Today's Sunday Guardian column.
I apologise, I really do. I meant no harm, and it certainly wasn’t my intention to cause offence to any caste, creed, political party or non-human species. Especially the members of the last category that have claws and can bite.
Allow me to explain. In going over my past reviews and columns, I find that I have occasionally expressed a point of view. I’ve shared opinions. And I’ve criticized writers for not being up to the mark. I’d like to make it clear, now and forever, that I did so without any attempt to denigrate, or for any personal gain. I was not appeasing vote banks, taking aim at the minority, coddling the majority or being pseudo-secular, proto-secular or paleo-secular. (Tick one.)
When I expressed disappointment at the structure of a given novel, I was certainly not alluding to the structure of the great Indian republic, of which I am privileged to be a part. When I showed dismay at an author’s prose style, I wasn’t in any direct or indirect manner taking pot shots at the style of any member of any august legislative body, all of whom are doing a fine job of governing this land.
Let me go further, in an attempt to clear things up for all of those who have the habit of reading between the lines. When I wrote that I was concerned at the declining standards of today’s novels, it was not my intent to slyly refer to the declining standards of the society we live in. When I wrote that I was dismayed at a debut novelist’s follow-up work, I wasn’t referring to the follow-up actions of the country’s police stations and courts, which are and will always remain shining examples of our law-enforcement and justice systems.
It has also been brought to my notice that, on occasion, those about to be charged with real or imagined offences can apply for a wondrous mechanism called anticipatory bail. Think of this piece, then, as this columnist’s version of such an act. It’s not that I am taking back whatever I’ve written or feel that I have done something wrong; it’s simply a matter of clearing the air, wiping the slate clean and setting the record straight. And it’s not easy to do all three at the same time, believe me.
Of course, not all my writing has been critical and negative. There have also been occasions when I have praised a writer’s work. I’d like to point out that such praise extends only to the work in question, and not to the writer’s caste or religion. I urge those belonging to other creeds not to see this as a veiled attack on their belief systems and not to start demonstrating and chanting slogans outside my house. It’s very difficult to catch up on sleep with such cacophony. Also, noise-cancelling headphones are expensive and the neighbours tend to complain.
Come to think of it, I have also at times applauded writers from other lands. This, again, is not to be construed to mean that I regard other countries as morally superior to India and hence worthy of praise. I have no plans to flee, emigrate or otherwise cross borders and so I would advise all of you -- with the utmost respect for your sentiments, not to mention your sensibilities -- to take a deep breath and calm down.
In closing, a suggestion that, in my opinion, would be the best course to take should you feel you’re about to be offended by me -- or by anyone else, for that matter. Simply turn the page of this paper and read something else. In saying this, I am by no means casting aspersions on your levels of literacy or understanding. All of you are fine and worthy folk and only have the nation’s best interests at heart. I stand ready to take offence at anyone who suggests otherwise.