An elephantine memory also
Sir — Mani Shankar Aiyar, who survived a recent attack allegedly by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, should have been better warned. No one gets away bad-mouthing Amma (“Cong cribs about Aiyar attack”, Oct 15). The Congress should have remembered that years ago, a senior Indian administrative service official supposedly had her face destroyed by an acid attack for daring to lock horns with her. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam workers can relate worse experiences. What seems most disturbing is Amma’s elephantine memory. Who else would think of getting back a year after a nasty word was spoken'
J. Acharya, Calcutta
Note of caution
Sir — André Béteille is right in “Myth and History” (Oct 11), where he cautions us against the misuse of historical raw material and edification of history. Unfortunately, today the misuse of history has become a contemporary reality which we cannot avoid. However, those “reconstructing” history to suit their purposes may also profit from Béteille’s warnings against some of the myths, those propagated through the “anti-colonial historiography” for example. We should equally guard ourselves against the tendency of positing myth as the other of history and vice versa.
There is another problem area that Béteille does not talk about. History is yet to resolve the problem of what should constitute its objective raw material. Oralists debate the use of documents as the basis of writing scientific history. Again we know that colonial records also do not always offer an objective vision of the past. The Occident has its own sense of history and the Orient its own.
Asoka Kumar Sen, West Singhbhum
Sir — The study of history should help us understand the past as it was. But historical interpretations are often influenced and guided by ulterior motives, which is why our understanding of the past also becomes erroneous. The touchstones of history are evidence and arguments, not unquestioned beliefs. As pointed out by André Béteille, in both history and sociology it is neither possible nor advisable always to arrive at conclusions. An open-minded search is always healthier than reaching hasty conclusions.
Paresh Malakar, Calcutta
Sir — Our attention has been drawn to André Béteille’s “Myth and history”. In this article, the learned professor is commenting on our publication, Timeless India Resurgent India: A Celebration of the Land and People of India, authored by me and my colleague, M.D. Srinivas. We are indeed flattered that Béteille has fairly summarized much of the information in the book. However, it would have been proper to mention the name of the book, its authors and publishers. The unfairness of commenting on a supposedly anonymous book becomes more glaring in this case because I happen to be a member of the board of the institute in Calcutta that Béteille chairs. And I remember having personally handed over a copy of the book for his perusal and valuable comments.
J.K. Bajaj, Director, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai
Sir — The report, “Teresa the Musical in beatification run-up” (Oct 15) shows that even the Roman Catholics are hellbent on trying to humiliate Mother Teresa. Why should there be a musical on the struggles of a lone woman who spent her life helping the poor and helpless in a distant land' Mother Teresa’s life itself has been much more astonishing than any miracle can ever be. Millions like us in India couldn’t care less whether she is declared a saint or not. While we don’t believe in any miracle, we think god must be something like her if he really exists.
Asit Kumar Mitra, Calcutta
Sir — India seems to be providing the masala for most of the recently successful musicals. While Bombay Dreams sold Bollywood in London, the musical on Mother Teresa is selling a hapless Calcutta in Rome.
T. Chatterjee, Calcutta