November 25, 2013 4:51:55 am
In between all the details of the alleged assault and the hate messages on Twitter,a journalist posted a moving and thought provoking account of his 20-year-old friendship with disgraced editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal. It read more like a eulogy but he recalled a man who was great company,a thoughtful editor who took on governments,undeterred that his magazine Tehelka has always remained on the fringe,largely ignored by readers. Tejpals one act of colossal stupidity (that we know of) has given journalists with far less skill and gumption (like me) the right to judge him. And like the outraged Twitter lynchmob,we do. Which brings us back to his friends anguished post,what makes people you think you knew change so completely and can a friendship continue after an incident like this?
The gravity of this alleged crime requires the answer to be a resounding no. But a close friendship can resemble a romance with ups and downs,sometimes solid and occasionally frayed. There is betrayal and anger and sometimes the only option is to break up. Its not so easy to dump a pal immediately even if you are stunned at what hes done. A situation can seem so black and white when youre an outsider and so incredibly confusing when youre on the inside. You may have strong principles but struggle with ending a relationship because of an incident that doesnt actually involve you. People were horrified when the wonderful Sanjoy Roy of Teamwork Films appeared on TV to present Tejpals version of events but he was only doing what a good friend does,stick around when things go horribly wrong. Its interesting to note that most,but not everybody has forsaken him.
People fall out all the time. Friendships dissolve because of nothing profound,just a gradual drifting apart. A few days ago the The Indian Express carried a story about how childhood buddies Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli havent spoken in seven years. It is natural,perhaps inevitable for people to change their gang of friends as they grow up and it often plays out like an ugly separation as in Tejpals case,with many of his friends expressing shock and disgust. I have no great faith in human nature and in the right circumstances with enough provocation,many of us would behave recklessly if we thought we could get away with it. Its only a fear of consequences that stops most of us from spectacular self-destruction. Sexual assaults are really about entitlement,a strange and in this case,misplaced conviction that nothings going to happen. Because,for so long,nothing has.
Going by all the posts one sees from his friends and acquaintances,acknowledging his brilliance as a writer but mourning his decline as a human being,its clear that after this sordid incident Tejpal is going to have very few friends or acquaintances left. Of course,he has far bigger problems to worry about. We are all faced with ethical quandaries in daily life. We meet people who cheat and lie,are selfish and self-centred,behave unscrupulously in their businesses but all that still falls within the universal code of conduct,as acceptable human failure. Molestation and rape doesnt. To quote Shakespeare,God has given you one face and you make yourself another. No point being a crusader if you cant keep to the high moral ground.
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