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.
I put in a lot of my life and soul into this blog. That is no secret.
I also put in a lot of personal content into this blog. They have in the past led to OMGWTF sort of situations with people who knew me who I didn’t know. My kidhood/teenage/adultLife experiences, some of them with a liberal amount of exaggeration, some of them rather embarrassing, are all chronicled here.
And hence it is very important that I control the content of this blog.
Which is totally, totally impossible these days.
Because the losers at Bangalore Mirror keep lifting my content left, right and center. And publish my work in that infernal rag of theirs.
They of course mention the URL of this page as a safeguard against plagiarism accusations.
But. They violate the Creative Commons License my blog is under. Because it requires that my consent be taken before my content is used for commercial purposes. Newspaper, even of the Mirror variety, qualifies as commercial.
I also try to make sure my blog entries are grammatically correct, and have no spelling mistakes whatever, and I put in my best effort to not misuse case. The Mirror, in spite of having people dedicated to this task, somehow manage to screw the grammar, punctuation and spellings up. Heck, they can’t even do a proper CtrlC-CtrlV.
And I’m always respectful here. I don’t use abusive words at people. I even refer to Chetan Bhagat as Mr. Bhagat. In the Mirror however, it becomes a rude ‘Bhagat’.
I have previously taken offence at this sort of rude lifting of my content without my permission and even mailed an editor there. I got back an assurance that this won’t happen again:
Our editor Mr Sreenivas has drawn my attention to your objections to our publishing your blog entry which we carried in our newspaper on Oct 15. I appreciate the points you raised, regarding what is appropriate for a blog and what is appropriate for a newspaper. I must confess the fine distinction you made escaped us while choosing your blog entry, which we thought was witty and interesting. We wrongly assumed that what is already in the public domain of a blog is suited for the public domain of a newspaper; you correctly point out that a blogger may put it out in a blog precisely because he/she knows that not everyone related to him or her will read it. As for not seeking your permission, this lapse happened on our part because we assumed that Balanarayan had obtained your permission previously, and that would apply in general to what we chose to carry. We were wrong about that. I wish we had sought your permission first. We apologise for the the distress it has caused to you, and will ensure that we will henceforth seek your permission if we feel a particular entry is suitable for our column.
The Balanarayan mentioned here is chuchap, who took my permission once before publishing my post a year or two ago in the Mirror (And who is currently not employed with Bangalore Mirror). And they say they assumed that I had given permission to lift my blog for posterity. Going by that token, shouldn’t they have stopped lifting my content when I expressed my displeasure at their doing so? They didn’t. They went on and flicked my Facebook post. Something I totally totally don’t want in a newspaper. And certainly not in the Mirror for godsake.
And what stops these losers from ASKING? I have an About page, a contact form, and a comments section. Isn’t that sufficient for someone who wants to get in touch with me from getting in touch with me? How hard is it to write a comment, for godsake?
Initially when I started blogging, I didn’t much care about others lifting my content. Any publicity was good publicity, wasn’t it? But that was when I gave the printed word more respect than I do now. Now I don’t really much care about publicity, unless it’s getting me some work in machine learning. I don’t anymore have any writerly dreams to the extent I used to, because more important and exciting things grab my attention now. I do dream of taking a year off and writing that novel I’ve always wanted to put down to paper, but it’s not the most important ambition in my life at the moment. The only places I would work hard to get published in are places like this. I’m sorry, but my life has become infinitely more sadder that I don’t care about being published in a daily rag anymore.
Plus, I want more control over my content online. I can remove a post if someone says they’d rather not like it up on the Internet, and if I agree about it. I don’t want my words being under some third party’s control. Call me paranoid, but that’s how it is.
And heck, why am I even justifying myself. This is my blog. Rispect Mah Authoritah. Hang yourself before you even think of lifting my content.
PS: In other news, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake with its epicenter in Mexicali in Mexico was felt in Southerns California. I thought I was merely feeling dizzy due to an excellent lunch, when my roommate yelled out that it was an earthquake and we moved out of the house. It was pretty mild. We’re all safe. Though, Disneyland stopped its rides for a while.
I guess this end of the blogosphere now knows all about the Lavanya Mohan – Charukesh Sekar story. Poor Lavanya, down with Charukesh and Vichar Hari yada yada. I’m surprised only one person has yet accused Lavanya of having her story ‘inspired’ from this Goodness Gracious Me sketch. J’Accuse! Make that count two. And KrishAshok saar, she need not have gone back and forth in time to view a video and write her story as you said, she could have just logged on to Youtube. I’m not saying she did or she didn’t. I’m just presenting the possibility. Of course, the possibility exists that she, like Kaavya Viswanathan, can cite Cryptomnesia.
But this case does bring up the issues of credit on the Net, non-attribution, and how easy it is to plagiarize. How easy it is to pass some story off as yours. And the prospect of seeing someone else reap the fruits of your hard work if you aren’t as popular or well-connected as Lavanya is.
A week back, I was wiki’ing for the storyline of Mumbai Salsa. There’s an American actress in that movie, Linda Arsenio. Click. Turns out she’s made quite a name for herself in Bollywood. She recently starred in the movie Aloo Chaat, alongside Aftab Shivdasani, Aamna Sharif, Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Click.
And the story read oh-so-so-so-familiar!
No, it wasn’t a rich-girl-poor-boy story.
But it was the same story as I’d received in an email fwd in December 2008. And this movie released only in June 2009. And it seems pretty popular on the Net, right from 2006. Here you go, link to the story, link to the story of Aloo Chaat. Decide for yourself.
The identity of the author seems lost to the recesses of time. But whoever you are, this is to inform you that you have been plagiarized. Sue ‘em for all it’s worth. Or atleast milk the publicity.
Of course, the chance is nonzero that the scriptwriter himself comes forward to say the story was originally his, and that he put it on the Internet circa 2004….
I’m wondering if anyone still reads this page. It feels like ages since I updated here, and it shows. I’ve a lot more bottled-up emotions, my smile has never been more fake, and even my teenagy angst has given way to passivity. I’m also a lot less articulate these days, and that shows in the numerous reports and other official bits of writing I’m supposed to delivery weekly thrice.
I’m still finding a way out of the inarticulateness and asocial life I lead at the moment, a relic of an unprecedented amount of work I’ve been assigned, and things that have happened to me recently possess a strong streak of speculation, something which has no place on this blog, so bear with my obtuse references.
I find I cannot, just cannot, tolerate negative people and pessimism. My entire being seems to dwell and thrive on optimism that all the damned negativity some people exude feels like Kryptonite, weakening me slowly, slowly, until I’m steeped neck-deep in despair and ready to willingly drown myself to put myself out of my misery. Here’s a general word of advice: Don’t say anything if you don’t have anything good to say. Unless of course, it’s juicy gossip.
I’ve taken courses this quarter that exude Awesome with every atom of their being. One of them had mining Facebook data [college networks] as part of a homework. Initially, I too was wide-eyed, just like you reading this are. Sadly, the data is suitably anonymized, and it’s in the form of boring old matrices. And it’s huge as hell… megabytes of numbers alone. Trends are spotted more easily with large samples. Turns out, you can try pretty cool stuff with those megabytes of numbers. Like checking out if college networks share common features, so that if you learn something about one network, you can apply it in other networks you study. Or seeing how to recommend friends to someone who’s just joined.
Among my unpublished drafts is an open letter to Juhi Chawla. No, it’s not about the Phir Mile Sur thing. During one of those hectic weeks, I was shopping for some ready-to-eat food. I was rather sick of the cheese pizzas, so when this carton of ready-to-eat Ashoka Chinese Fried Rice Indian Style with a grinning Juhi on it caught my eye, (and the Buy One Get One Free offer wasn’t too far behind), I grabbed it. After all, Ms. Chawla has lived in the US for a while, right? So she too would have shopped like me at one point or another, and if she was endorsing something, it had to be pretty good, right?Wrong. It sucked. I couldn’t have more than a mouthful. It took dollops and dollops of tomato ketchup to kill the taste of the fried spring onions rice. And heck, this carnage is just spring onions and rice. No beans, no carrots, no chillies, no nothing. I wonder what the heck was Juhi Chawla thinking when she endorsed this inedible pile of dogfood. Someone have her email ID?
And the Phir Mile Sur thing. I share the outrage of many others who’ve written about this. However, I feel it’s just by Zoom, not by the Government of India, so it doesn’t merit the attention it’s getting. I mean, what else do you expect of a channel dedicated to Bollywood and Page 3 types? Ignore it, folks. Not worth raising your BP for.
One of the bloggers I rather like got plagiarized. You can read the whole story here. Seems rather routine, except that her short story got made into a short film this time. Though, I think the approach she took was a tad impractical. Hell, you’re a great writer, granted, but there’s nothing Vasudeva-Srikrishna-Eeshwara-EndaDheivame-OhMyHoly-OMFG about plagiarism. It happens. It’s outrageous, but it happens. And don’t tell me you don’t like the extra attention and publicity that comes with your story being used in some other media. So, instead of crying blue murder, embrace it. Don’t say “You thirdrate plagiarist, you copied. I’ll tell to miss”. Instead, acknowledge that the other person might have made a mistake, and say now that we both agree a mistake has been made, let’s work something out. No one likes to be told by a complete stranger that they are in the wrong, not to mention scores of random netizens cursing them left, right and center.
That said, I found I liked the blog entry better than the Youtube video. There were rather talented folks in the video, granted. But why did they have to be speaking in Ingleesh for godsake? I guess the dialogues were written in English, translated from Tamil in the writer’s head, because the audience of the blog is mainly English-speaking. The filmmaker was so goddamn lazy that he had to retain every damn dialogue the way it was written? It reads well to me because I translate it back to Tamil in my head, just like I do with every RK Narayan novel I read… the words, sentence construction and the entire ambience is TamBrahm, a world I can summon in my head at the snap of a finger. Having to do the same when I’m hearing someone speak is nothing short of painful.
Coming back to food, I found Dairy Milk being sold at an Indian store for $4.99. While that’s laughable by itself, you also need to take into account that you can get larger bars of Hershey’s for one-fifth the cost. And it doesn’t end there…. you get Kurkure (Yes, Juhi Chawla again) for $2.49.
Being bereft of trustworthy outlets for your internal confusions for even a short while, compounds the problem, I find. It’s quite a feat to separate your best-case worst-case analyses from reality after a while. Close friends, I assert, are important as hell.
Apparently ‘Hell’ is an evil, evil swearword in this country. I found that out the hard way, after using it half-a-dozen times in the presence of my BibleBelt-born nephew. And, apparently, so is ‘Damn’. I can’t fathom that at all. After all, I was pretty used to ‘Bleddy Bhaskar/Bleddy Basket‘ probably since I started school, and I hail from the same state as this bleddy basket-case.
In other news, I’m more or less abstaining from Google Reader. When I find time, I hope to be able to automate linking pages in Wikipedia, and possibly use the same logic to automatically mark important words in passages. I’ve also watched tons of useless movies recently, and am stuck on the soundtrack of Duet, looping the songs endlessly. I’m surprised I used to make fun of these songs when they first came out. Who knows, at this rate, I might one day be fondly recollecting the day Phir Mile Sur came out. I’m also confused as hell can be about a lot of things in life at the moment. I’m just hoping things fall in place like they always do.