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April 2011
Readers Write

Experience at consulate was traumatic

Thank you for the timely editorial in the February issue about the problems we face at the Indian Consulate in Houston. My mind is still seething from the frustration and anger I felt on November 1, when I had to rush to Houston from Atlanta to get back my old passport (which had been sent for renewal in the first week of October 2010 by overnight mail) so I could travel to India. I had sent the old passport along with the application and money order by registered mail and had tracked that the packet had reached the consulate. Then I received the sad news about my father’s demise and I had neither the old passport nor the new one (which as per the consulate’s website should have come before the end of October, since the old passport was made in Houston previously). If I had had my new passport by the end of October, I would have been able to see my father when he was still alive, since he had gone through a surgery just five days before his death (October 26). I could not go to India during the surgery for the sole reason that my old passport was stuck at the consulate and my new passport had not arrived yet.

When I reached the consulate early on the morning of November 1, I was told to go to the receptionist, who repeatedly told me my passport application hadn’t been received. Later, a gentleman (who, it turned out later, wasn’t speaking the truth) came out of the enclosed ‘fortress’ in the afternoon after a long wait, asked me my name and why I needed the passport. He then went back inside and returned to tell me they were working on my passport. This went on till 5 p.m. By now I was desperate because my flight to India was departing at 9. 30 p.m., and if I missed it I would miss the chance to see my father’s face for the last time. The consulate staff was now leaving, and I started questioning them again. It was only then that the Consul General came out to inquire what my problem was. He instructed the staff to stay back and search for my old passport. There were hundreds of passports and almost 30 postal bins to search from. I started losing hope, but after 30 to 45 minutes, they found my old passport at the lowermost layer of the last bin they searched. The trauma I went through from the time I reached the consulate till the time I left that place was as bad as the agony I felt at the loss of my father.

Once back from India, my husband again flew to Houston so as to personally hand over the new passport application. In this process, we not only had to spend for another flight ticket, but also lost the $60 I had sent as a money order with my previous application. The consulate refused to refund that, and also charged me $60 to process the new application.

From my experience, I can vouch that the e-mails and the phone numbers on the website are never answered. When I was at their office, the phone kept ringing in the background and nobody answered it. The emergency number listed is even worse. It goes to a person who says that he is not presently at the consulate and will not be able to help out because he has no access to the office computers.

Nalini Mehta : by email

And this is “exemplary work?”

The editorial about the Indian Consulate in Houston struck the right chord. Probably all of us, at sometime or the other, have suffered a terrible experience dealing with the consulate. I too have very similar personal experiences to share regarding CGI Houston. However one tries to contact them for any query, one doesn’t get a response—neither the phone is picked up nor an e-mail is answered.

If Mr. Sanjiv Arora, the Consul General, thinks his staff is doing “exemplary work,” he is far from the ground reality.   I suggest that you please forward the copies of your editorial to Ambassador Meera Shankar, External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I am sure somebody will wake up to the realities of the situation and take remedial action.  : Khabar is doing a marvelous service to the Indian community here in Atlanta and countrywide as a whole with this mission.

Name withheld on request

No response on the status after a year

I want to add my complaint, too, to the “Chorus of Complaints Against the Consulate” (February issue). I submitted my application for the OCI card in March 2010. I was happy to get an acknowledgement and see the status of my application on the website within two weeks. I waited for two additional months for the receipt of the OCI card and stamp in the passport before I could call the consulate as advised on the site. Needless to say, it’s been almost a year, with two letters, e-mails and countless calls and yet no reply on the status. What should one do in this case? It’s understandable if there is a backlog, but at least someone should be there to answer the calls to let us know or respond to our letters and faxes.

V. G. Sagar : by email

Telangana is inevitable

This is in response to “Jai Hyderabad” in your February issue. Hyderabad has always been a melting pot and a cosmopolitan city. And it will remain so in the State of Telangana as well. As citizens of India, the author’s parents can choose to stay in Hyderabad as do many and enjoy the city.

Slogans are just that—catchy and useful only for those who coin them whether they are from KCR (K. Chandrasekhara Rao) or from Bombay/Mumbai. Justice Srikrishna should not have overlooked the fact that past remedies including regional councils and constitutional guarantees did not address the core issues that the people of this region face, as those in charge of implementing the solutions never truly did justice to Telangana.

As an Atlantan who has been living in Hyderabad for the past year, I find that the ground reality is that the State of Telangana is inevitable before the next round of elections, and it will include Hyderabad. And the next campaign for a new state could be for Gorkhaland in the east or for Vidarbha in the central region.

Mohan Tanneeru : by email

It’s time we corrected our own flaws

I was very impressed by the points made by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy in his article on Pakistani Americans in the March issue. While I am not from Pakistan, I am a Muslim. Islam is currently judged by the West as a violent religion. Until we Muslims denounce this radicalism that has taken over our religion, the non-Muslim world will continue to have that impression. The imams in the American mosques need to loudly speak out against these radical nutcases. I have not witnessed this as of yet.

I hear many American Muslims denounce the U.S. for what it stands for and they try and justify the anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. This is not to say that the U.S. has not invited some of it because of some of our policies. But then again what country in this world can claim to be free of imperfections? As the article pointed out, they are able to do this while living in this free country. Muslim countries have the least amount of democracy and freedom. Most treat their women as second-class citizens.

It is time that we Muslims looked inwards and asked ourselves what exactly we stand for and why we are not loudly denouncing these radicals and yet have no problems denouncing the West at every opportunity while actually making our homes in these countries.

Nasir Jiwa  : by email

Doniger’s book panders to credulous reviewers

We would agree with Girija Sankar (review of The Hindus: An Alternative History, March issue) that she is both the intended audience for Wendy Doniger’s book—a lay non-practitioner—and that she is neither a scholar of Sanskrit nor of world religion. We would disagree however that this absolves her of the responsibility to think critically about the book.

Doniger claims to love Hinduism but her hatred for practicing Hindus oozes from every page. The loving serial adaptation of the Ramayana by Ramanand Sagar is dismissed in a single sentence as a cause of the agitations in Ayodhya in 1992. Aspects of lived Hinduism such as Vedanta are jarringly noted as the works of “dead Brahmin males” rather than inspirations to living Hindus that cross lines of caste, gender and, increasingly, race and nationality as well. Violence is noted as inherent to Hinduism, while positive aspects of Hinduism are claimed to be borrowed from elsewhere. Tangential and sometimes irrelevant aspects of the tradition—at points Dr. Doniger examines Hinduism from an animal’s point of view—are privileged beyond all proportion. To top it off, there are serious errors throughout the book, many of which were documented by the Hindu American Foundation Co-Founder Aseem Shukla in his column in The Washington Post’s “ On Faith” section.

Dr. Doniger is of course free to write whatever she wishes, and by all means, if one wishes, one should read it. But the reviewer is wrong to think there is much of actual Hinduism to be revealed within it. Instead, revealed is a mind that extols the exotic and despises the practical or the mystical. And it also contemptuously panders to credulous reviewers who uncritically swallow her erroneous, biased work hook, line, and sinker.

Mihir Meghani
Hindu American Foundation (HAF) Co-Founder and Board Member
Fremont, California: [Editor’s note: The review referenced above was published in good faith, and not intended to offend anybody. Khabar sincerely regrets any hurt feelings caused by its publication.]

Why read “fake” histories of Hinduism?

It was about 13-14 years ago that I first bought a book (perhaps the last time too) written by Wendy Doniger. The book was titled The Laws of Manu. I could not read beyond 30 pages. The descriptions were obtuse because of the footnotes, in which she gave distorted definitions and misinterpreted verses. She also gave out-of-context explanations of basic words like Sacrifice, Aryan, and Karma. Something was not right and the book did not seem like a scholarly work.  After I bought Manu Smriti written in Hindi by Hargovind Shastri, I compared both the versions and was convinced that Doniger picks up Hindu themes and books and gives these her own spin, caricaturing millennia-old traditions that have survived all types of malicious commentaries heaped upon them.

Coming to this book, I have to say the title of the book itself is inappropriate and the cover is pernicious and borderline porn. Why is it necessary for her to write a big volume of an alternative history of Hindus after all these years of acquiring information? She has not understood the real and true history of Hindus or of India.

In conclusion, I would beg to completely disagree with the views of Girija Sankar that this is a good book for amateur readers in the field of Hinduism. For amateur readers, this would be the most misleading book. Scores of book about the real history of India and of Hinduism have been written by great scholars who have studied the subject in depth. Out of these, I may recommend books such as Why be a Hindu by Stephen Knapp; TheHindu Mind by Bansi Pandit; Hinduism –The Eternal Tradition and Why I am a Hindu by David Frawley; and Portraits of a Nation:History of Ancient India by Kamlesh Kapur. There are several other historical books by eminent scholars, such as Frank Morales, Koenraad Elst, G.P. Singh and Rajiv Malhotra, just to name a few. One final question—when authentic narratives of Indian history are available, why suggest reading of alternative (read fake) histories by those who just caricature history for fun?

Indu Dey: by email

Law on NRI vote is not really useful

Recently the government of India passed a law that will allow NRIs to participate as well as to cast votes in general elections. On the face of it, it sounds like a good gesture because many NRIs were demanding voting rights. However this legislation has the following flaws:

(1) It allows only NRIs holding Indian passports to participate.

(2) NRIs must live in India for six months.

(3) NRIs must vote in person.  

These requirements are very tough and I am afraid not many NRIs living in America, Canada and other Western countries will fly to India just to vote, or will be able to time their visits to India to coincide with the elections.

India may be the largest democracy as far as population is concerned, but many of her citizens do not know how to read or write and they cast their votes by choosing symbols. Most educated people don't care who runs for office and who gets elected, because they are tired of scandals, corruptions and inefficiency.

Many foreign countries, including the United States, allow their citizens who live abroad to cast their votes by going to the American Embassies/Consulates and even by mail.

So what's the use of passing a law that does not make sense?

Jyoti Mukherji: Norcross , Georgia


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