Monday, August 20, 2007

An Ode to a Newspaper that was TOI...

I was wondering whether I should be writing an elegy, but thought it otherwise. What is dead is not TOI rather my loyalty to the Newspaper that was The Times of India. Eventhough I set out to write an ode, I feel I am not capable of it. Okay, so its gonna be prose.
As everyone knows and proclaims over the rooftops, TOI is no longer a newspaper, it’s a good tabloid, a business venture, which has put its feet in to different diversified fields including harnessing young, upcoming writers ( I thought only publishing houses did it!) and campaign management (I thought only event management groups did it for few bucks!). It is no longer required to inform and educate the millions, literate as well as not-so literate minds across the country.
It has been a slow and torturous death of my loyalty to TOI. It did not die of a sudden heart attack. It expired like an obese body unable to carry its own weight under difficult circumstances.
TOI was never a completely business venture. To provide an objective picture of the world within the framework of noble journalistic principles everyday was a mission just a few years ago, I guess. I tried to find something about its glorious past on the internet and what I get is this
. I guess for the first time google has failed me. Because there ought to be a proper profiling of this newspaper which served many causes and which was one of the main opinion leaders and which was held in high esteem by statesmen, politicians, scientists,scholoars, students alike.
I have not forgotten how I used to greedily gorge on articles, features, middles, box items etc from TOI during my school and college days. TOI was much preferred over Deccan Herald and The Hindu. Because somewhere in the corners of my mind I associated it with Independence Movement. They had carved a place in the History of Freedom Struggle for itself along with Amrit Bazaar Patrika, The Statesman etc. As I grew up my fascination for the newspaper also grew. I am sure TOI has served its readers with some of the most delicious dishes. Those who have tasted it know and regret the unpalatable and unnamable snacks that is being given in the name of food now.
The changes that happened to TOI have not been imperceptible. The things about the newspaper and the names from the newspaper that I admired were dropped one by one. The delightful everyday Middle, Crossword ( it was replaced with some funny American type Crossword), Rakesh Bhatnagar’s Column, Sham Lal’s articles. The names like Inder Malhotra, Dileep Padgaonkar, I don’t even remember the names, but if I search my collection, I would definitely find many many more names writing in depth and giving a beautiful insight in to topics ranging from economics, science to religion and philosophy. The objective, balanced, well worded editorials were gone. Leave alone editotials, I have some of the Best Letters to the Editor written by some erudite minds. Eventhough I never completely understood the way Mind Sport worked, I was hooked to it on and off. If I didn’t understand the problems ( I think I have solved few problems, the numbers of which could be counted on a single hand) posed in the column I would take pleasure in the witty repartees to the contributors from the ‘dude’ Mukul Sharma. Now this is also a thing of the past, for it has come to an end on 5th August edition of TOI while I was away. I came to know about its end through this.

I am still trying to solve the last puzzle!!, which could be found here and here
Now what is left? Swaminomics, in a real world this would have been the first to go. I don’t give a lark to it. Jug Suraiya, I find his humour completely contrived and made-up. Bachi Karkaria , Shashi tharoor- they are all newcomers and write the way TOI wants them to write, hence I don’t care for them.
Even if I don’t read TOI I don’t and I won’t hate TOI. They are successful in what they set out to do. They are not losers. They have good circulation figures. They are the leaders. They are leading the way and others are following. The trends that they started as part of the Newspaper like Page 3 supplements are imitated in a different way and under different names by other Newspapers as well. The difference is that the others are not going overboard. They can’t or won’t is a million dollar question. The regional kannad papers are not lagging behind. Instead of celebrity photos and functions, they feature low profile cultural, literary functions and figures in their Page 3!! In the process even the mediocrity gets publicity is nobody’s problem. Oh, that requires another post.


Atoorva said...

Hey! I thought you read The Hindu. But point well taken....TOI has turned into a marketing venture...and well, it sells! And even as a Newspaper turned Taboloid it is a leader...far ahead than apes like HT,Telegraph etc.
Perhaps we will miss its old columns and specially the sunday edition....

alice said...

ya, i read Hindu but since i have all the time in the world while am in the office :-) i read all other newspapers as well :-)
But theres something abt TOI, may be its insatiable capacity for innovation that acts as a pull factor. From the past 15-20 days they are running a special series abt best speeches from history as well as from other sources. Today its the turn of Al Pacino's breath-stopping speech from the movie A scent of a women.. Its nice to read and recall.
Unless and until you let go of the old, you cannot embrace the new, right. May be thats the truth behing TOI's story...