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My Friend Sancho

My first novel, My Friend Sancho, is now on the stands across India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.


To buy it online from the US, click here.


I am currently on a book tour to promote the book. Please check out our schedule of city launches. India Uncut readers are invited to all of them, no pass required, so do drop in and say hello.


If you're interested, do join the Facebook group for My Friend Sancho


Click here for more about my publisher, Hachette India.


And ah, my posts on India Uncut about My Friend Sancho can be found here.


Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Category Archives: Journalism

What Do Cricket Commentators Say When They Reach Orgasm?

Ans. It doesn’t matter how they come as long as they come.

Yes, I’ve been watching the Indian Premier League, and while the cricket is good, the commentary’s getting on my nerves. I wrote a few years ago on how cricket commentary (and writing) in India relies so much on cliches, and things haven’t changed. Having said that, the danger of some of these commentators not using cliches is that they start talking nonsense. Yesterday, for example, I heard L Sivaramakrishnan say:

It’s a hard man’s game – that’s why it’s a profession.

This was during Extraaa Innings, and its host responded to this by saying “yes, yes, you are right,” or something to that effect. I had been prepared for a long evening a couple of hours before by Ravi Shastri saying that VVL Laxman is “an excellent slipper”, but Siva never fails to surprise you. What a guy.

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 April, 2008 in Journalism | Media | Sport | WTF


Salil Also Rises

Salil Tripathi writes in:

Your post on Congress’s “Son Rise” reminds me of my time at Celebrity, the now-defunct magazine edited by Shobha De (then Kilachand), where I wrote for some time before going to the United States to study. It was
early 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi had just been appointed the general secretary of the Congress Party (India Today had the famous cover of Rajiv wearing a Gandhi cap, and the headline asked: Will the cap fit?). We used to have a great time making fun of Rajiv, his friendship with Amitabh Bachchan, etc. We had a gossipy column, where we used to write a quip each month (the magazine came out each month) about Rajiv Gandhi, punning on “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway.

The first was of course, “the son also rises”. Then, we got creative, and said “the son also surprises” (when he did something unexpected), “the son also fetches prizes” (when he was given some honour by some sycophant), “the son also fetches prices” (when pricey T-shirts were sold with his mugshot), “the son also cries” (when he showed emotion in public), and so on. It was modeled after Esquire showing Nixon’s laughing face, saying - why is this man laughing? It was all silly, but then I was in my early 20s at that time.

The only way not to do silly things in one’s early 20s is to die at 19, so all is forgiven. And Celebrity is such an apt name for a magazine in these times. Almost all our publications could call themselves that. No?

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 April, 2008 in Journalism | Media


An Overdose of Puns

One of the worst fashions in Indian journalism is to put puns in headlines. Occasionally it can work, but most of the time, it is cringe-inducing. For a perfect example of this, check out this shocker from Rediff:

Cong ‘son rise’ in poll-bound K’taka?

I’m sure the kid on the desk who wrote that must have been rather pleased with himself, but he should note that not only is it an atrocious pun, it is also a cliché—as you’d expect in a country with such a tradition of dynastic politics and poor headline-writing. The above story is about local Congress leaders in Karnataka promoting their children, but in the context of Rahul Gandhi alone, see how often this pun has been used.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, I’m considering possible headlines for this post. My options include “Punny Business”, “Not all Pun and Games” and “Pun-jabi headlines”.

Sikh

Sick, no?

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 April, 2008 in Journalism | Media


She Asked For It?

My friend Shivmeet Deol is appalled at a story that appeared today in Mail Today (PDFs: 1, 2), and has shot off a letter to them. It deserves to be read, and as she doesn’t have a blog, I’m publishing it here, with her permission:

Dear Sir,

I read your report of Sheeba Thomas’s murder in Mail Today this morning, and found the stance of the story infuriating. The opening line itself is misleading, with that unnecessarily emphasized detail about the live-in relationship.

The issue is this: a young woman has been murdered. She is a victim. The perpetrators are still out there. Those are the most important facts. That’s how a mature, objective crime report would deal with it.

But your report focuses on the other facts – chiefly that she isn’t the ‘good’ Indian woman – about her lifestyle and the rest of it, detracting from the real issue of the crime itself. It is judgmental and utterly preachy and in fact makes it sound like she brought it upon herself. Playing up all these stereotypes – ‘air-hostess’, living with a man she isn’t married to, out late at night, ‘unconventional’ lifestyle (which means what, simply that she was sexually active and wore what she liked?), that picture of her in the mini-skirt – is narrow-minded, and viciously so, of you and your paper. And in that, it is irresponsible journalism. It isn’t up to you or your paper to judge how she lived or who with and how many lovers she had or what time she came home. Or what she wore.

Plus, that picture of the poor woman lying there in her blood is unnecessary sensationalism, and undermines her dignity even further.

It was a distastefully done story and the publication ought to take some sort of responsibility for it, maybe by doing a follow-up story by someone who can examine this with more sense and less prejudice, and focuses on the crime and what it is being done to sort that out, and not by making young women sound like accessories in their own murders.

Shivmeet Deol

Sadly, this is not a problem with Mail Today alone, or with this story alone. Remember Scarlett Keeling and her mom?

Update: Elsewhere, in another context, more talk of “loose character.”

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 April, 2008 in India | Journalism | Media | News


Rahul Gandhi, Britney Spears and Groundnut Oil

I’ve been a bit preoccupied the last couple of days, and blogging has been light. So a few quick links:

Rahul Gandhi, who is travelling through Karnataka, wants journalists to leave him alone. “I want to interact with people freely,” he says, “because I like to say many things off-the-record.” In other words, he doesn’t want to be accountable for his public utterances. He’s lucky he’s inherited India and not the USA, where virtually anything a politician says can end up on YouTube.

Mid Day mistakes betting for match-fixing. The headline mentions match-fixing, the text only speaks of betting and satta. Do they really think there’s no difference?

Rediff reports: “Britney’s pregnant teen sister gets engaged”. That’s too much information for one headline, no? By the time Rediff’s readers process it, the baby will out and cutting records.

Abdul Ghaffar, accused of stealing “two cans of groundnut oil 14 years ago,”, has been acquitted. There is no mention in the report whether the people who actually took that oil have been apprehended. I consider it likely that they’ve consumed the evidence.

I’ve just discovered Ayaz Memon’s column from last Sunday: It’s headlined “The fantasy of make believe.” Er, Ayaz?

And finally, check out this superb piece by one of my favourite columnists, Stanley Fish, on denouncing and renouncing. An excerpt:

This denouncing and renouncing game is simply not serious. It is a media-staged theater, produced not in response to genuine concerns – no one thinks that Obama is unpatriotic or that Clinton is a racist or that McCain is a right-wing bigot – but in response to the needs of a news cycle. First you do the outrage (did you see what X said?), then you put the question to the candidate (do you hereby denounce and renounce?), then you have a debate on the answer (Did he go far enough? Has she shut her husband up?), and then you do endless polls that quickly become the basis of a new round.

I am beginning to believe that the main purpose of elections is not to enable democracy but to provide newspapers with material to write about. And blogs, of course.

Blogging will continue to be infrequent for the next couple of days. I wish you happiness.

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 March, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | India | Journalism | Media | News | Politics | WTF


Presumed Guilty?

PTI reports:

Former BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya has been found to have misappropriated over Rs 2.90 crore of the cricket body’s funds during his tenure, police said on Monday.

Acting on a case filed by the BCCI in March 2006 after Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar took over as head of the game’s governing body, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) has found that Dalmiya diverted funds meant for legal fees towards other expenses including paying for personal phone bills.

[...]

The crime branch will be filing a chargesheet against Dalmiya, Gautam Dutta and KM Choudhary in the matter on Wednesday in a local court, he said.

I don’t get it. The chargesheet hasn’t been filed yet, and the newspapers report that Dalmiya “has been found to have [blah-blah]”. It’s as if the cops and investigative agencies in the country pass judgement on crimes, not the courts. Surely an “allegedly” in there wouldn’t have harmed the story too much.

I’m not supporting Dalmiya here, who may well be guilty for all I know. But a judgement on that should come from the courts, not from the cops investigating him or the press, seeking a story but unconcerned about what the truth may be.

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 March, 2008 in India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


Writing About Classical Liberalism

A couple of months ago, I had praised Gautam Adhikari for setting out a classical liberal direction for the Times of India editorial pages. Well, Sauvik Chakraverti writes in to argue that my praise was undeserved, as demonstrated by a recent editorial in the newspaper that Sauvik calls “illiberal, intolerant and unsympathetic.” Sauvik has a piece on it that I recommend you read. An excerpt:

[T]he editorial is blind to reality. It asks the totally stupid question: “How is it that the drug trade in Goa is flourishing, that too, in full public view and under the nose of the state police who’s duties include cracking down on such activities?” The drug trade is flourishing all over the world, including New Delhi. I myself scored marijuana in London a stone’s throw from the headquarters of Scotland Yard. The duties of the Goa police also include ensuring road safety. Every Goan, local as well as tourist, would be safer if this duty was performed. The drug trade should be legalized – but this is probably ‘too liberal’ an idea for the editor.

I admire Sauvik immensely, and agree with his thoughts here, but I have a problem with the way he expresses them. Consider this sentence: “This illiberal, unsympathetic and ignorant editorial then descends to rank idiocy.” This may be true, but the harsh language alienates the neutral reader who might be coming across some of these ideas for the first time. A better approach would be to calmly lay the facts and the argument out, and to respect the reader enough to let him come to his own conclusion without shouting it at him. This is especially true when those ideas—legalizing the drug trade, for example—sound radical to a normal guy, which makes it important for the tone to be measured and reasonable.

I hope I’m not coming across as preachy here, for Sauvik is a much sharper thinker than I am. (He also won the Bastiat Prize a few years before I got lucky.) But I’m angry that such a fine mind, which can open so many doors for so many people, does not find a platform on the editorial pages of a single major newspaper in India, many of which are filled with mediocre writing. I’m quite sure that the tone of the writing, not the content, is responsible for that.

And while on drugs and Goa, I’d mentioned in a recent post that I was in favour of legalizing drugs as well, and will elaborate on that in a longer piece soon.

Update (March 21): Sauvik writes in to inform me that he does indeed have a regular column in the Sunday edition of the New Indian Express. My apologies. I shall watch that page regularly.

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 March, 2008 in Economics | Freedom | India | Journalism | Media


Grammar Unaffects the Times of India

If you’re in an institution as powerful as the Times of India, and you can’t think of a suitable word in a headline, don’t worry, just make something up. Nobody messes with the ToI. Consider this remarkable headline from yesterday:

Airport strike unaffects flight services

Words fail me. Time for a neologism?

(Link via email from MadMan.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 March, 2008 in India | Journalism | Media | WTF


The New Master of the Kremlin

David Remnick, writing about how “it’s always been easier to contemplate a new master of the Kremlin by seizing on homey anecdotes,” tells us about Dmitry Medvedev:

Now comes Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, the next President of Russia. Five feet four. Forty-two years old. Lawyer. Friend and longtime protégé of Vladimir Putin. Husband (wife: Svetlana). Father (son: Ilya, age eleven). Nickname in the Kremlin: the Grand Vizier. Favorite book as a boy: “The Soviet Encyclopedia.” Understands “Olbanian,” the term of art for Russian Internet slang. Practices yoga. Swims each morning and evening. Big fan of seventies schlock bands. “I’ve loved hard rock since my school days,” he told an interviewer not long ago. “Today, for example, I can boast that I have the entire collection of Deep Purple.” And, if you’re still curious, Medvedev keeps an aquarium in his office at the Kremlin. He alone is permitted to feed the fish.

When Vladimir Putin came to power, on New Year’s Eve, 1999, we learned that he was a judo expert, that he had a poodle named Toska, and that his grandfather had been a cook for Lenin. But the most salient fact about him was that he was a career KGB agent. And, in eight years as President of the Russian Federation, Putin has been as true to his school as any Old Etonian. According to Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a well-regarded sociologist in Moscow, who studies the biographies of the Russian élites, Putin has filled the leadership ranks with former officials from the KGB and the FSB. As he once told an assembly of officers at Lubyanka, “There is no such thing as a former agent.”

The most salient fact about Medvedev is not that he will have been elected by the Russian people to be their President but that he was selected by Putin to be his junior partner. Medvedev, of course, understands his role. In the speech in which he announced his candidacy, he thrilled the spies, bureaucrats, and corporate barons who depend on Putin for their status and their wealth by declaring that, if, perchance, he was lucky enough to win, he would make Putin his prime minister. It was at that moment that Dmitry Medvedev became five feet three.

What a summary! What is there left to say about Medvedev after this?

I’ve read four books by Remnick, by the by, and recommend them all highly. (1, 2, 3, 4.) They are all exemplars of the art and craft of reporting and non-fiction writing.

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 March, 2008 in Journalism | Media | Politics


The Pubic Domain

The apology of the day comes from the Island:

Our main headline yesterday should have read ‘Robbers of public money will end up in hell—Chief Justice’. Due to an inadvertent error the word ‘pubic’ had crept in instead of ‘public’. We tender an unqualified apology to Chief Justice Sarath N Silva.

This reminds me of an incident from my callow youth that happened around 12 or 13 years ago. I worked in Channel [V] then, and despite being a scriptwriter for them, did not have a computer to myself at work. Their public relations department had a computer that was mostly free, but the two ladies who worked there would act immensely pricey about letting me use what I considered an office resource. The screensaver on their computer read “We Are Proud Of Being Channel [V]‘s Public Relations”, and in a fit of youthful pique, I removed the ‘l’ from ‘public.’

Exactly 41 days later—I counted—they noticed and changed it back. I could have changed it again, of course, but I didn’t, so that I would have the pleasure of watching them wait in front of their machine every morning till the screensaver came on just to see if it had been changed. Cheap thrills.

Update: Via Groundviews, here’s a screenshot of the headline as it appeared:

(Groundviews link via email from Deane.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 06 March, 2008 in Journalism | Media | Personal


Another Drain Inspector’s Report

Writing in the First Post, Sean Thomas presents a diary of his visit to Kolkata, and no doubt thinks he’s doing groundbreaking journalism by pointing out how poor some Kolkatans are, in contrast with the affluence others enjoy. Two sample entries:

17:50 See that behind me is a man naked from the waist down, in the process of soiling himself; his loins are a mass of scarlet sores and his wounds are seething with flies. Realise the man is dying.

22:30 Have dinner in hotel restaurant of softshell crab in brandy sauce, accompanied by Chilean shiraz.

There’s nothing quite as bracing as poverty pornography, eh? These contrasts are the biggest clichés of foreign journalism about India, and Thomas would have done better telling the stories instead of painting the images, and examining the causes of that poverty instead of showing us that it’s there, which we already know. But maybe he had a flight to catch, and didn’t have the time.

(Link via email from Salil Tripathi, who correctly compares Thomas to Katherine Mayo—which is where my headline comes from.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 February, 2008 in India | Journalism | Media


Occupational Hazards

Being a journalist can be dangerous. Al Kamen reports:

Reporters covering President Bush’s trip to Africa are dropping like flies. The latest victim was Jon Ward of the Washington Times, who somehow ran through a plate-glass window at the Liberian executive mansion yesterday while trying to keep up with the president. Colleagues say he has cuts on his right hand but is in surprisingly good shape, our colleague Peter Baker reports.

Somehow, I wish that had happened to Dick Cheney. After all, Bush chose him as his running mate, didn’t he? And anyway, what’s Bush doing in Liberia?

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 February, 2008 in Journalism | Media | Miscellaneous


What About Management?

We can debate ideology and policies and rhetoric till the cows ring the doorbell, but one necessary quality that the next US president must have is good management skills. On this issue it’s fair to ask of Hillary Clinton: If she’s making such a mess of running her campaign, how will she run her country.

Right now, she’s wasting money given voluntarily by donors to her. As President, she’ll have control over funds forcibly taken from taxpayers. It’s remarkable that she earlier positioned her management skills as a selling point. Heh.

Also read: Clive Crook’s Battle Of The Two Obamas. Echoing the sentiment expressed here, he writes:

I would be less concerned if I thought that Obama’s economic positions were simply a matter of pandering to the Democratic electorate. All politicians pander. In a way, it is a tribute to Obama that this truth would come as such a disappointment in his case. And a desire for straight talk would hardly be a reason for preferring Clinton or even, for that matter, John McCain. But what if Obama thinks that new trade barriers, much higher taxes on the well-paid, new regulations and incentives to steer companies’ decisions on where to locate are all wise policies? That would worry me more.

In the meantime a controversy’s broken out over John McCain’s past that relies on hints, allegations and things left unsaid rather than any concrete proof. The New Republic tells us how the New York Times put the story together. It seems to have rebounded on the Times, and might even be helping McCain. I agree with Michael Gerson:

If this is all the Times has—sexual innuendo and anonymous sources—it really is a scandal.

Quite.

(First link via email from Mohit.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 February, 2008 in Journalism | Media | News | Politics


How To Get Lindsay Lohan Naked

Get her to play Marilyn Monroe.

Meanwhile, here’s what our very own sex symbol is up to. Sigh.

(Indiafm link via email from Kind Friend.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 February, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


Public Works

WTF headline of the day:

Udaipur airport readied in time for Praful’s daughter’s wedding

There’s actually nothing WTF in the article itself. It’s just the headline…

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 February, 2008 in India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


Breaking News: Amitabh Bachchan Catches a Cold

I’m not kidding. See the screenshot:

image

(Picture via Amit Sharma’s post, which Chandoo alerted me to via email.)

Update: Heh.

Posted by Amit Varma on 07 February, 2008 in India | Journalism | Media | WTF


To Die For

The WTF reportage of the day comes from Rediff:

“Twenty years from now, men will be ready to die for me, but not for you.” This is what a cadet at the National Defence Academy in Khadakvasla, Pune, tells his friends pursuing engineering when they discuss how much money they will make in their careers compared to him.

It is an explosive response for someone who is just 21 but that is not what makes it so staggeringly impressive. It is the belief with which it is said that gives it gravitas.

Staggeringly impressive? Hello? This is staggeringly delusionary, and I feel worried about the man who measures career satisfaction by such a dangerous yardstick. I’m not dissing the armed forces—they keep our borders and engineers safe—but there are better reasons to feel proud of being an army man than the power you have over people’s lives.

The other profession marked out by such lust for power is politics. How staggeringly sad.

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 January, 2008 in Journalism | Media | WTF


“Dash 30 Dash”

Do read James O’Shea’s farewell remarks to his newsroom after he was sacked as editor of the Los Angeles Times.

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 January, 2008 in Journalism | Media


The Private Treaties of the Times of India

Reader Bhushan Nigale writes in:

I was expecting you to link to the hard-hitting Mint story (incidentally published on the 15th of January) on ‘Private Treaties’, BCCL’s yet another innovation that compromises journalistic and ethical values. Instead, I found your post on ‘Classical Liberalism and the Times of India’. This amused me no end.

I refuse to believe that the newspaper can stand for anything, except for protecting and furthering the interests of its ‘private treaties’ and ‘MediaNet’ clients. It stands for violating the trust of its readers, by selling news for money and equity.

Fair point, and had I noticed the Mint story, I would certainly have blogged about it. I have no respect for some of the practices of the Times of India, as regular readers would have noted. If their edit pages do end up improving, that won’t absolve them of their business practices—but it is still worth commenting on.

Update: Devangshu points me to an earlier story on private treaties in Business Standard:

The Times of India publisher Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd must be doing something right with its three-year-old Private Treaties division.

Otherwise newspaper groups such as HT Media Ltd, Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagran would not be eager to duplicate their arch rival’s business plan.

Read the rest here.

Posted by Amit Varma on 16 January, 2008 in Journalism | Media


Classical Liberalism and the Times of India

Gautam Adhikari, in an important piece on the Times of India edit page, lays down the philosophy of the ToI edit pages:

[W]e are a ‘liberal’ newspaper in the classical sense of the term. Our job is to offer you a wide variety of opinions to help you reflect and form your own views. When we want to express opinions as a newspaper, we do so in our editorials.

Thus, we chose to publish [Ashis] Nandy’s and Praful Bidwai’s (January 2) critical views of Modi for much the same reason we carried columns favourable to Modi written by Swapan Dasgupta (December 30) and Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar (January 6). Our own take on the Gujarat elections we elaborated in a long editorial published on December 24.

[...]

Yes, we have a motive. It’s to stick openly and steadfastly to liberalism. Unfortunately, the political landscape in India leaves little room these days for the play of liberalism as we understand it. Our liberalism compels us to be socially tolerant and economically as well as politically ‘free to choose’. That’s why we are neither socialists nor extreme nationalists. And that’s why we support market forces, which are all about choice, while continuing to believe in an effective role for the state as regulator, facilitator and provider of security for life and property so that, with good governance, we can lead peaceful and prosperous lives in an interconnected world.

Strangely, in an age when you might presume it’s improbable in a modern democracy, it’s actually difficult to belong to our bandwidth in the Indian political spectrum. It isn’t only because the extremes of a fiercely Hindu nationalist right and an obtusely Neanderthal left, with the Congress party being a muddle in the middle, leave little space for reasoned debate along classically liberal lines.

I quote at length because I approve wholeheartedly of such a direction. Apart from publishing voices from across the spectrum, I hope Adhikari also ensures that ToI‘s editorials reflect this classical liberal way of looking at the world, and defend freedom in all its senses. Niranjan Rajadhyaksha of Mint had made a similar commitment when that newspaper launched, but ToI, with its massive audience, could have a far greater impact on public discourse.

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 January, 2008 in Freedom | India | Journalism | Media


Sonu Nigam’s Cleavage

Here’s the WTF line of the day, from an article titled “Bollywood’s historic moment”:

Sonu Niigaam seemed to make up for the well-covered event by his cleavage show as he strutted around in a body-hugging tee.

Even the way they’ve spelled his name has cleavage. Thank FSM there are no pictures.

(Link via email from Prabhu.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 January, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | WTF


Carla Bruni and Indian Culture

The WTF quote of the day comes from a lady named Chitra Danger on the subject of Nicolas Sarkozy visiting India with his girlfriend, Carla Bruni:

The very idea of a head of state visiting India in an official capacity with his girlfriend is in very poor taste and shows extreme insensitivity to our older, more traditional culture.

Danger, it seems, is “director of the Center for International Protocol and Etiquette in Hyderabad,” which is enough to elicit a WTF reaction on its own. I think she’s way out of touch with the times here. Our celebrity-obsessed media will almost certainly go gaga over Bruni, especially if she wears a saree or a salwar kameez at some point, and Sarkozy’s visit will be covered with far greater interest than any head of state has received in the past.

Thankfully, our government disagrees with Danger as well.

As for Saudi Arabia...

(Link via Udayan Tripathi’s promising new blog, Butterfly Lane.)

Update (Januaru 11): Ouch. It seems the government’s denied Bruni first lady status.

Posted by Amit Varma on 10 January, 2008 in India | Journalism | Media | WTF


Brett Lee’s Bottom

Joyful sentence of the day:

The Queenslander had questioned why Harbhajan, in his match-turning innings, had touched fast bowler Brett Lee on the bottom when the fireworks erupted.

Laws about racism are all well and good, but what are we doing about sexual harassment, that’s what I want to know. Also, was the touch consensual?

(Link via email from Rohan D’Sa.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 07 January, 2008 in Journalism | Media | News | Sport


Abhishek?

WTF headline of the day:

Why Hrithik never offered lifts to Ash in his helicopter?

The question mark at the end makes it particularly priceless. The detailed narrative is also a hoot, especially the bit about how “Aishwarya was also making gestures to the chaiwalla and her personal assistant…”

(Link via email from reader VatsaL.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 January, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


Splatter

The WTF headline of the day, with picture, comes from Rediff:

Saif jumps from the 22nd floor

And what’s with the byline?

(Link via email from Abhimanyu Sanghi.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 03 January, 2008 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | WTF


Of Pithy Generalities and Tired Perceptions

“Isn’t there anyone who can write about India with some complexity?” asks Samanth Subramanian in an excellent piece in the New Republic. Exhibit A for bad writing, needless to say, is Shashi Tharoor.

(Earlier on Tharoor: 1, 2.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 03 January, 2008 in India | Journalism | Media


On The Trail

This is what Barack Obama says at a rally in Des Moines:

We can’t afford a politics that’s all about terrorism and ripping people down rather than lifting a country up. We can’t afford a politics based on fear that leaves politicians to think the only way they can look tough on national security is to vote and act and talk just like George W Bush.

This is how the London Telegraph reports it:

Barack Obama unleashed a blistering attack on his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton yesterday, branding her “just like George W Bush”.

Makes for a better headline, I know—but is that all that matters?

Posted by Amit Varma on 01 January, 2008 in Journalism | Media | News | Politics


Don’t Waste What’s Left Of 2007

Inspiring headline of the day:

Lohan kisses three men in one day.

Posted by Amit Varma on 31 December, 2007 in Journalism | Media | News | WTF


A Blogger Looks At A WTF 2007

This round-up of WTF posts by me was published in today’s issue of Mail Today. You can download a pdf of the page here.

It’s that time of the year when newspapers and TV Channels round up the year with great ponderousness. Well, I’d like to present some snapshots from the year as well, but not one that looks at big events of great importance. Instead, handpicked from my blog India Uncut, here are some WTF moments from 2007. (WTF, if you must pretend not to know what it means, stands for What The Fug.)

The year begins with reality-show WTFness. In January, Rakhi Sawant steams it up on Bigg Boss, with one choice conversation being the bit where Roopali Ganguly tells her that she hasn’t been kissed in three years. “Tere hont kunwaare hai,” Rakhi tells her. “Tujhe jung lag chuka hai.” 

Meanwhile, Shilpa Shetty enters Celebrity Big Brother saying “I’m very synonymous with glamour”. While teaching Yoga to a fellow contestant, she says, “You’re not breathing right. We’re so occupied with life and the stuff we have to do that we don’t breathe.” Later, a racism row erupts, and the Indian government wastes taxpayers money protesting, panting and puffing while Shilpa stays calm, presumably breathing. 

Headlines of the month: “Lalu sets Ghost after Nitish.” “Sadhus go on Rampage.” “Cong, Sena fight over damaged auto.” “Kalam wants to see Indian on Mars.” 

In February, a report informs us: “More and more couples are exploiting Caesarean sections to manipulate the horoscope of the baby.” A Bajrang Dal actvist protests Valentine’s Day because “exchanging cards at a young age is against Indian culture.” 

Prediictionss

In March, astrologers such as Bejan Daruwalla and Sanjay B Jumaaaaani give us their predictions for the World Cup, and get it wronggg. An astrologer in Tamil Nadu gets into trouble by “allegedly predicting a long life for a dead man.” A gentleman from Mumbai approaches the Bombay High Court demanding that they declare him to be God. In Orissa’s Jagannath Temple, food worth Rs 10 lakhs, meant as a holy offering, is destroyed because a foreigner had entered it - “an act seen as defiling the premises.”

Cops bust a rave party, and we are told that the cops are “thinking of invoking provisions of the IT Act against them because the invitations for the party were sent via the Internet.” The All Kerala Drinkers’ Welfare Association, which “pledges to protect the rights of alcoholics … [presents] the government with a 15-point demand that includes a room for the lower-middle class drinker.” In Mumbai, the publisher of The Santa and Banta Joke Book is arrested for outraging religious feelings. Headline of the month: “Kalam trips and falls, is unhurt.” 

In April, a controversy erupts against Sachin Tendulkar for “cut[ting] a cake in the colours of the national flag.” Narayana Murthy allegedly insults the national anthem, which promptly goes and sulks. The hit story of the month on television: a baby monkey with its head stuck in a bucket. Karan Thapar asks Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi what constitutes good taste and bad taste. The reply: “When the committee feels it’s good, it’s good, when it feels its bad it’s bad.”

The headline of May: “Train passengers asked to get out and push.” This is in Bihar. In Kolkata, a man throws his wife out because she wears salwar kameez. When the case goes to court, he tells the judge: “We are an orthodox family. We cannot accept such dresses, she should wear a sari.”

In June, Amitabh Bachchan is in the news. “Amitabh no Farmer” screams one TV headline. Filmmaker Robby Grewal then offers him the role of Krishna, and says: “Only Mr Bachchan can play God convincingly.” Amitabh, on another issues, clarifies: “Ash is not married to a tree! [...] It’s a challenge—please show me the tree she married!”

The headline of the month is a non-event: “Rani Mukherjee is not engaged to Aditya Chopra.” Also: “Abhi-Akshaye to star in lesbian drama?” Quote of the month: Bobby Deol saying “I am the son of Punjab-da-puttar.” Picture of the month: Himesh Reshammiya in a burqa.

In July, Renuka Chowdhury, the Women and Child Development Minister, announces that she wants every pregnancy in the country to be registered. (Big Sister is watching your foetus.) Pratibha Patil, who speaks to spirits and supports compulsary sterilization for people with hereditary diseases, becomes India’s latest WTF president.

Quote of the month: Murali Manohar Joshi saying, “I think the government wants to import the western culture of sexual relation between student relation to India.” Picture of the month: Lalu Prasad Yadav tying his pajama’s naada

August is notable for Rakhi Sawant’s fabulous quote, “Item dance is not a crime. It’s an art and I pursue it with a vanity. it’s takes a lot of hard work to perform. Gandhiji also believed in working hard.” And there’s also Ram Gopal Varma: “I don’t think Gabbar from Sholay was a negative character. He was a villain who did a heinous act of killing people.”

Headlines of the month: “Chutiya tribe to organise massive agitation for ST status.” “China bans Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission.” “Bachchan crazy for wife Aishwarya.”

In September, the Allahabad High Court rules, “[I]t is the duty of every citizen of India under Article 51-A of the Constitution - irrespective of caste, creed or religion - to follow the dharma propounded by the Bhagvad Gita.” BBC reports: “Nepal’s state-run airline has confirmed that it sacrificed two goats to appease a Hindu god, following technical problems with one of its aircraft.”

The quote of the month comes from BP Singhal: “Anybody who wants to denigrate another religion, I call him a Christian. You must find out Ambika Soni’s religion.”

Chicken

In October, we find that “some civic bodies in Madhya Pradesh are contemplating issuing licences to … genuine [eunuchs] to prevent the fakes from decamping with alms.” Mumbai Mirror speaks to a source who saw Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan dine at a restaurant, who says: “From the dishes that they had ordered, it was pretty apparent that Saif and Kareena love chicken.” Raima Sen says of her sister Riya, “She has breasts and hips truly measuring up to Bollywood standards.” S Sreesanth remarks: “I know I am handsome but all the actresses can wait.”

In November, the temple manager of Kerala’s Sree Krishna Guruvayoor temple reveals, according to IANS, that “the deity [is] unhappy over the entry of women in salwar-kameez.” Aburadha Sawhney of PETA, complaining about an SBI commercial featuring a chicken, says: “It is obvious that the chicken would never have done any of these stunts willingly.” Narendra Modi says, “Scavenging must have been a spiritual experience for the Valmiki caste.”

Headlines of the month: “Sonali Kulkarni bares her back.” “Why was Rakhi sad on her b’day?”

In December, a case is filed against Anil Ambani for sardarji jokes sent on the Reliance Network. BBC reports: “A judge in India has summoned two Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman, to help resolve a property dispute.” Bushes and trees in Bangalore’s Lalbagh are trimmed “to ensure that young couples can’t steal a kiss behind them, all thanks to complaints from regular joggers.” Rediff asks its readers: “What do you think about Kangana going bald? Tell us!” It also asks Klaus Meine of the Scorpions: “Have you thought of introducing hip hop in your music to keep pace with the newer generation?” 

Headlines of the month: “US says it has right to kidnap British citizens.” “Sushmita in a legal hassle over ‘virginity’.”

See? Our country is so much more fun than all this talk of nuclear deals and Gujarat elections and Nandigram and suchlike. Have a great WTF 2008!

*  *  *

For more WTF posts by me, check out my WTF category page.

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 December, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Essays and Op-Eds | India | Journalism | Media | News | Politics | WTF


Why Whistling Matters

WTF headline of the day:

Gulshan whistles at Shilpa.

I must now confess that I have never learned to whistle. As I do not have any dogs, and am too much of a gentleman to whistle at passing nymphets, it is not a great loss to me. However, it does mean that in future, there is one way in which I will not be able to make the headlines. My sorrow knows no bounds, and I will soon be moistening my fingers by blowing on them. Pah.

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 December, 2007 in Journalism | Media | News | Personal | WTF


Bill and Hillary

Mohit points me to Reuters’ Pictures of the Year. Some of them are awesome. My favourites are below.

First, by Jim Young, the Clintons at a campaign fund-raiser:

image

This one by Claro Cortes Iv, the most beautiful of the lot in my opinion, shows a woman walking into a subway in Beijing:

Read more...

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 December, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media


The Nude Bodies of Ranbir Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan

Many years ago, when I was a child, I picked up a foreign film magazine my father had left lying around. It contained a review of my then-favourite film, Dead Poet’s Society. I began reading it, and discovered that the reviewer was clearly writing about a different Dead Poet’s Society than the one I’d seen. It took me a while to realise that the review was about the same film, which was, according to the reviewer, a film about repressed homosexuality, filled with charged homo-eroticism. That was my first introduction to a genre of movie reviewing that picks up a film and reads into it meanings and subtexts that would baffle even the director and the scriptwriter.

Nitin points me to a recent example of such a review (pdf file), which focuses on Om Shanti Om and Saawariya, and examines how “the spectacular and stylish nude male bodies and images of both Ranbir Raj Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan, though very different from each other, were the prime objects of desire and erotic spectacle.” On Ranbir’s body, it says:

It is a body that represents an outside figure, which operates freely, beyond the spatial, bodily and moral bounds of society, offering pleasure to all. His striptease act, along with his erotic moving body symbolise a changing sexual culture. The representation of the male body itself becomes subversive in certain ways.

And now Shah Rukh’s body:

The nude body of Shahrukh in OSO may also be seen as a visual iconography with sexual meanings, operating in a pleasure economy, and being an icon of “permissiveness”. His performative act in the song “Dard-E-Disco” is principally centred on the male body, symbolising a different erotic genre.

I would love to know what Farah Khan has to say about that. And Gauri, for that matter. Hell, even Karan.

The article concludes:

The embodied performances in the two songs particularly, to a degree subvert notions of a dominant male gaze, mutate hegemonic masculinity, question neat heteronormative categories, and undermine prescribed gender spaces and fixed gendered representations.

Apropos of nothing, let me point you to one of my favourite essays by Richard Dawkins, Postmodernism Disrobed.

Update: Gaspode tells us:

The ontology of the dominant episteme encoding the patriarchal construct of “sex with love” and “sex without love” is emergent in the hermeneutics of the intertextuality of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” and John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland”. Both songs, released in 2002 attempt to challenge and subvert each other.

It’s a parody, of course—though I only know it because Gaspode is a friend and I know his tendencies. Some people write stuff like this seriously.

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 December, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | WTF


Vladimir Putin is Time’s Person of the Year

I love the headline: A Tsar Is Born.

(Link via email from Gaurav.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 December, 2007 in Journalism | Media | News | Politics


Mint Picks Up Another Award

I’m delighted that the newspaper I write a weekly column for, Mint, has picked up yet another laurel. My congratulations to Priyanka Narain for being named the Young Journalist of the Year for 2007 by CNN. It’s quite an honour.

I’m obviously biased, but I think Mint has come on beautifully since it launched in February. The paper looks beautiful and is a delight to hold and browse through. Its language is crisp and clear, entirely free of the archaisms of the Hindu or the sloppiness of the Times of India. It’s a pity that it’s only available in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

It’s also a pity that Mint has such a shabby website. I keep cribbing to them about that, but I suspect that the people who make it such a lovely print publication have no say in that area. Such it goes…

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 December, 2007 in Journalism | Media


Man Bites Dog

This is for real. I am so happy today.

This is what it usually means to us journalists.

(Link via email from Jayakamal.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 December, 2007 in Journalism | Media | News


George Clooney in a Gown?

The Times of India has a bizarre story on Pooja Bedi and George Clooney meeting up in Dubai recently:

The two hotties were introduced by Kabir Bedi who also attended the premiere with his girlfriend Parveen. “Clooney looked at me and said, ‘Wow, your gown looks beautiful. I think I can get into it, but I don’t think I will looks as pretty as you,” recalled an excited Pooja describing the Hollywood actor’s charm.

So all you boys out there, now you know how to charm the next lady you want to impress: offer to get into her clothes.

Also in the ToI: Everyone loves Koena’s puppy.

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 December, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


What Large Breasts Can Do

The Daily Mail embarks on some investigative journalism.

Many years ago, a friend and I were discussing what size of breasts we liked. “A breast should be big enough to fit snugly in the palm of my hand,” he told me, “and no more.” I haven’t chatted with him for years, though I meet him occasionally at Infinity mall, his hand twitching as he eyes passing women. I know: Ew!

Anyway, where did that come from? This is a family blog.

(Link via email from Gautam. Previous posts on breasts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 29 November, 2007 in Journalism | Media | Miscellaneous | Personal


Happy Birthday Rakhi Sawant

WTF headline of the day:

Why was Rakhi sad on her b’day?

The answer, in her words:

I am not celebrating my birthday because I don’t want to. I was expecting some special treatment from Nach Baliye team but nothing happened, so I am very sad.

Well, since she was obviously expecting something special, maybe the Nach Baliye chaps thought they’ll surprise her.

(Link via email from Harish, who blogs on it here. More on Rakhi: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. And some posts on Bigg Boss: 1, 2, 3, 4.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 28 November, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | WTF


Playing For The Boy

When Rohit Brijnath is on song, he’s a heck of a writer. His latest piece on Sachin Tendulkar is wonderful, and I love the way it ends:

What does Tendulkar play for? Team, himself, pride, records? Maybe he plays because part of him is just a boy who finds himself when bat meets ball. Maybe he plays because of a boy agog in the stands. Maybe he has summoned this last reservoir of energy to show a kid, now old enough to understand, why, for 18 years, the world has made such a fuss about his father.

Read the full thing.

(Link via Prem Panicker.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 November, 2007 in Journalism | Media | Sport


Always At Olive

Malaika Arora Khan and Kamal Sidhu seem to be hanging out a lot at Olive. Consider the two excerpts below:

Another Thursday night in Mumbai, another celebrity-packed crowd at the Olive Bar and Kitchen.

The model-turned-actress Amrita Arora was there, along with her sister, Malaika Arora Khan, the spicy sex symbol of Bollywood. Nearby, the prodigal founder of Hotmail, Sabeer Bhatia, was holding court with several pretty young things in hip-hugging jeans and stiletto heels. Then all heads turned when the television personality Kamal Sidhu sauntered past the proverbial velvet rope, blowing kisses in all directions. [Denny Lee of the NY Times, February 2005.]

And

At Olive Bar & Kitchen, the rubbernecking was so intense that people were in danger of choking on their bruschettas. Was that Malaika Arora Khan, the model and actress? Was she talking to Kamal Sidhu, the television personality? [Stanley Stewart of the London Times, November 2007.]

Note that Stewart doesn’t say he saw Malaika and Kamal, but speculates on it, thus ensuring plausible deniability. Neat.

The two stories are otherwise dissimilar, except for one bit: In the first, Suketu Mehta is quoted as saying, “Every night is a party in Bombay.” In the second, Naresh Fernandes is quoted as saying, “In Bombay, every night is party night.”

Naresh, the editor of Time Out Mumbai, is a friend, so I wrote to him to find out what this was about. While he didn’t remember the details of the conversation, or if it took place, he did quip, “I’m surprised that Suketu and I are so in synch that we say exactly the same things now.” He also mentioned that Time Out Mumbai did not begin “in the hope of chronicling [Mumbai’s nightlife]”, as Stewart claims.

Anyway, if you ever desire to bump into Malaika and Kamal, you know where to go. But please don’t write about it!

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 November, 2007 in Journalism | Media


Shashi Tharoor: The Conviction of Banality

It takes a special skill to nail the essence of a writer in one pithy sentence, and Chandrahas Choudhury does just that when he describes Shashi Tharoor’s The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone as “a ragbag of columns and op-eds in which ancient platitudes, second-hand insights, and tacky witticisms are aimed at the reader with a quite breathtaking conviction.”

Anyone who has read Tharoor’s Sunday column in the Times of India will surely sigh and agree. My beef with Tharoor, though, is not with his monumental banality or his lack of insight, but with his double-standards on matters like free speech. For example, in a piece earlier this year, he correctly supported MF Husain, but refused to stand up for the Danish cartoonists. He wrote:

[I]‘d like to deal with those who’ve questioned my own record: many have written to ask whether I have spoken out in favour of freedom of expression elsewhere (I have, for decades, and continue to do so); whether I have publicly defended Salman Rushdie over The Satanic Verses (I have, widely, and in writing as well as in person); and whether I have spoken in favour of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (I have not, because I consider them a needless provocation). The last line of questioning, I must say, irritated me; those who draw a parallel between Husain’s art and a bunch of cartoons have not begun to understand the first thing about either.

This excerpt makes clear, of course, that Tharoor does not understand the first thing about free speech—if it was only allowed to those whose expression has the approval of tasteful commissars like Tharoor, what meaning would freedom have at all?

One of the things Chandrahas points out in his review, by the way, is how “one of Tharoor’s main subjects” is “the ‘I’” And indeed, in the first sentence of the excerpt I quoted above, there are eight ‘I’s and one ‘my’. Prolific.

Also read: Why Indian ‘liberals’ aren’t quite liberal.

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 November, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Freedom | India | Journalism | Media


Look Ma, Vertebra!

WTF headline of the day:

Sonali Kulkarni bares her back.

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 November, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


God Doesn’t Like Salwar Kameez?

The WTF news of the day comes from Kerala’s Sree Krishna Guruvayoor temple:

Speaking to IANS, temple manager Vijayan Nambiar said that astrologer Padmanabha Sharma while conducting the ashtamangalaya devaprasanam (astrological consultations) Sunday said that the deity was unhappy over the entry of women in salwar-kameez.

[...]

Since Oct 31, a team of nine people, including the temple priests, has been engaged in the rituals and prayers to find out whether the Gods are happy or not. The ritual is being held in Guruvayoor temple after 17 years.

‘The rituals began 31st and these priests give out their opinions as and when they go ahead with their rituals. These are all preliminary findings and when their entire rituals get over in another 10 days’ time, they would come out with a full fledged report on what are all the changes required to make the deity happy,’ said Nambiar.

I think God should simply provide an RSS feed of His wishes. Anyway, if God has started frowning on salwar-kameez, then I am clearly headed for an extravagantly Godless land in a few hours: Chandigarh. Queenie Dhody writes about her recent visit there:

The Patiala salwar reigns [in Chandigarh]. As the culture of going for evening walks by the lake is dominant, one sees a lot of women wearing Patiala salwars with sneakers.

Sneaky. And if you thought that was poor sentence construction, be warned that her article also contains the WTF line of the day:

In the Sikhs, by and large, the women are treated equal to the men and are thoroughly respected.

I’m a huge fan of thoroughly respecting women, in the Sikhs or elsewhere. And hey, while on Queenie Dhody, she just happens to be the subject of the WTF headline of the day, in the venerable Times of India:

Queenie Dhody throws a party

Or maybe that’s a typo, and ‘party’ is really…

(IANS link via email from Nandan Pandit. Previous posts on salwars et al: 1, , 2, 3, 4, 5.

Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 November, 2007 in India | Journalism | Media | News | Old memes | Purplocity/Verniness | WTF


Our Mass Murderer, Our Son of a Bitch

Two excerpts below—in both, the emphasis is mine:

A few years ago, when the US government refused [Narendra Modi] a visa, I wrote, in these columns, that I disagreed with the decision. We may have our own view of Modi, I said, but as long as he was the legally elected chief minister of an Indian state, the US was obliged to respect his position. He may be a mass murderer, I wrote, but he’s our mass murderer. [—Vir Sanghvi.]

And…

The ‘disgruntled’ BJP voter, with his own complaints against Modi & Co. may now be stirred into rallying around the Hindu pride totem pole — “Oh, he’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” [—Indrajit Hazra.]

Both these are from pieces in the Hindustan Times. Needless to say, I have no sympathy with Sanghvi’s position there, and I find Hazra’s salvo intriguing. Such fun…

Posted by Amit Varma on 02 November, 2007 in India | Journalism | Media | Politics


When Records are Inevitable

WTF line of the day:

The record 11 Indian contenders at the longlist stage has now been whittled down to one - Reeti Gadekar.

That’s the Guardian on the Man Asian literary prize. The prize is in its first year. Wouldn’t anything be a record then?

Posted by Amit Varma on 29 October, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | WTF


The Double Life of Sahar Issa

The NY Times has reproduced a moving speech given by Sahar Issa, a lady who works as a journalist in Iraq, in New York recently. Here it is, below:

To be a journalist in violence-ridden Iraq today, ladies and gentlemen, is not a matter lightly undertaken. Every path is strewn with danger, every checkpoint, every question a direct threat.

Every interview we conduct may be our last. So much is happening in Iraq. So much that is questionable. So much that we, as journalists, try to fathom and portray to the people who care to know.

In every society there is good and bad. Laws regulate the conduct of the society. My country is now lawless. Innocent blood is shed every day, seemingly without purpose. Hundreds of thousands have been killed for seemingly no reason. It is our responsibility to do our utmost to acquire the answers, to dig them up with our bare hands if we must.

But that knowledge comes at a dear price, for since the war started, four and half years ago, an average of about one reporter and media assistant killed every week is something we have to live with.

We live double lives. None of our friends or relatives know what we do. My children must lie about my profession. They cannot under any circumstance boast of my accomplishments, and neither can I. Every morning, as I leave my home, I look back with a heavy heart, for I may not see it again — today may be the day that the eyes of an enemy will see me for what I am, a journalist, rather than the appropriately bewildered elderly lady who goes to look after ailing parents, across the river every day. Not for a moment can I let down my guard.

I smile as I give my children hugs and send them off to school; it’s only after they turn their backs to me that my eyes fill to overflowing with the knowledge that they are just as much at risk as I am.

So why continue? Why not put down my proverbial pen and sit back? It’s because I’m tired of being branded a terrorist: tired that a human life lost in my county is no loss at all. This is not the future I envision for my children. They are not terrorists, and their lives are not valueless. I have pledged my life — and much, much more, in an effort to open a window through which the good people in the international community may look in and see us for what we are, ordinary human beings with ordinary aspirations, and not what we have been portrayed to be.

Allow me, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to reach out. Help us to build bridges of understanding and acceptance. Even though the war has cast a dark shadow upon your nation and mine — it is never too late.

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 October, 2007 in Journalism | Media


The Glass Half Empty

Headline of the day:

As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch.

I demand protectionist policies to save the livelihood of the cemetery workers. Poor guys.

(Link via email from Ravikiran Rao.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 October, 2007 in Journalism | Media | News


Look Who’s Shooting Monica Bellucci

Mid Day‘s been scammed! The strap to a recent article by them, headlined “Monica, Oh My Darling”, claims: “B-town photographer Mahender Soni captured the Italian actress on a beach in Cyprus, check out the sizzling pictures.” That is accompanied by a couple of hot pictures of Monica Bellucci, a stamp that says ‘pictures exclusive’, and text about how a gentleman named Mahender Soni met Monica Bellucci at a beach in Cyrus and got her to pose for him semi-naked. Here, check out the piece as it appeared in the print edition. (Here’s the web edition, without pictures.)

And yes, you’ve guessed correctly. Those pictures haven’t really been shot by Soni. They’re flicked from a GQ shoot from November 2006. You can see them here. And here.

Heh.

(All this info via email from an old pal who wishes to remain unnamed.)

Update: The piece seems to have been pulled off the Mid Day website, so that link leads nowhere. Still, you can see it as it appeared in print here.

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 October, 2007 in Journalism | Media


Gentle Symonds, Leering Sreesanth?

S Sreesanth’s behaviour has been quite over the top recently, but nevertheless this piece of reporting by Peter Lalor is outrageous:

If Andrew Symonds wasn’t such a gentle fellow, India’s Shanthakumaran Sreesanth’s nose would probably be plastered all over his leering face.

The Hindu and occasionally Christian bowler can thank all his gods that the secular Queenslander is a man of peace and tranquility.

There are different kinds of tough guys: you can be tough and dignified, and you can be tough and boorish. Sreesanth falls in the second category, and with such poor reporting, so does Lalor. But at least Sreesanth’s a sportsman, and adrenalin flows and one gets carried away, which makes his behaviour understandable though not justifiable. What’s Lalor’s excuse?

(Link via email from Mahendra Shikaripur, who blogs about it here.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 10 October, 2007 in Journalism | Media | Sport | WTF


“Politics is About Power”

That’s the headline of a piece in the Hindustan Times today.

And journalism is about stating the obvious?

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 October, 2007 in India | Journalism | Media | Politics


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