We talk of multipolar worlds, of money, of racism, of sex and what-have-you. We speak with wisdom, ancient and contrived. We talk of “way back when” and “nowadays”. Self-righteousness, cynicism, wit and intellect in some proportion constitute the whole. Clichés, where applicable, are liberally used.
But the overriding factor which brings pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard, is honesty.
Let me explain. I use the collective “we”. We’re Indian. That’s our inescapable reality, with all its sugar-coated mysticism and stinking factualism. We revel in our diversity, yet enjoy a good-natured jibe. Of course we do. Week in week out we stare at our screens, doodle in our notebooks, and sweep the malai aside with our pinkys (ies?) as we wait for the flash. The signal from the mother ship. And when it comes, as it inevitably does, we write, or type. Or write and then type. Or speak into a little recorder and then type. Or someone else does the typing.
But we’re honest. Picture this; scribe with newspaper, rustling the pages, shaking head, clucking tongue. Or, god forbid, switching channels with disdain, wrinkling noses in distaste at the near menopausal woman with sagging cleavage or balding gentleman with the fringe of dyed-black hair grinning lasciviously at the buxom young intern.
Bewilderment at the ironies and idiocy of our political class, horror at the atrocities of man versus man, disbelief at the drivel we endure on the silver screen and the cold logic of defining everything in terms of our rising currency, the rupee. But what sets us apart, is our honesty, and the sanctity of one full page in The Sunday Times. That’s what differentiates the columnists from the reporters. That’s All That Matters.
There’s self-effacing and maternal self-deprecatory commentary, laconic narcissism, patriotism of course, a lot of venting and a feeling of “I hope somebody somewhere is reading this”. Of course we are. And we never fail to read Passing Thought, the graphic illustration which sums it all up, with a particular quiver full of darts to be aimed at Babudom, that depressing reality of our contemporary history.
The Fourth Estate is hardly what it was, prostrated before and pandering to an ad-hungry and glitzy layout, Politically Correct, packaged and marketed with piggy-backing cash cows that speak of “the brand”. Deep breaths, anyone? We can never compete with the immediacy of the internet or the soulless colour of television. We’re still an elitist medium, struggling to find a literate, tolerant audience with no small amount of pride in the written word, who from time to time may disagree, but with honour.
Face it, from penny intellectuals to been there done that worldly wise yet charmingly childish we’ve done it all. The driving force - the honesty, the pathos, the reality of ink on paper, the very same paper used for everything from wrapping used sanitary napkins to food, to lying in stacks that sell for a few rupees a kilo. But it still pays our bills. We greet each paycheck with a gratifying grunt. We’re crumbling, but the core is perpetual, and therein lies the satisfaction.
But no, ladies and gentlemen, you put a wry smile on my face Sunday mornings, my glasses fogging at both ends as I chuckle into my coffee cup. And that’s All That Matters.