Outlook can take credit for putting into currency the expression ‘Dumbing Down’ of India. Nowhere is it more evident than in your own issue. I just can’t relate to it. Maybe the dictionary meaning of fun changed sometime, without me getting to know of it. The last page of this issue said that putting together the fun issue was no fun at all. I can only agree. Reading it was no fun either. As for the cover boy Cyrus Broacha, upside down or downside up, he looks the same. Do we have to look forward to more such tinplate icons in the Brave New Year?
S.K. Saxena, Mumbai
In a year that began with the Parliament attack hangover, saw Godhra ricocheting through February, March and April and hijacked thereafter with Moditva, the Indian menu for the year 2002 was anything but digestible. Kudos then to Outlook for preparing this dish with a funny bone, no easy task, as you yourself admit. Mukul Kesavan’s spices (Grin and Bear It) made it all the more delicious. It was Outlook almost at its best. However, Mr Mehta, you forgot the dessert—a year-end diary that would have made your January 13 issue a feast to savour.
V. Cherupally, Hyderabad
I’ve been a regular reader of Outlook from the very start. It was one of the trendiest offerings of the time—both in terms of style and substance. But, over the years, there has been an appalling fall in standards. From a magazine that discussed contemporary, relevant issues, it has become one that glorifies and revels in trivia. Mr Mehta, It’s time your team woke up and put its house back in order. May we be blessed with the Outlook of yore.
Vinay K.V., Bangalore
The New Year double issue was a bonanza of fun and frolic for readers like me. Here’s more power to U Said It: Just Jokin’. The first time a rustic traveller from Punjab gets on an airplane, he can’t hide his excitement. "Boeing, Boeing, Boeing," he shouts, jumping up and down inside the aircraft. His well-travelled son, embarrassed, tells his father, "Papa, be silent." Dad obliges, but with "Oeing, Oeing, Oeing".
G.P. Mallya, New Delhi
Some more inanities to add to The End of Fun: l crappy movies like Devdas being selected for the Oscars l the inordinate amount of publicity given to people who have money to waste l Hrithik Roshan and his so-called talent l the amazing ‘depth’ of talent in Bollywood wherein the same stories are circulated forever l journos who have nothing better to do than compile such lists l poking fun at people who do things they believe in l never giving the rest of the Indian film industry its due and harping on Bollywood alone.
K.K., St Louis, US
What kind of rubbish was How to Have Fun for Free? Is this your idea of fun?
Nishad Hussain, Amsterdam
The fun issue was good, but not enough to get rid of the sour, bitter and forgettable memories of 2002 in India. For that, I think we need an issueful of Don Martin (of Mad magazine fame)-like stuff.
Asadha Arul, Mugaiyur, Tamil Nadu
Shame on you, sir, for giving space to crooks like Laloo and celebrating their wit (The Tang of Neem Twigs). Far from making us laugh, they only sharpen our despair.
Surinder Puri, Washington, US
The year-end fun issue was a disgrace. It lacked woefully in content and left me wondering whether I should renew my Outlook subscription when it expires. Most of the jokes have been around on e-mail circuits for years. You could as well have had an extended holiday instead of coming out with such a bland fun issue.
K. Ramachandran, on e-mail
Your New Year issue was fun reading but you forgot one thing that gives you fun and comes within Rs 2,000: a five-year subscription to Outlook.
Anish Karil, on e-mail
In your cover story Coat of Saffron (December 30) you ask, "Does this mark the second coming of Hindutva? Will the Hindu charge now be led by Narendra Modi and Praveen Togadia?" The answer is simple. As long as media like Outlook and characters a la Laloo Yadav and Shankersinh Vaghela play messiahs of secular India, more and more Modis and Togadias will spring up. The way the ‘secularists’ made polls in Gujarat a Hindutva versus non-Hindutva issue and raised the bogey of communalism, fascism and militancy predestined the election outcome. Instead of having faith in the wisdom of the people of Gujarat, the media took it upon itself to hang Modi and wipe out the bjp from Gujarat. Hence the result. And the way secularists have reacted after the verdict shows that they still haven’t learned their lesson.
M.C. Joshi, London
Trust the Indian media. In the race to present sensational news, it has started imagining a rift and rivalry among the brother-sister duo of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi (The Dynasty’s Last Lap, January 13) even before either of them has actually entered active politics!
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi
The one thing that is clear from Balbir Punj’s Results From the Lab (December 30) is his and the Sangh parivar’s morbid fear of Marxism. This is probably because they know that only the Marxists have the ideological strength and the organisational discipline to beat them at their own game. They have inherited this fear from the fountainhead of their ideology, Adolf Hitler, who considered Communists, Jews and Slavs (in that order) as the main enemies of the Aryan race. Very similar views were held by Golwalkar, who considered Communists, Muslims and Christians (again in that order) as the main enemies of Hindus. Communists can justifiably feel proud to top the hate-list of such people.
Partho Sarothi Ray, on e- mail
I think you give Balbir Punj too much credit by publishing his hateful rants again and again. Among the rest of Outlook’s excellent content, his writings leave a bad taste in the mouth. Why do you wish to turn some of your good readers away?
Sadia Wahidi, New Delhi
By presenting liberal rage wrapped up in moderate-sounding words (Fighting the Good Cause, January 13), you shall not be able to stem the tide of Hindutva, Mr Mehta. Your brand of old-fashioned left-liberalism often ends up justifying bin Ladenism by seeking to ‘understand’ the ‘root causes’ of the rise of terrorism in the Islamic world. This should be applied to Hindutva as well. You’ll only create more fascist Hindutva supporters by putting judgemental phrases like ‘The Crisis in Hinduism’ and ‘India’s Loony Right’ on your cover. Instead of raising Narendra Modi and Praveen Togadia to iconic status, you must probe why the average Gujarati/ Indian believes in their diatribe. This cannot be done by giving space to Balbir Punj but by countering his arguments and reasonably proving why he is wrong, by logic, not anguish.
Ashutosh Varshney’s musing Will the Stallion Baulk in Mid-Gallop? (December 30) is irrelevant now. India’s political reality crossed a threshold in the Gujarat polls. The democratic process now has legitimised and endorsed state-sponsored genocide with a devastating majority. Will it recur? Of course, it will. Will it succeed like in Gujarat? Varshney says, "It is in the interest of those who care about India’s pluralism to somehow make sure that a Godhra...does not recur." Those who care about pluralism are presently at the political periphery. Ten years of pre-Babri, Babri, post-Babri, pre-Godhra, Godhra and post-Godhra have shown that these formula tragedies are almost effortless to remix, produce and direct in India. Secularism now is reduced to hifalutinism.
Ajay Kalhan, Seattle, US
It was rather naive and presumptuous of Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali to compare his "griping" cousin in school in Murree, who’d continue crying even without cause, with India ("Vajpayee is taking a general’s approach", December 30). The brand new PM of Pakistan—which has a sham democracy—is hardly qualified to cast such churlish aspersions on the world’s largest democracy. Born under the tutelage of a ruthless dictator (himself masquerading as an elected president), the hapless premier is obliged to parrot his master’s words—sane or profane.
G.S. Khimta, Shimla
If there is anything more disgusting than the dismal performance of the Indian team in New Zealand, it’s that ill-considered advertisement by Pepsi in which Shahrukh Khan repeatedly squawks "Kab aaoge, Cup laoge". As if the Cricket World Cup is lying on some road in South Africa and our boys have just got to go and pick it up! Come to think of it, that’s the only way they are likely to get it. Their game won’t get it for them.
I.J.S. Bassi, New Delhi
What right do you have to judge governments and committees in being fair and of sound purpose when you yourselves often indulge in unashamed, biased reviewing of books? In this instance getting Christophe Jaffrelot to review A.G. Noorani’s book Savarkar and Hindutva: the Godse connection (The Germination of Insecurity, December 30). Why not Francois Gautier? The last time Noorani’s book was assessed, it was done by Khushwant Singh, a known Sangh-baiter! Still better than when you had Mani Shankar Aiyer to opine on Balraj Madhok’s Portrait Of a Martyr (on the life of Shyamaprasad Mookerjee). His misplaced views on that figure had a distinctive political hue, nonetheless. Further still, His Eminence Mushirul Hasan’s appraisal of Rafiq Zakaria’s offering, Communal Rage in Secular India. Mr Mehta, it’s a sham in the name of being equanimous in your outlook. All you guys are eating out of the same plate! Why not ask two people on both sides of the ideological coin (in respect of the book under scrutiny) to share their views on the same page? That’s for a balanced presentation, lies notwithstanding. But why waste time and print space? O, ‘pallbearers’ of all that is fair in our national life.
Sushil Manohar, Mumbai
Thanks Mr Jha for helping Hindutvawadis (The Perils of Polarity, December 30). Please keep up your propaganda based on l minorityism l Muslim appeasement l false opinion polls predicting Kangress victory l demonising Hindus, Gujarati Hindus in particular l under-reporting terrorism in Kashmir l ignoring Hindu genocide there and in Bangladesh. Keep up the double standards. It only unites the Hindus.
Subbajoy, Redwood City, US