THE world suddenly seems a better place when you start travelling. Is this because media contacts are less? You don't read the morning newspaper on a regular basis and are usually too pooped at night to bother with TV. Those who take the mofussil edition are lucky since they can read their daily not for news but for instruction. This saves them the burden of donning each morning at BILL the breakfast table the black square of the sentencing judge. Having moved down to the plains for winter, after the slow pace of life in a hill station, I am taken aback at the brashness of neighbours in Delhi whom I haven't seen for six months. "Will he/she go inside?" they ask. I, who am chiefly concerned with the fortunes of the mediaeval Chalukya and Kakatiya dynasties, have to ask, "Who?" For speed of political reflexes, the first prize must to go Amul Butter. The day after South India's amma went to do porridge (upma?), Amul's hoarding at Jangpura declared "Jailalitha." Is it the ennui of age that makes me think newspaper reading matter a generation ago was meatier and more stylish and columnists of that era a breed on whom one could rely not to cock their leg against revered institutions? James Cowley and M. Krishnan of the Statesman come to mind for their unvarying (but widely different) styles. Cowley was a polished pen commenting on the world scene while Krishnan was a scholarly observer of India's wildlife. Krishnan's unflagging standards of precise prose were phenomenal and he kept his readers captive for more than 30 years. Anyone who has tried to do a weekly column knows how hard it is to sound original even after a month of cranking them out.