When I was in college in the 70s, it used to be said “A rumour can get halfway round the world, before the truth can get its boots on”. No one would say that no more ( double-negation intended, since much-loved by the, Ahem, Americans ), – the surfeit of the media-induced high, in the electronic media and print, do seem to be hijacking one version, to run a parallel road with falsehood keeping pace, and McLuhan’s “The medium is the Message”, rules the roost, the didactic be damned. I would personally go with this particular verse from the Bhagavad Gita, as the broad swathe across the entire country has Satyameva Jayate emblazoned in every court of jurisprudence right from district to Supreme level, and in all its legal-tender currency notes of all denominations. In the Kurt Vonnegut novel, ” God Bless you Mr. Rosewater “ there is an endearing sequence where the inebriated millionaire protagonist hands over a huge cheque to a writer, to go ahead and write more and more truth, and to come back for more funds in the pursuit of it.
So like any driven youth in college, I did consider joining a newspaper, till one of the professors narrated his version of journalism, where a reporter was chided by the chief editor, that his reporting and headlines were too abstruse and verbose, and instructed the young chap to be more earthy and accessible for readership by the hoi polloi. The subsequent day, he had to report on the incident of a nurse in an institution for the mentally challenged, where an inmate assaulted her with an offence on her bodily person, and vanished into the yonder without trace. The headline next day ran ” Nut screws and bolts “. That story from the professor put paid to my journalistic ambitions.
But that has not prevented me from having a just short-of-obsessive interest in reading the newspapers, of which I take two from the print edition every day, the Hindu and the Times of India, and give a beady eye to every headline in the morning, loudly chortling on how the same tidbit of news is reported differently, the loudest reserved for the headline anyway, with the rest of the story, meriting raised eyebrows, with grunts, sniggers and giggles.
So what turns us into this kind of vicarious lifestyle anyway ? Probably it is an element of “There’s more to this than meets the eye” . In short, perhaps suspicion and doubt as the play of human nature, are fellow-travelers, concomitant with belief and faith ?
As I trudged with a heavy bag of books from my school all of 45 years ago, winding my way back home, I would pass through Wellesley Square in Calcutta, and now I wonder if the same Wellesley it was, who said something that is acquiring greater relevance, increasing significance, today than when he said it close to two centuries ago. The words are ( and maybe the words are relevant to the entire blogging fraternity, too ? )
” PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED !”
A couple of months back, a few of us old class-mates, located in different parts of the country and world , met for a few days to have a break, and recollect the old times. Among other things, we discussed the doughty Sashi Tharoor, the most famous personage from our Alma Mater, who was not yet caught in the horrible turn of events that he is today. Sashi was a year and batch senior to us, and the entire class looked up to him as a person extraordinaire, what with his dapper looks, and academic brilliance. Over the years, we followed his work and career closely. I personally think , and most would agree, that his most remarkable contribution is with regard to the Vietnamese Boat People; alas, that is all but forgotten in the world of today that thrives on instant gratification; human memory getting shorter over time, on do-gooders ?
So whether or not the media takes its usual lunge at the public figure that he is, and he finds it tough to come to terms with the unexpected departure of his spouse, the very same media would do well to pronounce that there is no element of Mea Culpa in this. Sashi Tharoor is too sincere and straightforward a chap for that, as much without pretensions as he is brilliant in the representation of his thoughts. And if Sashi ever gets to read this, as a Xaverian I would simply state his old school motto, Nihil Ultra once again, though he will remember this only too well.