Journalists are obsessed with sex. In journalism school my professor warned me against thinking too much about sex: People who have sex ‘in’ their head don’t have it in the right place. Unfortunately, perhaps due to pathological conditions that can be reduced to electro-chemical states of my brain, in all the time I wasted getting stoned in newspaper offices, I always wondered if my teacher was somehow wrong: if instead of journalists being obsessed with sex, it was sex itself that was obsessed with journalism.
This obsession of sex with journalism can be explained by the fact that while sex is still under the purview of the law of the land, journalists, by their own axioms, are beyond it. I do not mean to say that journalists are above the law, that they cannot be tried and sent to prison, but that journalists in India feel they can somehow explain away the law as an injunction designed for lesser mortals, the subjects of journalism. It is in this light that I read Tarun Tejpal’s admission of a lapse of judgment and about the atonement he had planned. I am afraid I was not shocked by what he did.
It was the actions of his victim that shocked me. After a long time I found myself outside the bubble of cynicism I had caged myself in soon after I joined the profession.
My father thinks journalism taught me how to roll a joint and drink copious amounts of alcohol with an almost religious zeal, but in my opinion the strongest vice I picked up (the one vice I think may be embedded in my DNA by now) was the ability to talk loosely about a woman one hardly knew and of attributing all kinds of cheap and immoral behaviour on her with an authority which, like the authority of God, is both arbitrary and ad hoc.
As a reporter I have come across countless reports of sexual misdemeanours by newspaper and television editors and while most of these incidents top the newsroom gossip charts, they seldom end up as police cases or official complaints of sexual harassment. When such matters are discussed, women generally blame the victim asking questions similar to the ones being put to the victim in the Tehelka case (Why did she enter the lift again?) while the men hero worship the editor as a sex god. The victim is either threatened, or charmed, or cajoled into treating the incident as a consensual casual encounter that did not lead to anything of significance, and is declared a slut while the editor is hailed as a playboy. As I write this, the newsrooms in Delhi and Mumbai are abuzz with another unreported case of molestation by a famous newspaper editor.
The victim in this case was his secretary. The matter was not reported to the police after an undisclosed sum of money was paid to the victim as compensation and settlement.
Tejpal tried a similar tactic when one of his family members went to the victim’s house and demanded to know what was it that she wanted? Clearly the idea that a victim wants justice is alien to Tejpal. Such actions reflect the convictions in the minds of our intellectual elite that in the end, might is right, the will to power is what the world is all about, the law is an ass and it is meant for the inferior lot. I am pained when I talk about my previous editors here. Part of the pain is attributed to my love for their writing and their intellectual rigour. I am ashamed to say that many of my heroes assault women and call it seduction when it works and lapse of judgment when it does not. What is the point of philosophy when our animal instincts take over in the end?
Views expressed are personal