RETURN INSULTS WITH FORBEARANCE

I am an Indian-American Muslim and condemn both the cartoon depiction of our Holy Prophet Muhammad and the violent response made by a minority of extremists among Muslims. I am also proud of the responsible conduct of our American newspapers. They have shown that the role of the media is to inform, educate, and create understanding among different races and religions. Freedom of speech must be balanced with a duty to refrain from vulgarity intended to provoke hatred. I hope that my Muslim brethren will follow the advice of the Holy Prophet and return insults with forbearance and forgiveness.

Sohail Husain, Hamden, Md.

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DIPLOMATIC TEMPEST

Just a few days before President Bush plans to set foot on Indian soil, a huge diplomatic tempest has resulted from the mistreatment of three Indian scientists applying for visas. All three were rebuffed by U.S. officials in Chennai.

Goverdhan Mehta, an organic chemist and the former director of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, was invited to lecture at the University of Florida at Gainesville in March, and then address an international conference. Mehta was thoroughly humiliated when he was asked whether his research could be used for chemical warfare. He refused to fill out a questionnaire on his research, arguing that many peer-reviewed papers could be perused by U.S. officials.

A second scientist, Placid Rodriguez, a nuclear metallurgist who helped develop India’s fast-breeder reactor in the 1990s, was planning to speak at a minerals and metals conference starting March 12 in San Antonio. He applied for a visa in early November last year and was called by the consulate on Feb. 16 only to be told that he had to complete a new questionnaire that would take eight weeks to process. The perplexed scientist refrained from completing the questionnaire, reasoning that he would never receive his visa in time.

The third scientist, biologist P.C. Kesavan, was told that his visa would be delayed. He was asked for his “entire biographical sketch,” which he found to be a “most demeaning and humiliating experience.” Kesavan is a scientist affiliated with the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation.

It seems that U.S. officials still maintain an unhealthy, haughty, colonial attitude when processing visa applications of Indian professionals. It is a pity that the Indian government extended an invitation for President Bush and his entourage to visit India. The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, should have paid more attention to his savvy daughter, who is a brilliant lawyer working for ACLU and is a fierce critic of the Bush administration’s appalling record of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, Iraq, and outsourcing torture.

Jagjit Singh, Palo Alto, Calif.

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THIS IS MY COUNTRY, OR IS IT?

Today is sad day for me.

As I was driving to work on Grant Road in Los Altos, Calif., a driver in front of me was weaving in and out of my lane without indicating her intention. The first time I dismissed it as an honest mistake. Then it happened a second time. I let I go again. When she did that a third time, I flashed my high beam in protest. When we came to a stop at a traffic light, I drove alongside and noticed that the driver was a white middle-aged woman.

When I looked out of my window in protest, she gave me the finger, rolled down the passenger-side window, and yelled, “I am not sure if you are Iranian or Indian, go back to your country.”

“This is my country,” I retorted.

The point I am making is that America has changed for good. I have lived here for 23 years, adopted this as my country, and brought up my daughter to respect what this country stands for, all to be shattered by a single comment like this. I am glad my daughter was not in the car with me. How would I have explained this to her?

This incident makes me wonder, am I really an American? When they made me take a citizenship test no one told me I need to be white to be accepted as a citizen.

Kishen Bhagavan, via email

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ANGLO INDIANS FACE DISCRIMINATION

I was surprised to read the sad story by dry-eyed Preeti Verma Lal (“Red Hibiscus Among Abandoned Houses,” IC, February 2006) about McCluskieganj, regurgitated from her previously published article in Discover India, November 2005.

McCluskieganj was a dream that many shared. It was started by Ernest McCluskie, a Scottish Indian who had felt personally the sting of discrimination from both the British and Indians who resented their mixed-race countrymen. During the 300 years of the British living in India there were many marriages between British men and Indian and Portuguese-Indian women. Their marriages are recorded in the churches in India and in the British Library in London where all the India Office papers are now stored. Such so-called mixed race peoples (if one believes in race) are now all over the world in a diaspora that has been little recorded.

It is interesting how Lal, a very colorful and articulate writer, depicts Anglo-Indians as white, and subsequent owners and landgrabbers as brown. As anyone old enough to remember knows, Anglo Indians have always come in all skin colors. Personally, I have never known one who does not love India with an enduring love and considers India the mother country. Circumstances changed for many when Independence came and some guarantees for jobs that did exist before vanished, and people like Kitty Texeira made choices then, being unable to predict the future. For Anglo Indians, who were an urban community, dreams of living together and farming the land were difficult to reach to begin with. A similar fate befell Whitefield near Bangalore, which was set aside as an Anglo Indian community.

There are many Anglo Indians still in India who fight continuous discrimination by people who have no memory of British India. English has been established as the mother tongue of these people and their Anglo Indian schools provide a much-sought-after education. When the British left India the Anglo-Indian community was found to be 100 percent literate. How sad that they have been forgotten due to circumstances that were beyond their control.

Joy Chase, Mountain View, Calif.

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THE JOY OF BEING SINGLE

After reading “Desperately Seeking Roommate” (IC, February 2006), I feel compelled to share a different perspective on the single life. As a newly single, South Asian-American woman in her late 20s, I neither fill all my weekends in advance nor keep backup plans. In fact, part of the joy of being single for me is having the freedom to do what I really want to, on a whim. I also value having the time to invest in my friendships and personal development. I’m excited about my life, but society (especially Indian culture) keeps reminding me that I shouldn’t be, because “something’s missing.” I hope Sanju realizes that while she frets about finding a new man, she may be losing sight of something more important—her life passing her by.

Radhika M., via email

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SHORT AND CANDID EDITORIALS

Days ago I got several back issues of your magazine and fell in love with it. I like the short editorials that are candid in addressing political issues. Such opinions are needed in today’s America when the mainstream media is manufacturing consent. I also like the stories, which provide a unique perspective of looking at our society.

Lan, Monterey, Calif.

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