Letters from Readers
Memories of Mumbai Railways
I very much enjoyed reading the extremely well written, comprehensive, and engaging article on “Mumbai Railways” by Deepali Nandwani in the September 2019 issue of Khabar. The article resonated with me as I, while a college student in Mumbai, commuted frequently on the Mumbai trains. In my pre-college days in Nairobi, a long distance train trip to the coast of Mombasa was an annual luxury. Thence to Mumbai was by ship. But in Mumbai, as my uncle lived in Andheri and my college was almost opposite Mumbai’s iconic Victoria Terminus or VT station (or Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), during four years of my college studies I commuted regularly from Andheri to Churchgate and back.
Mumbai was not so congested during those years, so commute during off-peak hours was quite comfortable. I vividly recall the aroma of Parle biscuits near Vile Parle and the overpowering fishy smell near the Khar and Matunga stations, the sounds of hawkers selling trinkets or hot chai, the camaraderie of my college mates while singing Bollywood songs, playing cards, or small talk as the train sped along. The trains were like extensions of sitting rooms! The sight of the dabbawalas was also amazing! The train stations had their own distinct flavor—little stalls selling beverages, books, newspapers, paan, and cigarettes, and the shoe-shine boys offering cheap polish!
What I recall most fondly is my train rides during summer vacations. I had a First Class Student Concession Pass. After my afternoon nap and cup of tea, I used to get on the train with a novel and read, sitting comfortably in the compartment. I would get down at the Churchgate Station, take a leisurely stroll on Marine Drive, munching roasted peanuts, watch the sunset, and ride back home after that.
I understand stations in India including Mumbai are undergoing makeovers and are becoming tidier, and attractive with artwork, plants and flowers, etc. Very laudable initiative indeed!
Cinema: 3 Idiots and beyond
First of all, my congratulations to Viren Mayani for writing an excellent article on “3 Idiots and Beyond”— a very, very enjoyable piece of writing on our own beloved Omi Vaidya. Frankly speaking, nobody can ever forget Chatur, our Omi Vaidya, who, according to me, was the most talented actor of the movie and the reason of the great commercial success. Only 1 out of 1,000 actors succeeds without godfathers of the industry in Bombay, and one of those who succeeded is Omi Vaidya. Now if you are the son/daughter/niece of the film personality, no problem. You would certainly get some role at the earliest opportunity, otherwise wait for the stars to open or wait and look to your parents’ support for years together. Nawaz Siddiqui and Ayushman Khurrana are lucky to be stars now. Nawaz had a rut of at least 10 years before he got established because of patience and acting talent.
Omi Vaidya would not have progressed without the support of his rich parents. However, Omi is a well-trained American actor, including comedy skills. Having observed him in one of Atlanta shows, “HeartNotes,” I can safely predict his great success in other varied roles as well. And soon you would see him successful in many films. I, being from Pune, Maharashtra, can say it would be a good thing for him to act in Marathi films. I know he is poor in Marathi, but certain roles need such actors and they perform very well. Slowly he will also learn the language of his forefathers and will have great commercial success.
I feel Omi has a tremendous scope of a great comedian in Indian cinema, a market of almost 135 crore people. Stereotyped roles are losing market day by day. People want variety and entertainment. See the tremendous success of Hrithik Roshan-starrer Supersecrets. Finally, I appreciate Omi’s blunt speaking for Indo Americans to be ready for struggle and waiting period if they are interested to enter Hindi filmdom, more so if they have no supporters from industry.
Kashmir: Repealing article 370
Despite the opposing views [in Jeevan Zutshi’s opinion piece and in the editorial, September 2019], your editorial seems to agree with the opinion piece regarding the rationale for the 370 repeal. Your objection has to do more with the timing, motive, and the manner in which it was carried out. Also, since both views favor secularism, it may be worth pointing out that the Congress Party was not particularly secular by granting a separate set of laws to a particular religious group not only in Kashmir but the rest of India as well (triple talaq and other unconstitutional laws, for example). This is one reason for the “sickular” stigma and the rise of Modi.
Your stance that a tit-for-tat approach is counterproductive echoes Gandhi’s wisdom, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” But of course the hard right-wingers don’t want anything to do with Gandhi and it is all too tempting to counter militant Islamism with militant Hinduism. Unfortunately, a military presence is needed to ward off terrorism but it inevitably leads to civilian abuse and a climate of distrust. In this sense, the Kashmir situation is very much like the Israel-Palestine conflict with no end in sight. Meanwhile, replacing the BJP’s polarizing rallying cry, “One nation, one language, one religion” with a more democratic, egalitarian slogan such as “One nation, one law” would be a step in the right direction if only the intent were not so questionable.
Thayil Ron Jacob
Johns Creek, GA
In Khabar‘s September 2019 issue, the perspectives on Article 370’s revocation are eye-opening for someone on either side. The author of “The Kashmir Conundrum Is Now a Hornet’s Nest” rightly points out that certain anti-India rogue elements have taken hold, largely in the Kashmir valley, making the transition to a united India difficult. While this topic received a lot of attention from news organizations around the world, many failed to report on the positives that come with it, which are explained in detail in Jeevan Zutshi’s piece. Both these articles cover the Kashmir decision quite thoroughly. However, there are a few points that should be made.
Efforts by Pakistan to make this an international issue have been thwarted, most recently by Modi himself in his bilateral meeting with Trump at the G7 Summit: “We do not want to give pains to any country in the world … because these issues are bilateral.” For decades, politicians have called Kashmir an abhinn ang (integral part) of India. Why was there no need to say the same for Gujarat or Bihar or any other state? Whenever Kashmir was brought up before in news debates or elections, it was always the “Kashmir issue” or the “Kashmir problem.” And in revoking Article 370 and 35A, the government has taken a radical step to solve the Kashmir issue. It is also important to note that Article 370 was supposed to be a temporary provision when first adopted.
The argument that Indians should not claim Kashmir because Kashmiris do not want to be part of India is not entirely accurate. Social media was abuzz with the young Ladakh MP who passionately spoke his heart out in Parliament, celebrating Ladakh’s new UT status. People in the region want progress, prosperity, and employment, which the rest of the nation is getting. Kashmiris, in fact, want stability and peace in the region.
Replying to a point in the article, India as a “Hindu land” refers not to a religion, but to the land and people beyond the Indus (or Sindhu) River. For thousands of years, people of different religions have lived peacefully on the subcontinent. In fact, it is the birthplace of 4 major world religions. So to say that Kashmir’s Hindu roots are outdated would be a misinterpretation.
Along with the popularity of Modi’s BJP, the past few years have also seen the rise of nationalism in the country, which is a positive trend. Today, more young Indians are connecting to their roots, and India as a nation is realizing its potential on the world stage.
I am writing this letter in response to your September 2019 editorial “Kashmir Conundrum Is Now a Hornet’s Nest.” The premise of your editorial is first that the way forward for the Kashmir crisis can only be through a Plebiscite or Referendum, and second the Abrogation of Article 370 was done sneakily and heavy handedly.
If Plebiscite was the way forward, it would have been done a long time ago, and the reason that a neutral Plebiscite can’t ever take place is because Pakistan is interested in usurping this land and has no real interest in the self determination of Kashmiri people. If there ever were a Plebiscite the entire process would have been hijacked at gun point and we would never know the true wishes of the Kashmiri people. Pretending otherwise is wishful thinking. Given this reality, successive governments have just kicked the can down the road, which brings us to Article 370.
Coming to Article 370, continuation of this special status indefinitely (Article 370 was meant to be temporary), until a Plebiscite can take place (which was never going to happen) is meaningless. So, some action had to be taken with respect to this “temporary special status.” I have tried to understand the procedure that was used by the BJP Government to Abrogate Article 370 and it appears to have been handled “cleverly” but constitutionally. The procedure required was for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to ask the Indian Parliament for this Abrogation (which would have never happened given the demographics). So, the BJP government created a climate for President’s rule and had the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir instead ask for the abrogation. While I agree, this may have been sneaky, what options did India have after all, other than indefinitely postponing action on this hot button issue?
We can all sympathize that India lives in a dangerous neighborhood and India has been in a state of constant proxy war for 70+ years over Kashmir. History tells us that when India became independent in 1947 from Britain, the princely states of India were allowed the option of either joining India, joining Pakistan, or going Independent, and the King of Kashmir acceded to India. So, Kashmir has always been an integral part of India since 1947. In abrogating Article 370 of India’s Constitution all that has been done is to remove the special status afforded to Jammu and Kashmir and put Jammu and Kashmir in the same level playing field as all other states in the Union. India had to take steps to safeguard all of its territorial integrity (including Jammu and Kashmir) and abolition of Article 370 was as such just a long overdue move.
We are all benefactors of India and the Indian diaspora worldwide has thrived because of the foundation India has laid for us all. India has been a civil society, a peace-loving nation with a pluralistic democracy. India is at its core secular. India is also a meritocracy and has elected a Muslim president, a Sikh prime minister, and several Christian chief ministers in its 70+ years of existence. It is worth noting that there is not much homegrown terror in India, perhaps because of the faith its minorities have in India’s democratic ideals. I submit that contrary to your editorial, Kashmir is no more of a hornet’s nest than it was ever before and what has been done is to alter fundamentally India’s approach to handling this issue given that there were no other real alternatives.
Manjunath (MG) Gokare, Esq.
I read and re-read your editorial “The Kashmir Conundrum” in your September 2019 edition. The editorial will, I am pretty sure, ruffle feathers or invite even more drastic reactions from U.S. residents of Indian origin. I am on my customary routine visit to the U.S. from India, and I got verbally “lynched” by the NRI crowd the moment I uttered Article 370.
What people do not realize is that but for 370 we would have lost J&K altogether. The geopolitical history leading to insertion of Article 370 is denied not out of ignorance but because of strident and sometime violent nationalism.
My hope that your editorial would entail a healthy discussion was dashed the moment I brought your editorial to the attention of my NRI friends and relatives. Please do not be deterred by my experience. We need more of your types to educate the NRIs beyond their academic degrees and business achievements. Wish you all the best.
R. C. Saxena, Adv.
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