Although I am now 23 years old, Pavithra Mohan’s article (“Who Said I Learned Anything at School?” IC, September 2004) resonates well with my own life. Growing up in several countries including Canada and the United States, I was surprised that early in life so much emphasis was placed on beauty, clothes, and the opposite sex.
The fact that I was of Indian origin seemed to gain more importance as I grew older, though not necessarily for the right reasons! In high school boys would ask me if I was familiar with all the positions outlined in the Kama Sutra and some even attempted to get me to “try some out” with them! I loved wearing saris—and still do—but stopped in my senior year when I was actually told by several teachers that they made me look “too sexy” and that I was distracting the young men in my classes! It was a relief when I finally finished high school and entered university, but I can totally empathize with girls of Pavithra’s age growing up in North America.
Victoria Patel, via email
POLITICS OF THE OLYMPICS
I read an article about the large upsurge in the Olympics medal count of China, Japan, Australia, Russia, and other Eastern countries. In my opinion, of these countries, the only one that does it out of pure sportsmanship is Australia.
Olympics are a serious business in communist countries. East European countries, Russia, and later China, have committed substantial resources to the Olympics. This is their way of flaunting their power.
China started out by hiring East German coaches after the re-unification of Germany. Along with coaches came doping techniques, and a couple of Olympics ago, several Chinese athletes were found to have used drugs. They may use less drugs now, but still spend large sums of cash and flaunt their wealth and power via their success in Olympics. In the recent Athens Olympics, China bagged 63 medals and had a very impressive gold-medal count of 32—second only to United States’ 35.
The countries surrounding China have tried to match China’s army of athletes by increasing spending on the Olympics themselves. Japan’s gold-medal count in Athens went up from five in Sydney to 16 in Athens, and their total of 37 wasn’t shabby, either. Russia’s total medal count went up from 88 in Sydney to 92 in Athens, even though their gold-medal count of 27 was lower than China’s. South Korea’s medal count is also higher. Taiwan got its first two gold medals in these Olympics.
It should be noted that Russia’s army is nose-to-nose against the Chinese army in a tense standoff. Similarly, South Korea is in a standoff against North Korea. Taiwan was threatened by China as recently as a month before the Olympics. China invested in Russian diesel-powered submarines and is embarking on nuclear-powered submarines.
So, more than national pride is at stake in any contest. Hence, Olympics are serious business for the countries surrounding China. Nobody wants to be bullied and intimidated. Everybody knows how the Chinese swarmed into Tibet and took that huge country over in 1959-62 through military supremacy. Now that India is eyeball-to-eyeball (Chinese occupies part of Indian territory just south of Tibet), the Indian defense establishment is very nervous about Chinese tactics at their northern border.
The Indian military established an Operation Olympics to train part of their military cadres to become successful Olympians. The Indian military contributed five participants to the Athens Olympics, and India’s only medal was won by a soldier—a silver medal in shooting. As a result of this success, the Indian military has decided to expand their training of military personnel. Operation Olympics will be revived and India will send more military personnel to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Olympics in that part of the world are about more than personal glory; they are also about national pride and even more importantly, a means to bully and to avoid being bullied or attacked.
Vijay Kumar, via email
REMARKABLE EMPEROR OF HAMPI
Vijayshree Venkatraman writes about a very interesting journey (“History Immortalized,” IC, August 2004) to the glorious reign of probably the greatest monarch ever to rule South India. It is amazing to learn how much Emperor Krishnadevaraya achieved in his reign of just 19 years and what a personality his was—compassionate, just, romantic, witty, poetic, astute administrator, truly secular though himself a practicing Vaishnavite, builder and renovator of countless temples, patron of all arts, and above all, a top-notch warrior of unequalled valor. I wish all of us, and youngsters in particular, get to learn more about this remarkable king and his times through articles such as this.
Krishna Narayanan, via email
It has been two weeks (as of Aug. 14) since I have been here in Gujarat. So far, it has rained every day except one. In these two weeks, Gujarat saw some 65-70 inches of rain (70 percent of the seasonal rain). I finally decided to venture out and traveled in rain.
I saw the devastation of the monsoon rains first hand. Villages washed away, lives devastated, and damages of Rs. 100,000-200,000 million recorded (including industrial and agricultural loss), yet the Congress government in New Delhi has sanctioned relief of only Rs. 550 million. Bihar, on the other hand, received Rs. 20,000 million from the central government for a recorded loss of about Rs. 30,000 million. On the roads there were potholes big enough to sink a titanic and yes, many trucks lost their wheels and axles to these potholes.
To tackle the problem of responding to these roadside emergencies, the government has placed cranes (not quite the tow trucks we are used to in the United States) every 50 miles to move the wreckage promptly and an ambulance ready to deal with medical emergencies. The wreckage that used to take at least a day to clear now takes only a couple of hours.
First, I traveled to Vadodra. We were stopped by local police for a minor safety violation. In the old days, one would have expected a demand of bribe to avoid a trip to the courthouse. Not anymore. We paid a fine of Rs. 100 rupees on the spot, and got a receipt. The infraction had to be corrected within 24 hours. We were stopped again by police a little further down because of excessive glare from the headlights of our vehicle. This time the officer was nice. He actually provided the missing yellow strip needed on the headlights.
Next, I traveled to Surat, recently made famous for Commissioner Rao’s drive to make it one of the cleanest cities in the world. After five years, it is still clean. Thousands of workers descend upon the streets of Surat every night, rain or shine, to clean the streets. Also, I noticed that in Surat seatbelt laws are strictly enforced.
I am sure that some level of corruption is still there, but one can see the difference brought about by determined governments (central and state) in improving the lives of the average person.
Gaurang Desai, Fremont, CA
DIVORCE AMONG INDIAN AMERICANS
Sandhya Char’s article (“Untying the Knot,” IC, September 2004) about divorce among Indian Americans is a great piece. It is well researched and the many anecdotes make it racy and interesting. Keep it up.
Devasish Ray, Washington, D.C.