Thank you so much for publishing Joel Wallock’s reflection, “Swami Vivekananda’s Relevance in a Post-9/11 World” (India Currents, November 2007). To think that Swamiji’s prophetic call for the harmony of religions was delivered 108 years to-the-day prior to the World Trade Center destruction sends a chill up my spine.
It also arouses within my heart the fervent hope that the events of that infamous day in 2001 might serve to awaken the world to the absolute necessity of the attitude of oneness championed by Swami Vivekananda.
Eugene Salandra, via email
The latest, combined December 2007-January 2008 issue of India Currents is before me and I must appreciate your efforts to further improve the magazine’s contents.
The Books column (“Bibliophilia: Our Loves & Lusts”) is a lovely collection of short and crisp reviews of some readable books. This is a good feature in which to share books with readers. Another article I enjoyed reading is by Sanjna Nanaki Singh (“10,000 Miles From Home”). It’s a delightful personal account that takes you back to India for colorful celebrations and community life in its absolutely blissful enjoyment.
The editorial (“Dear Mr. Srinivasan”) is interesting, astonishing, and also a sad commentary about people in this country, including South Asians and Indians, who should know better. Your observation that some men might feel comfortable interacting with other men may be right, though not generally, as you also note. In any case, once you know about the gender, there is no justification for you to insist on your “comfort.”
In this regard my experience is similar to yours—maybe a step further. I had an interview for a senior position with a woman vice president of a very large mainstream American company with offices all over the U.S. I had put a “Mr.” after my name on the application to avoid confusion. For the interview I was in man’s attire (suit, tie etc.)—no skirt, dress, sari, salwar-kameez or burqa. The 45-minute interview went very well. There was no way one could have thought I was a woman. Yet, the letter from the company—after the interview—was addressed to Ms. Yatindra Bhatnagar.
Of course, I didn’t get the job. Or really was it Ms. Yatindra Bhatnagar who was denied the job? I will never know.
Yatindra Bhatnagar, via email
IN DEFENSE OF STEREOTYPING
It is difficult for me to sympathize with the writers who consciously ignore the fact that “Ragini” is a woman’s name. However, I do empathize with the writers who simply make the stereotypical assumption that an unknown editor is probably male (“Dear Mr. Srinivasan,” India Currents, Dec. 2007–Jan. 2008).
Although people often decry stereotypes, the fact remains that stereotyping is a very natural human process to ease handling of large amount of diverse information. Stereotyping means judging an individual based on the statistical profile of a group to which he/she belongs. For example, airport security personnel may search a passenger more thoroughly if he fits the profile (race, gender, age) of an airplane hijacker. Implemented properly, such a search policy may indeed provide greater aviation security than a purely random search policy.
Stereotyping is also used by many companies for improving business efficiency. For example, some companies minimize their recruiting cost by hiring new graduates exclusively from top-rated universities. Similarly, automakers design their cars to serve the needs of their typical (i.e. stereotypical) customers, often shortchanging their atypical customers.
Although clearly useful in many cases, stereotyping frequently benefits some people unfairly and hurts or irks others. We can minimize these effects, in part, by sharpening and refining the stereotypes as much as possible.
Furthermore, we should be prepared to go beyond our stereotypical thinking when we encounter an obvious exception, or when we have an opportunity to know someone at the individual level.
In the meantime, it would be useful to have a gender-neutral salutation such as Mx. (in lieu of Mr. and Ms.) for addressing an email to an unknown editor.
Vijay Gupta, Cupertino, Calif.
DESERVED TRIBUTE TO SHAW
It was a pleasant experience to open one of the latest India Currents and find a very well written article on a super hero and super idol of my college days. Sarita Sarvate’s “What Would Shaw Say?” (November 2007) is literary and analytical; my take on Shaw is reverential and anecdotal. I first heard of George Bernard Shaw because India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was himself a great writer, used to visit Shaw whenever he was in the U.K.
During one such visit, Nehru’s young daughter, Indira, accompanied him and presented Shaw a basket of mangos,which Shaw tried to eat Indian style. The next day, cartoonists in India went crazy; I recall Shankar’s Weekly devoted an issue to showing Shaw wrestling with a mango.
The day Mahatma Gandhi died there were mile long tributes from all over, but Shaw’s short tribute to Gandhi eclipsed everyone else’s: “It is dangerous to be too good.” When Shaw himself passed away, Nehru called a special session of parliament to pay tribute to Shaw and ordered that the flags be lowered. I believe this was the first time in Indian history that flags were lowered for a man not head of state, president, or monarch. I am most proud of my country for honoring a playwright who made the world sit up and think.
Yogi Surjit, Dublin, Calif
DEPRESSION IS VITAL TOPIC FOR DISCUSSION
I am very glad that “My Uncle’s ‘Accident” was printed in India Currents (Dec. ’07- Jan. ’08, New America Media). It is sad how hidden the topic of depression really is. I have known people in India who were told they had “bad spirits” in them when what were really needed were mental health services.
Many mental health-related social problems are not addressed adequately in our community. In fact, since many Indians do not believe in counseling, people going through depression must struggle alone with problems that require greater support. One of my cousins converted to Christianity; when I asked her why she had decided to convert, she said it was because her new religious community listened, cared, and did not deny her issues.
Manisha Chulani, via email
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