Outlook’s 25th anniversary special issue was a joy to behold (25 Years, Internet, Outlook and other things…, December 14). Congratulations to Outlook for having completed a twenty-five year journey and keeping all of us readers engaged with wonderful stories, events, and reports and analysis on the unfolding political dramas. We also remember Vinod Mehta, who played a prominent role in keeping Outlook different from other weeklies in being completely impartial. Wishing you another fulfilling 25 years on your journey.
Rangarajan T.S., On Email
This is about the essay on the Ganeshas’ drinking milk incident of 1995 in Outlook’s anniversary issue (Ashwathama hata!, Dec 14). Truly, it was a classic example of mass hysteria and demonstrated the power of rumour. “Rumour is a pipe blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,” said Shakespeare. Indeed it is so, but it’s a crisis that gives a rumour the ecosystem to flourish. Today, in the midst of the pandemic and a WhatsApp-conjoined world, we are in dire need of rumour management. Interestingly, when the US entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Americans faced a psychological situation akin to what we face today. There was uncertainty about the war, what it would mean for them, when it would end or how devastating it could get. To make matters worse, the growing rumour mill was ‘rumoured’ to be the handiwork of enemy propaganda. To counter this all, the first ‘rumour clinic’ was set up at Harvard University. The pandemic has put us in a similar state of uncertainty, making us look anxious and disillusioned, like T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock. It is in such situations that rumours ferment, serving as an outlet for our anxiety and a method to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Psychologists identify these as ‘pipe dream rumours’, those that give expression to our hopes and wishes, like our collective wish for an efficacious vaccine to wipe out the scourge of COVID-19.
Sangeeta Kampani, On email
I have just received the silver jubilee special issue and I can’t just wait to start reading it all through. I have been a subscriber for the last 23-24 years and still use the timer watch received as a gift along with the subscription. I used to send Outlook articles by post to my daughter, who was then doing her masters in the US in 1999, as internet was prohibitively expensive. I remember Sandipan Deb’s article on IIT Vs IIM, which I had sent her. And Vinod Mehta’s Delhi Diary was a joy to read. I have so many memories of those years, those that were shaped by reading Outlook. I wish Outlook all the best; I hope to be a supporter and subscriber till the end of my days (I am 72). Do keep up the good work.
Sudhir Naik, On email
This refers to Outlook’s 25th anniversary issue. Editor-in-chief Ruben Banerjee has fondly remembered the legendary founder-editor Vinod Mehta very warmly. I have been associated with the magazine through the letters column since his days. Sashidharan Kollery’s Outlook Diary was also a great read, where he recalls the idiosyncrasies of Mr Mehta with fondness and relish. He remembers how letters were collected daily and kept by Mr. Mehta in his drawer. The letters pages were one of the main attractions of Outlook. Mr Mehta was very particular in accommodating critical letters. Sadly, the pages have been pruned by half.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Let the silver jubilee celebrations of Outlook be an occasion to review the past and make a resolve for its bright future. Print media is passing through turbulent times, and fierce, unethical competition besets it. Indulging in yellow journalism for survival is very tempting. The editor’s role becomes onerous—he has to walk a tightrope between serious, not necessarily popular matter, and ensuring financial survival. I appreciate Mr Banerjee’s frank confession that “journalism today is a virtual hostage to various pulls and pressures” and the editor’s task is “far more difficult and complicated than ever before”.
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
Apropos Hand of God, Feet of Clay (Anniversary Special; December 14, 2020), Maradona might have been a deity with the ball at his feet, but FIFA’s ‘best player of the century’ proved that even gods fail.
George Jacob, Kochi
This refers to Outlook’s cover story on the raging protests by farmers (Maximum Support Protest, Dec 21). These are issues that require immediate attention. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 may allow the entry of big corporations as buyers and may weaken the bargaining power of poor farmers. Farmers’ fear this may ultimately make MSP redundant. Also, farmers cannot take their disputes to normal courts. This is unjust. The second law encourages contract farming and removes the present system of selling through APMCs. And The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions and potatoes etc out of the ambit of essentials items. This will encourage hoarding.
D.B. Madan, New Delhi
Outlook’s cover story on the real issues behind the farm protests was brilliant. The explanatory data points made it lucid too. But ill-advised and treacherous TV channels have been reading out the Centre’s script. They should be challenged, and countered. Jai Kisan!
R.S. Kannan, On email
This is about Outlook’s story on the Hyderabad municipal polls (Saffron in Biriyani, Dec 21). The keenly contested polls were a setback to TRS after it failed to register a simple majority. It is a reminder that it cannot gain votes by merely invoking regional sentiments. The BJP’s stunning performance and emergence as the second largest party is remarkable too. It’s a message to the TRS to not take BJP for granted.
K.R. Srinivasan, Place
About three years ago I hosted Shashi Tharoor in a panel discussion and came away feeling that beyond sophisticated language and insufferably elitist arguments, the politics that he espouses is shallow and dangerous. Srivatsa Krishna ‘s brilliant review of Tharoor’s The Battle for Belonging (My Country, Right or Wrong, Dec 21) merely confirmed it. The press has given Tharoor a free pass, his arguments having escaped a strong ‘stress test’.
Satya Kiran, Hyderabad
Any book consists of two parts, style and substance. Substance comes from robustness of logic; no amount of good style can cover up fundamentally flawed arguments. That seems to be the case with Shashi Tharoor’s The Battle of Belonging. Srivatsa Krishna’s review has exposed inherent flaws in Tharoor’s arguments. Krishna has done us a service by pointing out fallacies in Tharoor’s fundamental arguments regarding ‘patriots’ and ‘nationalists’.
S.K. Joshi, On Email
Siddharth Kak’s Surabhi Diary (Dec 7) was absorbing. Surabhi was such a wonderful programme, lit up, as Siddharth rightly says, by the smile of Renuka Shahane. It was indeed a fountain of information about varied aspects of Indian culture. Little tidbits that constitute the cornucopia of Indian culture presented in such a graceful and interesting manner. Pity Doordarshan did not go for a similar programme.
Anil Joshi, Ranikhet