Thirty-four years ago, I published a biography of Sanjay Gandhi titled The Sanjay Story. It has been reissued by HarperCollins and should be on sale next week. The biography, the only one till date on Sanjay, was a small commercial and critical success even though my version of the “extra-constitutional authority” came out a time when a succession of quickies, as they were dubbed, were keeping the nation alarmed and entertained by their sordid and sometimes comic revelations. My quickie set out to be objective but in the highly charged atmosphere post the Emergency, objectivity was in no great demand. It suffered a further infirmity. Sanjay refused to cooperate in the writing of the biography, insisting on copy approval. It was an offer I had to refuse.
In 1978, my day job consisted of revamping Debonair. I had taken my first tentative step into journalism-editorship, and while most of my creative energy was taken up with luring innocent and not-so innocent girls to shed their clothes for the princely sum of Rs 250, Debonair (being a monthly magazine) allowed me time to probe into a man who, even in the opinion of his elder brother, had much to answer for. “I will never forgive Sanjay for having brought mummy to this position,” Rajiv had told family friend Pupul Jaykar.
In the biography, I have tried to provide a flavour of the man who would be king. The man who almost captured the crown—had it not been for those damned Kohlapuri chappals. The Kohlapuri mystery is revealed in the book, which I am happy to report, has already received a very generous review on Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast website. Under the headline “Hold onto your penis” the review asks, “How did a nation of 600 million people bow to the fancies of a prime minister’s pampered son?” And then, the part I like best. It describes The Sanjay Story as a “brief but indispensible psycho-political biography.” Do buy it. It only costs Rs 499. The royalties will help me keep Editor on a steady diet of Italian cheese!
While the Indian media continues to keep its head resolutely buried in the sand, in Britain the much-awaited Leveson Report is recommending a new independent regulator for the press with statutory underpinnings. The report is 2,000 pages and one million words long. An editorial in The Guardian says, “Many in the press will disagree with the conclusion, but no journalist should fool themselves. The fact that the industry is threatened with statutory controls is no one else’s fault.” A recent opinion poll reveals that 77 per cent of the British public—fed up, in Leveson words, with a “culture of reckless and outrageous journalism”—want an independent regulator with statutory control.
The report, which should be deemed essential reading for every journalist in India, says much that holds relevance for us. And yet we live in denial because we claim to speak “truth to power” in the public interest. I have been banging on about this for years, but if the press in India does not appoint an independent regulator, the politicians will do it for us. Is that what we want?
Sex On The Breach
The professional demise of David Petraeus via extramarital sex has had one benefit. A belated debate has started in the United States on why a brilliant general who has served his country with extraordinary distinction should be brought low by an act between consenting adults. Adultery, especially if it has no serious security implications (as in the case of Petraeus), is a private matter to be settled between the two parties. That is the way it is done in Europe, but in hypocritical Anglo-Saxon cultures, it is asked that if a man can’t be faithful to his wife how can he be faithful to his country! Rubbish. So many of our netas manage the feat quite nicely.
The incident reminded me of a story about the legendary philanderer, the Indonesian President Sukarno. On a visit to the United States, the anti-US president was provided by the CIA with some blonde girls, who he ravished. As he was leaving the country, a CIA agent took the President aside, produced an envelope and showed Sukarno half-a-dozen explicit, compromising photographs of his escapades. He looked at them intently for a minute and without batting an eyelid said, “I’ll have two copies of these three pictures.”
The spinner who is tormenting India, Monty Panesar, is a teetotaller, a vegetarian and goes to his local gurudwara regularly. His parents are desperately looking for a suitable and devout girl, preferably from Punjab, to get him married. His full name is Madhusudan Singh Panesar. If we’re going to get thrashed by England, let it be at the hands of Madhusudan.
I finished reading Tavleen Singh’s much-discussed book, Durbar. It is a page-turner.
Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta AT outlookindia.com
Read Vinod Mehta’s Delhi Diary (Dec 17) with the usual interest and amusement. So when can we expect the biography of Meena Kumari to be reissued?
Sharat Chandra, Kalpakkam
While reading VM’s diary, especially the title used by The Daily Beast for reviewing Sanjay Gandhi’s biography, I recalled an old Malayalam saying: “Going to the udder of a cow, full of milk, the mosquito goes for the blood.”
K.S.C. Nair, Indianapolis
The best comment about the Emergency came from Indira Gandhi herself. “Not a dog barked,” she quipped contemptuously.
Arun Kumar, Lucknow
Mr Mehta rightly lambasts our Victorian attitude towards matters of sex. A man may amass billions by cheating and stealing from public funds, but he enjoys full social prestige. These days, it’s nothing new, after a few months of fruitless enquiries, everything is forgotten in the avalanche of the next scam. But character assassination by way of pointing out a personal sexual ‘escapade’, whether true or not, unfailingly bludgeons a man’s reputation. Just look at Julian Assange.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
I see no reason for Mr Mehta to defend Gen Petraeus. It’s just that some countries expect certain things from their men; it’s not hypocrisy. Europeans may be lenient about adultery, but they are quite hypocritical about other things.
Abhishek Prakash, Jaipur
Madhusudan aka Monty Panesar is as English as the rest of his teammates, never mind his beard and patka. He was born and raised in Bedfordshire and attended Loughborough University. For people like him, India is a place from where his Dad ran away, thank god, and England the country that gave them an opportunity to flourish. It would be natural if he has little or no affinity for India.
Ganesh Natrajan, on e-mail
You read Tavleen Singh, Mr Mehta? Terrible taste, I say.
Manish Banerjee, Calcutta
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Khaddar & Mr Mehta are you joking??
So when is biography of Meena Kumari and the biography of the broads of Bombay be reissued, Mr. Mehta? Publishers have started to show their faith in you, huh !!!
dear Mehta Saab,
i have always admired you as the "wittiest old man " of our nation. i enjoy reading the humour in your articles and i did read the lucknow boy. i think its an amazing quality in you as to how to demean yourself in the most funniest way possible.
Sir, i run a small time humble brand of khadi by the brandname ''KHADDER" and would love to gift you a khadi kurta made by us. Do inform me sir as to where to send it.
Agree with every word of what you said..
But still the blatant hypocrisy of these high society preachy pseudo left liberals is so much nauseating to me..
More so given that they exist and preach their pseudo creed in a country like India where there is so much of feudalism and exhibitionist elitism...
@Ramki: Mine was a rhetorical question.
Of course I am aware of the limo libbies.No one likes limousine liberals. My point was, it would be more appropriate to call yourself a leftist, if you believe in large statism.
Definitely not Liberal. Locke would have stuffed various cacti up his backside before he approved of this contrived brand of liberalism.
I have said on other threads as well, the terms secular,liberal & to a much lesser extent progressive have become cuss words.
All inherently noble ideas, hijacked by feudal chieftains.
As for terms/names for these chaps, Narayan's post is more than sufficient.
Though I like to call them equality mongers!!
These are people born and raised upper class, who inspect each bowel movement of theirs, for traces of every little thing they ate. It upsets them greatly if they don't find the required proportional representation of every single item they ate.
They wonder to themselves, how come so much corn came out & the delicious paneer I had , did not?
Paneer is under-represented. It is all Corn's fault! Corn, is an evil entity that discriminates against poor little Paneer!!
They take this to an extreme pov & decide to elect their friends in the government to legally steal from everyone more ambitious than them.Of course, some of them don't realise or mind this, because they can afford it.
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