David Davidar, the Gentleman magazine journalist who became the face of Indian book publishing, is back in the news with a writer, Sivasundari Bose, alleging that Davidar plagiarised from her work, The Golden Stag, for his debut novel, The House of Blue Mangoes.
Bose claims similarities between the locale (south eastern tip of India), the time (the turn of 20th century), the sentences etc to make her claim.
“Some years ago, I took Vikram Seth out to lunch. We went to Dakshin, the signature South Indian restaurant at the Marriott; I switched my tape recorder on and ate very fancy appam-stew. The interview ran in Business Standard.
“A few days after it came out, I received an angry email from a man who accused me of plagiarism. Rahul Jacob at the Financial Times had also taken Vikram Seth out to lunch the month before. My accuser claimed that I had never actually had lunch with Seth; I had stolen Jacob’s experience for the column.
“The problem was that Vikram Seth behaves the same way when he’s taken out to lunch. He will duck under highly polished tables to see if they’re polished on the underside. And his opinions on writing and books in my interview and Jacob’s interview were presumably similar, though there were no direct quotes in common.
“I knew my accuser was misguided, and yet, the accusations were surprisingly hurtful. I hadn’t read Jacob’s Lunch with the FT before writing my own column. But still, I wondered whether I had managed to rip off his style in an act of psychic theft.
“When I did read both “Lunches” side by side, I finally understood my accuser. Jacob and I had taken the same man out to lunch and had come up with different experiences — but we talked about the dishes Mr Seth ordered, his enjoyment of the meal. Plagiarism was built into the grid.”
Photograph: courtesy The Globe & Mail, Toronto
Read the full column: When it’s not stealing
Also read: Bombay Times, Hindustan Times and plagiarism