Sunday, October 17, 2004

Sunday paper commentaries (17/10/04)

I don’t usually consort for more than three-and-a-half minutes with the Sunday TOI (and even that often grudgingly) but I enjoyed Jug Suraiya’s Jugular Vein column this week. It’s about the indignant public response to Suraiya’s last column, where he spoke about some of the unsavoury aspects of Indianness. So this week he’s taken the theme further. (Our self-endowed moral superiority convinces us that what we do is right and what others do is wrong…our bomb is a friendly, peaceful creature, not to be confused with the Pakistani bomb, a rabid, untrained beast whose sole function it is to bite all and sundry without provocation…)

What I really liked about the column was that its author didn’t take the chicken’s way out. He didn’t first set down a list of flaws in the Indian character and then, in the last para or thereabouts, snivel about how all he really wants is his beloved country to open its eyes to its faults. It was a criticism, harsh and uncompromising, from beginning to end, and that takes real guts given the strident self-righteousness that’s so much a part of the national character.

Meanwhile, in the HT, Indrajit Hazra manages to produce something about V S Naipaul that’s actually worth reading, and which provides glimpses of that elusive other side to the man. Naipaul speaks of how he was culturally destitute while growing up in Trinidad and one of the things that saved him was Hollywood movies like In Old Chicago -- “films about good and evil, right and wrong – Westerns.”

Of course, the trademark inflexibility is still very much in view. And it’s a bit rich when he says “A book has to entertain above all” (I think of his pronouncement last week that fantastical literature is a perversion) But it’s comforting to learn that the man might actually have had a human side half a life ago.

P.S. If someone had told me last week that I would post three consecutive blogs with references to Naipaul, I would have given them the old Mwahahahaha routine. Oh well, as Marshall Mathers said, “This is it, that’s all, last straw, that’s it!”

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