My wife and I just returned from our annual trip to India. We spent most of the three-week holiday in the temple town of Kanchipuram in South India, about 50 miles from Chennai. One of my favorite places to visit in Kanchipuram is the temple of Lord Varadarajan and his beautiful consort, Thayar. Built hundreds of years ago during the great Pallava dynasty, this temple is rich in tradition, art and sculpture.
I look forward to these few days each year far from the hustle and bustle of the Silicon Valley. I find myself filled with joy and peace sitting on the steps of the temple pond and taking in the peaceful setting on a bright sunny morning. Time seems to be at a standstill. I see the priests performing their daily rituals and offering salutations to the sun. I see little children playing on the far end of the pond and my mother-in-law dutifully circling the serpent god carved in stone, anointing it with turmeric and applying vermilion to the hood, making it come alive. I drink the intoxicating peace that this serene place exudes and feel rejuvenated every morning when I leave the temple steps.
Before I realize, it is time to leave. There is just one problem. I am not ready to leave yet. I don’t want to give up these simple pleasures that I have become so accustomed to over the last three weeks. My mind is confused and my heart heavy at the thought of leaving this magical place. I seek the answer long and hard on the evening before we depart at the very same spot on the steps of the pond. Finally, I have the answer. I walk back and start packing as if with a purpose for I knew exactly what to do. Such a simple answer it was.
I decide to carry that peaceful feeling with me back to the U.S. rather than leave it on the steps of the temple pond. Ever since I got back, I began to create the same peace and quiet right here where I live as I practice silence in my life every day like I did at the temple. I have finally learned to sit quietly in a room alone and meditate. This is so much easier as I now do not have to wait an entire year to feel that bliss. I had no clue when someone said: “Wherever you go, there you are.” Now I do.
And by the way, now and then I catch my mind wandering again thinking of my next visit to Kanchipuram, wondering what other secrets lie in store for me on those temple steps again … there it is—the restless human mind at work yet again.
Hari Candadai, Santa Clara CA
As a Muslim, I resent Sarita Sarvate’s repeated choice of words “Islamic terrorists” in her articles “Stop the Killings” (IC October 2003) and “The Iraq War” (IC May 2003). Why cannot these individuals be referred to simply as “terrorists” instead of having their faith linked to their actions? It appears that Sarvate is following the Pied Piper of Western media in a hawkishly Republican post-9/11 U.S. where the term “Islamic terrorists” has become commonplace. But I do not expect a Berkeley-educated writer who claims heritage to a country with reportedly the second largest Muslim population in the world to succumb to such ignorant and Islamophobic terminology.
If out of over a billion Muslims living in the world, some commit terrorist acts under the guise of Islam to further their own political agendas, and are called Islamic terrorists, then why not call the Irish Republican Army (IRA) “Protestant terrorists,” or anti-abortion activists who burn abortion clinics and kill doctors in the name of Christian values “Christian terrorists,” or those Hindus responsible for their share of the Gujarat and Ayodhya tragedies as “Hindu terrorists”? Can you imagine the rage from the Irish, the Catholics, and Hindus in this country?
The term “Islamic terrorists” appears to convey a covert message on the part of the writer that the insane acts of a few are a legitimate reflection of their faith.
Seema Khan, San Ramon, CA
Radhika Sainath’s perspective (“Nonviolent Resistance in the West Bank,” IC October 2003) is not characteristic of all young Indian women. While the movement to which she belongs is terrific at tunnel vision (i.e. Israelis are the devil incarnate while Palestinians are pure and blameless victims), she, like her colleagues, refuses to acknowledge history. She deplores “36 years of state terrorism” but fails to mention that neither Jordan nor Egypt, who were in control of the West Bank respectively from 1948 to 1967, advocated or permitted any nationalist Palestinian activity. She conveniently forgets the 1929 massacre of Jewish Hebronites by their Arab brethren; the 1936-1939 Arab riots during which hundreds of Jews were killed in intercommunal strife that was finally suppressed by the British mandate authorities; the destruction of the Jewish community of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948.
Sainath “deplores” suicide attacks. How noble. I wonder what her stance would be if she lost a close personal friend in one such outrage, as I did on Aug. 16, 2002, when the intrepid downtrodden she supports attacked a student cafeteria at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Victoria Patel, Los Angeles, CA
HINDUS ARE TOO TOLERANT
I was saddened to read the article, “Stop the Killings” (IC October 2003). This was not because I disagreed with the need for tolerance, but because I found it quite one-sided.
The author inaccurately states that both India and Pakistan have valid claims to Kashmir. The ruler of Kashmir acceded to the Indian union after his nation was invaded by Pakistan. That should have been the end of the story.
Many people fail to realize that China has also occupied a significant portion of Kashmir. Discussions about free elections never mention the Pakistan and Chinese occupied areas, only the Indian administered area.
Sadly, this is a constant pattern—Hindu Indians are flexible and accomodating, yet Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh continue to terrorize Hindus and Buddhists in their countries. Maybe readers need to read Lajja by Taslima Nasrin and remember that she has a death sentence on her head for condemning the killings of Hindus in Bangladesh.
I remember once reading in Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook about how as a Hindu she ate the sacred cow so as not to offend her Muslim hosts, pretending she did not know what it was, yet later stating she would never serve pork because she would not want to offend Muslims.
The reality is that we Hindus are very tolerant and open-minded, yet how do you deal with others who are not so enlightened?
Shiva Carroll Nataraj, Ocala, FL
INDIAN INMATES SEEK HELP
I am currently incarcerated in a state prison for charges arising out of my failing company. I accepted a plea agreement where I would agree to offer full restitution to all creditors and customers and serve 18 months (three years with half time) in a restitution center.
I have found very quickly that when a white male and an Indian male are guilty of identical charges, the Indian receives a harsher penalty. This disparity also extends to prison placement, prison classification, and parole determinations.
Latino and African-American groups outside of prison, when notified by inmates, help to correct and prevent injustices and preferential treatment. When an Indian inmate is mistreated by staff and administration, he has no alternative but to bear this treatment. Indian inmates have long given up the losing battle on trivial matters like being able to hold religious services, getting food without beef products, keeping long hair when it is a religious requirement, and getting religious videos and audio recordings sent in. The status quo can be changed only with help from the Indian community outside. We humbly request your assistance.
Name withheld upon request