The delight of receiving mail from a long-lost acquaintance turned into disappointment moments after I opened the envelope that landed on my desk last week. Tucked inside was a handwritten letter that read no less than a wholesome denunciation of my time as the editor. I have always known the writer as a well-wisher, but his acerbic words as a reader of Outlook stung. The magazine, he insisted, is directionless, and carries content without substance. He even took exception to my last editorial for our special issue on Gandhi, wherein I confessed that ‘I am no Gandhi scholar’. Such modesty ill behoves someone occupying your chair, he exhorted. His litany of complaints was rather long.
Somewhat taken aback, my immediate reaction was to lessen the sting by instinctively dropping the letter in the dustbin. The pain of being pummelled, however, refused to fade and I ruminated over the letter long and hard, having fished it out from among the discards again. As Outlook nears yet another anniversary—its 24th—opinion of readers continues to matter the most and irrespective of how unpalatable they are, their mails are our prized reward. Those who praise give us a high, the rest as the one by my old acquaintance do bite. But having been open to scrutiny, I am learning to be thick-skinned, equally at ease with brickbats and bouquets.