Friday, January 30, 2009

Fan letter

Dear Barkha,

I doubt you will remember me -- in fact I don't think we have ever spoken -- but we overlapped for a year at an elite undergraduate institution in Delhi. I have watched your subsequent career with some interest. Not directly, I'm afraid: I rarely ever watch TV, and we disconnected ours a few months ago, before your widely-discussed coverage of the Mumbai attacks. Nevertheless, it was nice to see, via second-hand reports, your emergence as one of the leading figures in Indian journalism.

But I have managed to catch you second-hand now and then. Most recently, TR posted a clip of you interviewing Sanjana Kapoor during the Mumbai attacks. From your introductory remarks, I learned much that was new to me:

  • Wasabi was burning.
  • Wasabi was in the Taj.
  • It was a Japanese restaurant, in the Taj.
  • It was so good that they opened a branch in Delhi.
  • You couldn't actually see it on the screen, but it was in the Taj, right behind you.
  • It was burning.
  • Oh my god.

Clearly I have missed a culinary experience in never having dined at Wasabi. (I did idly wonder why a restaurant would be named after horseradish paste, the most toxic culinary substance concocted by humanity. Or is it the second-most toxic? I wonder if I can hope to dine at Taj Connemara, here, at a future restaurant called "Blowfish testicles." But I digress.)

Anyway, the main criticism that I saw everywhere was that your coverage of the movements of the police, army, commandos and others was aiding the enemy. So I was happy to see this morning that you are finally taking on the enemy. An enemy, furthermore, that nobody had previously identified: one Mr Chyetanya Kunte, a blogger. He apparently made critical statements of NDTV, and, particularly, of you. The nerve. You discussed freedom and civil liberties with Ms Kapoor in the interview above. But how are you to defend our freedoms when people are criticising you all over the place?

The nerve. The guy has probably never even eaten at Wasabi.

Keep going. I will keep an eye on your future career with considerable anticipation. Not directly -- as I observed above, we have disconnected our TV -- but I am sure you will continue to make more news than you report.


Rahul Siddharthan


Szerelem said...

Dear Lord Rahul - next she will be suing you.

I was rather sad to see the unconditional apology on Mr. Kunte's blog though.

Tabula Rasa said...

heh! i was wondering when you'd get around to this :-D

Rahul Siddharthan said...

szerelem, TR -- well unless Ms Dutt spends the entire week scouring the net for posts about her, I doubt she'll read this one. The blogosphere seems to have exploded over this issue.

I agree with Prem Panicker that some of Kunte's comments were possibly libelious, unless he can prove them which he probably can't. But NDTV has made a huge mistake by attracting attention to them -- because they probably can't disprove the allegations either. See for example this comment by "Army Officer" on the Kargil allegations.

Anonymous said...


It would be an interesting legal question about libel. By American legal standards, Barkha is on a weak wicket as she will have to prove actual malice since she is a public figure--the standards are different for public figures and private individuals. By British standards though, she might be on a stronger legal wicket.

But she herself has called Narandra Modi a mass murderer--much as one may detest Mr Modi, that charge has not been proven anywhere. If Modi was to sue Dutt (He won't, he is too crafty for that), Dutt would cry freedom of speech in her defense and we would all probably support her on principle.

Agree with the gist of your post though: No one even remembered the post; now everyone knows what Kunte exactly wrote.

Anonymous said...

I really hope Barkha reads this. Maybe you should just mail the link to her sometime.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Rohit - as I understand it, in the US the person suing someone for libel has to prove his innocence, while in the UK the person being sued has to prove the original charge. See for example this article. Since going to courts can be expensive, and losing even more so, the mere threat of libel litigation can be enough to squelch free speech in the UK. I am not sure about India; I suspect it is more like UK law, but, either because people don't think it worthwhile or because our courts are so slow or because there are more direct ways to threaten people, libel cases (or even threats of such cases) are not so common.

Anonymous said...


That is broadly correct. As far as India is concerned, according to a lawyer friend of mine, it was British law before early 1990's when Justice Jeevan Reddy of Supreme Court wrote a judgment which was much closer to American law than British. No one seems to be sure what's the operative principle right now is.

But of course, who would want to make the rounds of the legal system against a media company which would surely have lawyers on retainers.

Princess Fiona said...

good one..i esp loved the part abt blowfish testicles!!! lol!

km said...

"wasabi was burning".