Friday, December 09, 2005

Shobhaa "De"famy

I am an occasional reader of magazines of all types, and my favourite sections are the usually the columns. Jon Stock's column in The Week is a pleasantly surprising one. However, this blog is about another column altogether, The Sexes - that is written by Shobhaa De, again for The Week.

I do not claim to be a great fan of her writing and her topics, but boldness yes. And I personally think that there are a lot of times you want to use unparliamentary words to refer to her attitude in her writing, especially when the piece of writing in question is related to her views on the sexes.

The issue of Dec 11 of The Week carried her column titled "Kushboo's stink bomb", that smelt so strongly of arrogance that it was plain to see how easily she was nosing around into other people's lives, by the mere fact that she was a famous writer and columnist. Let's not even begin to talk about the utter disregard for any principles of fair and objective journalism.

I urge you to read the article in question and read for yourself, or else here are some extracts from her article. Incidentally, I was so enraged after reading the article that I mustered the patience to type out two mails at 2 a.m after a long day - one to the Editor of The Week, and the other to Ms. De herself.

Here is what I think of it:

1. Although columnists by virtue of their position, are entitled to express their opinion on any matter of sufficient importance, there is a fine line between using one's right to freedom of expression and open slander. As a column in a well established magazine, it is expected that they are devoid of any judgemental observations on individuals, no matter be they celebrities or common people and that the opinions address the larger issue at hand.

Evidence( an extract): I remember meeting Kushboo... Unfortunately, I didn't recognise her.... "Oh that one," I glibly fibbed and tried my best to look impressed. While Kushboo's is a household name in southern states, chances of anybody having heard of her in the rest of India, are pretty low.

This paragraph is totally out of context in the larger issue of the controversy and it only offers the author's opinion on whether she thinks Kushboo is popular in North India. Whether or not Ms.Kushboo is even known in North India is irrelevant to the topic, and is no better than open slander. If I were in Kushboo's place, and I read this column, I would be tempted to similarly to ask publicly if Ms. De was even known to non-English readers or even a large portion of English readers. Just as this is most certainly a pointless thing to say, columnists must realise not to abuse their platform to lopsided personal judgements.

In the same vein, the last line of the column, "As for Kushboo—I love her fragrance. Maybe, she should bottle it!",stinks of arrogance, hinting that Ms. Kushboo must shut up or what ?

2. The matter and manner of giving unsolicited advice to other celebrities, and much worse, using prestigious magazines as a means to that end, thereby seeming high-handed, one way or the other ill-behooves a writer of the stature of Ms.De. Such advice should be directly communicated to the celebrities in question, if at all, and not via a mass medium.

Evidence( an extract): Sania should make up her mind once and for all,...then stick to it. Her annoying yo-yo behaviour... If Sania wants to be counted, she should be bold enough to defend her public pronouncements. Or else, let the raquet rather than her mouth, do all the talking. In her place, I'd recommend the second option.

Apart from offering unnecessary advice in public, the tenor suggests scant respect for Ms. Sania's attitude, and slyly hints that Ms.Sania is not bold enough.

In my humble opinion, it is not right that even a columnist as eminent as Ms. De'famy' should be allowed to get away with such writing.