Falling Standards in the Newspaper Columns

Posted on: December 17, 2011

I remember the days when I used to wait eagerly for the daily newspapers. As soon as the newspapers would arrive, I used to head straightaway for the edit pages ignoring the front pages. The reason was I used to enjoy reading the news analysis and various columns written by some of the esteemed columnists. I remember reading Shashi Tharoor’s columns in Sunday Times known as Shashi on Sunday. I have till date preserved the cuttings of those columns. My another favourite was Santosh Desai’s City City Bang Bang. I waited eagerly for the Monday newspaper only for City City Bang Bang. Then there were Swapan Dasgupta’s columns. Shobhaa Dey and Pritish Nandy’s words never failed to amuse me. I always envy the way they write those masterpieces. Jug Suraiya, Bachi Karkaria and Gurcharan Das used to light up the pages of The Times Of India with their insightful, witty and intelligent columns. For sports related news analysis Ayaz Memon, Suresh Menon and Boria Mazumdar are the names that come to mind.

Sadly, nowadays all the above mentioned people with the exception of one or two  seem to have lost their magical touch. Shashi Tharoor no longer invokes that wow feeling on the pages of Deccan Chronicle. His columns masquerade as a propaganda for the Congress Party. Santosh Desai’s City City Bang Bang elicits a big yawn. Swapan Dasgupta is a shadow of his former self. Jug Suraiya and Bachi Karkaria love to caricature the latest trends with the same gusto but I cannot exactly place my finger on what they are missing. Pritish Nandy is one columnist who springs occasional surprises by expressing innovative ideas at the current state of the nation in his column. His prose carrying lofty ideas is so simple and flows like a river. No longer cricket arouses the same passion as before and therefore Ayaz Memon, Suresh Memon and Boria Mazumdar just get a cursory glance unless they write about something other than cricket.

The most shocking is sudden loss of Shobhaa Dey’s form. Of all the columnists I read Shobhaa Dey  was someone for whom admiration seemed to be ever growing. But now? Well, she is a big disappointment. She has been trying to reach out to the younger generation. But the attempts seem to be boomeranging. Where is that magical touch? Where is that humourous tone? Where is that satire?  She wants to write about Anna Hazare’s fast and its sell by date in one column that has appeared in today’s one of the leading dailies. Then she goes on to ramble about Barrack Obama and the Time person of the year. She ends the piece by throwing the kolaveri di bit in. All these are the signs of a cluttered mind. She comes across as someone who wants to boast about that she knows what has been going on. This irritates her die hard fans. Is she really one of the most popular columnists in the country?

What is appalling is some of these so-called intelligent columnists slam the bloggers every now and then. They fail to see that standards are falling within their own elite club of columnists. They want to overlook what is happening there. With access to Internet any common man can turn a columnist on his or her blog and express the views far better than what some selected few have been doing for decades. Some of the famous bloggers have gone on to become the columnists in the leading dailies of this country. The competition from the unexpected quarter has taken many by surprise. Perhaps this has not gone down well with many columnists who find their turf being challenged by the lesser mortals.

Whatever may be the case, the fact remains that the likes of Shobhaa Dey ought to reinvent themselves otherwise the journey from popularity to obscurity will be a matter of time.


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