Being a very filmy person (but you already knew that I suppose), my ideal of a reporter was the character played by Sekhar Suman in “Tridev” whose murder, while doing investigative journalism piece on the dangerous Bhujang, let loose a sequence of spectacular events, that included but was not limited to Sunny Deol looking at the camera and saying, in a deadpan voice, “Ek aur sipahi desh ke liye shaheed ho gaye”.
In real life, the only people who came close to that khadi-clad, jhola-carrying ideal were the guys at Tehelka. Or that’s the way I saw things when they did the match-fixing sting, blowing the lid off the conspiracy of silence in a most spectacular way. And if that was not enough, then went up against the might of the NDA government and in the process was almost finished off by them.
This was brave stuff. They wrote their pieces well. True they came across as a bit too sensational and full of themselves at times, but then again with that name what else could you do.
Then, over the years, I began to see a pattern.
That Tehelka chose its targets selectively. While the facade of fairness was sought to be kept, it was obvious which side of the political spectrum Tehelka was. Their editorial tone, over the years, became increasingly fundamentalist, which I define as those who split the world into “us” and “them”, with different standards for “us” (people who are ideologically aligned with our idea of the world) and different standards for “them” (those that are not). In their defense, they couldn’t even lay claim left-wing counterculture street-cred any more, with what their big-ticket, big-business-sponsored “thinkfests” and the perception of them being aligned in pushing the agenda of the ruling party. Tehelka was big media now, and the edgy-independent paper posturing had worn thin.
And now the Tejpal story has broken, as grave charges of sexual assault have been levelled against Tarun Tejpal by a Tehelka staffer.
I was shocked.