This refers to your editorial Hairy prospects (FE, May 2). Change in customer preference plays a vital role in cultural shifts. What cannot be brought about by political action can be achieved by corporate norms. We gave up dhotis because the British preferred trousers. Many MNCs are wary of religious adornmentsoff went shaiva/vaishnava cultural mores. Some psychologists even say that shaving gives a false sense of completeness to people. Some time ago, sporting a British-etiquetted attirewell-polished shoes, creased pant, necktie, shirt buttons fastened till the top, gelled hair, shaven facemeant you have arrived in life. Today, it is different. American corporations brought in a more casual approach. Ties are not compulsory. Shirt buttons need not be fastened till the top. Shirts are replaced by T-shirts. Steve Jobss black, full-slack, turtleneck is a great hit among his lovers. So is Charles Krauthammers black turtleneck (with blazer). Leather shoes are compromised for sportswear. What is required is work and timeliness. And Indians are improving on this. There are areas where improvement is required, yet no pressure on those involved. Take tobacco. Despite intervention by governments across the globe to make citizens consume less of this staple, people are, as yet, not fully out of it. Fifty years after it was discovered that smoking causes cancer, tobacco corporations are able to circumvent state regulations easily because consumers are firmly on their sides. State intervention has proven less effective. Coming back to shaving, in Tamil Nadu, hairiness is popularised by movie stars also. Take Ajith Kumar. His unshaven face and grey hair are a hit. His hairstyle is branded salt and pepper. Next, we expect Ajith Kumar to popularise, say, a tobacco-free lifestyle.
Ethos of secularism
Apropos of the article Secularism is dead! (FE, April 21), while the title attracts attention, the piece itself only skims the surface of arguments put forward by staunch believers of secularism who express their fears about a possible BJP government dominated by Narendra Modi and under the influence of the RSS. One may be willing to concede that secularism will not die completely because of democratic systems, the Constitution and a strong higher judiciary. But the very fact that such systems were subverted during the Emergency, which lasted for nearly two years, is worrying. A similar or even stronger bid for power cannot be ruled out. But this very anxiety may be a safeguard against any such attempt by an autocratic leader. At the same time, given the RSS and Sangh Parivars goal of a Hindu Rashtra, there is a very real risk of the state turning away from the ethos of secularism and moving towards more aggressive forms of Hindutva. The fears of minorities and of a large section of secular Hindus are therefore very real.