Oh, just look around you. Infidelity seems to be the single greatest fascination of our age. Everyone’s at it! That 45-year-old woman, who sits in the cubicle outside. She’s got a string of boyfriends, inside and outside office. And a husband, who is busy philandering himself. There’s a sadist pleasure, with couples teasing each other: “Catch me, if you can!” Indeed!And that’s just the first para. Can you imagine how entertaining 1,000 words of this can be? It’s like I always say, when the mind is weighed down by water tanks and tax returns, Delhi Times makes life seem bright and purposeful again.
More seriously, this reminds me that for a long time now I’ve meant to start a regular series on the very particular type of bad writing/editing found in our daily newspapers (not just Delhi Times, which is a soft target, but even the supposedly respectable ones) – the punning, the clichés, the dreadful comma misplacements, the ending of sentences with words like “Indeed!!” and “What say you??!” in an idiotic attempt at being “trendy and cool” (no really, that’s the justification a desk head gave me once!), and of course the countless examples of awkward sentence construction.
The reasons I haven’t done this yet: a) it’s too daunting a task, as tough as writing an encyclopedia single-handed, b) it would involve closely reading newspapers, which I can’t bring myself to do (“Dilbert”, “The Wizard of Id”, “Beau Peep” and one Delhi Times story are usually enough for a day) and c) The idea isn’t to get pedantic, just to have some fun. I don’t believe the quality of writing in our papers can ever improve – and especially not now, given the amount of movement in Indian journalism, youngsters flitting from one job to the next without being meaningfully trained at any one place, and the fact that bad grammar is firmly rooted in most copy-desk departments anyway, with senior deskies/editors just as culpable as anyone else. So this wouldn’t be an “improve the world” project. (That would be pointless anyway, since the species won’t last beyond the next 30 years. Hopefully.) And if it’s just a having-fun-once-in-a-while sort of thing, why make it a regular series at all? Much better to transcribe the occasional gems like the infidelity story opening paragraph. What say you??!