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Letters from Readers

February 2013
Letters from Readers Migration of Indian Jews a loss to India

I found the cover story titled “Jews of Two Worlds: Indians in Israel” by Robert Hirschfield (January, 2013) very insightful, interesting, and informative. It was fascinating to see how Indian Israelis have adjusted to life in their adopted country, paralleling some of the ways in which Indian-Americans have settled in this country. My curiosity about the Jewish people in India started when I met Dr. Samuel J. Aptekar, MBBS and FRCS, who was a friend of my father’s in Bombay and who did my physical for my 1964 U.S. visa application. He became a Chief Surgeon at the MGM Hospital in Bombay before migrating to Israel in the late 1960s. He passed away in January, 2011.

I purchased a book called The Bene Israel of India by Benjamin J. Israel during my visit to India in 1985. The book provides a detailed account of the history and the life of the Jewish people in India. Benjamin Israel says that the Bene Israel have always identified themselves with India and have always been accepted by their Hindu and Muslim neighbors as wholly Indian. The author also states, “India is perhaps the only country in the world in which through long centuries Jews have dwelt in complete security and have been accorded an honourable place in the social structure of the land.” The book is a great read for anyone interested in the history of the Jewish people in India.

Jewish people have made significant contributions to industry, science, medicine, literature, and art in India just as they have in other countries. The migration of the Jewish community to Israel is a loss to India and a gain for Israel.

Gautam P. Shah
Simpsonville, South Carolina

Muslim-Jew amity in India worthy of emulation

The January issue’s cover story was an eye-opening article, throwing light on some unknown realities of history. It was 46 years ago, but it seems like it was yesterday that I went to visit the Cochin Synagogue, which is an important place in Indian history.

India was always very kind and hospitable towards the Jewish people. All other communities of India treated the Jewish as our honored guests. Surprisingly, the Muslims and the Jewish people had a very solid relationship in India, while they fight tooth and nail in some other parts of the world. The Jews and the Muslims are the descendants of the Patriarch Abraham, who is called the father of believers in the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions (Jewish people came through Isaac and the Muslims came through Ishmael). There will be peace in the world if Muslims and Jews can act like they did in India, loving each other and caring for each other as the descendants of Abraham. India and Israel can work together very closely, and must work together closely in trade, defense, and cultural exchange. Mr. Zubin Mehta made a statement years back that he would not conduct an orchestra in India, until Israel was given full diplomatic status with an embassy in India, and he kept his word.

A. S. Mathew
Ringgold, Georgia

Dr. P. V. Rao was very easy to connect with

Like thousands of students and other people who went to Dr. P. V. Rao to seek his advice or wisdom, I, too, have learnt from him several invaluable things that refined my personality. When you met him on a regular basis and engaged him in a conversation, it was like attending and completing Dale Carnegie’s Personality and Leadership Development Course without paying any fee. Ironically I had attended that course in India way back in 1992 by paying thousands of rupees but didn’t benefit even fifty per cent of what I gained from Dr. Rao.

Of the many distinct qualities of Dr. Rao, the one that topped the list was engaging you in a mutually interesting topic and continuing it for hours. He loved to talk, yet he was a good listener. Very rarely do you come across people who can talk and listen with equal grace. Before I got closer to him, I always thought he might not easily connect with me because of his age and experience—in Dr. Rao’s words I “conditioned my mind that way.” To my surprise, one day when I sat next to him at a get-together, he initiated a chat with me, and in 10 minutes I felt he was talking to me as if he had known me for several years. That was an amazing myth-becomes-reality moment. After that meeting, I could connect with new people effortlessly.

Today, as the whole Indian-American community mourns Dr. Rao and remembers him for his help to thousands of people and contribution to hundreds of organizations in various capacities, I am truly celebrating his life and legacy.

Viju Chiluveru
Coordinator, Maitri,
and Director, TAMA Board

Public outrage against Delhi rape is a sign of hope

The sound of glasses clinking echoes in my ears. One tick of the clock and another year gone by. We start the new 12 months with a desire to change, pledging to lose weight and to edify our temperament. But too often these resolutions remain unfulfilled promises.

On December 16, a 23-year-old paramedical student and her companion were attacked by a six- member gang in the heart of New Delhi. The men raped the girl and beat the victim and her companion for nearly an hour, causing severe genital, intestinal, and brain damage before throwing them out of the vehicle. The student was air-lifted to Singapore, but she passed away just days later. This incident is just one of the many cases that highlight the fissures within political systems across the world. In India, political opacity and bribery are rampant across all tiers of the government. Hand a 1000-rupee note to a local police officer and he becomes your puppet. And by no means is this corruption limited to India, for even here in America, the land of justice and equality, we see degrees of such behavior.

The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting demonstrated that legislation is not merely in the hands of legislators. For the passage of any gun-related laws, we look not to our congressmen but to the NRA, because they control our government and our fate as citizens of this country. In the presence of such atrocities, how can justice prevail?

Luckily, the story doesn’t end in darkness. Thousands of outraged people took to the streets across India in response to the December 16 crime, holding signs and chanting slogans that condemned India’s flawed political system. Hailing from all religions and socioeconomic strata, citizens gathered together, unified by their desire to realize change and justice.

As an Indian-American, this response makes me proud. It shows that a culture once thought as misogynistic is on the road to change. The unity and initiative demonstrated by Indian citizens gives me hope that we, as a whole society, can improve life for the average citizen within our individual countries. Let this tragedy serve as a spark for GLOBAL change so that together we can make those resolutions a reality.

Anjali Chandra
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Sadhana and devotion

On page 90 of Khabar’s January issue, Sadhguru, while comparing grace with devotion, says that nobody is gifted and one has to earn everything. He further states that one earns grace via a variety of devotions.

I beg to differ with Sadhguru’s explanation. Grace means blessing from God and there are many gifted people who are blessed from the moment they are born, maybe because of their karma in previous life, and start showing off their talents in fields of music, poetry, writing, math, science, etc. at a very early age. These people continue to develop their talent throughout their life by hard work, dedication, and commitment which we call sadhana.

Sadhguru terms this sadhana devotion. I agree with him that blind devotion such as following religious rituals and singing bhajans (devotional songs) do not lead to grace.

At one point Sadhguru states that intelligent people get stuck at every point, because there is no lubrication (aka grace), but then later on he contradicts himself by stating that devotion is truly for the intelligent and only when devotion arises, depth comes into one’s life. And because there is devotion, God has happened and not the other way around. I call it enlightenment. Replace the word devotion with sadhana and God with good and you will get the true and correct picture.

Laxmi Venugopal
Kent, Alabama

Editorial on gun ownership was biased

With all due respect I find your January 2013 editorial skewed and biased. Perhaps you were influenced by the public uproar in the aftermath of Sandy Hook School shooting.

Had you read Arif Chaudhry’s letter, which was printed in the same issue, before writing this editorial, I am positive that your criticism of gun ownership would have been toned down. I do not find in your editorial any valid arguments against slogans like “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

As Mr. Chaudhry noted, we are too sensitive when violence occurs in our backyards, but insensitive when it happens faraway in another country. I also agree with him that the violence is promoted by the American foreign policy of invading other countries in the name of national security.

Ask the government to stop escalating wars, bring home military personnel and change our culture from the bottom up. It may sound like a tall order to fill, and yes, it is. That is why humans have been fighting among themselves for thousands of years and will continue to do so forever. So don’t lose your sleep over some violence somewhere; just turn your TV off or change the channel. It is a fact of life.

Rani Bhatia
Norcross, Georgia

Fundamental rights, not gun fundamentalism

In your editorial (“Gun Fundamentalism Plagues America”), I find the comparison of jihadi fundamentalists to gun fundamentalists disturbing. Jihadi fundamentalism is based on denying people the right to choose. It is the belief that there is only one truth and any opposition to that one truth must be eliminated by any means necessary. Those who you call gun fundamentalists believe in the protection of freedom of choice—the choice and right to own a firearm.

The editorial states that guns are “devices designed specifically to kill.” There is absolutely no denying that this is one (fundamental) use for a firearm. However, your choice of words implies that killing is the only use of guns. Firearms are primarily used for hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense. Firearms are not solely a tool for murder.

The right to bear arms is a constitutional right. The editorial disagrees as it refers to this right in passing as a “dubious fallback on the Second Amendment.” It seems curious that the editor spent so little time on expounding on why the Second Amendment is not pertinent to his argument but I can assure you it is critical to this discussion—critical because the unbounded regulations that you seem to support would directly affect those who wish only to defend themselves and their families. It is ironic that in the same issue of Khabar there is an interview with police officer Dipa Patel, who stated, “Crime is just climbing up and with the way people are struggling, it’s almost impossible to stop it.” If the police acknowledge their own difficulty in protecting us, why would you support erosion of our ability to protect ourselves?

The editorial claims that more regulation is obviously necessary and all who oppose that are deluded. The opponents to further regulation are fighting to preserve freedom of choice—to protect the right to choose to legally own a firearm or not. Every additional regulation, no matter how well-intended, erodes this right. The so-called gun fundamentalists fear that unbounded additional regulations of this constitutionally guaranteed right will eventually lead to the death of that right. Since several historical and modern tragedies have been the result of madmen inspired by the writings of others, should we impose more regulation on authors and publishers? It is obvious that any writing that encourages violence should be banned. The First Amendment was never meant to protect such barbarism. Those that can’t see this truth are anarchists. I’m confident that you would be vehemently opposed to this slippery-slope argument since you are an editor and know well the dangers of censorship.

Tragedies drive us all to find some way to prevent them from ever happening again. But our response should always be tempered with logic and reason. Cars kill more people than all firearm-related crimes by a wide margin. Should we then react by implementing unbounded regulation of cars and drivers with the hope that it may save lives? What about banning all things violent (books, TV shows, video games, boxing, MMA, etc.)? Are we willing to sacrifice fundamental rights in the unfounded hope that it may or may not stop future madmen? I prefer to keep my rights.

Girish B. Patel
Smyrna, Georgia



What’s on YOUR mind?

We welcome original, unpublished letters from our readers. You could either respond to a specific article in Khabar or write about issues relevant to our community. Letters may be edited for length and other considerations. Longer submissions by readers may be considered for the “My Turn” column.

Email: letters@khabar.com • Fax: (770) 234-6115.

Mail: Khabar, Inc. 3790 Holcomb Bridge Rd. Suite 101, Norcross, GA 30092.

Note: Views expressed in the Letters section do not necessarily represent those of the publication.


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