APALLED BY CHILD LABOR

I have lived in U.S. for close to 30 years, and every time I go back to India, I am appalled to see children as young as 10 working in people’s homes and shops. I looked up India’s history of child labor, and was impressed by all the laws India has developed to regulate this. But I don’t think the laws are enforced at all.

In Delhi, I understand that people can go to an organization that provides them with child servants. They claim that they use the money to support the children’s education and family. I really don’t see any such thing. Instead, I see 10- 12-year-old children working from morning to almost 10 p.m. with only about three hours of rest in between. I see them served with leftovers. I see them carry heavy loads while adults walk ahead with both arms dangling by the sides.

Indians say that children are just another face of God. They say that all children are the same. I just don’t get it. These families will never think of asking their children to even help with household chores. They consider it really demeaning. My question for them is, how can you make somebody’s child do the work that you would never even consider asking your children to do?

If India is so progressive in child labor, why does this form of abuse continue? Or am I just visiting the wrong side of town?

I don’t think there is anything wrong to “employ” a poor child, but at least provide the child with decent meals, bed to sleep on, education time, and light housework like babysitting, folding clothes, drying dishes, etc. But these families refuse to give the child time off to go to school or ease off on work. The worst case was when I saw a 12-year-old asked at 11 p.m. to do the dishes at the neighbor’s home because the neighbor’s maid had left for the day.

I would like to hear other people’s comments about this issue.

A.S. Bajaj, via email

EMBRACING INDIAN CULTURE

I could really connect with Kamala Thiagarajan’s article (“The Last Laugh,” IC, February 2004) for I moved from America to India when I was 11, and went through a similar culture shock in India. I then moved back to America in my junior year of high school, at age 15, and noticed something weird among the Indian teenagers here in America. I was branded as “white-washed” by my Indian peers because I didn’t join the Indian clubs in high school or go to “garba nights” at the local clubs. This leads me to affirm that you tend to embrace Indian culture more when you’re in a foreign country.

Personally, I’m glad that I got a chance to learn about both the Indian and American cultures. I love listening to Tamil songs and watching Hindi movies and I absolutely adore Indian miniature paintings. And I believe that I am no less or more “Indian” than my fellow classmates who dance to bhangra music and throw an extravagant party at the Hilton for Divali. It all comes down to your personal definition of the word “Indian,” as Thiagarajan explains eloquently in her excellent article.

Ambika, via the Internet

DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC

It’s not just that I disagree with the current administration; I’m outraged. And I’m downright embarrassed to talk to anyone from another country. I’m embarrassed to have a president so arrogant, so dishonest, so hawkish, that in three years he has nearly destroyed any good relations we had before he took office, and worsened those that were already bad.

I find myself apologizing to my foreign friends both in this country and abroad while trying vainly to explain the sheer idiocy and illogic of the current administration’s policies.

So this April 1, April Fool’s Day, I am joining tens of thousands of others who are wearing brown armbands or ribbons to signify the bullshit flowing down from Washington.

Tracy McCullough, San Jose, CA

NO MORE LIES

I’m an everyday citizen of this country, and I am personally tired of being lied to by the Bush administration. The lies began when they stole the election of 2000 by scrubbing the Florida voter rolls of 75,000 eligible voters.

The lies continued after 9/11, when they blatantly hid critical evidence and used the events to further a questionable war agenda in Iraq in search of weapons that simply never existed. And has this war truly made the world a safer place?

The lies persist today, as our president perpetuates a state of fear to serve the business interests of contractors rebuilding Iraq.

Americans are patriotic people. We know that our government can’t be perfect, especially in these challenging times. But we are also intelligent people. And we can only take so much deception and international embarrassment to realize that a change is in order. Four years is enough for Bush.

Marc Fortier, San Francisco, CA

MURREE’S HISTORY

It was fascinating and ominous to read Gerald Zarr’s article about Murree (“Spoilt Beauty,” IC, April 2004), the queen of the Himalayas. I studied in a military school in Murree (PAF Lowertopa) and played friendly basketball with boys of the Murree Christian School, our neighbor to the north. Last time I was in Murree (2000, high school reunion, Class of 1964), an Ahmadiyya (a Muslim sect that believes in Imam Mahdi) showed me a book that documents the grave of Virgin Mary in the heart of the town, and hence the name Murree. That’s one more reason for Westerners to flock to the beautiful hill station, anomalies of Pakistan notwithstanding.

Mohammed Shoaib, Fullerton, CA

SHAMEFUL BEHAVIOR

I agree with Rajan Parrikar (Letters, IC, April 2004). Indian restaurants are notorious for their poor service and uneven quality and taste. I have frequently received poor service even when there have been only a handful of customers in the restaurant. The less said about the waiters and their surly attitude, the better. The “owners” are equally bad. I strongly believe this is indicative of the corrupt Indian mentality.

While at it, I would like to comment on the horrible conditions at Bay Area’s “only multicultural” movie theater. The unhygienic and unsanitary bathrooms match the horrible seats. Worse still is the manner in which the theater’s management handles the crowds that throng hit movies. The manner in which tickets are issued and the way patrons are made to wait is horrible. Of course, the behavior of Indians is equally horrible. Many break lines and just laugh when you ask them to stand in line. The same Indians would never exhibit such behavior in theaters screening American movies. They know the consequences of such behavior, but in an Indian environment, their low, beastly behavior comes out in full force. As an Indian, I am ashamed.

Krishna Prasad, San Jose, CA

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