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Millennium Post

A journalist or a private racketeer?

At what point do you stop being a journalist and become just another corporate lackey hobnobbing with the rich and famous and wielding a sharp pen to rake up storms over teacups? Tarun Tejpal, the founder and editor-in-chief of Tehelka, perhaps the most notorious rape accused that media has ever produced, had long stopped being the conscientious sting baron, who had used unscrupulous means to break one of the biggest defence scandals in contemporary Indian history. Reports, which had been trickling down for years and that now have become a great deluge by themselves, have linked the flamboyant editor with a number of infamous corporate giants, but none more disreputable than the murdered liquor baron Ponty Chadha. As the latest accounts suggest, Tejpal had joined hands with the late Chadha to open an exclusive private club for ‘select urban Indians’ before the illicit liquor trade kingpin was gunned down last year in a gang war. What could be a greater irony than the fact that Tejpal, clearly not satisfied with the enormous clout of the Thinkfest itself, wanted to consolidate an invitation-only private club, apparently an idea-generation platform, a forum for brainstorming for ‘like minds’, and had the gumption to call it ‘Prufrock!’ Not only is this a flagrant disregard of one of the most read and poignant poems of the 20th century, written by none other than TS Eliot himself, it is a blatant revisionism and appropriation of a particular kind of cultured urbanity, that of being superficially well-versed in a globalised literary education, perhaps as a ticket to the sanctioned slugfest of which Thinkfest was merely a trailer.

It is ironical that Tejpal himself had been a staunch critic of the sophisticated chauvinist, the civilised bigot and had, at many previous occasions, managed to dissect the unholy cocktail of illicit money with a sprinkle of ‘liberal’ education, that is used as a passport to gain entry into the upper echelons of the coterie of the rich and famous. Tejpal’s ‘Prufrock’, that in his own words was supposed to be a ‘vibrant cultural space, where a highly accomplished, eclectic community of select urban Indians can meet and engage in an atmosphere of great intimacy with eminent people who make and shape the world,’ would have, in reality, been a licenced space for unscrupulous lobbyists and political pimps to wear the feathers of culture and education, with ‘fine drinks and exquisite cuisines’ creating a faux global ambience to make the elite club members believe in their own charade, invest in their own delusions. Tejpal was not creating a TED, the talk and share idea forum that marries entrepreneurship with originality and creativity, but yet another clique for the country’s rich and famous, or at least some among them with intellectual pretensions. That Tejpal, knowing very well the tainted pedigree of Ponty Chadha, carried on his liaisons with Monty, the dead liquor baron’s son, instead of trying to obtain sponsorships from proper channels, bespeaks the Tehelka honcho’s misplaced priorities, his inability to see beyond the glitz of the immediate benefits and the sense of heady power that is a direct result of what he has been trying to achieve in his little cocoon of shady deals. Was his trying to clothe his false enterprise in fancy ideas not an ominous sign of times to come, of the deeper nadir that he would eventually come to occupy with his (latest?) sexual misconduct?
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