All clear on the West coast
Sir — Barbara Taylor Bradford, being an intelligent woman and author of bestsellers, did not take too much time to realize that she stood on shaky ground vis-à-vis Karishma — The Miracles of Destiny (“Bradford gives up on Karishma”, August 5). And all because her literary brothers and sisters had not set good enough precedents for her to cash on. Now that she has realized that only a handful of writers out of thousands have so far been awarded compensation for plagiarism of their works, she must have weighed the fruitless legal wrangle against the column centimetres of space in the Indian media. The media coverage being obviously higher than the chances of her winning the lawsuit, she has found that her intellectual property is best left in the care of Karisma Kapoor and company. Bradford perhaps has, without realizing it herself, paved the way for Indian soap operas to look increasingly towards the West for themes and ideas. The West coast appears clear now.
Subhra Guha, Patna
Sir — Passengers who have planned to come into or go out of Calcutta by train on September 13 and 14 should be prepared for the worst. For, the Howrah terminus will be closed for 48 hours beginning from September 13, ostensibly for carrying out repair of the signaling system. Passengers will be forced to embark and disembark at various little-known suburban stations, few of which have adequate platform space to handle the average thousands-strong crowd of short- and long-distance passengers; not to mention the tremendous difficulty they will face trying to get home.
Passengers will not mind putting up with the inconvenience if it helps improving the efficiency of the system and address the familiar problems of the Howrah terminus, such as route congestion between Tikiapara and Howrah which ends up delaying almost every train just before it enters Howrah. It also forces trains to reach Howrah at unearthly hours of 3 am. The railway bureaucracy does not seem concerned about these issues at all. Why is the replacement of signaling gear — involving an expense of above 40 crore rupees — being carried out by this near-bankrupt organization now' Add to this the losses resulting from two days of virtual bandh on account of cancellation of the suburban services.
Of late, the investment decisions in Indian Railways are made in a rather unprofessional manner. As a result, while fares are raised in every budget to arrange for more funds to improve safety and efficiency, the quality of services is going down. Will the change of signal gear solve any of the problems faced by those who use the Howrah terminus regularly, or will it only fill the coffers of the suppliers of the new signaling gear' Will the inefficiencies vanish after this investment' If not, then should not somebody be held accountable for this colossal waste of taxpayers’ money'
Debasis Ghosh, Howrah
Sir — Only a few weeks ago, reports in the media quoted an organization’s findings to reveal that the Howrah station was a virtual tinder-box. The next thing we hear is that the terminus is going to remain closed for two days for some repair work on signals. Isn’t any railway official even remotely concerned about the fire hazards'
Sumantra Sengupta, Calcutta
Sir — It was amusing to read Ashok Mitra’s reflections on the two languages, Hindi and Urdu (“The brothers Sahni”, July 25). That Mitra’s intention was to belittle Urdu is quite clear. But the fact remains that like Hindi, Urdu too is adulterated with a generous sprinkling of Persian and Arabic words. Branding a language superior or inferior is an exercise in futility. Each language has its richness as well as its shortcomings. Viewing a language through a prism of ideology is to make room for bias.
Jay Nitturkar, California, US
Sir — It appears that in India, a writer’s appreciation of a language vis-à-vis another does not go down well with the people. The letters on Ashok Mitra’s comparative study of Urdu and Hindi is a case in point (“Language does not matter”, Aug 1). Mitra was merely voicing his opinion, not making a scholarly statement. Arguments over whether he is right or wrong can only generate a lot of useless heat.
The important point to note here is that between these two languages, Hindi appears wearing a Hindu robe while Urdu is associated with Muslims only. But this was not so even a century back, when both Hindi and Urdu vied for the crown of official language in the then united province of British India.
Rather than worrying our heads off about whether “Hindi has captured the imagination of the largest number of people in this part of the world”, it would be a good idea to appreciate the quality of the language rather than the number of its followers. It is unfair to give precedence to a language going only by numbers, just as it is unfair to place a particular religion on a pedestal because it has a majority following.
Asok Dasgupta, Calcutta
Sir — The letter writer who thinks Hindi has the largest following here is probably unaware of the objectionable methods resorted to to make people learn the language. More than 60 per cent of Indians are not natural speakers of Hindi. The language has been imposed on them — through television, railways, or government institutions. The schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education have made Hindi a compulsory language.
Political vested interests have used Hindi as a weapon to keep back all other major languages of the country. The consequences of this will certainly be felt in the long run.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — A language is merely a vehicle of expression. Why don’t we try to be generous and say, in the manner of Shakespeare, that human feelings, well expressed, is as sweet in any language'
Subhankar Hazra, Calcutta