Readers respond

How intellectual debate has given way to bilious invective.

Written by FAHAD SAMAR | Updated: May 9, 2014 6:45:46 pm

One of the perks of writing a column for a widely respected newspaper is the response that one receives from readers around the globe. It is gratifying when someone from Mathura or Madrid writes in, appreciating the opinions that one has expressed.Occasionally, a reader will disagree with your point of view but it is heartening, nevertheless, that a healthy exchange of ideas has been engendered.

Readers have rejoined on various issues that I have raised on subjects ranging from religious conversion, water pollution, domestic violence and alcoholism to more frothy topics such as high society shenanigans and fashion show foibles.

Some enterprising readers, who have noted that I also make films, have emailed me their portfolios and resumes, insisting that I cast them in my forthcoming productions. After perusing their photos, I respond politely, wholeheartedly encouraging them to pursue their dreams whilst never, ever giving up their  day jobs.

Apart from reader responses, I have also been at the receiving end of some rather peculiar emails at the address that appears at the end of this piece.  Oblivious to the fact that I was lampooning the numerous fashion weeks held across India, some naive PR girl recently read my column on the subject and decided to inundate me with press releases about her dubious designer clients. It was only after two terse emails and one brusque phone call that she finally  desisted from flooding  my inbox.

Several dealers of penis enlargement pills have also been gracious enough to write in offering to sell me their wares.  For some inexplicable reason I have been repeatedly winning millions of dollars in lottery sweepstakes that I can’t remember entering in the first place.  It seems that my writing is read by some of the wealthiest widows in the world who are anxious to enlist my support in releasing vast sums that their late husbands had stashed into Swiss bank vaults. It gladdens my heart that the bereaved wives of such upstanding despots as Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein, have selected me, a mere writer, as their emissary. I, however, refuse to deposit money into their overseas accounts before they can retire me in riches. I recently read of a senior police officer and an income tax official that actually succumbed to these scams famously perpetrated by Nigerian fraudsters. These gents parted with a substantial amount of their own cash in the hope of reaping a financial bonanza.

So, no, thanks, I don’t want to become a billionaire overnight. A well-intentioned reader response is sometimes reward enough. Unfortunately, some of my fellow columnists suffer a fate far worse than I. They are often pilloried in social media for expressing an opinion contrary to that of an overzealous reader.  Be they Rightist, Leftist or completely off centre, homosexual, homophobe, pseudo-sickular or fanatic nutter, it seems that no columnist today is exempt from the vitriol spewed by rabid readers. We are equally tarred and feathered by online trolls regardless of our political or religious leanings. The anonymity of the ethernet emboldens people to launch the filthiest of personal attacks on public figures. Intellectual debate has given way to bilious invective. Truly, a sad testament to these intolerant times.

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