claiming that their work is non-fiction, and their attempts have to be encouraged.
Yamini Aluru, online
More on “Aunty” and “Uncle”
The article “Please Don’t Call Me Aunty” (Shobha Tharoor Srinivasan, India Currents, February 2009) makes me think the following:
In English-speaking countries like England, Canada, Australia, and the United States, the noun “aunt” is used to address the sister of one’s father or mother and wife of one’s uncle. In these countries, it is used before the name, such as “Aunt Gita.” However, most Indians use it after the name, such as “Gita Aunty,” just as we address in Indian languages. Uncles, too, are addressed this way.
Also, the word “aunty” is not actually listed in the dictionary. Such derivatives may be acceptable in India, but it is totally absurd to use in western countries. In modern society, if the age difference is small, people don’t even use “aunt” or “uncle,” and address others by their first names. I have seen that some American son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws address their spouse’s parents by their first names. So when are we going to adopt the western system of name calling?
Bharti Desai, Macon, Georgia