Contemporary Indian journalism in English has few such rock stars masquerading as writers. But several certainly ensure instant recognition in airports, hotels, and wherever else in urban India English-speaking strangers happen to meet. The Times of India's Sunday edition scores high on the parameter of offering plenty of habit-forming reading.
Two of its most popular columns, Bachi Karkaria's Erratica, and Jug Suraiya's Jugular Vein, now appear as collections in book form. It's no surprise that they launched together. In fact, Erratica's last piece describes a reader who tells Karkaria how much he enjoyed her column—and goes on to speak about Suraiya's article! The two began delighting readers 35 years ago in the legendary JS (Junior Statesman). Today, few may appreciate the near-mythical status JS alumni have among readers of a certain age and Calcuttan provenance.
Both writers do that tradition justice. Jugular Vein sometimes meanders amiably, Erratica's punning is not infrequently jaw-dropping, but the books' best bits leave other writers for dust. Virtually no one else captures the uniquely mixed sensations of ex-Calcuttan nostalgia; Karkaria's gentle digs at her Parsi community are wonderfully accurate; Suraiya perfectly captures the helpless bewilderment of the outsider to Delhi's notorious crassness. For these and sundry related observations, may their tribe increase.