Dear Times of India

Sunil Mukhi
Mumbai, March 22 2004

An open letter to the Times of India, everyone's favourite newspaper, at least in this great land, and among us English-speaking folk. If you are unfamiliar with this newspaper for any reason, such as that you hail from Sweden or Equatorial Guinea,  this article will not make much sense to you. Sorry, unfortunate person, you just don't know what you've missed. [The author].

Dear Times of India,

I'm talking to you - yes, all of you. The owner, the editor-in-chief, the subeditors, journalists, formatters, layouters, fast bowlers, off-spinners - sorry, what am I saying? It's all a bit confusing nowadays. So let me start again.

To get to my point right away, I think your newspaper is just brilliant. A daily masterpiece, in fact! I've been reading it, on and off for a few decades now. It's had its phases - now communal, now secular, now pro-Indira, now pro-fundamentalist. But it always was, and is - and ever will be - the one and only, the greatest. The Times, ladies and gentlemen, of India! Bharat ka shaandaar Samay! And now in 2004, it's finally become even better than that. The Times of India is now about being Clever, and it's about Cricket. My two favourite subjects, as it turns out. The result is a high-water mark in journalism that must surely be the envy of Le Monde, The Hindu, The New York Times and all those other silly little newspapers.

Let me illustrate what I mean. This morning as I picked the Times of India off my doorstep, I saw in inch-high letters the headline: ``RAHUL IN LAHORE, RAHUL IN AMETHI". And my dear Times-persons, I silently marvelled at your cleverness. This was my thought process (I'm a slow thinker, but eventually I do get there): ``Rahul in Lahore", I thought, ``that has to be Rahul Dravid. While the one in Amethi, that one must be, what's his name, Rahul Gandhi." As I reached this point, the incredible truth began to dawn on me. Though I had always thought of them as two totally different people, there is a profound similarity between them: THEY HAVE  THE SAME FIRST NAME! And, moving swiftly from this deep and original observation, as only your newspaper can do, you PUT THEM IN THE SAME HEADLINE! What an exquisite twist on an apparently mundane reality. Like so many readers, I myself would have missed the point of the two Rahuls - the bi-Rahulity, as it were, of our nation. But your newspaper cleverly unmasked this hidden truth, and I can't thank you enough for it.

There was more good stuff to follow. ``Team theme saves India's pride" contained a great pun - "team" and "theme". I have some friends who pronounce these two words in exactly the same way! So the phrase would sound like "Team team"  - or perhaps "Theme theme", depending on the specific friend. Your puns are really a treat. In fact, one might say that your puns are fun! Get that? Pun, fun! See, I can do it too.

But I'll never be as good at this as you guys. At the bottom of today's front page you wrote: "At 94 for 4, only the wall stood tall". That must be about Dravid (one of the Rahuls, the one who's different from the other one). He's tall, and I've heard that he's known as "the wall". But how cleverly you exploited the fact that "wall" and "tall" rhyme with each other! What a turn of phrase - ``The wall stood tall" - fantastic! Perhaps we could make a song out of it. ``Tall, tall, the wall stood tall. Tall stood the wall, the tall tall wall". Don't laugh TOI, one day my song will be playing on Radio Mirchi! But more about that later. It took me a while to realise that the first half of this headline also had a pun, and A VERY SUBTLE ONE. Because, when you think about it, "94 for 4" sounds like "ninety four four four" and so you have the SAME sound repeated THREE TIMES! Get it? Four four four! Now this is far out! Or four out! Or not out! It's all the same thing, since I don't follow cricket too well.

In any case, I fully agree with your basic principle. Cricket is THE THING. Everyone likes it: Atalji, Colin Powell, Mush, Sush, Ash, the chanawala, you, me (yes I do LIKE it, though as I said, I don't follow it so well because... well, because it's complicated, and my mind is like, you know? A little... limited? But please don't mind. That was a pun, you know: mind, mind. Get it? MY MIND, and DON'T MIND. Well I've become a lot better at this stuff by reading the Times of India. And don't go away, I have so much more to tell you).

Where was I? Ah yes. With all that's been going on these days, we needed an entire newspaper devoted to cricket. And NOW WE HAVE ONE! I can't thank you enough, guys. I love the clever title for your reportage on this series: "Pakraman". That's classy. "Pakistan" and "Aakraman" - who would have imagined they'd fit together like that? I bet your team did a little victory dance when they thought that one up. Were there any other contenders? You must have immediately rejected the reverse pairing, "Aakistan", which frankly sounds like nothing much. Actually, had the match been in Kazakhstan (do they play cricket there?) you could have tried "Kazakhraman", which is fairly good too. Maybe all those "istan" countries were just designed for your clever little pun. Then again Turkmenistan doesn't fit the pattern, does it. So we won't play cricket there, even if they beg us. But on the subject of ``Pakraman" there is no dispute. You thought of it first, and you deserve full credit, oh profoundly intellectual newspaper of my life!

Now I'm the kind of person that, after reading your front page, is pretty much done with the newspaper. I mean, how much can one read about elections, train derailments, politicisation of history (I didn't even understand what that means). Just about the only thing I could follow today was the Page 2 article about Radio Mirchi. You rightly observe that this radio station has positioned itself as ``Aapka Apna Bollywood station". What frank and forthright admiration, and how beautifully put! I feel it's most decent of you to heap such praise on a different media company altogether. To tell the truth, I sometimes wonder whether the Mirchi people are totally above board. Occasionally they refer to themselves as "Times Radio Mirchi". Are they trying to suggest that they are somehow connected to your newspaper? They can't fool us, no sir. If they were connected to you then surely you wouldn't be praising them so much, for it would be tantamount to blowing one's own trumpet, wouldn't it.

I like money, so I'm not averse to reading about Business. Now your rival newspaper, The Hindu, has a whole section today called "Business Review" but it's boring as hell: stuff about "Business Process Management", and "Relentless bear pressure on bourses" - well, really! This kind of stuff just doesn't do it for me. I don't think I own too many bourses, so why would I care. Anyhow I skipped through most of your paper (stopping on pages 4,6,7,9,14 and 15 which are full-page ads that I always enjoy browsing) and finally reached the Business page, familiar territory. Instantly my eye fell on "Private train of thought", an article about  people who think the railways should be privatised. Neat! At least I think so! Here is my take on it: these peoples' train (of thought) is their own train, and therefore private, but at one and the same moment, their (private train of) thought is about trains (on tracks) being private. Hats off to whoever thought this one up! How can you possibly get through these complicated thoughts yourselves - my own trains (of thought) get derailed so easily! In fact the next headline I saw was "BRICs have to be laid" and, to be very honest, this caused my "private" thoughts to leap the tracks then and there. No, I won't go into any more detail.

At that point I switched to your supplement, Bombay Times. I want to write them a letter too, just like this one. Maybe another day. But let me tell you, they're as brilliant as the main newspaper. And I fully agree with them when they say "Pamela Anderson is NO BIMBO!". Why would anyone think she was? I just don't get it.

Author: Sunil Mukhi.
Comments to: sunil_mukhi[at]
Last modified: Tue Mar 24,2004, 15:00 AM EST
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