Open Letter To Aroon Purie
Dear Mr. Purie,
You quite obviously don’t know me. And while I know you (well, you head India Today), I didn’t much care. Your rag always lost out to The Week in my house, God alone knew why my father subscribed to you…. to me, you were inherently unreadable. I didn’t pay much attention to your antics. Until this morning.
I happened to come across this post not twenty minutes after I woke up. Normally, it takes the better part of an hour for me to ungrog. But Mr. Purie, your scandalous behaviour and the brush-it-off-gently apology got me all fired up in not more than three minutes. While my teammate was happy I showed up early to his meeting for once, I don’t much share his joy. I’m livid, pissed, wild, mad, cross, fuming, steaming at the ears.
Why, you ask? I’ll tell you why.
Firstly, plagiarism sucks. Secondly, plagiarism by a huge media house, especially one of the ‘India Today Conclave’ fame, totally totally sucks. Thirdly, a top editor like you not knowing about Thalaivar is BLASPHEMY. And fourthly, WTF excuse was that? Jet-lag?
I was jetlagged three weeks back. Not just your ordinary jetlag. I was coming from eight-regular-hours-of-sleep-IST to Pacific time. Twelve hours away. Twelve whole hours. Total reversal of night and day. Add to this, I had deadlines from my three classes, AND from two bosses, one of who was on Pacific time, and the other on Indian Standard Time. And that apart, Mr. Purie, I flew Economy. Nearly twenty-four hours. Not much legspace. Folks eating smelly food around me. Middle seat. Two stops. Baggage that weighed twice of what I weigh. Which I had to lug over three floors when I got home, no elevator. Not your first-class flight where you’d be served champagne and have ample leg-room, and have Ram Singh carry the luggage when you landed, for the short distance from the terminal to your airconditioned car.
I blogged when I was jetlagged. And blogged when I was both jetlagged and sleep-deprived. Did I plagiarise? NO. A big NO. Why didn’t I? Because I love my blog too much to post unoriginal content here, and pass it off as mine. This place is hallowed, and such injustice will be met with Hara-Kiri.
Also, I have been plagiarized. By Bangalore Mirror. Old story. I vilified them quite some on this blog. But you know what, Mr. Purie, you make them look like Sathya Harishchandra. Because, they posted my stuff without permission, but they did put my blog URL there. And when I complained, they responded. And apologized (though frankly, I’d say that was an apology for an apology). Quite unlike what you’ve done to my fellow blogger Niranjana.
My colleagues were to submit something for review and publication. And by publication, I mean in the proceeds of a conference, not a piddling rag like yours. New results and changes at the last moment made it such that they didn’t have all their references in place. Did they submit it and say ‘Hah, let’s see who finds out’? No, they did not. You might say yours is a mag that touches millions of life, and just HAS to be out by the deadline, but you know what, they had more at stake. They get this opportunity ONCE a year, mind you. And yet did not compromise on principles.
What were you thinking when you blatantly plagiarized? Doesn’t your conscience prick you? When I put my friend’s joke as a status message on gTalk, I add a “(Credit: Abhi/Tuna/Ego/Whoever)” bit towards the end, because it doesn’t feel fair when people ping me and say “Heh, you crack good jokes!”. We all do that. Even on Twitter, where no one would worry where a joke came from, people say “@jokerman says” or “(credit: @jokerman)”. Even the most mundane stuff, like a new word coined – like Kosubat (the electrified racquet used to kill mosquitos) or Homour (jokes about homosexuality).
Why do we do this? It’s our culture. Our honour code. ‘Stupid gits’, you might think. But no, Mr. Purie. It’s not just our morality that has resulted in this culture.We know what it’s like to have our friends copy from us and get higher marks. We know the resentment it breeds. We know what it’s like to pull an all-nighter and then have the folks who were lolling about get higher marks and skew the whole grading curve because they cheated. There’s no end to how much you can cheat. There are plenty of us who can keep coming up with better and better techniques to steal credit, not that the world needs it. We don’t want every sphere of our life descending into that sort of an abyss. Hence this culture and honour code. And you know what? We like this sort of an environment darned very much. We don’t have to worry about our jokes being stolen, so we let ‘er rip. We know our ideas will be attributed, so we put them out there for others to play with. We like this setup very much on the Net.
It might seem very old-fashioned to you, this moral posturing of mine. But you know what, Mr. Purie, you’re the fossil here. Did you really think you could get away with ripping off such a widely circulated article from the Net? Especially at the peak of Thalaivar-craziness? Especially in this age of Facebook and Twitter and gTalk status messages? Heck, it was the title of this Churumuri article, for godsake. For context, more people have read that article than your titchy Letter From The Editor. For context, Mr. Purie, that’s like ripping off Jai Ho and mega-releasing it as your own in the weeks following the Oscar nomination.
And when you say “Not being an acknowledged expert on the delightful southern superstar, I asked Delhi for some inputs.”, I can only say WTF. Any piddling two-bit journo knows enough to write about Rajnikanth, heck even Manu Joseph does. Or they pretend to, which is fine because we Thalaivar-fans don’t expect any insights into the method acting in Netrikan from anyone in the mainstream media. That you, yes YOU of the India Today Conclave fame, and YOU who edits ‘India’s Biggest Newsmagazine’ had no frickin’ clue on what to write about Thalaivar really gets my goat. If you had said this about Amitabh or SRK, there would have been blood on the streets. Blood. Yours. And the rest of your staff’s.
And I don’t get why you asked Delhi for input, especially given that a reasonably well-travelled Amit_123 like you itself had no clue about Thalaivar (No, he’s not just a ‘Southern Superstar’… he’s a South-East Asian Sensation as you would have realized if you had travelled through Japan, Singapore and Malaysia even once), what do you expect from the rest of the Amit_123s and Isha_123s there? I’d’ve thought the first logical reaction would have been to call Chennai. As we say on the Internet, #FAIL.
And how DARE you change it from SUPERSTAR to Superstar? All the Caps are merited. And we forgave the original author for not putting it in Bold, Underline and Fontsize 42 only because he was not Indian. You on the other hand…. bah!
You know why I’m pissed, Mr. Purie? It’s not just because you ripped something off. It’s your impunity in shrugging it off that gets my blood pressure rising. AND that no one is being fired over this. Or even getting a rap on the knuckle. Not just the Slate thing…. I’m more pissed about Niranjana’s situation. What sort of low-quality mediocre staff you have who can’t even have a few original ideas? And why are you still keeping them? And no rap? What sort of a message are you sending out? That it is okay to lie and cheat?
No remorse? No nothing? Atleast pretend you’re sorry about the whole deal, suspend someone for eyewashing…. do something! Even the smallest political scandal makes sure that atleast one person gets the axe! The fact that you’re not even pretending to be outraged outrages me.
I know Mr. Purie, that this letter might not even reach you, and even if it does, you wouldn’t read it (And if you do, you might plagiarize it… no worries, I now know I can issue a cease-and-desist notice if something like that happens). But I just have to write this because I feel quite outraged on knowing about your heinous act…. If Ponzi mated with Kaavya Viswanathan, and their Indian-Italian spawn then hooked up with Bangalore Mirror AND the folks from here and here, the offspring would be you.