Sunday, February 01, 2009

How my Column Died a Premature Death

One fine morning, when I was sleeping, A T Jayanti, who claimed was the editor of Deccan Chronicle and The Asian Age, called me up and said, she wanted me to write a column for her books page. My answer was: "I don't think I could do that." But she persisted and said: "Give it a try." I agreed.
For around 25 weeks the column appeared, and one fine day, Jayanti called me up and said: "Enough is enough, high time you stopped it." Why? "In fact, wasn't I getting damn good responses?"
She never gave a good explanation. One of the plausible reasons I could arrive at was that I had criticised a crappy book written by a certain kid called Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan. Now, she and her family are well connected. (Do a Google search, in case you want to know, how.) I came to know all these from Jayanti's own colleagues, who detest her like hell, and are unhappy with her ways of functioning. "So be it", I said. "Who the hell cares?" Anyway the column was not my idea.
Then came the surprise, bingo, one Sunday. My column has been replaced by, guess who, the Reddy girl.
I came to know about that from a reader from Chennai, because I had stopped reading The Asian Age since M J Akbar was unceremoniously ousted.
Well, this is what my friend from Chennai had to say:

"Hi Sunil
I'm just seething after reading that piece of pedestrian shit dished out in the DC ..... the replacement for your column. Gosh its absolute drivel. No language to speak of, no book sense, no nothing. I wouldnt insult a child by calling it childish - its worse than the worst essay written by a low grade student. The vocab is silly. As to an idea, it just isnt there. What next?? Are we going to have Mills & Boons featured please??? I am tearing angry. Just tearing angry. Am now minus one more piece to read in that paper.
Well, who said the world's a fair place eh?! :-( Obviously you havent 'cultivated' or 'capitalized' i guess!!
Can you tell me where else you write a column - for any other publication? I do miss your column. The incisive brainy analysis, the total command over the language, the hard work that is evident when you draw from multiple readings to get your thoughts home, your real love and feel for books and that special world. You take us there, my friend. Still remember where you wrote about the smell of a new book .... hmmm...
Look, you're an original. Stay so. Just walk away from this goddam mediocrity and keep doing what you do .... you have your own crowd rooting for you and the truth you bring in with your writing.
Uma Chandrasekaran"


Anonymous said...

I was wondering why your column had disappeared - unfortunate for readers like me who caught intriguing glimpses of what I hadn't read, would never get down to reading, and a fresh perspective on the present day world of writing and publishing. I enjoyed your bluntness, the underplayed satire, the casual facility with expression and an invitation to get to know good writing that often goes unpublicized.

priti aisola

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Poolani,
I was amazed and surprised to see your blog post ( appear on my Google alerts this morning. And even more taken aback to see that you seem to think that the replacement of your column has been done because of some personal vendetta that I and my friends and family have against you. Let me assure you, this is not the case. I had no idea that a previous books column was being done by anyone at Deccan Chronicle, in fact, I hadn't even seen the bad review you claim to have written. I'm sorry you think my writing is so poor and that the only reason I'm given newspaper space is because of my personal relationships, but I thought it was worth a shot to write to you and let you know what the actual facts of the matter were. I asked if DC had any space, they offered me a books column, and I said yes. That was the end of it.
I'm not writing to ask you for a retraction--although it is rather unprofessional on your part, as a journalist to put up hearsay on your blog without confirmation from any sources--I just thought you might like the other side of the story.
-Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan

shubhs said...

Hi Sunil - What I like about the way you write are amany. You write sharp, and, straight. To the point. No-nonsense. Serious topics are delved into with a punch of sarcasm and honest mock. I like those carefully punctuated lines, those commas and full-stops that bring out entirely new meanings to what would otherwise, written in any other form, have just been sentences. I respect, and adore the strength of those punctuations and the havoc they can create! Or the force with which they can stir you. Or stir you out. Out. Out!Also, the originality of views - you don't borrow views and make it your own - rather see them from angles where Angels fear to tread. And that is what journalism is all about! I bet it doesn't hurt you when your column is dumped the way it was, because of one reason. Simply because it doesn't hurt. Not you - because all the world's a stage for you, but for readers like me - which is the world of the majority, yes it does!
-- Shubham G.

Sridharan said...

Hi Sunil,
Will someone in her senses pack-up a show that's running full houses? Honestly I came to know of you only from your incisive columns.
When I was contemplating a relationship with you and was not sure who you are, I showed your column to my friend who said, 'Sridhar, this man talks sense. You can trust him.'
I still remember the sarcastic way you described a mega-launch of a book that was written by some money-bag.
And for writers like me there was no other forum which gave such a wonderful glimpse, a ringside view of the publishing world.

Why should DC suddenly decide to do away with your column? Perhaps they thought that your candour is too much for them...Or that you were becoming more popular than the paper itself
That's DC's loss and we, your fans, will be reading your columns in any paper/forum which has the sense and the taste to publish them.
Varalotti Rengasamy

vacha said...

I like so many readers of D.C was surprised to note the sudden end of your coloum i like your reviews and to be fair was muuch balanced than many people. But as it goes we can not help such things

jivan . said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Priya S-C said...

What shall I say, I wonder. Yesterday I lost my weekly column I, Me and Others that I did exclusively for the Hindustan Times. Yes, I'd often quote from books I loved --from Perialwar to Proust - to expand on relationships; the column took on literary shadings. Yes, I enjoyed the many comments from readers, thanking me for my take on relationships. It was a very well recieved column. Then finito! I heard they wish to revamp the paper i.e. they want something frivolous instead...?
Sorry about your loss

abha said...

Dear Sunil,
Its sad to know that your column disappeared, for whatever reasons. I do not think you need to blame anyone for this, since many factors are at play when things take a different turn. Suffice it is to say that I am sure you will find a space somewhere else.
Your writing is like a breath of fresh air-no holds barred and all guns blazing and also with the insight of a well-read man who knows what he writes about. Your depth of knowledge of books and writers has always been enlightening-I have found writers I must read from your columns.
You do speak your mind.There are not many takers for that in this world.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sunil,

The thing that happened to you has happened to me so many times that I have just lost count. These are the ways of the journalistic world and one learns as one gets by. But I have also seen that when one person slams the door on your face, someone else opens it out and welcomes you with open arms even if it is a stranger you have never met before.

There are celebrity reviewers who simply thumb through the pages, pick up some quotes at random, put these in and make it a review just like many film critics I have met walk out during the screening and yet review the whole film for the next day's film page. Times of India in Mumbai would often slam the door in my face if it happened to be a certain Bacchi Karkaria on the other side of the desk. She wouldn't even condescend to look at the piece! Bhawana Somaiya developed a love-hate relationship with me when she was editing SCREEN with the write-now-don't-write-now-write-now business going on all the time. The reason would often be something as silly as some anonymous letter-writer sending in a written complaint about some article of mine all the way from Kolkata! I kept on because I wanted to prove that as a freelancer, I needed to be backed rather than some anonymous letter writer who did not have the gumption to write his name or sign his letter or give details of his contact.

Honesty, integrity and sheer hard work are things that hardly exist anymore in journalism and we can blame Page 3 and Celebrity journalism for all this.

Dr. Shoma A. Chatterjee

Anonymous said...

You are still smarting over that!! Naipaul said something very sensible to a whining Theroux--"take it on the chin and move on"
-- Deepa Gehlot

blue baby said...

perseverance for the finely tuned truth often makes way instantly gratifying titillation. in newspaper columns and in cinema. but we need to take heart from the fact that the latter is forgotten by the time the reader / film-goer brushes their teeth at night. it is the former that lingers in the mind, coming back to haunt them when they least expect it. so persevered truth, like sunil's, will never be buried by the instant karma of a meenakshi. replaced, perhaps. buried, never.

Anonymous said...

I have been a (sporadic but interested) reader of your blog for a fair while. and your writings show enough spunk - and substance - so as not to be adversely affected by 'clique and dagger' games, that are, sadly, an integral part of publishing.
Nandakumar R (

UC said...

I'm so happy to see all these comments echo mine - truth, integrity, honest-to-goodness, a real book-feel, researched, ..... got it Sunil? So let's start the alternative column in here eh?!

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr Poolani

Let me introduce myself as an aspiring author who had the privilege of reading the articles you used to write in the Sunday edition of Deccan Chronicles newspaper. I must confess, it was a really rewarding experience reading your articles as it provided a lot of insights into the world of publishing and the myths surrounding it. So I was among the many who were disappointed when suddenly your articles stopped in the newspaper. Its no longer the same anymore.

So my question is do you plan to return with the articles in the newspaper? Is there any other avenue where we could read your articles?

Look forward to your reply.


Bipin Nair

Anonymous said...

Ha ha's funny how Miss Reddy got on the defensive.If only she'd spend this time critically analysing her writing; her work would speak for itself.