Across the board
Sir — It is difficult to decide whether one must rejoice at or mourn “Women into boardrooms before Parliament” (July 30). It is, indeed, as the report points out, our honourable parliamentarians’ way of forcing others to accept what they refuse to. Besides, there are about as many panchayats headed by women as there are businesses owned and run by them. So there is no apparent reason for the sudden headache about inducting more women into corporate boards, unless there is a similar initiative in all areas of public life, most of all, in the legislatures and Parliament. It must be admitted that the business barons have taken the idea with a lot more equanimity and grace than their elected representatives have. At least, those who have opposed it have done so without resorting to equivocation, and without shedding crocodile tears for the downtrodden sex. But if the government succeeds in its efforts, won’t it double the pressure on the political leaders to follow the example'
Shushma Dhiraj, Raipur
Language does not matter
Sir — Ashok Mitra has got so carried away in his adoration of the Sahni brothers and the heritage of the Lahore Government College that he himself seems to have lost his “sensitivity for aesthetics” (“The brothers Sahni”, July 25). Why else would he find Hindi not a patch on the “grandeur and the langour” of Urdu' But the facts tell a different story. During its short life of only a few hundred years, Hindi has captured the imagination of the largest number of people in this part of the world. Being truly a language of the masses, it has absorbed and assimilated other linguistic influences easily. This keeps the language young and vigorous, flexible and open to experiments. Is this not a great quality in a language'
Mitra also does not have to worry about the sangh parivar hijacking Hindi “for its nefarious purposes”. A dynamic language like Hindi can withstand political onslaughts. Such a language is able to maintain its own identity in spite of various kinds of influences on it. However, I do not want to belittle the contribution of great writers like Premchand and Balraj and Bhisham Sahni. But a language is several times higher than its most illustrious practitioners.
Priyankar Nainwal, Nazira, Assam
Sir — Ashok Mitra has observed that Hindi as a language is nowhere near Urdu. This comparison is not only odious but is also premised on a few wrong assumptions. It is true that Urdu is more sophisticated than Hindi and has a courtly delicacy and languor about it. But Hindi, being rooted in the rich and diverse Indian dialects, more than makes up for this deficiency. Even Urdu subsequently discarded its courtly mantle and started echoing the voice of the common people. Mirza Ghalib, the legendary Urdu poet, used popular idioms or muhawra. There seems to be no ground for praising Urdu’s esoteric qualities when both the languages have their own distinct identities. Hindi is as rich as any other vernacular language in India, including Urdu.
Mitra feels that the sweep of Bhisham Sahni’s creativity was handicapped because he chose Hindi as his medium of expression. This comment is quite baseless. It is the writer’s treatment of a language that counts. If — as Mitra thinks — Sahni loses to Sadat Hasan Manto, it is because of the latter’s superior literary talent, and not because the former wrote in Hindi, and the latter in Urdu.
P.C. Banerji, Calcutta
Sir — The report, “Merit explodes madarsa myths” (July28), ought to be an eye-opener for those who are part of, or believe, the tireless propaganda that madrasahs are nothing but dens of Muslim bigotry, with little or no connection with education. It is unfortunate that even most state governments, including West Bengal’s, are complicit in this propaganda, rather than trying to dispel suspicion from the minds of people.
Just as Hindu boys like Biswajit Brahma and Gour Pramanik are the beneficiaries of the al-Ameen foundation, Premchand too had his early education in a madrasah. Ashok Mitra must be thanked for giving us this information and also for reminding us that Premchand’s first novel was in Urdu.
Asok Dasgupta, Calcutta
Not a healthy sign
Sir — “Biryani and transfers on doctors’ plate” (July 15) tells us about the hurried meeting of doctors of the Bankura Sammilani Medical College and Hospital before the inspection by the Medical Council of India. But the report makes it appear as if all the doctors of the hospital had attended the meeting willingly. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many had decided not to be party to the cover-up exercise of the unscrupulous college authorities. Those who attended were either weak or scared of the consequences of their action. Nearly Rs 20,000 had been spent on that day. Seen in the context of the poor patients of the area and the lack of proper facilities in the hospital, this is criminal.
Satyabrata Banerjee, Kenduadihi, Bankura
Sir — It is not unknown that the government of West Bengal has not bothered to develop the basic infrastructure of the state’s medical education. This is especially true of the rural areas. More often than not, students have to make do with old and worn out instruments in dilapidated buildings. Posts of teachers and paramedical staff continue to remain vacant for long periods. It is only when the Medical Council of India decides to visit these hospitals that some quick-fix, token measures are taken: whitewashing, erecting glow signs, hiring teachers on an ad hoc basis for instance. The mutton biryani and chicken kosha dinner that was fixed up to silence the grudging teachers at the Bankura Sammilani Medical College and Hospital, was clever and innovative by these standards.
It is obvious that the government, through the authorities of various hospitals, tries to force the teachers into silence or make them toe its line. This is a blatant violation of the freedom of expression guaranteed to us by our Constitution. But it is even sadder that the highly qualified doctors choose not to speak up against this.
Arun Sengupta, Calcutta
Sir — It is unfortunate that such a class of privileged and educated people such as doctor-teachers, have been forced to be party to illegal, immoral and unethical activities of government authorities. To the many poor families which visit hospitals such as the Bankura Sammilani Medical College and Hospital, the elaborate spread of biryani, chicken kosha and navratan korma, which the doctors feasted on, is a luxury. The entire incident is a crude and vulgar joke.
Tamal Sinha, Calcutta