Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: ‘With Girija Devi’s demise, India has lost a national treasure’

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Last song

Girija Devi’s demise has deprived India of a national treasure (“Girija Devi (1929-2017): Banaras gharana singer renowned for her superlative thumri renditions”). She was not just a singer, but a repertoire of the rich tradition of Indian classical music. Most famed for her rendition of thumris, her performance of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s Babul Mora Naihar Chooto Hi Jaaye was a great example of her mastery. – KB Dessai

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Her death is an irreparable loss for the music world. – Kajol Roy

Greatest rulers

Greatest of them all, really, sir? Akbar was one of the best rulers India has ever seen, no doubt (“Tipu Jayanti debate: Akbar is the hero India should really celebrate”). But I would like to underline that he was just one of the best and not greatest, especially when you are comparing him with someone like Shivaji. You won’t find someone as flawless as Shivaji. Being a Marathi, the author should have known better. Please read before you make such comments. I agree with we should celebrate Akbar for his many qualities, but sadly, in today’s political climate, this looks like a distant dream. I hope a day will come when we can freely celebrate human beings for their deeds irrespective of the political climate. – Nachiket Paralkar

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Tipu Sultan could not have been a freedom fighter because the concept did not exist at the time. He was, like his contemporaries, a monarch fighting to defend his kingdom and allied with another European power to do so. Also, why the silence about Tipu’ s alleged atrocities in Kodagu and South Kanara? – Malati Das

Politics over protests

The National Green Tribunal’s order to shift the protest location from Jantar Mantar to Ramleela Maidan has come as a shock to many mass organisations and well-meaning personalities (“‘Not all can afford the price of justice’: How the Jantar Mantar ban has silenced protests in Delhi”). However the fact is that Jantar Mantar is no place for holding protest meetings. It is like rat hole, where not even 10,000 people can be absorbed. Yet, we find scores of protest meetings going on simultaneously, with just a few people in attendance in most case but with loud speakers at a the highest sound levels.

The speeches intersect each other and are therefore indecipherable, reducing the protest to a farce. Capitals the world over have large spaces for protest. In Kathmandu, 20 lakh people could gather to protest against King of Nepal and forced him to abdicate in favour of democratic set up. In Paris lakhs of people can gather but in Delhi, not even one lakh people can congregate in a single space. Instead of moving to Ramleela Maidan, Delhi should get the Boat Club lawns near India Gate and Parliament building back as a protest location, but I doubt a government intent on stifling dissent would allow that. – Chaman Lal

Tweaking history

As followers of Savarkar are in power, efforts are being made to change India (“An SC petition seeks to deny Savarkar’s role in Gandhi’s assassination. Here’s why it won’t be easy”). The government’s motives not clear. What’s being said publicly and what’s being propagated on the ground by RSS workers are very different. The government is tacitly supporting gau rakshak groups responsible for killing Muslims and Dalits. The propaganda line is that nothing was done under the Congress for 70 years but Modi is now bringing about vikas. To combat this, there is a need to come together. – Man Singh Tosaria

Taking charge

None of the leaders who lose elections ever take responsibility for the defeat and resign (“Akhilesh Yadav has beaten his father and uncle in the tug of war to control Samajwadi Party”). So why would Akhilesh Yadav be any different? All the leaders keep hanging on to the party posts. Some of them go on to win subsequent elections. Internal democracy and accountability are virtually non-existent in the political parties, barring the Communist parties. – Patrasurjyanarayan

Media freedom

I appreciate your right to freedom of speech (“Jay Amit Shah case: Court order against ‘The Wire’ raises questions about media freedom yet again”). Truth is bound to prevail. We must acknowledge the right thing and pay due regard to the founder of our Constitution, the ultimate purpose of which was to make our democratic processes the best. – Sewak Singh Ahuja

Indian pioneers

What this article states is one possible explanation (“Before S Chandrasekhar won the Nobel Prize in 1983, his theories were overlooked because of his race”). Another, told to me by Andrejz Trautman, a relativity theorist and a vice-president of the Polish Academy of Sciences, in 1980 or 81 , is that his work was of such a high standard (so demanding intellectually) that very few people could really understand it. Merit got him a job in Chicago; race kept his salary down, for decades. – Rathindra Nath Sen

Domestic violence debate

I agree there are some short comings in the system (“‘We can not write law’: Supreme Court wants to review its own order diluting domestic abuse law”). But one side cannot be penalised for this. Arrest is very derogatory and defamatory step and immediately closes the door to any kind of amicable resolution. And there are legal options for women, but no recourse for men. As times change, our laws need to change too. Without being convicted by the court, the husband and his family are declared criminals and sent to jail. This is not justice. Though court grants bail after arrest, it cannot reverse the humiliation that husband and his family members and relative have undergone.

In a majority of such cases, the families concerned boycott their sons. The law is meant to help women to peacefully regain their position back in the family, with her husband and in-laws, not to fulfill any malafide intention that will cause the family system to collapse.
I think the judgement needs to be refined further to to look at bogus complaints vs genuine ones. Only then can we say that it protects women. As is the case with men, all women are not perfect too. – Aashish Mishra

OROP row

It’s nice of the prime minister to spend Diwali with the Armed Forces (“Modi spends Diwali with jawans in Kashmir, says government is committed to OROP scheme”). However, his comment that OROP will be implemented raises questions of whether the recommendations on the anomalies of commission have been reviewed and the key demands of yearly revision of pension on a par with that of serving soldiers is being implemented. This requires clarification. – NRP Rao

Tata Mistry

Yes, it appeared to be a witch hunt and Cyrus Mistry was driven out in a very vindictive manner (“Cyrus Mistry’s ouster could have been handled in a better manner, says former Tata Sons official”). That is not the way to threat a senior executive of the organisation. This clearly shows the cultural downfall in the conglomerate after JRD Tata’s demise. – PD Amarnath

Starry eyed

Like any Aamir Khan movie, this film opened to high expectations from the audience (“Film review: ‘Secret Superstar’ hits the right notes but falls short of being super”). But what makes this film so different is that the superstar is not the star of this movie, he plays a supporting role of sorts. Perhaps the movie would have been better received if Aamir Khan had more screen time. It alsmost seemed as though he was there in the mobvie, but was fielding far away on the thrid-leg boundary with no catches coming his way.

I think after watching this film I walked away tad disappointed as an Aamir Khan fan, but also in awe of this actor for showing that he means business when it comes to filmmaking, even if it makes not taking the spotlight. – Hardik Vaidya

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.