A wife, a mother, an athlete no more
Sir — If Martina Navratilova can, why can’t Steffi Graf (“Martina pace sears the young on court”, Sept 1)' Even at 45, Navratilova is going great guns and bulldozing boys and girls half her age, while Graf, 12 years her junior, is teaching her infant son how to cheer her husband, Andre Agassi, from the stands at the Flushing Meadows. The front-page photograph of Graf and her son, Jaden Gil, is a sad one, never mind the smiling face of the toddler. Graf need not pay such a heavy price for motherhood, since she certainly has quite a bit of tennis left in her. When she quit the game in August 1999, she was still beating players half her age and winning tournaments. At the risk of sounding like a radical feminist, one can’t help making the point that Agassi’s career has not been impeded by the birth of his son. Graf could, like Navratilova whom she beat to win her first Grand Slam, play only doubles matches which are far less demanding than the singles. What’s more, she could easily team up with Agassi for a first-rate mixed doubles pair. After the boring sibling rivalry of the Williams sisters, a husband-wife mixed doubles team will be more than a welcome change.
Sreeya Sengupta, Calcutta
Made in India
Sir — Although J. Jayalalithaa would hate to admit it, India’s interaction with the West has resulted in several beneficial social changes (“Jaya’s foreigner fire on Sonia warms BJP heart”, Aug 29). There is no basis whatsoever to her fears, which are politically motivated anyway, that a prime minister of foreign origin will sell out to the West. After what home-bred politicians have reduced the country to, it is unlikely that a foreigner can cause greater damage to India’s social and political fabric. By discriminating against Sonia Gandhi for being a “foreigner”, Jayalalithaa is giving rise to the same racial hatred that Indians have long accused Westerners of breeding. For example, just as the Congress president is a foreigner to Jayalalithaa, the latter, a Tamil, might be considered a foreigner by a Bengali, a Gujarati, a Kashmiri, and so on.
In their desperate bid to grab power, politicians like Jayalalithaa are sowing seeds of disintegration, which could assume dangerous proportions in future. Can’t Indian politicians think beyond the here and now'
M. Majumdar, Siliguri
Sir — I am no fan of J. Jayalalithaa’s brand of politics or films. But I still think that the print media is not being fair to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader (“Congress drops letter bomb on Jaya”, Aug 31). Those who watched her press conference on television will vouch for the fact that in her inimitably bland style, she was delightfully vague.
The letter that the Congress spokes-person, S. Jaipal Reddy, released to the press is supposed to prove that Jayalalithaa had promised to support a government formed by the Congress and led by Sonia Gandhi. At the time the letter was written, the formation of an alternative government with the support of the largest opposition party, that is, the Congress (led by Sonia Gandhi), was axiomatic. But the choice of prime minister in such a government was still a matter of debate. If one remembers, even Jyoti Basu’s name was bandied about.
To conclude that the AIADMK’s letter is an assertion of the party’s support for Sonia Gandhi’s candidature as prime minister would not be wholly correct. Allowances must be made for some element of doubt. But then, isn’t politics all about doublespeak'
But what rankles in the entire episode is Reddy’s smugness. The way he conducted himself at the press conference, and earlier while defending his description of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as “a humungous fraud”, smacks of pride in his intellectual superiority. But what does Reddy mean when he says that Jayalalithaa is “an Alice in the wonderland of Delhi”' Are Sonia Gandhi and Reddy then the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter respectively'
Instead of the ineffectual and pretentious Reddy, the Congress should have chosen the witty and scathing Mani Shankar Aiyar as its spokesperson. Anyone who doubts Aiyar’s wit and eloquence can read his column “Mani Talk” in The Telegraph, especially the article, “Yankee lickspittle” (Aug 26).
S.K. Raychaudhuri, Calcutta
Sir — The editorial, “Foreign to sense” (Aug 30), seems to advocate hushing up the foreigners issue, raked up by the Tamil Nadu chief minister, J. Jayalalithaa, recently. The American constitution, for example, will certainly not allow any first-generation immigrant to become president of the nation. Neither will the American people allow an Afro-American, and much less a first-generation Indian or Asian immigrant to become the president of the United States of America. And most Italians would be outraged at the possibility of a first-generation Indian immigrant becoming president. Thus, Jayalalithaa’s comment makes a lot of sense when seen in the international context. At least she does not share the deeply entrenched sense of servitude, vis-a-vis the Westerners, that is found in most Indians.
Prasad S. Thenkabail, Connecticut, US
Sir — Indian politicians are more unpredictable than even the weather in autumn. And J. Jayalalithaa’s sudden reiteration of her distaste at the possibility of a “foreigner”, Sonia Gandhi, becoming prime minister has propelled her to cult status among the “here-today-gone-tomorrow” breed of politicians in the country.
Clearly, the only party that can hope to gain out of amma’s sudden outburst is the Bharatiya Janata Party. Doesn’t she realize that she has been befriended by the BJP only to bail them out of their current crisis' No sooner do they tide over the crisis than they will show Jayalalithaa the door, and not too politely.
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta
Power of obedience
Sir — What precedent was the editorial, “Ire power” (Aug 23), talking about' It is evident that Suresh Prabhu, the former Union power minister, did not resign of his own volition, he did so because his party chief, Bal Thackeray, wanted him to. Being a Shiv Sena member of parliament, and not an independent one, it was only natural that Prabhu should toe the party line. Particularly in this age of coalition politics where ministerial berths are doled out after extensive lobbying and bargaining by party leaders. What is wrong in Thackeray’s asking Prabhu to resign since the Shiv Sena supremo probably used his influence with the prime minister to get him inducted in the first place'
Such things happened even when the Congress was in power, only they were not highlighted since the party was not part of a coalition whose members could raise an accusing finger. Prabhu could have refused to obey Tha-ckeray’s commands if he was confident of making it on his own in the elections sans the Shiv Sena tag. But as things stand, Prabhu seems aware of the limits of his popularity.
Arta Mishra, Cuttack
Sir — A coalition government is not outside the framework of democracy. Suresh Prabhu’s resignation as Union power minister at the behest of his party leader, Bal Thackeray, flouts a basic assumption of democracy — that a minister stays or goes on the orders of the prime minister. Thackeray even had the gall to publicly claim that Prabhu had failed to do anything for the state or to help his party win elections. In other words, Thackeray wanted Prabhu to act as a Maharashtrian and a Shiv Sainik rather than as an Indian. Thackeray ought to convince Mamata Banerjee to join his party, since she too believes in serving the state through her ministry.
Being the leader of the coalition, it is the BJP’s duty to persuade its allies to strike an equitable balance between regional and federal interests. But the BJP seems too busy pursuing its own partisan interests to be able to spare any time for such work.
B.C. Dutta, Calcutta
Sir — It is an astonishing discovery that two groups of people as diverse as Harvard University undergraduates and Shiriwar tribe share the same skill to detect cheats (“Humans can detect cheats”, Aug 14). They are perhaps the lucky few who have, like some advanced software packages, an anti-virus installed in their systems.
But do all Indians share this trait' Absolutely not. If they did, no Indian politician would ever be voted to power.
Tapan Pal, Batanagar