February 22, 2020
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A History Of Outlook...

In 20 sentences, one for each year, by Manisha Saroop, who’s seen it all since 1995

A History Of Outlook...
  1. 1995 Construction magnates Rahejas evince desire to start a newsmagazine, rope in intrepid editor Vinod Mehta to run it, ace marketer Dilip Shourie to market it, and Outlook is in business out of a few rooms at the erstwhile Lodhi Hotel in Delhi before it moves to a more permanent address in Safdarjung Enclave.
  2. Microsoft Solitaire seems feeble weaponry to slay Goliath with, but then we are just playing Trojan horse; the missiles on our launchpad are a first-ever opinion poll in Kashmir and excerpts from P.V. Narasimha Rao’s novel The Insider; free publicity comes courtesy Shiv Sena burning Outlook copies.
  3. 1997 Whatever clouds darkened the firmament, there was always the sunshine of cricket—till Aniruddha Bahal and Krishna Prasad yanked the sheen off the gentleman’s game and revealed the fascinating, elaborate, horrific rot of matchfixing underneath.
  4. 1998 Pokhran puts India in the alpha male league of nuclear nations, and simultaneously the recently Booker-anointed Arundhati Roy puts eloquent, searing, conscience-pricking pen to Outlook pages—to begin with The End of Imagination—and continuesto exhort us to put people first before nuclear bombs, big dams and corporations.
  5. 1998 Sunil Mehra takes the pants off Indian designers, showing up the emperors’ new clothes for what they really are—nothing; the fraternity, and fandom, rise in protest.
  6. 1999 From the warmth of the Lahore bus ride to the icy freeze of Kargil, Outlook boards the rollercoaster ride of Indo-Pak relations; there is not a dry eye in office as we read stories of young martyrs coming home in coffins, only to discover that they paid for the lapses of the government and army top brass, who collectively turned a blind eye to what had been staring them in the face—that’s 1999, the year also of personal tragedy, as Outlook loses cartoonist Irfan Hussain to a senseless carjacking-cum-murder.
  7. 2000 Tarun Tejpal, the pillar holding the back-of-the-book section of the magazine, leaves Outlook, to create tehelka elsewhere.
  8. 2001 This is an earth-shattering year; we have just put the issue to bed and readied ourselves to watch the parade on our 52nd Republic Day, when a 7.7 hits Bhuj; a few months later, we stand frozen spectators to the sight of two planes searing the vertical plane of the World Trade Centre; India’s own Parliament is attacked in December, and Outlook’s personal injury is an income-tax raid on its proprietors, for the impertinence of daring to name Atal Behari Vajpayee’s son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya among ‘All the PM’s Men’.
  9. 2002 Another routine day at work, till an innocuous flash on the ticker: two coaches of Sabarmati Express on fire at Godhra; within a matter of days, the flames engulf Gujarat, the nation and its secular fabric; on its ashes, Gujarat props up Narendra Modi as a phoenix; simultaneously Outlook takes up the cause of the aam aadmi, devoting two covers to the Indian middle class, its neglect and its rage.
  10. 2003 Twin blasts in Mumbai, fall of the Mayawati government in UP, and a controversial asi report on Ayodhya; in this hectic medley in 2003, Outlook goes out and buys a bottle of Coke and Pepsi each from neighbouring Bengal Sweet House, but doesn’t drink it, and instead it ships the bottles to the Central Science Laboratory in London to investigate whether the colas are laced with pesticide as they are being accused of and finds out they aren’t, but then Vinod Mehta’s golfing neighbour Gaurav Ghei shows him some Cadbury’s chocolate, and ergo, a whole new can of worms opens up.
  11. 2004 India Shining is exposed as myth, UPA takes charge but Sonia refuses prime ministership, and Outlook puts Saint Sonia on cover—the Congress chamcha sobriquet sticks ever since; 2004 is almost done and we go on year-end leave, only to be pulled back by the surreal force of the tsunami; a handful of us get together at office to document the stark horror of the event.
  12. 2005 In the year of the Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell spat, the explosion of the food-for-oil scam in foreign minister Natwar Singh’s face, Outlook’s business editor-cum ace rewriter-cum cineaste cum-cricket enthusiast cum-chain smoker Sandipan Deb departs.
  13. 2006 Outlook dives deep into murky seas to blow the lid off the Scorpene submarine scam, a saga which involved the leak of official secrets from the naval war room, and the stink of which reached chief of naval staff Arun Prakash.
  14. 2008 Barely a fortnight after Barack Obama is elected the first African-American president of the United States comes the most audacious attack on India’s financial nerve centre; it’s a regular evening at work on November 26, 2008, when a friend calls about some random shooting at Leopold Cafe; for the next 48 hours we sit transfixed before the tickers and TV as the full scale of the horror unfolds.
  15. 2009 Indians are victims of alleged racist attacks in Australia, and the Outlook story elicits so much response from Australians and others that it devotes seven pages to letters to the editor.
  16. 2010 In the same year that Julian Assange begins his Wikileaks, Outlook accesses and publishes the Niira Radia tapes, the muck from which reaches the doorstep of the prime minister and costs him his telecom minister A. Raja (and, may we tell our critics, his reputation).
  17. 2012 2012 is the year of Ambedkar at Outlook, as the Father of the Indian Constitution appears twice on its cover, first over an unholy controversy over his caricature in a school textbook, and then as Nehru-pipper in an opinion poll; it’s also the year Vinod Mehta vacates the editorial chair and Krishna Prasad takes over the reins at Outlook.
  18. 2012 Outlook shares in the excitement of the rise of aam aadmi Arvind Kejriwal and AAP in Delhi, only to have that joy soon turning to dust over the horrific Nirbhaya rape, not far from our Safdarjung Enclave office.
  19. 2013 Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it did—rumour and WhatsApp spread the fire and Muzaffarnagar was soon engulfed in communal flames; exactly how depraved it was, Outlook brought out in the stomach-churning testimonies of the Muslim women who were offered protection at the pradhan’s house, only to be systematically raped there.
  20. 2015 Outlook says bye to its belo­ved editor Vinod Mehta, who passes away in March this year.
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