Sunday, November 24, 2013

What sort of ''átonement'are we talking about??

This appeared in the Sunday Times...
             When  terms of ‘Atonement’  backfire….
I was tempted to write this column in Spanish ( thank you, Shoma Chaudhary), but thought better of  it, given that in any crisis, good, clear and honest communication has a far better chance of convincing people, than the use of fancy  language and childish taunts. Since we live in an age of Brand Success overriding virtually every other attribute, this week’s sordid scandal involving an alarmingly young (18) female employee fighting off aggressive sexual advances of her middle- aged (58)  boss/ mentor,  inside  the cramped confines of an elevator in a Goa hotel, is an interesting case in point. Regardless of  how the saga eventually pans out , the damage done to Brand Tehelka is looking pretty grim and perhaps irreversible. Enough has appeared about the lurid details of the case, so let’s skip the muck, and focus on what could have been done to salvage a pretty hopeless situation. And, more importantly, what wasn’t. Briefly put , the charge against Tarun Tejpal is serious. And here’s  Mistake Number One : It wasn’t treated seriously enough  -  either by Tejpal or his Managing Editor, Shoma Chaudhary. Mistake Number Two: the wording of  Tejpal’s admission / apology. It was pretentious in the extreme. And sounded totally hollow. Excuse me, but who the hell talks of ‘atonement’ and ‘laceration’ except overwrought actors in dreadful Hollywood Biblicals from another era? Mistake Number Three : when the excreta had already hit the ceiling fan and there was clearly no going back, Ms. Choudhary chose to go on the offensive, instead of displaying remorse or even plain regret for what had transpired during her watch. She nonchalantly referred to the attempted rape of her junior colleague as an ‘untoward incident’. Mistake Number Four : Tejpal decided his own punishment for his ‘lapse of  judgement’ and grandly mentioned ‘recusing’ himself for six months. Nothing more was needed . The damage was done.
If only, the two main players in this mess ( Choudhary and Tejpal), had shown some sensitivity towards the victim ( that’s the very least under the circumstances), and done the right thing by seeking legal opinion to help the young woman , perhaps the widespread criticism that has hit them would have been less strident. There is nothing heroic about a sexual assaulter admitting his crime, especially since he was probably aware of the CCTV camera footage that  could eventually nail him. For his buddies to laud him for being ‘gutsy’ and ‘honest’ by owning up, shows a pathetically skewered way of thinking. It is the victim who showed guts by speaking up. Well after all hell had broken loose, and social media platforms had created a war zone out of the controversy, nothing of any worth was forthcoming from Tehelka’s side. And this is where arrogance and short sightedness kicked in. Asking a media person if he was ‘an aggrieved party’ compounded the original sin and only succeeded in alienating  / angering the press further. At this point, what Tejpal and Chaudhary  needed  was the support of   media colleagues and well wishers.  But after this boo boo, nobody of consequence was willing to stick his/her neck out and defend what was increasingly looking indefensible. Even those early sympathizers who were shocked that “ one of us” had done something this horrible!
Now that the Pandora’s Box has been pried open, it will be very difficult to put a lid on the scandal. By challenging public opinion, Chaudhary may have hammered the last nail into Tehelka’s coffin. The answer to her rather rude question , “Are you the aggrieved party?” thrown at a jouno, is a resounding ‘Yes’.  Every woman in India can claim to be the aggrieved party under these awful circumstances. Regardless of whether the young victim pursues the case, it is really out of her hands now. Public opinion is far more lethal than any amount of self-inflicted laceration and atonement . Admirers of  the Tehelka brand of journalism have long believed that this powerful brand stood for the truth. Stood for justice. Penning weak apologies in over heated prose is a poor substitute for both – justice and the truth.

A young woman’s dignity is worth much more than the token ‘atonement’ on offer. Who should know that better than the two firebrand crusaders and activists who had taken it upon themselves to teach India how to THINK?


Pooja Rathore said...

mentor becomes predator....Speak up!completely agree with you.Tejpal episode shocking(due to his reputation) and sickening....(trust abused...such incidents shakes the word "trust" itself ...really no words the recent incidents(violence against women)are very disturbing but positive thing is their fight against the injustice done.

Funny Gypsy said...

Completely agree with you. The consequences of their initial casual indifference and callousness on working women at large is what worries me. Is Shoma Choudhary trying to suggest that whenever a working woman is harassed in office, she is supposed to fight a lonely battle as the sole "aggrieved party"? What about the repercussions (in terms of precedent set) on other offices?

Blogged about this here:

Ranveer vishal said...

As a viewer on TV and reader of Tehelka, I feel cheated since my trust with the likes of Shoma and Tejpal has been violated. Whether it's a TV anchor and panelist, I feel that there is a bond between the viewer and the person in front of TV. Shoma is someone I respected a lot and I am deeply disappointed at her volte face-she championed women rights, but she has a double standard and a hypocrite. I cannot tolerate such arrogance on the part of Tehelka. Shoma and Tarun Tejpal will go down in history for destroying brand Tehelka. No Shoma,the trust is broken and cannot trust you anymore. I hope the girl stays strong throughout.

Latha said...

Yes, the damage has been done to Tehelka as you say & those who naively believed in its "integrity" disillusioned. Tehelka conducted a misadventurous sting on Bangaru Laxman for accepting a pittance (Re 1 lakh for party fund)in political parlance where nothing less than 3 digit crores is worth noticing & sending him to jail. Re 1 lakh is a joke. And Tejpal used prostitutes to lure the concerned people for the expose which he himself proudly admits. Even a child knows that this was funded by the CONgress. Everybody knows that Aniruddha Bahal of CobraPost & Ashish Khaitan of Gulail who exposed the snoopgate scandal against NaMo are employees of Tehelka. When Tehelka never mentioned a word about 2G, CWG, Coalgate, Robert Vadra's land deal or the black money stashed in tax havens, it lost the iota of credibility that was left in it. People now clearly knows that Tehelka is a stooge of CONgress whether Kapil Sibal is related to Tejpal or not. So there had been absolutely no credibility for Tehelka except among people like Javed Akhtar who hate the BJP for obvious reasons & appreciates the frankness of Tejpal in this sexual violation episode.

Anonymous said...

glamourous little idiot

Anonymous said...

the lady has no soul!!

Anil Kumar said...

Most of the media houses on TV news channel have chuttad soul. This bitch shoma in combination with NIHI RAAZDAN AND bARKHA DUTT has spend hundred of hours on NDTV discussing about woman and pretending she spends lots of time with victims of riots and specially women anf d tried to tarnnish congress' political enemies. All this fall flat on their face now. I htink just like Thelka - NDTV is also full of shit and these haraam ki aullad have no credibility whatsoever. .

Anonymous said...

@ Anil Kumar

@ Ranvir Vishal,

@ Jo

@ Latha

@ Funny Gypsy

@ Pooja Rathore

Read my comments on Tor-Mentor? Here is the link:

Now that both the Shoma babe and her sugar daddy Tej-pal [fast pal?] have gone on the offensive ... expect either of them to attempt buying the poor teenaged female victim and force her parents to say ... HEY THE WHOLE THING WAS A STING OPERATION TO FOCUS ATTENTION ON ONE VITAL ISSUE ... WOMEN CAN LEAD ANYONE UP THE GUMTREE!

Unknown said...

What happens if the boss is a lady with high lesbian tendencies and victimises a pretty young girl?

Will the media be as outraged?

What happens if the boss is a gay and tries his tricks on a young male employee as it is happening in show business?

The Tejpal case has taken political overtones and thats why I still dont go with the lynching mob. If someone as high profile belonged to the powerful oppsition party or its allies, the case would not have become so high pitched.

Anil Kumar said...

Media is not outraged. Its the double speak of Shoma Darling which brouht attention. Besides if in the name of journalism you do the business of partisan politics and do biased coverage. Those who put up smiling faces on TV will be lynched soon if they dont mend their ways to stay neutral.
See the latest example. All major news channel inlcluding NDTV, TImes Now, CNN-IBN, Headline News showed AAP sting exensively when that Bihari Chuttad Jha was exposed these same chuttaD MEDIA HOUSES ARE STAYING AWAY FROM SHOWING THE aap'S REBUTTAL. iF ARNAB gOSWAMI IS READING THIS POST _ i NEVER EXPECTED SUCH CHUTTAD BEHAVIOUR FROM tIMES nOW- aND HOPE THEY WILL CORRECT THEIR MISTAKEA AND SHOW THE RUE PICTURE.

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Unknown said...

I am angry because you have destroyed Tehelka with one indiscretion. But I also dont approve the witch hunting you are being subjected to along with Shoma.
Who made you a fugitive? The system. When the system turns vindictive, even a law abiding citizen becomes like this.
Surrender, and try to spend some years in jail. That will make you a better person.
Come back with greater force and resume your work at Tehelka.
Ask forgiveness from that lady. With sincerity. Ask forgiveness from your wife and daughter. They are suffering because of you.


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