The elevator implosion of Tarun J. Tejpal and the plight of Tehelka as a result have been discussed ad nauseam after the first emails were leaked on 20 November.
But the commentary, outrage and sympathy have come from the usual set of bold-face colleagues, rivals, friends, socialites, feminists and lawyers, among others.
But how is a scandal like this viewed in smalltown India?
K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, dips into his reading to offer a mythological perspective.
By K.B. GANAPATHY
In a city, on the banks of the sacred Ganga, called Makandika, there lived a Sadhu. He was well-known for his seeming simplicity and piety.
He had taken a vow of silence and lived wholly on alms.
He lived inside the precincts of a temple and often seemed in a state of samadhi (trance). Visitors to the temple were impressed and revered him.
Whenever he felt hungry, he would walk the streets of the town to beg.
On a particular day, he went to a rich merchant’s house and stood in front of the door silently because he was under a vow of silence about which people in the City knew.
The merchant was taking bath.
His beautiful unmarried daughter saw the Sadhu.
In keeping with the tradition of giving to the less fortunate and the holy persons, she came with a measure of rice to give to the Sadhu.
At the sight of the beautiful daughter of the merchant with her perfectly moulded breasts, her slender but not too angular hips, her graceful movements and her lustrous smile and sensuous eyes, the Sadhu was overwhelmed with desire for her.
As she poured the rice into his begging-bowl, he forgot his sacred vow of silence and let forth a groaning sound from his lips: “Oh no, oh no, oh yes, oh no…”
The merchant, who heard the Sadhu groan, looked out through the window only to see the Sadhu walking away in haste, moaning and groaning.
The merchant was disturbed.
Such a sacred person leaving his house with such seemingly hurt feeling! He rushed to the temple post-haste and begged the Sadhu to tell him the cause for the agonising sounds from his lips.
The Sadhu remained motionless and the merchant thought he would not speak, continuing with his vow of silence. But the Sadhu spoke — in a feeble, disembodied voice: “I was distressed at your house as I suddenly saw into the future. That beautiful daughter of yours carries a curse. When she marries, you and your wife, your sons and other daughters will all die”.
“What do I do?” asked a distraught merchant in great anxiety.
“There is only one solution,” said the Sadhu. “Put your daughter in a basket, close the lid and set her adrift in the Holy Ganga. However, tie a lamp to the basket and tether it to the bank of the river with a rope.”
Unquestioning piety has its dangers.
The merchant carried out the Sadhu’s instruction at night to the letter by doping his daughter, without telling anyone in the house.
As the basket with merchant’s daughter was wobbling in the water like a buoy, the Sadhu put his own plan into action. He called his two disciples and asked them to go to Ganga, look for the basket with a light and bring it to him without opening the lid, no matter what.
However, before the disciples could reach the Ganga and sight the basket, a local Prince who had gone to the Ganga for bathing, saw the basket, took it to his Palace and on opening the lid, was overwhelmed looking at a sleeping beauty.
When she opened her eyes, her peerless beauty mesmerised the Prince instantaneously and she too was immensely pleased and overjoyed to see a handsome Prince by her side.
They get married.
The Prince then orders his soldiers to put a monkey in that basket and leave it in the place where he had found it.
At last the Sadhu’s disciples sight the basket, carry it dutifully, despite the jumping noisy animal inside and place it before the Sadhu who by then had become impatient and even a bit angry too towards his disciples whom he asked to leave the place and leave him alone.
By now, the monkey was exhausted trying to escape and was quiet.
Alone in the shadowy darkness behind the temple, the Sadhu prepared to open the basket with pent-up passion and lust. His body chemistry changed awakening the coiled serpent all set to strike at the merchant’s beautiful, nubile daughter!
But when he opened the lid of the basket he was horrified to see a bony, hairy hideous monkey that sprang and attacked him furiously.
It was as if his own vile lust had jumped out of the basket, to punish and sear him for the rest of his life.
Like it was to Tarun J. Tejpal, the founder and editor of Tehelka, where his own vile lust had jumped out of the lift, to punish and sear him for the rest of his life — no matter he is acquitted or not.
However, fate may have a different plan for both — the victim and the tormentor. The victim of sexual harassment and rape (now under the new, amended law after Nirbhaya’s rape and death in Delhi), a junior journalist of Tehelka, if not married, may find her prince charming in time, but I am optimistic of a bright future for Tarun Tejpal as well, knowing my country, its political leaders and pseudo-intellectuals.
Public memory is short.
You can kill innocent Sikhs or you can kill innocent Muslims. You may utter a belated sorry when the day of reckoning comes during the election or use some subterfuge and indulge in rigmarole to soothe the seared souls of the survivors of these pogroms. And the perpetrators of the evil are again seen ruling us!
In a similar manner, who knows, the stigma and painful pecking at his once glorious persona may make him even more successful.
What could be the theoretical cause for Tarun Tejpal’s present predicament and plight suffering the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” to quote Shakespeare in Hamlet.
Aroon Purie, the editor-in-chief of India Today explains it this way: “It is the ‘God’ complex which I have seen in so many successful men. They reach such heights of success that they live in their own world and think the normal rules of social behaviour do not apply to them, neither do the laws of the land.”
Many of the stakeholders in his mushroom companies numbering about eight, are all suspect. There seems to be reasons for this, which only an IT or ED department can unravel.
We find his business empire stinking and also sinking as we access internet. DLF and 2G Spectrum of Unitech, with names of Robert Vadra floating around, do give us a murky picture of his activities — a kind of Tughlaq Durbar.
When at parties, it was ‘who is who’ of Page-3.
I was reading a book titled ‘Tales’, a collection of stories by Acharya Ratnananda. Let me re-tell the story before taking leave.
There lived a proud but benevolent King.
One day he called his Prime Minister and said, “Mr Prime Minister, there is a misgiving in my mind that worries me and it is this: As you know, all of us in this creation have some definite work to do. A King rules, a soldier fights in war, a trader trades, a teacher teaches, a preacher preaches, a mason builds, though as people they do other things also. This is law of the nature. Likewise, even the creator, God, should have a job to do. What is that? I would like to know.”
The Prime Minister, unable to answer, suggested that since the question borders on spiritual and metaphysical studies, it be put to the Bishop. Accordingly, the Bishop was called before the King. The King repeated the question.
The Bishop did not know the answer but sought time for fear of punishment.
Next day, the shepherd boy of the Bishop saw his master worried and silent. “What troubles you, Master?” the shepherd boy asked. The Bishop dismissed him in the beginning but later relented and told him the King’s question, “What is God’s work?”
The boy told the Bishop that he knew the answer but would reveal it only before the King personally. Helpless, the Bishop took the boy to the King and said, “This shepherd boy would answer your question. Please ask him the question.”
The benevolent King, though seemed offended at the audacity of the Bishop, all the same, agreed to the suggestion and repeated the question.
The shepherd-boy heard the question and said that it was a very simple question but since the person asking the question becomes a Shishya, a disciple, and the person giving the answer becomes the Guru, a Master, the Guru should go up and occupy the throne and the disciple must come down and sit on the floor, which is the protocol.
The benevolent King accepts the proposition and vacates the throne which the shepherd-boy immediately occupies.
“Come on, give me the answer. What is God’s work?” The King was in a hurry and impatient.
The shepherd boy said in great aplomb: “Here is my answer. What is God’s work? Well, God’s work is to push down the Haughty and push up the Humble. The God’s work is seen right now here.”
To return to Tarun Tejpal, God seems to be working overtime to cut him to size and put him in his place. For now the Police lock-up in Goa is his place!
Tarun Tejpal and his cronies, always busy partying with social celebrities and political honchos, must have raised their cut-glasses of joy year-round and clinked them in toast to the chorus: “Cheers, let us screw India.”
This kind of non-patriotic cheering must have stopped since Tejpal’s arrest. So be it. And who has the last laugh? BJP!
(A longer version of this piece appeared on two consecutive days in Star of Mysore)
Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal steps aside as editor of Tehelka
Life yourselves up, dearie, or get into my elevator
POLL: Is sexual harassment rampant in Indian media?
Online petition to protect Tehelka journalist’s privacy
‘Tarun Tejpal was trapped in a skin not his own’
Tarun Tejpal: Fear and self-loathing in Goa
Aroon Purie and Vinod Mehta on Tarun Tejpal
Tarun Tejpal, Manish Tewari and relief at PBC
Tarun Tejpal on the five facets of his life
How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka
A magazine, a scam, a owner & his Goan house
NYT, WSJ weigh on Tehelka‘s Goa controversy
Brilliant. It leaves me speechless.
Only want to comment on blind belief of the author about Aroon Purie’s quote “It is the ‘God’ complex which I have seen in so many successful men. They reach such heights of success that they live in their own world and think the normal rules of social behaviour do not apply to them, neither do the laws of the land.”
The author is not aware of how Purie himself is such a guy with a God complex and even encourages similar guys to rise fast and high in his India Today conglomerate. In the recent past, He has brought back a person who was forced to leave a few years because of sexual harrassment cases against him in Aaj Tak. This fellow on coming back at a higher post continued with his uncouth behaviour with female journalists in Aaj Tak and what has Purie done so far? Purie has looked the other way (even when a senior female editor complained openly to him and had to undergo only harsh treatment from India Today group as a result) and even promoted this guy to the top-most post at Aaj Tak.