Tarun Tejpal and The Story of his Assassins.


Tarun Tejpal at the launch of his book- 'The Story of My Assassins'. Pic: Shailandra Pandey

Hate the Sin not the Sinner: Mahatma Gandhi

There are two words I learnt out of the Tarun Tejpal sexual assault saga. One was recuse . The other Schadenfreude.

I learnt the first from  Tarun’s  own letter where after being accused of sexual assault by his junior employee he offered to ‘recuse’ himself for 6-months to do ‘penance that lacerates me’.

I discovered the second word in the process of finding the best way to describe the barrage of vitriol pouring out in the media for him and by extension towards Shoma and Tehelka.

Schadenfreude is a German word, which means deriving pleasure from  other people’s misery and discomfort. It embraces the bitter elements of  sadism, voyeurism and malice. And when a big man falls the Schadenfreude is that much sweeter.  We drive pleasure out of other’s misfortune not necessarily because we hate the person in  question but because it makes us feel better. It makes us feel better about our own sorry lives.

In my village back in Himachal there are hardly any scandals to speak of. The biggest is when someone’s daughter elopes.  No one cares about a poor man’s daughter  but if a rich man’s girl bolts, everyone from across the valleys and the mountains makes it a point to meet the man to sympathize.  Relatives and friends who would otherwise shun family functions, make overnight journeys to meet him. Behind the mask of commiseration they come to revel in his discomfort and shame.

In Tejpal’s case it’s all that and more.  Tejpal was a man who took a road not travelled. He was unconventional in not only his newsgathering methods- serving up prostitutes and booze to entrap malleable generals- but was a trailblazer in the way he shaped his career. He was not content to be just a hack. He became a novelist, an entrepreneur, a publisher of a Booker Prize winning book. He stood apart. He began to look apart too -with  his pony tail, dandy hats and tweed jackets.

How many editors look like that? If he had the boring overgrown  schoolboyish bearings of an  Arnab Goswamy he would perhaps have been spared some of the diatribe.  His former friends and colleagues   emerged from the woodwork to give us a chronology of Tejpal’s past sins. Where were they hiding all this while? The truth is they were eating out of his hand, as it were, and  secretly aspiring to his stature. Tejpal had soared into the stratosphere and left them groveling in the dust. Now that he had fallen here was their chance to kick and spit.

But the lynch-mob is always content with bludgeoning the  fallen man. In Tarun’s case they imagine they are showing solidarity with the girl he allegedly assaulted.  They are not. They are only expressing Schadenfreude. If they cared about the girl  they would not voyeuristically tweet her  personal emails. Some of them, like activist Madhu Kishwar gleefully tweeted even the girl’s name. Many others brazenly circulated blog posts with the girl’s photographs. Also its  the prerogative of the girl to call it an assault or a rape.  Calling her a rape- victim/ survivor before she gives her version is invasion of her privacy.

Schadenfreude is also the word one can use to describe the pillorying  of  Shoma Chowdhary now ex-Managing Editor of Tehelka.  This was a time for the media to introspect    its own responses.  Every anchor and journalist would not only fumble like Shoma but do much worse if their bosses were caught with their hands in the till.  But the self-righteous suggestions keep pouring.

Writer Jerry Pinto put out a status message saying ,”May more women find the courage to speak about sexual harassment. May we, in the  media and the social media, find the grace and strength to support them without trivializing…”.

 Pinto was immediate caught out by writer Venita Coelho who wrote.  “ You amaze me Jerry. When I and other women pointed out to you that we were being sexually harassed on the Goa Writers Group, your reaction was ‘I know the man. He is my friend and I know he can’t behave like this’ and ‘I don’t believe strong women can be harassed’. So please stop this ridiculous and hypocritical posturing”.

To sum it up – we seek comfort in the herd. Though we may admire those who stand alone we are conformists by nature.  But the self-assurance we get when any maverick fails is immense. It validates our own humdrum existence.  We feel comforted that we were right to stay with the pack. The causes Tarun and Tehelka  espoused will be questioned forever. And we will be content  to take that well-trodden path of conformity and tradition. That is another big  tragedy of  the Tarun Tejpal saga.

P.S ( In the atmosphere of collective outrage, any article out of step with the general mood can easily be misread.  Therefore I feel it necessary to dumb-down and clarify  that one is not condoning   Tejpal’s crime. He should  pay the price if he is found guilty. Tejpal is neither a friend nor foe. I have met him only twice. Once briefly at his house where I interviewed writer Allan Sealy and another time in Tehelka office when I interviewed him  for his first book ‘The Alchemy of Desire’.)

Tarun Tejpal with Sashi Tharoor at Jaipur Literature Festival 2013. Pic: Courtesy India Today

62 Responses to “Tarun Tejpal and The Story of his Assassins.”

  1. Ashish says:

    Sanjay, You always have a point of view and that is refreshing. You have once again voiced what is less heard. In a way, you have traveled a road littered with opposition to your point of view. That is courageous but then what really is your point?

    It is obviously easy to stand up in support of the girl who rightly deserves it. It seems to me that you’re not against that but seem to have trouble with the pillorying of a self made icon called Tarun Tejpal. Are you in some way condoning his act? Are you saying that since he was the envy of so many, he was a maverick, a dandy in hats and tweeds, he accomplished what so many aspired to but failed, let’s pardon him. While I’m not against his political leanings or his style of journalism, I don’t think the way he’s conducting himself currently can be condoned in any way. It would be an insult to one’s intellect to surrender to and accept the shenanigans he’s playing with politics and words.

    At best my question would be, what is the alternative to the attacks that are being leveled against him by the media? Should we sit and accept because he accomplished what so many of us can’t even dream of? Inadvertently, you might be implying a different set of rules for the haves & the have nots.


    • sanjay austa says:

      Hi Ashish,
      Thank you . Thanks for your comment. I am of course not saying that. He should face the law and pay for his crime of course. I am only focusing on how we react when a big man falls. Since even you have a question if this piece condone his act I have added a note to the post for less discerning readers. Thanks again.

      • nikita says:

        I really enjoyed the writing but didn’t agree with few lines there.

        This is NOT how we react when a “big” man fails this is how we react when rape is committed. In fact, just because he is “big”, this time there has been less noise as compared to the ‘nirbhaya’ case.

        There are few facts where one doesn’t need to think too much and read between the lines
        1) A crime is a crime.
        2) A person guilty of that crime is a criminal.
        3) Wanting criminal to be punished for his/her crime is not ‘Shadenfreude’ or sadism or voyeurism or malice.
        4) sympathy for the fallen who has a way with words which helped him trivialise his crime and convinced masses that it was just a mistake, is sad but understandable. Because we as humans empathise with less fortunate and are intimidated by the bold.

        • Karan says:

          Ummm…Don’t see how this compares to the Delhi case – that was brutal at another level. Not that I feel it should make the victim feel any less violated. As I can recall, that lady lost her life and was assaulted by a group of several people.

  2. Vir Rawlley says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    Very well expressed. Tarun Tejpal has done nothing out of the ordinary, despicable as it may seem to some. That the matter went public is surely “Schadenfreude”, and I wonder who of the 4 persons the girl copied her mail to Shoma, actually went viral with it ! If we as a society continue at this rate, women are not going to find any man ready for a relationship, let alone casual flirting. Gang rape in the Delhi bus, or even rape, is deplorable, and definitely on a much different level than what Tarun Tejpal did.

    I read the girls’ email (on the net), and she behave rather normally, getting about with her life, and smacking Tarun on the wrist (figuratively) in Goa, and later telling him his behaviour was not really mutual or fun. It is impossible that Tarun Tejpal was not ashamed in retrospect.

    I think we should allow two fine people to get on with their lives.

    Once again … good article !


    • sanjay austa says:

      Vir if you read the girl’s letter you will know it is a grave charge against Tarun. It can’t be brushed under the carpet as you are suggesting.

      • Vir Rawlley says:

        I agree Sanjay. Let us not brush it under the carpet, and at the same time figure out why she protested in the first place. Let us at least accept that Tarun Tejpal is not a sex starved amigo ! I would rather this all died down.

      • Vir Rawlley says:

        I wished to add to this fantastic participation on Sanjay’s admirable article, that I am in admiration of Shoma Chaudhry. She was in the really hot seat when the story first broke – the first wave of the Tsunami ! She faced the ire directed at Tarun Tejpal, and not even once did she let her friend down. That is loyalty, that is a friend. At the end of the day it does not matter who or what is right, these things change and even in this case are subject to interpretation and knowing the real story. What matters is who stood by you when the chips were down. How many comments we have seen on the net about people who were his buddies, kicking him in the gut and mocking him. Sanjay’s article highlighted this hypocrisy “Schadenfreude”. What of Tarun Tejpal breaking the law and being a criminal, seriously we use such big words. The fact is every human being on earth is a criminal, eg how many of us have jay-walked ? So hats off to Shoma Chaudhary 🙂

  3. Sanjay,

    The Tejpal’s assassins write up reminds me of the Shakespearean lines –

    “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

    True Tejpal brand of literature and journalism lies in tatters for the laws have criminalized lust and Tarun has become the passing comet, burning in his own fiery tale.

    • sanjay austa says:

      To complete that Shakespearean quote…
      “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with the bones”.
      :-). It kind of sums up the Tejpal tragedy.

  4. Vineet Chopra says:

    Sanjay, I hear you but I like to put a converse aspect on your viewpoint.

    Perhaps the reaction is because of the fall from grace of a man who’s whole persona was built on an avante-garde principle of leading his life and who knows maybe Schadenfreude, the very basis of your perspective, and I will confess even at the cost of sounding like a part of the very society you refer to in your article, but I don’t know him personally enough to make the 2nd one stand.

    When rest of them couldn’t emulate his triumphs, they secretly admired his principles. And now when he falls, perhaps they are trying to find their own principles vindicated.

    And perhaps such assassination of his persona is also to say, its better to live like todays’ society expects you to, rather than carry ideals and then in the end compromise them for worldly sins. And possible in this honest living your persona has much more longevity than the ones who get crucified like he did.

    Almost similar examples in recent times that come to my mind are of Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius.

    Let me also conclude by saying, the very side of human nature that your article touches upon is exactly the nature that has been on display by Tarun since the reporting of this episode and I would have been very surprised if the response to this whole incident had been any different than what is playing in the medias now – oddly by both, the people at large and the man in question. Such is the fabric of our society that we live-in today.


  5. Sonia Nihalani says:

    Excellent. Admire the objectivity of thought where it’s so easy to get swayed in favor of general n pedestrian opinions. Another thing that makes it so interesting is the psychological depth at which you’ve approached situation. Not easy for a writer to strike that chord of relatability in pieces like these that provide rather limited scope for it but your schadenfreude did it so beautifully.

  6. Raju Kane says:

    Dear Sanjay,

    We have never met. Neither have I met TT or SC. But I have been extremely disgusted with TT’s behaviour and Shoma’s attempts to cover up and have been active on social media about the issue. And no, it is not because of Schadenfreude or because of a sense of jealousy or something on his achievements.

    Allow me to explain why I feel this sense of outrage.

    I have spent over three decades in the media business, first half as a journalist and then as a PR person.

    I did my journalism the old school way; doing legwork, chasing documents, interviewing people on record and then coming up with stories. Some of these stories were good, a few very good, most pretty average. During that period, there were some incredible investigative work being done by a lot of reporters. But none of them did it the way Tarun and Tehelka did. Why?

    To explain that point, let me turn to what I always consider the finest piece of investigative journalism in Indian media history — Chitra Subramaniam’s work on Bofors. It frankly rivals anything in modern journalism history done anywhere in the world. Chitra was chasing a hugely complex story that the government of the day, along with several other vested interests were desperately trying to cover up. But she did not resort to offering bribes, sending call girls, using spy cams. She did it the hard way.

    Take Tarun and Tehelka on the other hand. Their most famous story, one that launched the brand had all these elements of entrapment. And what exactly did they prove? That our defense procurement process is corrupt and politicians will happily accept cash? Did this need any proving? I am sorry, but despite what everyone believes I think story was a piece of BS.

    The key difference in the whole thing was that Chitra’s painstaking work was like peeling the layers of an onion. Tarun’s caused a sensation. That is precisely what he wanted. After all, the website was called Tehelka — (Sensation in Hindi).

    The NDA government’s stupid overreaction to it was exactly what Tarun was looking for. He could now wear the garb of an “activist”; the David fighting the Goliath. Once you are the underdog, seeming to fight the good fight, and especially if you have the media savvy to exploit the attendant publicity — which Tarun obviously did — the pay offs are huge.

    You suddenly become the darling of the chattering classes, the touchstone for public morality and the conscience keeper of the nation. The other great advantage is that hardly anyone dares to criticize you for the fear of being branded an establishment stooge. So you can brazenly circumvent all the principles that you publicly proclaim to hold dear, and no one will protest.

    But I would frankly forgive even that. As a journalist, who covered many people’s movements, I have seen several so-called activists, using the media to cement their reputations.

    What I cannot and will excuse Tarun and Tehelka for is for making what someone has called “journalism of outrage” into a booming industry, in fact an industry norm. Today you open any news magazine or for that matter any newspaper and you hardly find meaningful journalism. I believe in India the only honourable exception (that I can think of) is Caravan magazine.

    Admittedly print media is facing a huge crisis today from TV and even more so from the web. But instead of working harder for their stories, being more rigourous, reporters and editors today take the easy way out and resort to journalism of outrage. I hold Tehelka’s brand of journalism responsible for this.

    To sum up, I have never been a fan of T&T. But I had kept silent all this while. My simple answer was to vote with my feet and not spend any money in buying media that serves up such BS. I did not think it merited any more action on my part.

    But doing what he is alleged to have done, and after all the mails that have been leaked, I personally have no doubt that he did what the journalist has accused him of, is something I find inexcusable at several levels.

    As I mentioned earlier, after my media stint, I turned to PR and for over a decade ran a moderate sized PR agency. A significant proportion of the employees were women. As the owner and CEO of the organization, I considered it my foremost duty to ensure that women felt safe and comfortable working there. Forget all the legalities, but anything less than that, and I would not have been able to look at myself in the mirror.
    For a man, who has made his career, nay his entire business by flogging his morality, to impose himself and violate his female colleague, overriding her protestations, to do it twice over two days, and then tell her that this is the easiest way to keep her job is beyond vile. And make no mistake, it is not an indiscretion or an affair we are talking about; for that would have been his personal problem, at worst that of his family. We are talking about sexual assault; if not rape according to the new definition of the law.

    It is my contention that TT would not have dared to do this, but for the fact that he felt that his persona as an “activist” and a crusader would protect him. It was this belief that was behind his puerile email claiming atonement, till leaked emails combined with the courage of the journalist blew the whole affair in his face.

    Admittedly there is a lynch mob mentality in the way the media has covered the story. But then it is sensational; causing a “Telhelka”. We need to remember Tarun played a large role in making this kind of journalism acceptable, nay popular. I am not going to lose too much sleep it now comes and bites him on the backside.

    • Vidya Heble says:

      Couldn’t have said it better, Raju. A lot of people get away with a lot of things, some illegal, behind the persona of being activists. It seems to have gone to his head comprehensively.

      • Ramit Mitra says:

        Raju you have put this superbly in perspective. You are bang on that the vitriol is more in TT’s case is precisely becuase he once made thsi kind of Journalism acceptable.

        Schadenfreude is not new, has happened for millennia…Its all about getting the chance to make fun, to ridicule publicly, especially as part of the herd…

        Sanjay I do not think supports TT but yes his piece has been well supplemented by what Raju Ji has written…

    • Tirthankar Banerjee says:

      Hi Raju,

      I have read most of the posts on this one. What I really like about this piece is the the point that you made on journalism being almost panned out like a marketing plan. I agree. Tehelka could be called the pioneer in genre of journalism in more than one way. This is also perhaps one of the key reasons why I moved out of the field some years back. It was too commercial in nature.

      Of course whether TT will be convicted or not on this particular case is something that will eventually come out (I wonder, if he did no wrong, why did he apologise? – I think that was where he severely went wrong, assuming that things would settle down.)

      But I earnestly hope that media will just be objective – ‘breaking news’ is just so broke, at least in terms of the kind of importance it has on the peoples’ minds today. Hyping is selling. Worse, taking sides blows the channels’ opinions to masses before they can even use their judgement. Opinion that arises out of an unbiased and objective report of the event is the only kind of journalism there is, else, it drives agenda. Then isn’t that, politics?

      How are journalists different? What is responsibility? Do they even take a silent oath of doing good these days? Or is it just ‘might’ that people in this profession are proving? Or are they just paid to prove ‘it’ for someone? (‘it’ could very well be a defined business / political agenda.)

      In this case, I can just see the calm of a perfectly working business plan being disturbed by a blow from the unseen. Often this happens when one assumes so much power that the one is blinded by it. And then this person says ‘sorry,’ that too because people are watching. Amusing, it is.

      ‘Is he a good guy?’ My common sense says ‘no’. But do I have faith in the judicial system? Yes. May the truth prevail.

    • Shantikumar Rao says:

      Very apt Raju. I think one reaps what one sows. TT had it coming, only he got caught in the act. There are Sexual assaults and rapes galore in the country but why is it that a big hue and cry is raised when the media is involved, be it perpetrators or victims. Why is nothing being done for those countless victims and against the perpetrators in scores of assaults and rapes happening with the poor and underprivileged in this country.
      We are failing as a nation to implement even the most basic idiotic laws that have been laid down by our moronic lawmakers.

    • Harish Nambiar says:

      Both Sanjay Austa’s blog you steered me to and your response are the two most judicious takes I’ve read so far.
      However, since both have you covered the primary ground, I offer TS Eliot’s lines regarding the way the media is changing in our transitionary times.
      “Between the idea

      And the reality

      Between the motion

      And the act

      Falls the Shadow”
      This morning I was pleasantly surprised by ToI carrying detailed reports of work done in the Tehelka way of sting operations and entrapments. It was the old hag of Bori bunder finally anointing this brand of journalism as also legit. In fact so legit as to be front paged.
      I had also put out my surprise on facebook as a new trend I noticed. Remember, when Cobrapost did their sting on private banks no major media carried it. Oddly enough, the regulator was forced to acknowledge and investigate.
      While I belong to the old school of waiting for nine months, usually in dank offices, for a story to reach fruition before the long wrangle with the legal department of the publication before and after, I am not as sure as you are that going back to the old ways of doing it is the best way.
      Technology is interest neutral. Bot the hunted and the hunter can avail of it. To that extent, I do not find fault with Tehelka or Gulail or Cobrapost.
      On the other hand, the means of doing it definitely draws the effort for “greater public good” seem less honourable when entrapment and setting up unknown, unsuspecting folks.
      I remember a TV story screaming “breaking news” “celebrating”? the 10th or 20th anniversary of the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Bombay showing a reporter catching a cop sleeping at a remote post in coastal Raigad, or carrying a crate of apples into the sea and landing back with it “without being checked or stopped by coast guard” as sensational outing of government lapses.
      That, to my mind, was a tasteless parody of something that traumatised our city and threw many generations of families out of gear.
      Negotiating and setting standards for the new form of journalism is the job of seniors in the force. Unfortunately, there, there have been too many slips between the lip and the cup.

    • Vikram says:

      Hi Raju,

      Really well said, what really put me off was the arrogance that TT displayed. It was despicable. Whatever he may have claimed to achieved at the end of the day he violated an employee and tried to get her to keep quiet about it. He deserves whatever humiliation is being heaped on him. He has to pay for his sins!!

    • M Verma says:

      I applaud you Mr Kane on your very incisive piece. I am not from either the media or literary world. But as a consumer of both I have been extremely disturbed by the yellow journalism practiced by Mr TT. That he had been pushing the agenda for one political party has been clear from day he broke the Westend story. Sadly in the last ten years politics has subsumed every other aspect of national life. That is why the distribution of tithe, title and rewards from the numero uno family in Delhi has become the way to arrive. And it is entirely true that Mr TT has been one of the prime beneficiaries of this patronage. In his effort to scramble for the goodies he has put to use all his cynicism, venality and power. Indian print and media journalism has changed its character completely post tehelka. And that is the crown of thorns that is the crowning glory of Mr TT. The present incident is only a symptom of the malaise that he suffers from.

  7. Subrato Mitra says:

    What we expect form a man who is bent to ridicule others, invade the privacy of many, record conversations without mutual consent to malign them, sometime finish them—to be honest, clean of any blame. Unfortunately for Tarun Tejpal, he failed miserably to match the standards he set for everyone else. Fortunately, he has friends like you.
    1. Tejpal is happy to sell 1% of his company Thriving Arts Pvt Ltd. to a well known Ponty Chadha for 20 million. The company is busy promoting a PRUFROCK, a members-only private club. I’m sure too must have received an exclusive invitation.
    2. Here is man who was buying his company’s shares at par on 14 June 2006. Around the same time his father, his mother, his wife, his brother and his friend were selling the same shares at a premium of Rs 13,189 per share. Strangely the company that bought these shares is untraceable today. Can you please explain?
    3. ‘Tahelka’ magazine hosted ThinkFest, 2011. When Tarun found it can be a great business, he formed ‘Thinkworks’ and without any consideration to his own magazine, which was making losses—transferred the entity to his new concern. Tahelka’s logo was used, its name was used, and its staff (editorial and others) worked free for the event in 2012 and 2013 without any knowledge. They all thought that they were working for the publication they are associated with. Tajpal and his associated coolly pocketed a profit of Rs. 1.99 Cr (2012).
    What a great person he is. He is not honest with his friends, his staff or people who trusted him.
    I never wish to have a friend or acquaintance like him.

  8. ashish says:

    The comments here have taken on a life of their own which is healthy for any intellectual pursuit. It is, however, strange though for some to feel that since this kind of thing happens all the time, it is nothing to scream about from your microphones. Ha..

    A lot of us in the English speaking, so called upper middle class society of this country seem to be celebrating this errant. Maybe because we have such few of them outside the Hindi speaking political world that when we find a polished, fedora wearing, tweed jacket sporting dandy, we quickly run to his rescue almost fearful of his extinction. Do we see ourselves manifest in Tarun Tejpal’s actions? Or is it just fashionable to have a viewpoint which is in the minority?

    What do you say to a man who admits to lapse of judgement and then describes the incident as a consensual liasion within 48 hours? Is this normal? Is not standing by his side at this time equal to celebrating an icon’s fall or should the case just be seen for its merits or maybe demerits?

    He is wrong.


    • Subrato Mitra says:

      Thank you.
      Yes, my dear Ashish, he is terribly wrong.
      A man who routinely compromise with his own declared principles for personal profit, can’t claim to be sitting on a pedestal.
      A man whose ‘investigating’ journalism means selectively targets a particular political ideology. An investigating magazine which in last nine years finds nothing wrong with any UPA scandals.
      A self-proclaimed editor who carefully developed his image as a crusader, but never shied to have seedy financial deals for his own financial benefit. Many more skeletons are bound to tremble out—I hope so.
      Now he is in a soup and many of his friends are crying from rooftops to save him in any way.
      Are we really living in a democray, where all of us are equal?

  9. Vidya Heble says:

    What I find craven is how his former friends and cronies are unabashedly kicking him when he is down. At least they could retain their own dignity and say “no comment”.

  10. Ram says:

    Very well written article. We live in a world, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and a social media over reaction. But i liked the way you have written. Fab, keep sharing your view points…..!!!

  11. Priyanka says:

    the article has written so wonderfully that anyone can get attuned to the issue. very interestingly expressed. two sides of a coin has been put together marvelously

  12. Thanks for writing this article. I keep thinking about it whenever I see a news channel. The same old people debating about the lastest gossip. Sometimes I feel, reporting is a glorified form of gossiping.

    People can spend hours explaining how others did something that is morally wrong, then using that time in a better way. They could have easily baked a nice chocolate cake in that time.

    We live in a society where ‘I am wise and you are an idiot.’

  13. sanjay austa says:

    Thanks for your comment Raju. It was much longer than my piece itself. 🙂 I agree with you on most things. However I am not in favor of declaring anyone a culprit before the courts do so.
    Sadly in the case of Tejpal he has already been declared a rapist by the media- social and mainstream. This borders on being dangerously irresponsible.

    In all of this you must remember everyone today is in a hurry to say the correct thing. In that hurry we often run roughshod over the truth. The correct thing and the truth are usually at odds with each other.

    The debate around Tarun Tejpal scandal sadly seems to be concerned only with what is correct. I feel to arrive at the truth one can’t just stop at just being correct.

    • ashish says:

      Sanjay, You just made a huge leap of faithlessness by saying what you just did.

      ” The correct thing and the truth are usually at odds with each other.”

      What I understand from this is that the correct thing is ‘to stand up for the woman’ BUT the truth is that ‘TT is innocent’.

      By suggesting that truth & correct thing are USUALLY at odds with each other, you are essentially sitting in judgement and declaring that you know the truth but others just know the correct thing.



      • sanjay austa says:

        Ashish.. it was for readers like you that I had to add the postscript. Kindly read that if you have trouble understanding the piece. As for my statement I stand by it. I know I will be misunderstood by some readers like you. But thats the risk I am willing to take. Thanks.

    • kafirfakir says:

      I am sorry. But I disagree with you. Outrage, in this country, has been used for a number of reasons — to assert religious faiths, social beliefs, political alignments, enforce pseudo patriotism, to make a bonfire of books, burn film posters, ban movies, vandalise public property, ban ideas, murder, riot. And ‘people like you’, a term you carelessly used in response to one of the comments, choose to criticise one time, one of the very few times, when the outrage is truely warranted — collective or in an individual capacity.

      Your criticism may have probably stemmed out of disgust with some shameful media reports, but then you surprisingly chose to digress into telling a majority that is truely shocked and disillusioned by the entire episode that it’s more to do with their need to conform.

      Your concerns about the girl’s well being and how some media houses have been shockingly irresponsible is right. But Tarun Tejpal deserves nothing but outrage and contempt for abusing the faith of the woman, his colleagues, the institution and people. Let the court decide is a fair request, but nobody in this lynch-mob is asking for his head any way. We are just happy bringing him back to earth from the stratosphere, shame him enough that others like him know that it is not going to be merely recusing themselves, getting bail, serving a few years in prison (in case the guilt is proven) after 5 years of court harrassment for the victim and his family.

      The outrage is in response to the impunity with which he recused himself. Without this outrage, he would’ve been sitting with his miner friends in Goa, sipping mai-tais in six months of paid leave.

      To sum it up, you are entitled to an opinion. And chances are that it is both correct and truthful. But there are some times when one should rather shut up than speak. I don’t think we just like to conform. I think we also inherently want to stand out, be out of step. Say something which is different. Get noticed, appreciated.

      So do I disagree with your article? Probably not. Do I believe that it was unnecessary and a mere by-product of a misplaced urge to be out of step? Yes.

  14. indian men says:

    what is deeply disturbing after this incident is not that we are a lynch mob (which i think we certainly are in this case) but how many of the so called “cool delhi men” (not women) who sympathises with TT. may i dare suggest they can see themselves in TT’s image. i know a guy who was accused of spiking his female friend’s drinks who is, not unlike this post, supporting TT on Fb… and like you has added a disclaimer in the end saying “but i do not support what happened”. i think it is deeply problematic that a crime as serious as his is, frankly, not seen as a serious one by many indian men, in spite of the convenient disclaimer above. at this point, this kind of an article is shameful in the least, especially considering the recent history of rape and the ensuing outrage in india. if you are an indian man. i am not surprised. it is precisely this attitude that has allowed our society to condone harassing women and pass them off as a fleeting mistake. i really think you should sit tight and wait to let TT have some support from women instead. we, on the other hand, are well tired of the double standards of ‘cool indian men’ and not unhappy that one is now having to pay for his.

  15. Anshuman says:

    Hi Sanjay,

    A very commendable and timely feature. The merits of the argument apart, it’s important for the media to present all sides of the argument.
    I have been having these suspicions even in the inordinate villain-ization of Vijay Mallya for some time, even when the fact is that airlines has always been one of the toughest industries to run, and seen many bankruptcies and bailouts across the globe. The man, I felt, was targeted for his open, even defiant, glamour, and not his lack of business acumen.
    In this case, I’m still not sore how ill-justified the attack is, reading about Tarun’s arrogant attitude towards women and power-broking ambitions, but welcome this article wholly.


  16. Sagar says:

    Schadenfreude to commiseration within a week’s time, just like Tarun’s atonement, laceration to dubious attack on the girl’s motive and character. This essay mirrors TT’s strategy.

    A week ago there were only three TT loyalists visible – Rahul Singh, Sanjoy Roy and Vinod Mehta. Now others like you are getting courage to sympathize and ‘speaking up’ in his support.

    Worry not, it may be end of Tehelka as we knew it, but definitely not for TT, even if he gets convicted. He will be offered multi-crore advance for his next novel, which he will pen inside (or outside) jails. And who knows, he may even win a Booker. There is no dispute about his talent.

    You talk about ‘schadenfreude’ as though it is absolute and homogeneous. It isn’t.

    • There is visible pleasure borne out of jealousy from his former colleagues and many journalists; because TT achieved so much which they didn’t. They need not worry. TT had the X-factor which is much more than talent. He is an entrepreneur.

    • BJP is happy not only because it’s sweet retribution but also for its perfect timing, which they see as currency for electoral gain.

    • For Modi and his strategists, it’s a godsend blessing to fight serious trouble of snooggate they are facing.

    • Biggest loser is Congress which is obviously TT’s chief patron and beneficiary.
    They not only lost year’s of nurturing of their intellectual propaganda tool, they also lost through their association and defense of TT at an ill-fated time.

    • For many idealists and genuine liberals who idolized TT as champion of progressive values it is a body blow – now that the sanctimonious facade has fallen and what they see is ugly. Shock to disbelief to cynicism to hatred will follow in quick succession.

    • Many ordinary readers like me who disapproved TT’s tactics to cook up ‘stories’ with entrapment using decoy agents and call girls to justify his brand of investigative journalism will feel happy. End can’t justify means in journalism and in anything.

    • For the lynch-mobs, voyeurs, perverts, vitriolic journos, and any expression you may choose to use, it is an enjoyable schadenfreude and perfectly justified. Those who set high moral ground for others but don’t follow it themselves don’t deserve any sympathy. Tehelka was just that – a dishonest pretender.

    What has happened is perfect irony. The message is very clear: those who willfully dig graves for others to gain stature, power and money run the risk of falling in it. Sympathizers will remain bystanders.


  17. Adrak says:

    Schadenfreude is exactly what I feel. Tehelka published a deeply damaging and entirely false article about an organisation known to me, with facts that were blatantly untrue in spite of having been provided all proper answers.

    Yes, Schadenfreude is exactly what I feel. I hope the magazine shuts down.

  18. jagat says:

    So, should the ‘Schadenfreude’ Principle apply to the likes of Asaram Bapu too? Or are we going to be selective here?

    • sanjay austa says:

      Jagat the piece talks about ‘Schadenfreude’ of journalists. Tarun was a successful writer, journalist, publisher and every hack running him down today for his ‘past sins’ aspired to be like him. Everyone with half a brain knew Asaram was a illiterate con-man. So Its not the same thing.

  19. Bela says:

    It’s amusing to see people read the piece in the way that suits them – the supporters and the detractors. It is very evident what the writer is trying to say – he is talking about human psychology – not condemning or supporting Tejpal … But we must view it as another piece that supports our reading of the situation.

    Another man falls. Deja vu.

    Schadenfreude is the flip side of the coin of instant adoration that people shower on a rising star. There is something indecent about that too. The way people rush in to appropriate him/her, either for personal gain, to be with it, or to belong to the collective zeal for a hero … without always assessing the worth of what the person stands for.

    Its a mob that makes a star and its a mob that kicks one down.

    Tejpal is completely in the wrong – what was he thinking?? – and I hope that he is fairly tried for the charges against him.

    But this piece is not about that. Its about looking into ourselves and assessing our own reactions to public trials of famous people.

  20. sanjay austa says:

    Thank you Bela.. i couldn’t have said better ..

  21. Neeta kolhatkar says:

    More strength to you & may more such bring a sane thought…question a lot more deeper issues. We are hypocrites, sadly …

    Yeah so many more before Mr Tejpal, still after him indulging & all shoved under the carpet.

    Thanks I learnt one new word (sincere thanks)

  22. Sharmila says:

    Sanjay Austa, well written and refreshingly different perspective of what is turning out to be a lynch mob of a media circus. And clown bullies like arnab goswami shouting down any dissenting voice (read in support of giving the accused a fair voice and trial). Tarun Tejpal has no doubt misbehaved grossly with the woman concerned but who has leaked out private mails, especially one on one emails with the lady in question? At the very least we can wait till all evidence is collected before pronouncing a judgement and baying for his blood. And thank you Raju Kane for lovely, wise, and thoughtful response. Enjoyed reading both your perspectives.

  23. Saleem Ansari says:

    Refreshing. There is an Arab proverb that says, “A falling camel attracts many knives.”

  24. siddharth trivedi says:

    those people who made a star out of an ordinary journalist,have all the right to be happy at his downfall.The same journalists helped him in inventing his so called image of a crusader of truth and justice,when in reality he was no more than a joker with a spycam.

  25. nehag says:

    I don’t agree with this article and some of the comments, which in their compliments seem to be raising some invalid points.

    This brand of ‘journalism of outrage’ or tehelka-esque journalism, that Mr. Kane mentioned, can well be argued as good or bad or better. For me, how this story has been covered has at the very least, brought forward an issue worth becoming aware of, that is, sexual harassment in the workplace. Perhaps a lot of women who have been going through varying levels of such abuse in their own lives will become slightly less fearful of their perpetrators, and for me, that’s something worth doing!

    A lot of people come back to Nirbhaya’s case. Unfortunately it has become like the “maximum level” on our Indian barometer of ‘abused women’. Anyhow, was there not a verdict passed by the media and by all of us, during this case much before the courts verdict this September? Was that more acceptable to a lot of you simply because the men in question were not part of your society? We need to stop comparing cases of abuse and much worse choosing between which suits us and doesn’t come all too close to our own lives. While Schadenfreude is truly a fancy word, I’m pretty certain that Tejpal’s crime (for that is what it is because he and the woman in question have both acknowledged it as so) will not make me “feel better about my own sorry life”.

    If we must pick a word, I’d go with “trivialize”. So a bunch of Tejpal’s so called friends didn’t stand up for him, and I should care about that because? Why must I wonder what kind of relationship Tejpal had with his friends and foes? That’s office politics- Tejpal a man who was enviable amongst his brand of people for the power he had, finally falls from glory, and a mob of bitter people choose to be his opposition, and….? yes? We shouldn’t hurt Tejpal’s feelings and make him feel singled out?

    His crime, was an abuse of power. Much like all cases of sexual abuse. THAT should be the focus rather than going on about how Tejpal is so much more if we ignore the elephant in the room. Of-course Tejpal isn’t the only one, but that’s not to say that we must sympathize for he is the first to be brought out in the open. By all means, all should wait for the verdict, but as a democracy you, me and anyone else can in a never-ending sort of way, go on with our own opinion.

    It irks me that you actually think that people’s outrage is conformity, and while that doesn’t literally translate to you condoning the crime, the fact that your focus is on the bitter intentions of people because Tejpal is so cool like that, is as if your in support of the fellow. You don’t need to “dumb-down” anything because what you are saying is that the people who are expressing disgust over the Tejpal issue are doing this because it’s the safer thing to do. Honestly, if people are supporting the right cause out of the fear of being left out, eventually their embarrassment may have them question their own intentions during their own daily lives. Isn’t that a step in the right direction?

    A kind of verdict has certainly already been passed through the media and through all of us, but, looking at it from a bit of a distance, isn’t all this frenzy a good thing, when women in our society are genuinely made to fit into patriarchal structures and systems?

  26. shibani says:

    well said! schadenfreude is definitely happening. it’s pretty human.

    His attempt to recuse himself was damn funny though 😀

    • Vir Rawlley says:

      Well the Tejpal wave is over, now it is the BJP and Congress prodding the AAP to walk the plank chained, even though the two bunnies could go it together 🙂

  27. One of the better pieces in terms of perspective of what happened. Also, you are on target about how the conformists admire a maverick. And, for the same reason, hate him, too.

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