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Letters from Readers

February 2014
Letters from Readers Left: B.V. Amrutha, M.D. and son, Ravi Chandra, meet the late Nelson Mandela in 1993. (See letter further below.)

The “facts” in the diplomat arrest case are debatable

Although your analysis of the Devyani Khobragade incident (“A Diplomatic Debacle,” January, 2014) raises some vital questions, it asserts that the Indian reaction was over the top. Allow me to offer a different perspective.

The “facts” are disputable. From all accounts Sangeeta Richards, the maid, was treated as part of the family and the kids called her tai (aunt). Apparently that wasn’t enough and she wanted to moonlight. When that was denied because it was in violation of her visa status, she went missing just before her scheduled return to India and attempted to change her visa status so she could remain and work in the U.S.

Is Preet Bharara, the New York prosecutor who ordered Khobragade’s arrest, the champion of human rights or do his ruthless, tabloid-like antics directed at soft Indian targets reflect his political ambitions? Bharara says the degrading treatment of Khobragade is “normal procedure.” But strip and cavity searches are for terrorists and people who carry drugs and contraband, not for people who underpay their staff, regardless of their diplomatic status. This is a matter that should have been settled discreetly between the state department and New Delhi. Instead, Bharara’s action in turning a simple wage dispute into a human trafficking crime was overblown, immature, and irresponsible.

Examples of American hypocrisy and duplicity abound. The U.S. refused India’s lawful request to extradite David Headley, the terrorist behind the Mumbai attacks. The Bhopal gas tragedy resulted in hundreds of deformed children but Union Carbide’s boss was allowed to escape from India.

There is also the espionage angle, which is more than a conspiracy theory. The maid’s in-laws worked for U.S. diplomats. The desperate and secretive manner in which Richards’s family was “evacuated” from India is similar to CIA spy Rabinder Singh being spirited away with his family by Americans before he was arrested. That’s a flagrant violation of Indian laws. But India is expected to graciously overlook such highhanded behavior and be a servile doormat. Is it any wonder America treats her that way while Russia and China are taken seriously?

What gives America the moral high ground to assume that the laws of other countries, and especially a democracy like India, are less important? Instead of viewing this as a case of much ado about nothing, perhaps it is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. India is perfectly justified in enforcing reciprocity. U.S. diplomats in India should be treated the same way as Indian diplomats are treated in USA.

Thayil Ron Jacob
Alpharetta, Georgial

Some diplomats assume immunity from good behavior

You objectively analyzed the recent incident involving a low-ranking member of the Indian diplomatic corps in the U.S. I agree completely that the incident was overblown beyond any reason by the government of India. Their decision to remove the security barricades around the U.S. embassy in New Delhi in retaliation was absurd.

Let me recall an incident from several decades ago, involving the ambassador of India in Washington, D.C. In 1962, while visiting the city for the first time with my family, we were walking in front of the Indian embassy. I noticed a taxi pull up by the curb. Two gentlemen came out of the vehicle. I quickly identified the lead man as Ambassador R.K. Nehru. His aide followed, carrying the leader’s briefcase. A shouting match erupted between the taxi driver and the aide regarding the fare or gratuity. Then the aide resorted to the classic threat of the Indian privileged, when he asked, “Do you realize that you are talking to His Excellency, the Ambassador of India to the U.S?” “I don’t care who the hell ambassador he is. Give me my fare, and I will be off in a second,” came the snappy response from the taxi driver.

I believe that diplomats should practice their profession not only at the State level but also at the street level. It is far better to avoid an incident than to rush into damage control later.

P. Mahadevan
Fullerton, California

My Mandela encounter


B.V. Amrutha, M.D. and son, Ravi Chandra, meet the late Nelson Mandela in 1993.

I was delighted that Khabar decide to honor NelsonMandela (“Tribute: The Legacy of Nelson Mandela,” January,2014).

When the whole world mourned the loss and celebrated the life of Nelson Mandela in December, I reflected on our memorable and cherished encounter with him. My son and I had the opportunity to meet this icon of our times in 1993. Mandela was visiting the White House, and my son was an intern there that summer. As Mr. Mandela shook hands with us, my son said, “It is a great honor to meet you, sir.” “It is a greater honor to meet you,” came the natural response from this great but humble leader. It was a wonderful example of his humility, one that we will always cherish as we think of this great man. We strive to follow his example of forgiveness and reconciliation every chance we get.

B.V. Amrutha, M.D.
Rome, Georgia

Website Bonus Feature: at bottom of this page.

Why the Hindu-centric articles?

As a subscriber I find it surprising that Khabar seems to be leaning more and more towards the Hindu angle. I find it moving away from its core, which, as per my opinion, was helping one to connect to their Indian identity and origin in spite of being far away from their motherland, no matter what religion, caste, or creed. I strongly believe that religious affiliations should be left out of such a magazine as it does not serve to unite but segregates.

Case in point is the January issue. I saw no need to angle the article on Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for her pride in her religion. It would have done more (for me personally at least) if it was on the aspects of how she made it to where she is today without the need of bringing religion into it. I strongly believe being religious or not should be a very personal matter for the individual alone.

Similarly, I was very much looking forward to reading the article on Bali, but again it was based on the| religious aspect rather than being purely touristic with mass appeal. As I intend to visit Bali I would have loved to read about treading off the beaten path rather than what was published.

Murtuza Chandra

by email

Editor’s response:

Rest assured, Khabar is a liberal and inclusive magazine, not chauvinistic to any religion or ethnicity. That said, we would be doing a disservice to our readers if we can’t engage them in an important aspect of their identity: religion. From that standpoint, articles pertaining to Hinduism have a valuable place in our magazine, considering that a wide majority of Indians in the U.S. are Hindus. We frequently also publish articles that engage our Muslim, Christian, and other readers (The December issue had articles about Jesus and Christmas, and recent prior issues had articles about Eid celebrations.). However, as with any publication, the demographics of our target audience matter, so our goal is not necessarily a statistical equivalency amongst such articles surrounding religion.

Beware of problems surrounding the OCI card

I would like to point out that the Indian consulate in Atlanta is not providing the correct instructions regarding renouncing Indian citizenship for those holding the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card. BLS, the outsourcing firm which processes these applications for the Indian Consulate, did not accept our application for renouncing the Indian citizenship, saying that once you have obtained the OCI card you do not need to renounce Indian citizenship; whereas on the BLS website it says one is required to do so. Also, rules are not clear on the application fees on the Indian consulate website as well as BLS website for renouncing the Indian citizenship.

It is shocking that BLS is implementing the Indian Consulate procedures while not being aware of the correct rules.

Also, there is another serious issue that most OCI holders are not aware of because the consulate has failed to clarify it. For certain age groups, after obtaining an OCI card, if your U.S. passport is renewed, you are required to carry the old passport along with the new to travel to India. A friend’s family was not allowed to enter India despite having a valid OCI card because of this technicality.

I am sure there are so many of us in the same situation. Despite seeking clarifications on these matters, no one from the consulate has tried to contact us.

Lalchand Prasad

Johns Creek, Georgia

[Postscript: Consul General Ajit Kumar has since met Mr. Prasad to resolve the issue. He appreciates suggestions to improve the websites of the Consulate as well as its service provider, BLS International, to make it more specific and user-friendly.]

Website Bonus Feature:

The following poem was written by Dr. Amrutha's son, Dr. Ravi Chandra.

The Earth Is Mandela University

A poem to mark the passing of Nelson Mandela
Published on December 7, 2013 by Ravi Chandra, M.D. in The Pacific Heart:

Rest in Power, Madiba
By Ravi Chandra, M.D.

They called the prison on Robben Island “Mandela University”.
This day, December 6th, 2013, I am starting a petition
To rename the Earth, Mandela University –
The world where you find what you’re willing to live for,
The world where you find what you’re willing to die for.

I met him, twenty years ago, on the White House lawn.
I was twenty-six, he, over seventy.
“It is a great honor to meet you, sir,” I said.
“It is a greater honor to meet you,” he replied,
the greatest lessons in humility, and kindness,
I would ever receive.

My throat quaked, and tears flowed.
It had been a long walk.
My mother, standing beside me,
Shouted my name – “Ravi! Ravi!”
Worried at my loss of control.

Losing control was for me
The same as finding love.

Twenty years later, I weep once more.

Rest in Power, Madiba.

We are, all of us alive,
All those who shared the Earth with him,
The Generations Mandela.
We are his mandala.
Together, we are Amandla!
We are his, and he is ours, forever,
Even as he rises to his peace.

Rest in Power, Madiba.
Rest in Power, Madiba.
Madiba, Rest in Power.

We’ll keep walking, in your name.

© 2013 Ravi Chandra, M.D. All rights reserved. To find out about his new book Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks, see www.RaviChandraMD.com. Facebook page: SanghaFrancisco-The Pacific Heart. Twitter @going2peace. 


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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