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Thursday, August 07, 2008

End of an era?

I have been a daily reader of the Times of India for over a decade and a half. When I started off, I was in Delhi and the choice used to be only between TOI and Hindustan Times and somehow TOI won. Since then it has become a part of my life. As I moved to Kanpur, Pune and Bangalore, TOI just stayed with me.

A lot of people would argue that TOI is one of the worst newspapers around. For years I defended TOI. My line of thought was that on weekdays I only need "news" which TOI provided reasonably well, but on weekends when I wanted "news + views", TOI had a great collection of columnists to keep me engaged. I spent much of my college days growing up on columns of Swaminathana Aiyyar (Swaminomics), Jug Suraiya (Jugular Vein), Gurcharan Das, Shobha De, Sunil Gavaskar and more recently Shashi Tharoor. For me, letting them go was unthinkable.

Now, I might be changing my mind after all, and ironically on a day when TOI proclaims to have reached 4 Lakh users in Bangalore. The primary reason is that the quality of English has become outright absurd. Basic spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, omissions and commissions have become inescapable. They have been increasing over time and I have possibly hit my threshold of tolerating poor English. I am no British, but basic language correctness in a newspaper is an essential.

So, what happens to all those columns? Well, I will probably try finding them online and read them. Swaminomics is already available online. And maybe over time, I would move on to reading columnists in other newspapers or other sites. But for now, I have decided to switch loyalties.

ps: My father believes that their quality has gone downhill since they digressed into all sorts of businesses. I don't agree. I just think they are hiring poorer graduates. Either way, if somebody knows the reason, drop a comment.

pps: If anybody from TOI group is reading, please get back some sanity in your newspaper. There are still a lot of followers, who will soon be lost if you keep going downhill.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Blasts aftermath

Recently, I blogged about me and wife's vacation plans and how reaching the airport was giving me headaches. Imagine then our state when we heard that a bunch of blasts rocked our city a few hours before our departure. I feel sorry for those affected by these blasts and no doubt that these are the work of some depraved minds.

On the said day, I decided to WFH, and I had to take the cab to my wife's office, pick her up and go to the Airport. I booked a cab with Meru, really good cab service for airport. But a few hours before, my wife woke me up to the grim news of the blasts. The driver then called me back an hour before our scheduled departure and declined to come. His explanation was that the roads are blocked and we wouldn't anyway be able to go.

I convinced him that I have stayed in enough tough situations and traveling, though difficult, should still be possible. He said he agreed in principle and was willing to come alone but not with the car. I requested him to come and promised to take him to airport without toouching any troubled spots.

The kind gentleman he was, he agreed and actually picked me up. I told him to take the Outer Ring road to Hebbal and then head out on the Hyderabad road. We didn't encounter any problems and headed out.

While driving, me and him engaged in a nice discussion and he was telling me a lot about how the Meru service works and how he actually sold his own car to drive for Meru because it was more lucrative. He, being a Muslim, was telling me that how these blasts, even if they were Islamic fundamentalist acts, were also adversely affecting him through loss of business. He also mentioned that actually stopping our normal activities would be such a victory for the murderers and he says given a choice, he would never stop because of these blasts, but such is the compulsions of the system where even a simple insurance claims means hundreds spent on bribes.

It was an enlightening experience for me and I eventually did reach the airport on time and boarded my flight. It did cost me Rs. 200 more to come through the longer route, but I don't think I would mind this one.

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