Sunday, July 22, 2018

Devil's Advocate : The Untold Story - Book Review


A well-written memoir is often the golden key to understanding the mind and idiosyncrasies of a public figure, especially one who has been observable for decades now. Karan Thapar, is one of my favourite interviewers, and for good measure. An ideal interviewer must be able to engage the interviewee enough to elicit a response that contributes to the central idea that the question sought to address. With his soft yet stern questioning, which more often than not is backed by concrete facts, and deeply logical assumptions and theories, Karan has managed to strike the perfect balance that this niche skill requires. The Devil’s Advocateoffers a unique insight into how this balance developed, and interestingly also comments on the development of India’s polity in the effable yet subtle style that is sui generis to Karan.

The book is peppered with anecdotes and incidents from Karan’s life which are so visibly reflected in his approach towards journalism today. For instance, he writes about one of his first bosses at in the television broadcasting field, John Birt, and the basic tenets of interviewing that John taught him, which are evident in his manner to this date. A couple of weeks ago, Karan interviewed Nitin Gadkari, and it is pleasing and yet astonishing to see Karan follow the same pattern of interviewing that he first learnt back in the 1970s.

Gently, Karan also chose to drop in sly comments that reflect on the scenario of India’s politics today. The line (mentioned in context of the timing of when Indian politicians choose to give interviews), “When in trouble, they become invisible” spoke volumes beyond the context he mentioned it in, which in beautiful fashion builds slowly throughout the book and weaves into a broader commentary on the congeniality that underlies the world of journalism, policy, diplomacy and politics that he transverses through.

Another beautiful issue the book brings out is the jovial and almost familial manner in which Indian politicians function, across the spectrum. In more ways than not, these stories are a prophetic warning to the increasingly divisive form of politics that are practised in our country, and perhaps a sounding board to many.

The book, I believe, goes beyond being a narration, and could possibly have been an exercise in self-reflection. He speaks about his equations with popular personalities, and in typical fashion, builds their principled stances, points out their hypocrisy or the non-reflective nature of their actions, and goes on to question them on the same. Albeit the people concerned are proffered no opportunity to reply, that burden in itself, is an unfair one. An average reader unaware of Karan’s profession, notwithstanding the numerous references in the book, will have no trouble believing that the book came from the mind of an inquisitive journalist.

It is always interesting to trace the foundations of a strong poplar to its roots, and the biases of a self-narrative reflection aside, this memoir lives up to its expectations, offers vivid tales that assign new traits to revaluate some of the important personalities in our subcontinent, and makes for a light yet invigorating read.


You can buy the book on Flipkart and Amazon India

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Day 3 - of days that go by

I have felt this incessant need to take away something or the other from every macro action I can imagine in life. Play a game, take something from it, apply it to "better" life. The idea of self-enrichment appeals a lot to me, and is something that constantly drives me. That's why days that are just...insignificant, bother me. Well, bother won't be the correct term, but rather leave me queasy. Uncomfortable maybe. Takes away a particular sense of purpose. But it is in times like these that I like to remind myself that it is unfair to judge a day in isolation, because that's not who we are, and that's not what life is. We are products of our life experiences, and each one of them counts just as much as the other. We'll always be way too close to the picture to see the actual, larger image, and by the time we do, it would be too late to go back in time and fix the incorrigible treatment our so-called insignificant actions got. Perhaps a better way to look at it is to assign notional value to things until you can actually assign it one. But isn't that a way of beating the system, and treating just the symptom and not the cause? Thoughts on this?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Day 2 - The Purple Giraffe

I have recently begun another rerun of my favourite television show, How I Met Your Mother. That show is the reason why I am, who I am. Sometimes I think I am outgrowing it, and that's when I watch an episode, smile and realise that I never will. Regardless, one of the episodes (Season 1, Episode 2) is titled the Purple Giraffe and deals with a situation where Ted is trying to woo Robin, and the title is a metaphor from a situation that happens on the episode wherein a kid who is playing on a claw-crane, and on being unable to win a desired Purple Giraffe, the kid climbs in through the vent of the machine to get it.

Isn't that what all of us are looking for in life? The Purple Giraffe? I don't necessarily mean this in the romantic sense. Sure, that too, but isn't that what we want? Inspiration, professional or personal, that drives us to absolutely insane limits to achieve it. Personally, I believe all of us have some purpose in life. It doesn't mean we have a purpose, but just some purpose that drives us. It can't be singular, because honestly, we are not the same person at any given instant. We are evolving creatures, who adapt, absorb and evolve, particularly using the world around us. In this transitionary human life, it is definitely possible to have multiple goals or purposes, but I think it is a simply human instinct to work towards one. The argument I want to press forward is that given this melee of thoughts and emotions everyone experiences, it is enthralling when you discover your current purpose, as the satisfaction that fills you when you achieve it, or even are able to work towards it, is in itself, what life is really about.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Day 1 - Love without a lover

So as part of my resolutions for 2018, I have decided that I shall be writing something everyday, a minimum of 200 words. I've become quite lazy when it comes to writing in the past few years, and I figured this would kick me into action. I think that's enough of an introduction, and I'll jump directly to what I wanted to write.

I have been experiencing a very strange feeling ever since 2018 kicked in. Have you ever felt that you're in love with being in love, without being in love with someone. Perhaps that's what craving for companionship means. To be honest, I don't even know what this is. It definitely is not lust, not in its entirety. It's not me falling for someone, and experiencing a bloom of feelings. It's having feelings of a romantic kind, towards someone. Now who that person is, I don't know, I genuinely don't. What bothers me is that I don't know what to make of this. Should I be proud? Proud of the fact that I can successfully experience a surge of positive emotions without necessarily aiming them towards a particular person? Should I be sad and miserable about the fact that I literally do not have a romantic interest to share this with? Should I be terrified of the person I'm becoming? After all, it is a dangerous ability this, to experience love at one's desire and choosing, one with tremendous potential for misuse, and with an almost insatiable ability to cause emotional hurt to oneself, and others.

As I end this, I would like to believe that there is someone out there, who is feeling exactly this, and is obsessing over what she's going through. That thought brings a broad smile to my face.