Letters to the editor

Readers' comments: 'Designer vaginas' show what happens when patriarchy meets modern medicine

A selection of readers' opinions.

Making the cut

Priyanka Vora’s excellent story on female genital cosmetic surgery demonstrates what happens when patriarchy meet modern medicine
(“As more Indian women line up to get ‘designer vaginas’, some doctors ring ethical alarm bells”). As an American male who supports feminist critiques of men’s exploitation of women in my country, I believe it’s important not to see such practices as progress. – Robert Jensen

***

This is a medical procedure on demand and another feather in the cap of the corporate medical world. Ethics are dynamic; patients are consumers and consumer-oriented professional development seems to be taking the front seat in medicine.

A new trend is not always welcomed at first but people slowly come around. If noses can be restructured, then perhaps anything can. – Dr BV Subrahmanyam

***

Bravo to Priyanka Vora for a superb piece! What she has done with this article, whether intentionally or inadvertently, is highlight a particular brand of hypocrisy that is prevalent in patriarchal societies: one that lets society have control over female reproductive organs.

It is interesting to see that the very doctors who will give you a new nose or inject toxins into your lips and brows show a sudden concern when it comes to genital cosmetic surgery. According to them, cosmetic surgery should be a viable option for the face, breasts, butt of other body parts, but the vagina is off-limits. Why? Certainly a woman is entitled to do anything to her vagina as she can to the rest of her body. Where are these guardians of morality and female empowerment when they advise women to get a neck lift or a rhinoplasty?

Like it or not, it is undeniable that cosmetic surgery is on the cusp of becoming commonplace in India, similar to its rampant growth in China, South Korea, and many Southeast Asian countries. We, as a society, would be better off focusing on sex education and providing strong role models for teens.

When women are raised in societies where their self-worth and self-esteem are never undermined, the need or desire for cosmetic surgery also drastically reduces. Kudos to the cosmetic surgeons pioneering vaginal rejuvenation surgeries in India, as well as to the women who are calling the shots with regard to their own bodies. If a woman wants to undergo vaginal rejuvenation, she is the only one who should have a say in it (under the medical advice of a surgeon, of course).

Hope to see more such brilliant articles from Ms Vora. – Ranjan Mukerjee

Leading the military

At the end of the day, what matters most is that the army and the country emerge stronger and more venerable
(“Indian Army chief’s appointment: Why the seniority vs merit debate is pointless”).

Whatever has to be done to this end must be done. I agree that political commentators and analysts and TV anchors do no good for the army or the country by making the debate on such topics divisive.

It is the duty of people in high places to make the country and the army stronger through their actions. Debates are essential to raise awareness. Their objective is to make people think and not to pass judgement on sensitive national issues. – DB Shah

Individual and society

An otherwise nice article tracing the social fault lines is marred by the last sentence, which betrays its excessive anxiety to single out an individual’s fault lines (“Why the chattering classes can’t fathom the vast support for demonetisation”). One individual is being held responsible for the collective political failure of a people who still do not know how to shape their destiny even 70 years after independence, in the absence of economic justice. Much like how Adolf Hitler was singled out for the collective failure of German people (and the rest of the World) after the humiliating Versailles treaty of the First World War, leading up to the Second World War and its aftermath. – PRK Rao

Gene theory

Creatures are endowed with sexual desire purely for procreation
(“Immanuel Kant said sexual desire is morally wrong – he may have had a point”). As such, sex is not an end in itself and should not be. If humans are imbued with values of moral duty, then union of man and woman will take place only for the purpose of producing an off spring. When that underscores the sexual act, it becomes a holy act.

The ancient Hindu scriptures stressed on sex as a holy duty and not as a means of satisfying one’s lust. When that is the basis of the union, it cannot be objectification of either male or female. The time and dates for union used to be chosen based on Hindu almanac to ensure the birth of a worthy child.

Just as a runner hands over the baton to his team-mate in a relay race, it is the duty of man to perpetuate his gotra (one can say gene) to continue the human race.

Unfortunately, Western culture doesn’t approach the mating of man and woman in that light at all. For them, deriving pleasure is the main reason for having sex, which results in objectification of both the partners. Once I saw a photograph of a 92 year old man holding a baby he begot by having sex with a 38-year-old woman. This is not the intention of nature. – SVS Iyer

Religion and politics

Pseudo-secular politicians have always been using caste and religion to garner votes, thus playing on the divisions in society, which is a dangerous game (“No room for religion in politics, an election is a secular exercise: SC in Hindutva case”).

Though the Opposition has been carrying out a campaign to vilify the BJP, accusing it of being communal, we have never seen the BJP follow the divide and rule principal. If we analyse the speeches of all political leaders, we will find that prime minister is the most secular. All other major political parties are brazenly communal. The Supreme Court’s order should be binding on the media also. – Vijayalakshmi

Green concerns

Environment and forest clearances are not granted without a carrying capacity study, minimum 20%-30% environment, three km distance between projects, minimum 10 km clear distance from protected areas, glacial lake overflow study and dam burst study
(“As Arunachal prepares to play the part of India’s power generator, anxious citizens push back”). Once a company follows all regulations and sets up a plant, why is it opposed? Companies and environmental groups need to cooperate and find a middle ground. – Harin Buch

Man of the hour

I disagree with TM Krishna’s views – we did not “let” Modi happen (“Silent disquiet: What explains the lack of large-scale public anger in the face of oppression?”). There is no other political leader who can match his dynamism or his aura. Please remove your rose-tinted glasses of intellectual liberalism for a minute and think: could any other political leader have implemented demonetisation in the haphazard way that he did and survived for seven whole weeks? The short answer is no. The problem is that liberals like you do not want to acknowledge the fact that the average person is tired of your philosophy. The average person does not care about atrocities. All they care about is roti, kapda aur makaan, and schadenfreude at the expense of the rich, which this move has delivered to them in heaps. –Mukund Dhananjay

Shooting from the hip

Abu Azmi has no grounds to comment on the Bengaluru incident (“‘Sugar attracts ants’: SP’s Abu Azmi says Bengaluru’s women were molested because of what they wore”). His comments about women are indecent and vulgar. – Somayajulu Cherukuri

Caste concerns

The award and Rohith Vemula’s suicide are not related (“Rohith Vemula suicide: Hyderabad University VC receives award from PM at Indian Science Congress”). Only a sinister mind can link the vic-chancellor with the suicide, however sad it may be. Also, stop calling Rohith a scholar. Scholars do not take so many years to complete their doctorate studies. Scholars do not depend on tax payers money for so many years. Rohith was just feeding off the generosity of the Indian government. – Sri Kotti

Cash woes

How much is Congress paying you to write such articles (“No contrition, no cash: The Centre must face facts and not believe its own half-truths”)? Were you sleeping the last few decades when Congress was plotting scam after scam and looting the country?

The process of healing can never be painless. Change for a better tomorrow justifies the little pain we go through today. Have an ounce of patriotism. – Phanendar BN

***

Is the author a complete fool or is he pretending to be one? Doesn’t he know that Kashmir returning to normalcy alone is adequate proof of the positive effect of demonetisation? Apparently, the author does not care, because what’s Kashmir but a foreign land to him?

For he has forgotten that it is the most disturbed part of India, which has the highest concentration of armed forces. But this issue was not worth demonetising currency, right ? Why should this country stop just because Kashmir is in chaos? I am not a BJP fan, but the author seems to think this was not necessary at all. How else could this have been stopped, given that stone throwers were paid in counterfeit cash? – S Lakshmi Narasimhan

***

I believe it will take a couple of years to see the successes and failures of the demonetisation and I do not think there is enough information to suggest that the exercise has been an utter failure.

If almost all demonetised cash got banked, it is the failure of citizens who colluded to evade tax and financing crime, terrorism and illicit trade. The government cannot be blamed for the failure of citizens.

Secondly, one had to take the parallel economy by the horns and this move did that unlike any other.

Thirdly, the culture of tax evasion needed a jolt. Demonetisation achieved that. It is good to remind the nation that it is not okay to evade taxes; that the tax evaders are criminals. Let no one blame the prime minister for making an attempt to deal with that crime.

If anyone has a far superior strategy to root out tax evasion, why have they been mute spectators for last half century? Nobody has any time to waste on opinions of those who expected that governments will root out tax evasion while they fiddled with their TV remotes. – Dhirendra Rana

***

The author has well highlighted the problems created by demonetisation well, but the problems faced by NRIs holding banned notes also needs to be publicised.

I sent an email to RBI in this regard, and have received no response yet.

In fact, several NRIs who have banned currency notes but are not planning to visit India during the time exchange window are sure to loose their money. – Ramesh Vora

Dragon fire

This struggle could eventually break China as it splits into multiple personalities (“China is struggling to balance its soft-power strategy with its fearsome reputation”). China is a country that has only known warlordism and looked at itself as the Middle Kingdom deserving of obeisance, till the Japanese and Europeans dealt a blow to its image.

China needs to come out of its rule-by-force mentality if it wishes to have a genuine support of other countries instead of vassals like Pakistan and North Korea. Pakistan could even agree to become a colony of China to spite India. This, in fact, will prove to be China’s undoing in the near future. – Atul Chandra

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Some of the worst decisions made in history

From the boardroom to the battlefield, bad decisions have been a recipe for disaster

On New Year’s Day, 1962, Dick Rowe, the official talent scout for Decca Records, went to office, little realising that this was to become one of the most notorious days in music history. He and producer Mike Smith had to audition bands and decide if any were good enough to be signed on to the record label. At 11:00 am, either Rowe or Smith, history is not sure who, listened a group of 4 boys who had driven for over 10 hours through a snowstorm from Liverpool, play 15 songs. After a long day spent listening to other bands, the Rowe-Smith duo signed on a local group that would be more cost effective. The band they rejected went on to become one of the greatest acts in musical history – The Beatles. However, in 1962, they were allegedly dismissed with the statement “Guitar groups are on the way out”.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Decca’s decision is a classic example of deciding based on biases and poor information. History is full of examples of poor decisions that have had far reaching and often disastrous consequences.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Few military blunders are as monumental as Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. The military genius had conquered most of modern day Europe. However, Britain remained out of his grasp and so, he imposed a trade blockade against the island nation. But the Russia’s Czar Alexander I refused to comply due to its effect on Russian trade. To teach the Russians a lesson, Napolean assembled his Grand Armée – one of the largest forces to ever march on war. Estimates put it between 450,000 to 680,000 soldiers. Napoleon had been so successful because his army could live off the land i.e. forage and scavenge extensively to survive. This was successful in agriculture-rich and densely populated central Europe. The vast, barren lands of Russia were a different story altogether. The Russian army kept retreating further and further inland burning crops, cities and other resources in their wake to keep these from falling into French hands. A game of cat and mouse ensued with the French losing soldiers to disease, starvation and exhaustion. The first standoff between armies was the bloody Battle of Borodino which resulted in almost 70,000 casualties. Seven days later Napoleon marched into a Moscow that was a mere shell, burned and stripped of any supplies. No Russian delegation came to formally surrender. Faced with no provisions, diminished troops and a Russian force that refused to play by the rules, Napolean began the long retreat, back to France. His miseries hadn’t ended - his troops were attacked by fresh Russian forces and had to deal with the onset of an early winter. According to some, only 22,000 French troops made it back to France after the disastrous campaign.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to sports, few long time Indian cricket fans can remember the AustralAsia Cup final of 1986 without wincing. The stakes were extremely high – Pakistan had never won a major cricket tournament, the atmosphere at the Sharjah stadium was electric, the India-Pakistan rivalry at its height. Pakistan had one wicket in hand, with four runs required off one ball. And then the unthinkable happened – Chetan Sharma decided to bowl a Yorker. This is an extremely difficult ball to bowl, many of the best bowlers shy away from it especially in high pressure situations. A badly timed Yorker can morph into a full toss ball that can be easily played by the batsman. For Sharma who was then just 18 years old, this was an ambitious plan that went wrong. The ball emerged as a low full toss which Miandad smashed for a six, taking Pakistan to victory. Almost 30 years later, this ball is still the first thing Chetan Sharma is asked about when anyone meets him.

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