Posts Tagged ‘Khushwant Singh’

The Khushwant Singh “pre-obituary” from 1983

20 March 2014

Khushwant Singh, the self-proclaimed “dirty old man of Indian journalism”, has passed away at his home in New Delhi, at the age of 99.

Exactly, 30 years ago, when Singh was 69, the journalist Dhiren Bhagat wrote a pre-obituary of the “sardar in the light bulb” for the now-defunct Sunday Observer.

Ironically, Dhiren Bhagat was to predecease Singh by 24 years, and Khushwant Singh ended up reviewing a collection of his work for India Today in 1990.

Below is the full text of Dhiren Bhagat’s “obituary”, written for the February 13, 1983 edition of The Sunday Observer.

***

bhagat

By DHIREN BHAGAT

I was saddened to read that Khushwant Singh passed away in his sleep last week. What a quiet end for so loud a man.

How the gods mock the mocking.

Contradictions surrounded Khushwant at every stage of his life. He strove to give the impression that he was a drunken slob yet he was one of the most hard-working and punctual men I knew.

He professed agnosticism and yet enjoyed kirtan as only few can and do.

He was known nationally as a celebrated lecher but for the past thirty years at least it was a hot-water-bottle that warmed his bed.

He devoted his last years in the service of a woman who  decisively spurned him in the end.

He made a profession of living off his friends’ important names and yet worked single-handedly to diminish that very importance.

Empty vessels make the most noise but Khushwant was always full of the Scotch he had cadged off others.

He was a much misunderstood man. So before the limp eulogies start pouring in (how Khushwant would have hated them!) let me set the record straight.

As Khushwant once said, the obituary is the best place to tell the truth for dead men file no libel suits. (An agnostic to the end he didn’t believe in the Resurrection.)

***

Khushwant was born in 1915 in a rich but not particularly educated home. They were Khuranas from Sargodha who made good in Delhi.

His father, Sir Sobha Singh, was the contractor who built the city of New Delhi and who in consequence received a knighthood. In 1947 it used to be said (somewhat inaccurately it must be admitted) that ninety-nine per cent of New Delhi was owned by the Government and one per cent by Sir Sobha Singh.

After his initial education Khushwant was sent to England to appear for the ICS. He didn’t make it.

Later he would tell a story of how he had made it to the Merit List but how that year there was a reserved place for a non-Jat from Phulkian state (later PEPSU) and how some-one with less marks than him filled that place. But Khushwant was always a great raconteur so it is difficult to know what to believe.

Once bitten, twice shy. Khushwant didn’t try for the ICS again but instead enrolled himself at the London School of Economics from where in the course of things he acquired a BA.

The examiners decided to place him in the Third Class. After his degree Khushwant read for the Bar where he was equally successful. (His brother Daljit, now a businessman, was always the better scholar of the two.)

When Khushwant came back after six years in England a family friend asked his father: ‘Kaka valaiton kee kar ke aayaa hai?  (What has the boy done in England?) Sir Sobha Singh replied ‘Time pass kar ke aaya hai jee.’ (He has been marking time.)

It is unlikely the canny contractor was joking.

***

After the Partition Khushwant joined the Indian Foreign Service and this phase of his career took him to London, Ottawa and Paris. In this period he began publishing short stories on rustic themes.

In 1955 he shot to fame when a novel of his won a large cash award set by an American publishing house in order to attract manuscripts. It was a mediocre Partition quickie called Mano Majra (later published as Train to Pakistan).

Years passed. Khushwant kept writing books, on the Jupji, on the Sikhs, on India, stories, translations: many of them provocatively titled and indicative of his deepest desires, “I Shall Rape the Nightingale”, “I Take This Woman” etc. Some of these attempts were successful.

But success and cosmopolitan living did not spoil the earthiness of the robust Jat.

He continued to down his Scotch with a ferocity that made his hosts nervous. He

continued to tell stories that revealed his deep obsession with the anal.

He had a theory that all anger was a result of an upset stomach and instructed his son to ask his mother if her stomach walls troubling her whenever she scolded him.

In his more smug moments he attributed his own iconoclastic calm to the severe constipation from which he had suffered since childhood.

In 1969 Khushwant took over the Illustrated Weekly of India and embarked on the most controversial phase of his career. On the editor’s page Mario Miranda drew a bulb and Khushwant sat in it, along with his Scotch and dirty pictures.

Sitting in that cross-legged position Khushwant took the ailing magazine from success to success, all along illuminating millions of readers on the more outre aspects of the world’s brothels.

Once in a while he tore into a friend’s reputation. So great was our prurience that he became a household name in a short while. Fame he had, honour he sought.

In the early seventies an eminent Muslim journalist friend of Khushwant’s approached Rajni Patel. Could Rajnibhai fix Khushwant with a Padma Bhushan? If the honour didn’t come his way soon Sardarji would have a heart attack. Patel flew to Delhi twice and fixed it. Later Khushwant showed his gratitude in strange ways.

***

Then came the Emergency. Khushwant’s friends and admirers were very troubled by his stand: IndiraGandhi was Durga incarnate, SanjayGandhi the New Messiah and the highways of the land were clogged with smoothly running Marutis.

Many explanations have been offered for his position but I believe I am the only person to know the right one. (Khushwant in an unguarded whisky-sodden moment once opened up to me and told all.) And since it is only in obituaries that it is proper to disclose the little-known details of a man’s personal life I shall come out with it now.

Impotence had claimed Khushwant back in the fifties. At first he had been sorely troubled by this condition (most Jats are) and had tried several remedies, mostly indigenous. This accounted for his immense knowledge of jaree-bootees and his disillusionment with quacks.

When he had finally given up all hope of lighting the wick he had turned to other pleasures with a vengeance. (Exposing his friends’ affairs was a favourite pleasure: it was envy compounded with righteousness.)

It must be remembered that Khushwant’s lechery was of the mildest order: he as a voyeur, he could do nothing. Scotch was a palliative, but in the end even that failed to make up the loss.

It was Sanjay’s power that finally did the trick. So great was the vicarious pleasure the ageing Sardar felt that it went to his head. And after Sanjay’s death Khushwant lost his vitality, his vigour. He grew listless.

And then the quiet end. A lively man all in all. Even as I write this I am sure Khushwant is busy looking up the angels’ skirts. And since angels are constitutionally condemned to celibacy that should suit Khushwant fine.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Khushwant Singh on his last day at The Weekly

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

External reading: The journalism of Khushwant Singh

Salman Rushdie, Satanic Verses & India Today

22 September 2012

The launch of Salman Rushdie‘s memoirs, Joseph Anton, written in third person, has seen a flurry of TV interviews, and profiles, reviews and soft stories in the newspapers.

Hindustan Times runs this short excerpt from the book which chronicles how The Satanic Verses ended up getting banned in India:

On the day he received the bound proofs of The Satanic Verses he was visited at home on St Peter’s Street by a journalist he thought of as a friend, Madhu Jain of India Today.

When she saw the thick, dark blue cover with the large red title she grew extremely excited, and pleaded to be given a copy so that she could read it while on holiday in England with her husband. And once she had read it she demanded that she be allowed to interview him and that India Today be allowed to publish an extract.

Again, he agreed.

For many years afterwards he thought of this publication as the match that lit the fire.

And certainly the magazine highlighted what came to be seen as the book’s ‘controversial’ aspects, using the headline AN UNEQUIVOCAL ATTACK ON RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM, which was the first of innumerable inaccurate descriptions of the book’s contents, and, in another headline, ascribing a quote to him – MY THEME IS FANATICISM – that further misrepresented the work.

The last sentence of the article, ‘The Satanic Verses is bound to trigger an avalanche of protests…’ was an open invitation for those protests to begin.

Madhu Jain offers an explanation in Open magazine:

When I returned to Delhi my editor in India Today asked me to write a review before anybody else did. Since the book was yet to be launched, I called Salman in London for permission to publish a review. He said yes….

Unfortunately, the editor of the books pages of the magazine at the time, who later went on to edit a national daily, plucked some of the more volatile extracts from the novel—those about the Prophet’s wives—and inserted them into the book review.

Not too long after the IFS bureaucrat-turned-politician Syed Shahabuddin read the excerpts (not the book as he admitted ) and demanded that The Satanic Verses be banned. Protests erupted in India and Pakistan.

In Karachi, a few protesters died when they were fired upon. It is believed that Ayatollah Khomeini watched this on television and ordered the fatwa.

Madhu Jain writes that Rushdie stopped talking to her after the review and even snubbed her when she offered an explanation of what had happened.

But in Joseph Anton (pages 112-13), Rushdie writes:

“With the passage of time came forgiveness. Rereading the India Today piece many years later, in a calmer time, he would concede the piece was fairer than the magazine’s headline writer had made it look, more balanced than its last sentence. Those who wished to be offended would have been offended anyway. Those who were looking to be inflamed would have found the necessary spark.

“Perhaps the magazine’s most damaging act was to break the traditional publishing embargo and print its piece nine days before the book’s publication, at a time when not a single copy had arrived in India. This allowed Mr Shahabuddin and his ally, another opposition MP named Khurshid Alam Khan, free rein. They could say whatever they pleased about the book, but it could not be read and therefore could not be defended.

“One man who had read an advance copy, the journalist Khushwant Singh, called for a ban in the Illustrated Weekly of India as a measure to prevent trouble. He thus became the first member of the small group of world writers who joined the censorship lobby. Khushwant Singh further claimed that he had been asked for his advice by Penguin and had warned the author and publishers of the consequences of publication.

“The author was unaware of any such warning. if it was ever given, it was never received.”

Read the HT review: Joseph Anton

Madhu Jain: The deadly review

Shobha De tears into Vinod Mehta in India Today

27 January 2012

There are two tried and tested formulas for commissioning reviews in the shockingly incestuous bordello of Indian books that has now spread its wings into Indian journalism.

The supposedly dignified formula is to get an author’s friend or associate to do the unctuous needful (say a Khushwant Singh to “review” a David Davidar) so that reputations are protected, nothing damaging is said and everybody gets called for the next orgiastic party.

Its opposite recipe is to get a hired gun who will fire at will (say a Mihir S. Sharma to pump into Suhel Seth) so that the old gasbag is punctured, some buzz is released, and major “trending” happens in blogosphere.

India Today magazine uses the latter technique in the latest issue while belatedly reviewing Outlook* magazine editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta‘s memoirs.

In Lucknow Boy, published nearly three months ago, Mehta gives the sultana of scuttlebutt, former Stardust editor Shobha De, some chosen ones— for not including an introduction to a book she had commissioned him to write and then for not having had the courtesy to inform of it, despite bumping into him off and on, etc.

De has returned the favour in kind (and more) in the India Today review calling the 306-page tome “that’s filled with Delhi style bragging… rather dull”—a loosely strung account of job-hopping full of old-fashioned self-righteousness and tedious justifications:

#What happened? Something obviously got in the way, and let’s blame it on Delhi. Had Mr Mehta continued to live and work in Mumbai, I am certain he would have written a far more readable book.

# Mr Mehta’s sepia-toned recollections may be of some interest to his colleagues and assorted politicos who wish to be featured in the magazine he so ably edits. Give them Sunny Leone‘s unedited life story in ten easy chapters intead—now that’s riveting stuff.

# The biggest letdown in this memoir is the absence of any asli masala….

# The Mumbai Mehta was an amiable chap. He wasn’t boastful. And he could out-bitch anybody in the room. Most of the time, the bitching was about those absent. Everybody laughed—including his highly “intellectual” friends tiresome then, far worse now. But Mr Mehta had not turned as pretentious… nor did he drop names.

# The one magazine Mr Mehta missed editing and he could still do a brilliant job of it, is Stardust.

* Disclosures apply

Illustration: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Also read: Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

It isn’t easy telling tales of even dead editors

Wife-beater? Freeloader? Menace to society?

Good morning, it’s time to go back to bed?

8 November 2011

Just because 96-year-old Khushwant Singh called it the “most readable daily in the world” recently, it doesn’t mean the matter is closed and beyond debate.

Far from it.

The Times of India thankfully thinks just the opposite of Singh “insofaras The Hindu is concerned” in this new TV commercial for ToI‘s three-year-old Madras edition.

With the punchline “Stuck with news that puts you to sleep?”, the TVC makes no effort to hide who, it thinks, is turning Madrasans into Kumbhakarans when the City’s landscape is changing, young achievers are setting new benchmarks, politicians are lavishly dispensing patronage, etc.

The idea, clearly, is to drive home the width and depth of ToI‘s local coverage as opposed to The Hindu‘s much-vaunted international outlook. For, in the 54th second, a close-up shot shows a sleeping giant in the arms of a policeman at a drill session holding the op-ed page of the “Mount Road Mahavishnu”.

Will conveying the opposition as sleep-inducing in “conservative” Madras work? And is getting the nerves jangling with “tactile” news the primary function of a newspaper?

Writes the adman Lakshmipathy Bhat:

“The objective is clearly to create dissonance among the readers of The Hindu by portraying their brand choice as boring. I feel it may make for interesting advertising but will fail to deliver the objective of getting the readers of The Hindu to switch.

“The character of Chennai has changed over the years with the growing IT/Services and automobile industry. For ‘new entrants’ to Chennai, ToI was an alternative to The Hindu. But for die-hard Chennai dwellers, ToI is still an outsider. Questioning their intelligence may end up being counter productive.”

For the record, the 2011 second-quarter results of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) in Madras shows The Hindu (average issue readership: 4.98 lakh) has two-and-a-half times the number of readers as ToI (AIR: 2 lakh readers). Deccan Chronicle has 1.38 lakh readers, and the New Indian Express has 21,000 readers.

Also, for the record, The Times of India is 173 years old; The Hindu is 133 years old.

Also read: The great grandmother of newspaper battles

Any number will do when the game is of numbers

How The Times of India entered Madurai (Market)

Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

7 November 2011

“India’s most independent, principled and irreverent editor” Vinod Mehta has just published a memoir. Titled Lucknow Boy, the editor-in-chief  of the Outlook* group of magazines, recaptures his four-decade journalistic journey via Debonair, The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post,  The Independent and The Pioneer.

With trademark candour often bordering on the salacious, the twice-married but childless Mehta reveals that he fathered a child in a tryst with a Swiss girl in his 20s, and that as a young copywriter in Bombay, he posed as a prostitute’s boyfriend to get her sister married off (and was paid Rs 500 for his services).

Along the way, Mehta also slays two very holy cows of Indian journalism, Arun Shourie and Dileep Padgaonkar, revealing their hypocrisy and duplicity in the way they dealt with colleagues while grandstanding in public as suave, softspoken, scholarly men of letters.

***

By VINOD MEHTA

Over the years, Arun Shourie and I have not seen eye to eye on many issues—something I don’t regret. Shourie, as editor of the Indian Express, had broken the big Antulay story, ‘Indira Gandhi as Commerce’ [in the early 1980s].

The expose revealed that the Maharashtra chief minister, A.R. Antulay, had started an organisation called the ‘Indian Gandhi Pratibha Pratishtan’ through which he collected illicit funds from builders. The corruption scandal forced Antulay to resign.

Arun Shourie and the Express, now implacably opposed to Indira Gandhi and the Congress, had bagged a big Congress scalp. Among journalists and sections of civil society Mr Shourie was flavour of the month—or shall I say many months.

A young reporter in the Free Press Journal with friends in the Express came to see me. He said he had a story, but was not sure if a recently launched paper like the Sunday Observer had the nerve to publish it. According to him, the chief reporter and several other senior reporters in the Express were sulking because Arun Shourie had hogged all the limelight.

While they acknowledged Shourie’s contribution, much of the legwork for the scoop had been done by the Express bureau, a fact which was never acknowledged in the story. Staff morale apparently was at an all-time low.

‘Shourie and the Penthouse conspiracy’ duly appeared. ‘Penthouse’ was mentioned because Mr Shourie allegedly sat in the Express penthouse with Ramnath Goenka and wrote the expose.

It did not take long for Arun Shourie to come back. He demanded a full rebuttal in the form of an extended interview with him. ‘Your story is a complete fabrication,’ he charged.

Kumar Ketkar, then a young and pugnacious Bombay journalist, jumped into the fray. In a letter to the editor [of The Sunday Observer], he noted: ‘The self-righteous breast-beating of Shourie is a fast spreading gangrene in the profession of journalism. If not checked in time, it could acquire the dimensions of witch-hunting and Macarthyism.’

And concluded: ‘Free from any constraint of veracity, Shourie is always able to provide exclusive stories.’ The debate on our letters page continued for many weeks.

***

On 19 October 1989, The Independent published an eight-column banner headline, ‘Y.B. Chavan, not Morarji Desai, spied for the US.’ For two days the story went largely unnoticed. Except for Mid-Day which carried our Chavan report almost verbatim, the rest of the media kept away.

That did not suit the perenially insecure editor of The Times of IndiaDileep Padgaonkar.

While the other editors in the Times group were troubled by my presence, Dileep had a special and urgent reason to feel troubled. I and my team were producing an English paper every day which looked infinitely better than the paper Dileep was editing, and on many mornings it even read better.

Mr Padgaonkar’s insecurities when word got around that, at a meeting with his senior managers,[Times bossman] Samir Jain mentioned me as a possible editor of The Times of India.

Dileep and the Maharashtra Times editor, Govind Talwalkar, got together to ensure the Chavan story did not go unnoticed. In an editorial on 21 October, the Times viciously attacked me and the Independent. It went so far as to incite physical violence against me, suggesting that if it did occur, it would be my own fault.

Departing from its pompous, lofty, measured tone, the Times launched a series of vituperative onslaughts targeting me, which observers found astonishing since the two papers were ‘sister publications’. One opposition leader told the media that while the (Chavan) story was indeed objectionable, it was the Times group which created the ‘hysteria’ around it.

I hold no grudges against Dileep Padgaonkar. He is who he is. However, the man who once claimed he held ‘the second most important job in the country’ can be legitimately charged with single-handedly opening the door for the denigration and decline of the Editor as an institution.

When Dileep’s bosses asked him to bend, he crawled. Since then it has been downhill all the way for other editors.

(Lucknow Boy by Vinod Mehta, published by Penguin Viking, 325 pages, Rs 499)

Read an excerpt: Vinod Mehta on Radia tapes, Vajpayee, V.C. Shukla

Buy the book onlineIndia Plaza offer prize Rs 299

File photographOutlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta, at home in New Delhi in 2008

*Disclosures apply

***
Also readS. Nihal Singh on Arun Shourie: Right-wing pamphleteer

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

‘Lone Hindu’ Dileep Padgaonkar gets it from M.J. Akbar‘s paper

How Dileep Padgaonkar christened a Pierre Cardin model

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

The Hindu: the most readable daily in the world?

19 October 2011

Khushwant Singh may have decided to no longer write his weekly columns, but the “dirty old man of Indian journalism” has not said he will stop writing for good.

He has shot off a letter to the editor of The Hindu, which the family-owned paper, given its recent and continuing turmoil, has gladly boxed on the editorial page today:

“I go over a dozen morning papers every day.

“The only one I read from cover to cover including readers’ letters is The Hindu. I find its news coverage reliable, authentic and comprehensive.

“I cannot say that about any other daily, Indian or foreign.

“It is a pleasure going through its columns: they inform, teach and amuse. I even wrestle with its crossword puzzle every day. You, Mr. Editor, and your staff deserve praise for giving India the most readable daily in the world. Congratulations.”

Khushwant Singh, New Delhi

Also read: Top six dailies devote only 2% to rural issues

Shekhar Gupta: ‘Stimulating, intelligent, empowering’

The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

N. Murali: The Hindu is run like a banana republic

The ‘sardar in the lightbulb’ signs out suddenly

17 October 2011

Seventy years after he started needling readers and 42 years after he wrote his first column, the “sardar in the lightbulb” will shine no more. Khushwant Singh, the dirty old man of Indian journalism, says he is now too old (and maybe just a little less dirty) to dish out malice towards one and all any more.

“I’m 97, I may die any day now… I’ll miss the money, and the people fawning over me to write about them in my columns,” Singh says in on his self-imposed exile into silence, in Outlook* magaqzine.

Singh began his career as a journalist in1940, writing for The Tribune, contributing book reviews and profiles under the byline ‘KS’. His first regular column appeared in the planning commission journal Yojana.

Editor’s Page, in the Illustrated Weekly of India under his now famous sardar-in-lightbulb logo, first appeared in 1969. The column migrated with Singh to National Herald, and in 1980, to the Hindustan Times. The now-defunct Sunday Observer was the first to buy the rights to it in 1981.

After he left Hindustan Times in the mid-’80s, Khushwant began syndicating his column. His two columns appeared every week without fail for the last 30 years in a dozen national dailies and translated into 17 languages.

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Khushwant Singh on his last day at Weekly

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

Barkha Dutt tarred by pure malice: Khushwant

Khushwant Singh stands up for Barkha Dutt, again

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

7 August 2011

Khushwant Singh, former editor of Hindustan Times and the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, on why he is no longer friends with Arun Shourie, the Magsaysay Award-winning former editor of Indian Express, in the Hindustan Times:

“There was a time when I was a frequent diner in the Shouries’ household in Delhi…. At one of the Shouries’ dinner parties, among other guests was [editor, columnist, activist] Kuldip Nayar. The conversation was largely about L.K. Advani‘s Rath Yatra in 1990 from the temple of Somnath to Ayodhya.

“I had no doubt that the exercise was undertaken with evil intent to destroy Babri Masjid.

“Passing by, Arun remarked: “Who says it is a mosque?”

“I was taken aback.

“Kuldip Nayar said, ‘Professor Sahib, did you hear what he [Arun] said?’ (Both he and [former Delhi high court judge] Rajinder Sachar call me professor sahib since they were students of the law College, Lahore and I was a lecturer.)

“I could not hold back and said to Shourie, ‘Arun, have you ever seen any building with three domes and a wall facing Makka which is not a mosque?’ He did not reply. Since then we have been on opposite sides; he on the mosque breakers’. I wanted them to be arrested and punished for the criminal act of vandalism.

“I stopped associating with Arun Shourie. I read of his rise to eminence as a cabinet minister and a member of the BJP’s think-tank. His book on Dr B.R. Ambedkar offended Dalits. He was roughed up by them while presiding over a meeting in Mumbai. Being hurt himself he wanted to hurt other people.

“He has taken every opportunity to display his disadvantaged son in his wheel chair. I feel very sorry for him but no longer admire him.”

Read the full article: When telling the truth becomes a crime

Illustration: courtesy Rajneesh K. Singh

Also read: The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial’

How Arun Shourie became Express editor

Arun Shourie: The three lessons of failure

‘The most prolific journalist of our times’

11 June 2011

Khushwant Singh on his Illustrated Weekly of India protege M.J. Akbar, in The Telegraph, Calcutta, the “unputdownable” Calcutta paper founded by Akbar in 1982:

M.J. Akbar must be the most prolific journalist of our times. He heads the editorial board of India Today, edits The Sunday Guardian financed by Ram Jethmalani, and writes for many other papers including The Times of India. He frequently appears on television channels and has over a dozen books to his credit. His latest is Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan. He is tireless and highly readable.

“I take credit for some of Akbar’s achievements, like a father would of his son’s successes. Akbar started his journalistic career as a trainee picked by me. He met his wife-to-be in my office and nominated me the godfather of his daughter. Few people could be closer than he and I.

“Despite our closeness, I went woefully wrong on one important issue. I had assumed that, like me, he was an agnostic. He is a devout Muslim. He fasts throughout the month of Ramzan but celebrates Id-ul Fitr in my home. He has performed the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.

“He has many years to go before he retires. By the time of his retirement, I expect him to have done much by which posterity will remember him.”

For the record, Akbar’s name also appears as editor of the Indian edition of the International Herald Tribune, published by Deccan Chronicle from Hyderabad, in an arrangement with the New York Times.

Photograph: courtesy The Telegraph

Also read: ‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

‘News is the subtlest form of advertising’

‘In fractured media, the word is the common fact’

Look, who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

Khushwant Singh stands up for Barkha Dutt, again

23 May 2011

For the second time in five months, Khushwant Singh, the former editor of the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, stands up for the beleaguered NDTV group editor and anchor, Barkha Dutt, in Hindustan Times:

“I shudder to think what would be left of Indian television if Barkha Dutt decides to call it a day.

“For many years I made it a point to watch two programmes to keep myself abreast of what were the main issues facing the country. One was Barkha’s We, the People and the other was The Big Fight by Rajdeep Sardesai.

“Both Barkha and Sardesai did their homework in order to ask right questions from the people they had invited to appear in the programmes. They also took care to have eminent people who had conflicting views so that viewers would get different viewpoints before making up their own minds.

“Barkha does a lot more than We, the People. Wherever riots and violence erupt, Barkha is the first TV personality to give viewers an idea what is going on and why. Our countrymen rely heavily on what she says because she never takes sides but gives participants an occasion to put across their views to a huge audience, which runs into millions.

“Recently when Osama bin Laden was killed by American commandos in Abbottabad and viewers round the globe wanted to know how Pakistanis felt about the entry of foreign forces in their soil without their permission or knowledge, Barkha was in Pakistan in order to know what Pakistani leaders had to say about it. Next to Americans Pakistanis hate Indians.

“Barkha is a fearless woman. Her good looks and dress-sense add to her acceptability. Some people say that Barkha Dutt has a swollen head. I have no means of checking if that is true. I have met her only once for a few minutes. Far from being swollen-headed, I found her totally unaware about her iconic status.”

Also read: Barkha Dutt tarred by pure malice: Khushwant Singh

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