Archive for June 22nd, 2008

‘Indian journalists take themselves too seriously’

22 June 2008

A case of exploding mangoes,’ the fictional account of the mysterious death of Pakistani president General Zia-ul-Haq by Mohammed Hanif (in picture), the air force man turned journalist who now heads the BBC’s Urdu service in London, has been acclaimed as the fiction debut of the year. So far.

In an interview with Nikhil Lakshman, editor-in-chief of rediff.com and India Abroad, Hanif handles a series of email questions, including one on journalists, with aplomb:

Nikhil Lakshman: Unlike Indian writers who, to my mind, are incapable of achieving the heights of Swiftian satire which you have scaled, I am always amazed by the breathtaking verve with which Pakistani writers use satire to unveil the deficiencies and foibles of the Pakistani system. Do you think working within the limits enforced by military dictatorships and intolerant regimes like [Benazir] Bhutto‘s and [Nawaz] Sharif‘s have spawned a grand tradition of satire, to bypass censorship and the limits on free speech? Do you believe democracy is a deterrent to great satire?

Mohammed Hanif: I’ll happily swap this so-called grand tradition of satire for a semblance of democracy. But I think you are being unfair to Indian writers by suggesting they have no sense of humour. I think Vikram Chandra is very funny. I think Nayyar Masud has probably written the funniest and saddest stories I have read in any language.

I think more than fiction writers, it’s the Indian media, journalists like you and me, who take themselves very seriously, and try to do their nationalistic duty. We have got Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gillani for that purpose. We should let them get on with their jobs.

I also think equating dictatorships with the Bhutto and Sharif regimes is a bit unfair. It might look the same from the outside but there is a slight difference which we journalist tend to forget.

Read the full interview: ‘A mullah general can only happen in a Bollywood film’

Photograph: courtesy Random House

My first night, there was a gentleman called Bob

22 June 2008

It’s easy to forget, but phone sex operators are real human beings, too, with their own hopes, dreams, desires, fears, ambitions, motivations—and reasons for what they do to earn a living.

Mother Jones has a fine photo essay of some of them pouring their hearts out for Laura McClure, Gary Moskowitz, and Mark Murrmann. These pictures are included in the book Phonesex, which will be published in September by Twin Palms.

“My first night, there was a gentleman who called himself Bob.

“He explained that he had no one he felt comfortable telling his desires to, and I felt a strange intimacy between us.

“I think it’s easier to release repressed desires to a non-judgmental, fictional person, because there are no consequences in the outside world.”

View the entire photo blog: Phone sex operators

Photograph: courtesy Mother Jones

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,699 other followers

%d bloggers like this: