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November 2007
Readers Write

Womanhood celebrated in October issue

It was fitting to see the 15th anniversary issue of Khabar (October 2007) as a dedication to women. I found women being given their due in all facets of the magazine, starting with women cookbook authors. Navratri, Golu, Garba, Durga Pooja and so many more rituals throughout the month celebrate women, who with strength, courage and determination overcome all weaknesses and evil. The articles on Goddess Durga's own town and Golu captured the essence of Shakti.

Reetika Khanna Nijhawan's "Letter From India," on the other hand, showed the stark realities facing women in Delhi. It is shocking and devastating to know that after 60 years of Independence, and with India's first female president in power, Indian men still tend to demean women. All my "women's-lib" emotions rose in me and as many women might have felt, I too wanted to shout out from the rooftops about my strength. Finally it was Sadhguru's article on "Women and Spirituality" that made me realize it is not about who is superior. The entire issue took me through a gamut of emotions—from pride to feeling respected and important, then feeling demeaned, and finally to peace and a sense of calm.

With October designated as breast cancer awareness month, the only thing that would have made the issue complete for me would have been the inclusion of breast cancer and breast health education for South Asian women in the health segment, with an emphasis on early detection and routine mammograms. Kudos on an enjoyable issue.

Gayatri Shah Dunwoody, Ga.

Harassment of women in India is widespread

Your October issue was really one of the best and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The articles on Diwali and Navratri were so nostalgic that I'd have cried, if I hadn't reminded myself that I'd be in India next year at this time.

But the article that hit me the hardest was the one by Reetika Khanna Nijhawan on the place of women in modern India ("Still Second Class?"). The scenario described, of being afraid to travel alone, is unfortunately not restricted to North India. I come from Coimbatore, a city in Tamil Nadu, South India, and can attest to the fact that the same fear exists there too. "Eve-teasing" and talking/acting lewdly towards women is widespread and the victims are afraid to speak out, fearing repercussions like public humiliation or worse. At least as far as I have seen and experienced, the victims tend to be young, girls in high school or young women in college, though older women are not spared either. Being stalked, brushed up against and touched inappropriately are the crosses that they have to bear.

Growing up, I was told that ‘boys will be boys,' and that it was up to the girls to dress so as not to attract their attention. Well, even a head-to-toe chador won't stop this kind of behavior, because the problem is not in the girls' clothes, but rather in the men's minds. They are bullies who will pick on more vulnerable women but leave the more aggressive ones alone. Unfortunately, their role models on the silver screen tend to behave in just the same manner, reinforcing this kind of behavior. For each such scene on screen, respectable women on the streets pay the price.

Lakshmi Palecanda

Bozeman, Mont.

Good Work, Houston Consulate!

Recently I've read letters from Khabar readers complaining about the service and performance at the Indian Consulate in Houston, Texas. So, when I found out that the Consulate had cancelled (on a whim, it appeared!) publicly announced visa camps in the Atlanta area, I feared the worst. Canceling publicly announced visa camps and not even informing the Indian media in the area or the very organizations that help administer them seemed like the height of disregard by the Consulate for their clients.

The next day I learnt that the Consulate had outsourced the visa processing service to a professional company. Not knowing what to make of it, I was still nervous as I had less than a month to go (I was counting on the visa camp that got cancelled). Thankfully, my experience turned 180 degrees when I began my application process from the link provided on the Consulate's website for their visa services contractor.

After filling out the form online, the system gave me an ID #. I sent my form and documents by overnight delivery and kept my UPS tracking number handy?just in case! To my surprise, the very next day I received an email acknowledging receipt of the application and an assurance that it'd be processed right away. I was still not convinced that it could be going so smoothly, so the next day I went to the link they sent me to track the progress of my application, and sure enough there were fresh updates on it informing me the status of the application. Exactly a week from the day I mailed the application, I received another email saying my passport/visa had been dispatched back to me, along with the shipping company's tracking number.

I was thrilled with the speed and professionalism of the whole process and would like to compliment the Consulate in taking this most effective step of partnering with a quality visa service provider.

Satisfied Applicant

Suwanee, Ga.

Grown-up ABCD's confessions touches a chord

I'm an avid reader of Reshmi Hebbar's articles in Khabar ("Confessions of a Grown-Up ABCD"). After reading her column, I always ask my friends if they'd read the latest one. I enjoy discussing it with them. Unlike her, I grew up in India and came to U.S. about 14 years ago. Still, a lot of her stories—like the one about her parents in "On Money and Spartan Living"—resonated with me. My parents and the culture in India taught me to respect precious resources like energy and water and basically made me aware of the long-term effects of my day-to-day actions/choices. In this society of material excess, I try to inculcate those values in my daughter and teach her that it's not fashionable or ok to waste anything. "Conserve, reduce, reuse and recycle" is the motto I saw my parents practice their entire lives in India. I try to follow in their footsteps and hope that my daughter will follow me or even lead me later on!

Thank you very much for her beautifully written articles. Keep up the good work.

Lalita Pande by email

Indians have not forgotten Gandhi's teachings

I was somewhat surprised to read Girish Modi's letter in Khabar (October 2007), in which he maintains that while Mahatma Gandhi is being revered in different ways, his teachings on nonviolence are not being followed by India, because India has developed nuclear bombs to protect itself against its enemies.

Gandhiji used the strategy of nonviolence as a force to get the British out of India. It is improper to conclude, however, that this force alone was sufficient to expel the British. There were other forces aligned against the ruling British. All those forces effectively contributed to that cause: the revolt in 1857 against the British rule, the armed struggle by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, attempts against the British all over India. Also it is worthwhile to note in this context that England had suffered heavy losses in the Second World War. The British rule in India depended to a large extent on the Indian army that was trained and then used to govern India. There were incidents after Second World War indicating that the Indian army might not stand with the British as the struggle for freedom intensified. All these factors made the British realize that their days in India were then numbered and that they had no choice but to quit India.

Today many of us in India and in other parts of the world wonder if Gandhiji's strategy of nonviolence might have had any notable effect against some other regime that was far more ruthless than the British. If India decides to dump all its weapons and depend upon nonviolence as the sole weapon, these enemies will surely be very thrilled, because then they can easily and surely walk into India in a short period of time. India may then become what she was prior to August 15, 1947—an enslaved nation!

I humbly disagree with the writer, therefore, in his observation that we Indians have forgotten Gandhiji's teachings just because we do not follow them. The fact is, we not only remember those teachings but also remember when they should be followed and when they must not be followed. In the current explosive environment, where we have to confront enemies not only from outside of India but also from within, it is in our own interest that we do not follow those teachings.

Umakant K. Rajguru by email


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