Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Of wet shoes and daft journalists

Morning walks during the monsoon are exhilarating for two reasons. The air has been washed clean of smells and pollutants so you can actually breathe without thinking you’re killing yourself. And you meet fewer of your species along the way. Some don’t want to risk slipping; some don’t want to get wet; some simply don’t want to get out of bed (I presume). The result is, you’re walking peacefully along deserted paths humming a jaunty ditty while the rain beats down on your umbrella. You are in a state of bliss.

But. Yes, there’s always a but to spoil life’s pleasures. Water is collecting in your shoes which are now going squelch-squelch instead of tic-toc. Back home, you stand them up against a wall under the fan hoping they will be dry for the following morning’s walk. They aren’t, not the next day nor the next nor the next.

On the third day last week, my friend Nandu dropped in. He looked at my wet shoes propped soggily up against the wall and said that’s no way to dry shoes. You must stuff them with balls of paper to absorb the water. I promptly did what he said and it worked.

But the story doesn’t end there. One discovery always leads to another. My second discovery was that Bombay Times which otherwise lies around the house in its pristine folds, makes excellent stuffing paper. I figure the secret’s not just the newsprint, because that’s common to all papers. It’s the extra porous fluff that goes into BT that makes it doubly absorbent.

Now, when I picked up a copy of BT to stuff my shoes, I noticed my young friend Durga Jasraj hugging her mother Madhura on the back page. Durga and I were together in an old Marathi television series called “Paul Khuna” directed by Amol Palekar and we’ve been fond of each other ever since. Not wanting to stuff her into my shoes, I tore her out to catch up with her later.

This is what the copy said. It said that there was this unnamed musical event at which Jagjit Singh, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma and a whole lot of other luminaries from the music world were present along with Madhura, Pt Jasraj’s “wonderful wife” and Durga their “beautiful daughter”. So? Normally there’s no “so?” to gossip snippets. These people were there and here’s the pic is all there is to it.

But this story had more. The dissembling reporter goes on to say “So taken aback were we by this confluence of talent that in our reportage of the event we wrongly mentioned Madhura as Jagjit Singh’s wife and Durga as his daughter.” So? That kind of booboo is wholly and utterly expected from the ingénue reporters who don’t know the top of a tabla from the back end of an elephant but charge into musical events, pencils at the ready.

What’s amusing is the phrasing of the apology that follows all the buttery piffle. It goes “We sincerely apologise to the two illustrious musical families for the confusion caused.” Confusion? Caused by you? Like Jagjit Singh’s wife said to him, rolling pin in hand, “When did all this happen, hanh?” And friends called up Durga demanding that she reveal forthwith who her real father was?

Dear BT chumps, you’re like Francis Bacon’s little fly which sat on a mighty carriage wheel and said, “What a dust do I raise”. Believe me, the Jagjit Singhs and Jasrajs know who is who. All you needed to say was, “We regret our error”. But if habit compelled you to add colour, here’s what you could have said: “What we have long suspected, has now been conclusively proved. We are irrevocably daft. We apologise sincerely for this error and for all future errors that we will inevitably make in our long and eventful careers as journalists.”