On famous lives
Sir — Should not have Anoushka Shankar waited a little while longer before she came out with “a daughter’s story” about a famous father (Sept 7)' As Chandrima Pal points out, much of “Bapi...the Love of my Life” is what Ravi Shankar has to say about his music, his times, his family and his philanderings. The daughter is much too young to not take the father at his word. Besides, with the maestro alive and playing, there would have been not too many dissenting voices that Anoushka would have had to listen to. So what we have is a eulogy to the sitarist written by a daughter who has every reason to thank him. After all, it is her mother that he ultimately married, it is her career as a sitar-player that he takes a most lively interest in and it is she and her mother who would be the “keepers” of his memories for the rest of the world. Perhaps we should wait a little while longer for Norah Jones’s version of her father to understand Ravi Shankar better.
J. Acharya, Calcutta
What’s in the language
Sir — Rukun Advani, with his ready wit and keen sense of humour, brilliantly exposes the futility of the linguistic expressions that have come to signify contemporary research in the humanities (“A subaltern editor squeaks”, Sept 7).The written language has ceased to serve the purposes of communication and has become overladen with tedious jargon. Academics now tend to sideline the “human factor” to indulge in the luxurious cumbersome prose. It is ironic that in writing about such essentially human issues with which the Subaltern Studies concerns itself, our revered academics should succeed in de-humanizing their subjects. The marginalization of books written with “utter clarity and quiet sanity” and an alarming preponderence of convoluted Spivakese wouldprove to be a great impediment to future generations of readers.
Somak Ghoshal, Calcutta
Sir — After reading Rukun Advani’s lament in “A subaltern editor squeaks”, three things come to mind. First, Advani’s thinly disguised anger at the subaltern group stems from the realization that the discipline of history has been hijacked by the subalternists from the “courageous pacifists” of the ivory towers, to slightly modify the author’s expression. On this point, one would expect a methodological critique from a man of Advani’s erudition, not the usual harping on the jaded theme of the use of the English language by some subaltern writers. This emphasis tends to trivialize the whole issue.
Two, elite America (even the liberal arts academia) does not give two hoots about subaltern themes. It has other issues to explore than waste its time on the sundry departments of south and southeast Asia in Chicago or Columbia. The same goes for the linguistic practice of elite America. The language used by the “acolytes” of subaltern historians in no way affects it.
Finally, Hardiman’s new book on Gandhi is probably as good as Advani claims it to be. But the latter could have desisted from using the editorial columns of The Telegraph for advertising the book.
Prasanta Chakravarty, New York
Sir — The article “Tongue in check” (Aug 13) has rightly pointed out the apathy of Bengalis, particularly the ruling Left Front, towards their own mother tongue. I was surprised when a well-wisher, himself a Bengali, asked me to choose Hindi as a second language for my son when I was admitting him to school. He himself had done the same. According to him, the competition among Hindi-speaking students in Bengal was much less and more importantly, learning Bengali would serve no practical purpose in the long run.
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — V.S. Mahajan has rightly observed how the only-Hindi policy practised by the Bimaru states has handicapped their youth to such an extent that their lack of knowledge in English is inhibiting them from venturing out to non-Hindi speaking states for employment (“Bridge the language divide”, Aug 15).
It is time the Hindi chauvinists in these states come to terms with the pluralistic culture of India and try not to push Hindi down people’s throats. This sort of coercion will only create hatred and disharmony. A respect for the existing multi-linguistic tradition is required.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — I am a regular reader of The Telegraph and would like to express my gratitude for the publication of two extremely touching photographs on the foreign page. The first was captioned “Piek, a four-year old monkey, checks one-year-old Pom for lice at a temple near Bangkok” (Aug 10) and the second was that of “Auan, a seven-year-old cat, shares a meal with Jeena, a three-year-old mouse, at a farmer’s house near Bangkok” (Aug 8).
I would request you to publish similar pictures in future, if possible in colour, so that animal-lovers are able to preserve them.
Shreya Karmakar, Calcutta
Sir — Hill Cart Road, Siliguri, according to the picture published on August 20 in the “Bengal” page of The Telegraph and captioned, “The deserted Hill Cart Road in Siliguri during Monday’s bandh called by the CPM to protest the Dhupguri killings” (Aug 20), hardly appeared “deserted”. One could see plenty of buses, auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers on the road, as well as pedestrians.
Somnath Ghosh, Calcutta