My eight-year long association with Outlook has just ended. As I say goodbye, here are the two chronicles/appraisals/histories of the magazine that I wrote when it turned ten, in 2005, and fifteen, in 2010. Until someone writes ‘Mr. Mehta’s Outlook’, like Ved Mehta wrote ‘Mr. Shawn’s New Yorker’, these two pieces may capture a small slice of the big story.
[This piece when Outlook turned 15]
ALL THINGS WE WERE
Beyond ready labels like ‘liberal’, ‘secular’ or ‘left-of-centre’ to the nuances and specifics
01 November 2010
If we begin with the presumption that ‘journalists are not ideological eunuchs,’ then the next question that arises is: what is the belief-system underpinning Outlook’s existence for the last 15 years? Rather than using ready labels like ‘liberal’, ‘secular’ or ‘left-of-centre’, it may be helpful to grapple with the nuances and specifics of what we are. Let’s explore that, first, through three quotes by three eminent writer-journalists.
Quote one: British journalist John Pilger in his introduction to Tell Me No Lies, a volume on investigative journalism, quotes a reader’s letter that Edward Smith Hall gave prominence to in the launch issue of his weekly, Sydney Monitor, in 1826. Hall was someone who gave Australia its three basic liberties: freedom of the press, representative government and trial by jury. The letter, describing the function of a journalist, says he is an “inveterate opposer (rather) than a staunch parasite of government”.
Quote two: Soviet dissident Yevgeni Yevtushenko said in his A Precocious Autobiography: “When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.”
Quote three: James Thurber of the New Yorker, in his eccentric essay, ‘My Fifty Years with James Thurber’, speaks about his boyhood: “His gold-rimmed glasses forever needed straightening, which gave him the appearance of a person who hears somebody calling but can’t make out where the sound is coming from. Because of his badly focused lenses, he saw not two of everything, but one-and-a-half. Thus, a four-wheeled wagon would not have eight wheels for him, but six. How he succeeded in preventing these two extra wheels from getting into his work, I have no way of knowing.”
In the extrapolation and application of these three quotes is contained the character of Outlook. In the spirit of the reader’s letter, the magazine has managed to be contrarian and irreverent rather naturally; it has also broken eerie silences many a time, and has always been able to laugh, Thurber-style, at itself; been utterly contemptuous of self-importance and retained a genuine sense of wonderment at having survived three turbulent half-decades.
To support the admittedly loaded claim to being contrarian, the average (and often angry) reader will be able to cite innumerable instances, beginning with the Kashmir poll we conducted in our first issue, in October ’95, which put the spotlight on human rights abuses and political aspirations in the Valley. The decibels were even higher when India tested an N-bomb; on Gujarat and Godhra; on Pakistan; on the situation of the Indian Muslim; the Parliament attack; on Taslima Nasreen; on Ayodhya; on the IPL; and, most recently, on the Maoist debate.
Readers’ letters have played their part in fuelling this contrarianism. In the first half-decade of Outlook (October 11, 1999), a reader (Sherna Gandhy from Pune) in response to the cover story ‘Do we really need a government?’ pointed out: “I augment my one measly hour of municipal water a day with costly tanker water. It’s not always potable, so I’ve a purifier. An inverter helps me tide over power cuts and poor garbage collection forced us to begin our own vermiculture project. Why indeed do we need a government?” Middle-class stories like this one spring from an understandable aversion to politics; they also found echo in a cover story in which we asked ‘Why the **** should we pay taxes?’ (April 2001). This was an Outlook circling round the centre rather than stagnating at a predictable point on the liberal-left. Maybe it is only after 2005 that we really began to live up to the charge some readers levelled at us, of being “bleeding-heart radicals”.
Breaking silences appears second nature. The match-fixing story; the Kargil intelligence reports; the revealing of Dawood Ibrahim’s Karachi address; the Scorpene expose and phone-tapping may have been the stand-out moments, but there were other relatively smaller occasions that were no less significant. For instance, the bludgeoning prose used to speak of Reliance in January 1996 when the ‘duplicate share’ and ‘insider trading’ controversies surrounded the corporate giant:
“There has never been an Indian company like this. In a country where ‘business ethics’ is considered a contradiction in terms, where mutterings about the ‘business-political nexus’ raises only a few tired eyebrows today, the Reliance group continues to draw extreme responses. From the creator of unequalled wealth for lakhs of shareholders to Devil incarnate, an amoral behemoth which has brutally subverted the nation’s politico-economic system to have its cake and devour it, at every opportunity it has got.” We came back to ask in December 2004: ‘Are the Ambani brothers taking 35 lakh people for a ride?’ Earlier, we blew the lid on backroom dealmaking in Vajpayee’s PMO.
Coming to the third aspect of the Thurber-style, the best place to find a generous sprinkling of this would be the Delhi diaries. Sample the last item in the latest issue (October 25, 2010), titled ‘So Much for Us’, in which Vinod Mehta writes: “At Chennai airport, a gentleman came up to me, shook my hand and said how much he enjoyed watching me on TV. When I asked him if he had heard about Outlook, he looked puzzled. ‘Outlook, which channel shows that?’ I quickly moved away.”
Go back to the item ‘Duffers vs Toppers’ in the very first Delhi Diary (October 18, 1995), in which the same writer says: “Recently, I was invited back to my old school in Lucknow which was celebrating its 150th anniversary. I was informed that I had been chosen as one of the distinguished Martinians…. I was anything but distinguished in my school days. In fact, academically I was something of a disaster and close to a joke figure. There were others who were formidably bright and it was assumed that these gentlemen would make it big in the world. Alas, life is cruel. With a few exceptions, precisely the opposite has happened. The ‘duffers’ in a sense prospered while the ‘toppers’ ended up in tea estates.”
This deep-chuckle brand of humour has also been expressed, since last year, through the Secret Diary column. In it, the fictional Amar Singh says: “And, yes, I also have a movie project—an expose of the fashion industry with eight songs and eight chases on toy cars all shot on the ramp. Its working title: The Devil Wears Jaya Prada”; a fictional Sonia Gandhi asks: “And why is Modiji raking up my foreign origins even after I have granted that ‘uthappam’ was a precursor to the ‘pizza’?” In sum, by trying to extract the essence of the magazine through three broad directions, all we are trying to say is that Outlook replicated no standard recipe, but created its own formula, necessitated by historical compulsion, conviction and also by competition.
I referred to “three half-decades” at the beginning. Like the three layers, this uncommon division of time is relevant to Outlook’s existence. Each half-decade has meant one big challenge. (Some challenges have spilled over to the next block, though, and will be with us in the future.) In the first half-decade, from 1995 to 2000, the challenge was economic survival; in the next half it was political survival and now, even as we would like to think we are cruising, we are forced to contemplate technological survival in an iPad era.
In that eyeball-grabbing, attention-seeking initial phase, we shocked and awed: In September 1996, in a cover story on sex trends in the ’90s, we announced: “If sexual revolution is taking place in India, its guerrillas are women.” We pioneered an investigative survey by Outlook staffers to pick MPs with criminal cases. Mind you, this was much before it became mandatory for people contesting polls to declare their assets and file affidavits of pending criminal cases. In July 1998, we carried out a freak public experiment by swallowing the Viagra pill. And yes, we got Arundhati Roy to say “I secede” before she said other things.
The cover graphics cried out for attention in a different way: check out the Sonia-Mona Lisa cover in May 1997; the Bofors boomerang cover with Sonia’s eyes popping out in February 1998; Sitaram Kesri as ‘villain’ in January ’98; Vajpayee as ‘Mr Flop’ in November 1998 and again Sonia as Ms Clueless in August 1999.
By the time Outlook stepped into its second half-decade, the BJP-led NDA regime was firmly ensconced. The subterranean tension, for an avowedly secular magazine, with a new regime founded on communal principles—‘Unfinished Task’ (December 18, 2000) and then four back-to-back Gujarat covers in December 2002—was evident. It had come to power with a majoritarian agenda after pulling down Babri Masjid and for us the parivar was constantly news—‘Defenders of the Faith’ (February 21, 2000); ‘Sangh Shock’ (March 27, 2000); ‘Loony Right’ (November 4, 2002). Outlook did try for a short period to construct a genuine right-of-centre, pro-reform position minus saffron hatred (‘Reforms: At Last Some Resolve’, February 7, 2000; ‘Ten Years of Reform’, June 25, 2001; ‘8 on 10’ for Yashwant Sinha’s budget in March 2001) but in the end, became unconvinced by the positions it was taking in a deeply polarised political and economic milieu. It moderated its enthusiasm for economic liberalisation, and then went even further, exposing the nexus between big money and the most important office in the nation, the PMO. This led to a frontal attack on Outlook. As a consequence of two covers that we did in a space of a couple of weeks (‘Rigging the PMO’, March 5, 2001, and ‘The PM’s Achilles Heel’, March 26, 2001), which essentially looked at how a clutch of business houses and individuals were setting the economic agenda of the nation, a vindictive government unleashed I-T and Enforcement Directorate raids on Outlook’s owners.
What of the last half-decade, and technological challenges? Outlook has had to survive in an era of screaming, 24-hour TV news channels; and at a time when a broadband connection has become commonplace among the people it wishes to reach. In 2000, there were only 2 million internet users, by 2006 it became 21 million and in September 2009 about 71 million people were accessing the Net; of them 52 million were termed active users. Their growing visibility is evident from the fact that most reactions to Outlook’s print stories are generated on its website. There is a looming sense that this is the future, at least an inalienable part of it.
Meanwhile, global recession, which heralded the death, distress or sale of several prestigious print publications in the US, has disseminated a stern message. One report said nearly 400 magazines folded in 2009. Businessweek was sold to Bloomberg and Newsweek is up for sale. The talk is that technology may offer a via media, although nobody has been able to crack the means to monetise the web as yet. We may want to assure ourselves that we are far behind the US in this respect, but perhaps not. No doubt, Indian readership has grown incrementally, and this is the only market in the world where print thrives. But we can’t pin our future hopes on that because the dynamic of technology is unpredictable—and we are not all that behind the rest of the world, technologically. So, what technological interfaces a print publication like Outlook should build is a question we can’t afford to ignore. Interestingly, though, in the last half-decade, Outlook has focused on the consequence of economic and technological progress in India. It has tried to vigorously capture the chasm that exists between India shining and the Indian in shambles.
Outlook is not given to soothsaying. In fact, it has had a bitter experience with its poll predictions, which it has got badly wrong on occasion (‘Photo Finish’, December 9, 2002, and ‘NDA Shining’, April 19, 2004). However, three prescient predictions do pop up in our back issues. One was contained in our Ayodhya opinion poll in the June 30, 2003, issue, in which we asked important questions: “Do you think prolonging the Ayodhya issue will hurt Muslim interests?” Nearly 64 per cent said ‘Yes’. “How do you favour solving the Ayodhya dispute?”—52 per cent said through ‘negotiated settlement’. “Do you think Muslims should gift the Babri Masjid site to Hindus?” An overwhelming 89 per cent said ‘no’. This was when the NDA regime was in power. Compare this to the opinion that exists now, seven years later (‘Angry & Anxious’, October 18, 2010). Remarkably similar.
In February 28, 1996, a good eight years before Manmohan Singh became prime minister, we asked: “Should Manmohan be prime minister?” It was an opinion poll again, for which we spoke to senior business executives and economists. One of the opinions said: “Manmohan Singh is a neta more interested in the dollar than in the kisan.” Also, in March 1998, when speaking of prospective Congress prime ministers, we said: “The Left Front could object to his candidature on the ground that he is an IMF man.” Early forebodings of the spectacular falling out between Manmohan Singh and the Left?
A third prediction is yet to be tested. In September 2000, we wrote an exclusive report on the contents of the Asia 2025 study conducted by the US under-secretary of defence (policy), in which futuristic became ballistic: “The United States of America uses its B-2 bombers in the year 2012 to launch conventional air-strikes to destroy Pakistani nuclear facilities in a bid to prevent the nukes from falling into the wrong hands. The extraordinary US action follows an unsuccessful Indian conventional attack on Pakistani nukes, and a retaliatory Pakistani nuclear strike against Indian border forces. This sparks the disintegration and disappearance of Pakistan, and creation of an expanded Indian Confederation or Superstate.”
Well, 2012 is a good year away. We’ll get back to you on how accurate that was!
Three Lakh Words
The last word, obviously, has to go to Arundhati Roy, whose writings are seen as significantly defining the Outlook spirit, especially in the last half-decade. She has written nearly 26 essays, which measure over two lakh words. She is sure to reach the three-lakh mark very soon. Many people have read her despite the great length of her writings. Some have agreed with her completely. Many have agreed with short and long caveats. And a large number have felt outraged by her views. Outlook has even been accused of ‘outsourcing’ radicalism to her. Even those who threatened to ‘unsubscribe’ if she is printed again, we bet, will take a sneak peek.
Arundhati began her journey as a polemicist with the magazine when she wrote the ‘End of Imagination’ piece in August 1998. Her latest work, on the state of the nation and the need to imagine an order beyond capitalism and communism, was in September 2010. She deserves all credit for single-handedly reviving interest in the institution of the public intellectual, and the relevance of the pamphlet. In the many debates that Arundhati’s essays have propelled, people have passionately gone back to European and American masters of the art of pamphleteering. In one such coffee-house discussion in Bangalore after ‘Walking with the Comrades’ (March 29, 2010) was published, Orwell’s 1937 classic A Road to Wigan Pier, written when a cloud of Fascism hung over Europe, was picked up for comparison.
However fair or unfair the act of comparing and the choice of the Orwellian piece was, it was agreed during the course of the discussion that Arundhati, though not as lucid as Orwell, was as compelling. But a close reading suggested that Orwell offered a fair idea of the alternate, and a sense of the achievable in his writing. In Arundhati’s work, it was said, anarchism (or ‘principled anarchism’ in the Chomskyan mould), mingled with a liberal dose of nihilism, ruled. It was also said that her prose was punctuated with what Orwell calls ‘intense self-consciousness’. During the debate, questions arose: Why has Arundhati failed to recognise that tribals are gunpowder for the revolutionary war of the Maoists? Why did her essays appear like an individual’s rant against the state? Where is the community? Whom does she represent and whom can she actually represent?
Finally, an interesting passage was read out from Road to Wigan Pier in which Orwell makes a distinction between two varieties of socialists: “On the one hand you have the warm-hearted unthinking Socialist, the typical working-class Socialist who only wants to abolish poverty and does not always grasp what this implies. On the other hand, you have the intellectual, book-trained Socialist, who understands that it is necessary to throw our present civilisation down the sink and is quite willing to do so. And this type is drawn, to begin with, entirely from the middle class and from a rootless town-bred section of the middle class at that.” Which one is Arundhati? Or is she is neither of them? History’s judgment is still open. Meanwhile, let the debate continue.
[This piece when Outlook turned 10]
1995-2005. A history in ten-and-a-half chapters
17 October 2005
At ten, does Outlook have a history? And should it be recounted so soon? History, usually, is a perspective in sepia that comes longer years after. Not in decennial doses. But despite the proximity of time, there can be little doubt that the first decade that Outlook has occupied has been among the more eventful in our nation’s history. A decade punctuated by change and challenge, churning and cheering.
There is yet a third question to ask: Does history matter much in an age of instant everything and a hyperbolic present?
Eric Hobsbawm, described as history’s greatest star, lamented in an interview on these pages last December that the discipline was increasingly becoming unnecessary: “The speed of change is such that the traditional links between the past and the present have disappeared. In the 20th century, modern technology has operated in a problem-solving mode to which history is irrelevant.”
Presuming ‘history’ is problematic, let’s assume a neutral, inventory term of ‘chronicle’. Here, then, is ten years of the nation as seen through ten years of Outlook, chronicled in ten-and-a-half chapters. A title borrowed from an eponymous book by Julian Barnes, who has assured us “another ten years of luck”.
Chapter One Insiders And An Outsider
The Outsider first. Sometime in 1999, a journalist asked Sonia Gandhi if he could tell her a joke. “Is it about me?” she asked. When told it was about the UP chief minister, she smiled in relief and said, “These days all the jokes are about me.” From being seen as a joke, a reluctant politician and an unsure arbiter of Congress destiny, to being the key person behind the UPA government in 2005, Sonia is the decade’s success story. Outlook put her on the cover as early as December 1996, when with her blessings Sitaram Kesri became party president.
We then called her the ‘Hand That Rocks The Congress’. Those were the days when ‘Piano Man’ P.V. Narasimha Rao (the title of a prognostic polscape we published before the Paris character was found in 2005), bruised by the poll results and battered by court cases, had reluctantly stepped down. Down he was, but not out. In August 1996, he told Kuldip Nayar he wanted to exit but had to hold on to his chair because he wanted to “rehabilitate” the party. Alas, that did not happen and history gave Rao the unkindest rap, his finance minister overshadowed him. The bitterness showed when in an April 1998 interview to Sagarika Ghose, he asked: “What family? I have no feelings for any family. Are Congress workers servants?” Four months before he died, in August 2004, when Outlook met him for the ‘What If?’ special issue, his whispery grunts against history hadn’t died down. Whatever, Outlook’s stroke of luck partly began when juicy excerpts from his novel Insider became part of the first issue in October 1995. The prose pretty much qualified for the bad sex prize: “It was a process in which millions of pores, blood vessels and reflexes were involved in an all-out comprehension.”
To return to Sonia, Outlook put her 19 times on the cover and seldom for a complimentary reason.On the contrary, she appeared most times as a caricature, ever since we made her look like Mona Lisa in May 1997.She was ‘Villain No.2’ in 1997, ‘Ms Clueless’ in August 1999.When the Quattrocchi factor was being discussed in February 1998, her eyes on the cover almost popped out as a Bofors boomerang approached her.A CBI report was lying before the then United Front government and breaking her silence, dared the government to put out the names.But the long life of the Bofors controversy born in the late ’80s somewhat died only in 2005.Not till ‘Saint Sonia’ had listened to her ‘inner voice’, which we said was like an “earsplitting” victory cry to the Opposition.Sonia’s innings in power has just about begun; she’s still seen as cautious “big sister”.
For the record, when the rest of the nation went into an overdrive about her ‘foreign origin’, Outlook took a pragmatic stand: “Why is it that…Sonia Gandhi still strikes everyone as a question rather than an answer? Fourteen years after she became an Indian citizen, there is nothing obviously ‘foreign’ about the Congress president.”
In all her years of maturing into power, Sonia never once spoke to Outlook exclusively. She was so out of bounds she virtually disappeared from Outlook’s cover for a full three years from 2000 to 2002. The magazine’s default contrarian stance and a near-anarchist take on practically every issue ensured the coteries of power kept us away. This unblemished record was only once broken by Vajpayee in May 1999, another major player in the decade, but he spoke when he was temporarily out of power. He admitted his 13-month government had become “over-confident”. A phrase that came back to haunt him in April 2004 when the NDA met shocking defeat. But going by cover count, Vajpayee’s made it 21 times, marginally higher than Sonia.
One of the early verdicts Outlook passed on Vajpayee in the wake of the November 1998 onion crisis was that his government was a “flop show”. His reluctance to govern was summed up with an anecdote he’d once told a friend: “Museebat hai! Kaun desh sambhalega? Isse to achha hai ki Parliament mein ek bhashan thok do aur ghar aake cinema dekho (It’s a bother. Who’ll govern the nation? Better to give a speech in Parliament and come home to a movie).” This verdict came less than six months after Pokhran II and the jingoistic halo around Vajpayee was still intact.
The magazine’s troubled engagement with Vajpayee became more intense when he came back to rule a full term. We called him a “flip-flop PM” (December 2002) when he seemed to be artfully playing to the hardline parivar gallery a few months after Gujarat riots.
An infographic which traced his forked tongue on every burning issue of the day: Modi, Ayodhya, conversions, Muslims and Fernandes read ‘Atal’s Somersaults’. The copy was more strident: “Statesman or artful dodger, consummate actor or harried politician… Is Vajpayee any one or all of these?”
By this time, the magazine’s head-on collision with the Vajpayee regime had already taken place. Two covers in March 2001 by Ajith Pillai and Murali Krishnan, which exposed the PM’s blind spots—his son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya, bureaucrats Brajesh Mishra and N.K. Singh—and how the three were ‘rigging’ the PMO, had severely angered the establishment. The then BJP president Bangaru Laxman had confirmed Ranjan’s role in the clearance of power projects and a former secretary (economic affairs) with the government, E.A.S. Sarma, had spilled the beans that “business lobbies like Reliance, Essar and the Hindujas have begun to exert their influence on the PMO”.But the magazine had to face unpleasant consequences as a result of its speaking out.
Unfortunately, in this act of courage to question the highest executive authority, Outlookwas alone.That’s when Vinod Mehta wrote the editorial Power of Silence: “The tragedy of Indian democracy is not our present rulers, the greater, much greater, tragedy is that we possess an Opposition led by Sonia Gandhi, Somnath Chatterjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav.I wonder what sins the people of this country have committed to deserve them.”
From the pages of these testing times emerges an interesting fact.In the same issue as the Power of Silence editorial (March 12, 2001), there is a longish letter by Reliance, defending itself against charges of influencing the PMO and a few page flips away, in the special Down Town section, ‘Anil Dharker dines Nita Ambani’ at the magazine’s expense.So much for Outlook’s newsroom being a plotting, scheming workshop where people’s reputations are built or sullied.A couple of months before the ‘rigging’ cover, we had published Ashok Saikia’s pleasant pictures of Vajpayee’s New Year holiday in Kumarakom.
Despite all these developments, Outlook did not swallow the bitterness pill, it continued to appeal to Vajpayee’s moral conscience.
Post Godhra, when the PM fumbled on Modi, we asked: ‘Mr PM, What About your Rajdharma?’ The relationship seemed to have somewhat improved over two years and in March 2003 we celebrated his completion of five years in office with a photo-essay titled ‘Portrait of a Poet-King’. Vajpayee looked invincible at that time and our poll survey in 2004 gave the advantage to the NDA, but the voters proved wiser.
After the NDA loss, Vinod Mehta wrote in his diary: “History, I believe, will not judge him (Vajpayee) kindly…. He quashed all challengers ruthlessly and never forgave those who crossed his path. Thus, this bumbling, shuffling, father-figure was a quintessential politician… who effortlessly combined low cunning with high virtue…his biggest weakness was the lack of a moral centre.”
Chapter Two: Left Right, Left Right
After the main players, the list of ‘character actors’ who also made history is long. There is one common vanity noun under which they took umbrage: kingmakers. They all peeped into the hall of history over the last ten years—L.K. Advani, Narendra Modi, Jyoti Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Prakash Karat, Bal Thackeray, Praveen Togadia, H.K.S. Surjeet, Sharad Pawar, Inderjit Gupta, K.S. Sudershan, Amar Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Sitaram Kesri, Mayawati, Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha, Chandrababu Naidu, Somnath Chatterjee and, of course, Laloo Yadav.
The mixed-up lineup is deliberate. The shrill, extreme or at times even pointed interventions these people made at different points unsettled the calm of the day and that is the thread that binds them all.
When it came to the ultra Right, Outlook arguably had one of its boldest covers. With the hoods of Thackeray, Singhal, Modi and Togadia, we said: “India’s Loony Right—It spouts venom, sows hatred and tarnishes India’s image. It attacks constitutional authorities and hinders governance. It must be reined in.” We also kept track of the growing ambition of the RSS, which as of now, in October 2005, is heartlessly ready to swallow its own child—the BJP.
For one of the bloodiest acts of organised communal killings that took place post Godhra in Gujarat in 2002, Modi appeared three times on the cover.But when he was wriggling away with his sophistry, we fixed him with an exclusive.Manu Joseph revealed that a minister in the Gujarat cabinet had blown the whistle before the Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal, which confirmed Modi’s hand in the riots.The report quoting the minister’s deposition said: “In the two-hour meeting, Modi…ordered that the police should not come in the way of ‘the Hindu backlash’.” Outlook later came under immense pressure to name the minister but he’s still a protected source.
However, the prediction we made for the December 2002 Gujarat assembly polls went horribly wrong.Our survey said Modi was quite likely to be dislodged. “It would be a photo finish and Congress has the edge,” we wrote.But Modi’s demagoguery swept the polls. Just a year before (November 2001) when he took over from Keshubhai Patel as CM, he had spelt out his agenda clearly to Outlook: “I’ve come here to play a one-day match.I need fast and performing batsmen…there are only 20,000 hours before the next election.” Well, his batsmen did perform.
On the Left’s trajectory of dilemma over reforms, it was only evident in a cover (June 1997) we did when Jyoti Basu completed 20 years of uninterrupted rule in West Bengal.An opinion poll revealed that 60 per cent of the people in West Bengal believed the Left had moved away from Leftist ideas.
Whatever that meant, but it was a prelude to the arrival of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, whom we grossly mistook to be a hardliner. “Brought up on the heavy revolutionary diet of Mao, Castro, Che and Ho Chi Minh…it is not without reason, therefore, that the industry circles and Calcutta upper crust feel more at home with the cosmopolitan Basu…in Basu’s absence they would instinctively want to interact with Asim Dasgupta or Somnath Chatterjee who are less doctrinaire than the incoming CM,” we wrote in November 2000. Contrast this with the quote Buddha gave us in August 2005: “I want investment. Money has no colour or nationality…. Look at China.”
A further indication that the Indian Left has changed is this nugget from our March 1998 issue. While discussing prospective Congress prime ministers, Yubaraj Ghimire wrote that in the event of a hung Parliament, the Left Front could object to Manmohan’s candidature on the ground that “he is an IMF man”.
Advani surely deserves the last word in this chapter. He was yet another key player of the decade, but had a relatively subdued presence in the magazine. He was overshadowed by Vajpayee. But his ‘unbecoming’ of a Hindutva leader in Pakistan while altering Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s place in Indian nationalist history was well covered. An excerpt from a column in June 2005: “I still cannot understand why one of India’s shrewdest, most experienced, ambitious and astute politicians should seem to write his own political obituary on a sightseeing tour of Pakistan.”
Chapter Three: India, Kashmir And The World
The subcontinental focus of India and the magazine dramatically altered after 9/11. At Outlook, before 2001, we very rarely had international covers. In September 1998, Tunku Varadarajan wrote about the Yankees’ puritanical reaction to Clinton’s sexcapades and we had a couple of covers when India played an archetypal “oriental” host with marigold, Taj Mahal and all to Clinton towards the end of his presidency in mid-2000. That’s all our interest was in the world. But the moment 9/11 happened, the superstructure of all arguments came to be built on the phrase: “world community”. Media appropriated the Pentagon phrase in a big way. The world had truly shrunk, terrorism was for real.
V.Sudarshan put it in perspective: “Indian policymakers see an unprecedented opportunity towards stamping out terrorism in all its forms and manifestations that has not so far been possible.” That is precisely what happened, our Kashmir and Pakistan interest developed a finer focus.To engage more and more people in the crucial debate, we tried to do away with the convoluted language of diplomacy.
A testimony to the magazine’s commitment to encourage people-to-people contact was the July 28, 2001 special issue, prior to the Agra summit, which was a full Pakistan package on the people and their lives.Besides the big issues of drug, war, economy, we also wrote about the lip-smacking fish delicacy in the Sindh province called Bunda Pala: “The fish is stuffed with a variety of herbs and spices, wrapped in cloth and buried a metre deep in hot sand.” Bunda Pala, we hoped, would temper the climate of hate between the two countries.These efforts continued when Indian cricketers went to Pakistan in March 2004 (Manu Joseph did a nightcrawl and found Lahore to be Delhi’s kin and Karachi Mumbai’s cousin) and later when the Pakistan team toured us a year on in March 2005.As early as January 1996 we had a copy on Pakistan’s high life.
Parallel to these ‘track two’ efforts, Outlook suggested a precocious framework of agreement (June 11, 2001) between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.The suggestions included LoC as border, J&K as a free trade zone, opening up bus routes, a soft border, reflecting Kashmiri identity in the passport, sharing of hydel power, etc.In the environment of mistrust then, this was blasphemy. Now in 2005 it is more or less mainstream talk. After all, Outlook’s inaugural cover in October 1995 put out the first-ever opinion poll from within Kashmir, which said 77 per cent thought there was no solution within the Indian Constitution. When the Agra summit failed, we wrote: “Walking the high road called friendship, India must make, whenever necessary, small unilateral concessions.”
While on the Kashmir subject, we cannot forget Ghulam Hasnain’s first-hand account on the jehad factory (September 25, 2000) from Ath Maqam in Pakistan-held Kashmir. Abu Mahaz, 25, spoke in the copy: “Our target was to kill Gen Krishan Pal. But somehow, we could not get hold of him…. This time, I am going on a suicide mission. And I am happy. I will soon achieve martyrdom.” Around that time, the US administration too had reluctantly admitted that terror was indeed being exported to Kashmir and here was some proof. In the last seven years, we have watched our neighbour so closely that Musharraf appeared eight times on our cover. In fact, in 2001 and ’02 he even looked like India’s Opposition leader when Sonia was lying low.
Thanks to the post-9/11 climate and growing economic interests, India took the Clinton line of “natural ally” forward and shed all Cold War inhibitions. The era of tentative and secretive engagement was over. Jaswant Singh met Strobe Talbott more than a dozen times. With the Bush administration posting an activist ambassador, Robert Blackwill, to Delhi, the Indian point of view was never missed in White House, or in Outlook. But Blackwill came in for some entertaining attack on the magazine’s pages for his garrulousness and for typifying the American arrogance. Vinod Mehta wrote in March 2002: “Post-September 11, India is forging a new relationship with the only remaining superpower. In that exercise, India must ensure its voice is, at the very least, heard before it is rejected. Until ambassador Blackwill becomes an equal-opportunity host, I will skip any further summons to his hallowed round table. Unless, of course, his chief guest is Julia Roberts.”
From this uneasy relationship to a “nuclear bargain” in July 2005 it has been a measured journey for India.Seema Sirohi summed it up well: “There are moments in history when hyperbole is not enough.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the United States was surely one such, a moment that defied expectations, broke orthodoxy and aligned two major forces of the world.” Not to forget the Ashley Tellis policy report (July 11, 2005) we put out, which stated that India was an Asian superpower that the “US should cultivate”.Understandably, news of the world for Outlook, beyond the subcontinent, has mostly flown from the US. Europe is there through London, but then largely as a value addition, chicken tikka masala, to the back-of-the-book section.
An exception to this formulation was when Iraq was blazing and Indian workers were stranded. But our Iraq coverage would be best remembered for Chander Suta Dogra’s scoop in May 2004, ‘Our Hitmen in Iraq’.When the Indian government had stoutly refused to join the US-led coalition in Iraq, good money had prompted Indian ex-servicemen to join the coalition as ‘irregulars’. That was a curious side to a globalised world.
Chapter Four: The Wars Within
These wars were public, but they had an intense private and unilluminated side to them.Outlookoften got interested in the alternate take.It is in this process that we discovered the conscientious Brigadier Surinder Singh during the Kargil war; the dried-up tears of Muslim brides in Kozhikode; the moral quandary of Imrana; the many deaths of Veerappan; simmering talent of Chamar cricketer P.Baloo; the Karachi Clifton address of Dawood Ibrahim; the shame of the Shankaracharya and the shattered dreams of Kanu Sanyal. Underworld connections, Naxal revolution, the caste quagmire, Gujarat communal riots, the interpretation of Shariat have all had the similar degree of unsettling influence on the Indian nation like the one ‘real’ war of the decade—Kargil.
In September 1999, Outlook published a story under the title ‘The War That Should Never Have Been’. Nitin Gokhale proved through documents how the army and the BJP government had been indifferent to serious warnings of a crisis in Kargil from Brig Surinder Singh, commander of the Kargil-based 121 Brigade. A letter from the brigadier to the army chief read: “Possible infiltrations along the LoC at the areas pointed out in my briefing to you have been ignored…whenever I brought up the topic in meetings with the GOC I was termed an alarmist….” The report was denied and the brigadier victimised but five years later, in February 2005, Saikat Datta’s story vindicated our stand. He sourced an internal “secret” report which admitted to the Kargil failures. “The three defence chiefs were indecisive. So was PM Vajpayee,” the report said. A similarly vital Saikat report was the one that exposed the government-paid holidays of Judge Phukan who probed the Tehelka tapes and gave the government a clean chit.
When Dawood Ibrahim, the personification of sly terror, was apparently on the run, our November 2000 report proved he was ensconced in Karachi: “As the Karachi sun slowly sinks into the Arabian Sea, the heavily-guarded house in Clifton comes alive…the owner of the palatial house is known as the ‘Gold Man’. For the neighbours, he is Iqbal Seth. But for the Karachi underworld, ‘Gold Man’ is none other than the notorious Mumbai don, Dawood Ibrahim.”
India’s quiet, brutal wars were the theme of an October 2003 cover by Saba Naqvi Bhaumik, where we listed the many revolutionary spokes in 14 Indian states. That included the Naxal People’s War battles and the ULFA movement. “These protracted struggles point to the many failures of the Indian State,” Saba wrote.Back in December ’96, Rajesh Joshi had written: “Deep in the jungles of Bastar and moving with a People’s War Group (PWG) squad is like trudging through a battle zone.”
Caste was another major area of conflict.One has to only read reactions to S.Anand’s stories, be it his story on Brahmins in cricket or the Kanchi Shankaracharya reportage, which take a pro-Dalit stance to understand the animos-ity that it can generate in a seemingly globalised forward-looking India. Outlook tried to understand caste churning as its two stories in January 1999 (Pilgrim’s Progress Revisited) and a cover in November 2002 (Choosing Their Religion) would prove.The larger context was that the right wing had picked religious conversions as an issue highlighted by the Graham Staines incident, even ‘liberal’ Vajpayee had called for a national debate on conversions, Dalit parties like the BSP had become assertive and there was a forward caste backlash to the social movement of lower castes.In fact, there is a line of argument that urges us to understand the aggressive liberalisation and the anti-reservation debate of the last decade as a counter to the assertion of lower castes. Here’s a quote of Dalit ideologue Kancha Illiah from an Outlook profile: “Just as the Brahmins are shouting Hinduise India, we should shout Dalitise India…the hated must hate.”
Islam has been another great site of conflict, especially post 9/11.Besides reflecting this and offering extensive coverage of post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat, Outlook’s spoken consistently for the Muslim women—Allah’s Forgotten Daughters.The tsunami, the Orissa cyclone, starvation deaths, the Gujarat temblor were battles of another kind.
If these were loud cries, the Parsis in Mumbai were in a turmoil and quietly battling their own tradition. We reported in May 2001 that the minuscule community was divided between reformists and the orthodox, over the issue of whether their dead should be kept in open wells at the Tower of Silence or be given a “more decent disposal”.
Chapter Five: Big Bucks, Big Dreams
It is quite baffling to count the number of times the magazine constructed angry questions for the nation’s “20 per cent” upwardly mobile middle class, took care to caution them of their money’s value, and reflected their lifestyle trends.
There is no doubting that this was the most empowered chunk of India’s billion during the last decade, but by pampering them Outlook was not only acknowledging their coming of age, but was also implicitly trying to define a readership constituency. They had money in their hands, their dreams had acquired new meaning, their shopping would keep the economy growing and it was their knowledge capital that was an infinite resource. They were clearly tired of the frugality of their parents’ life.
In January 1997, we wrote: “From shampoos to whiskies to computer chips to motor cars to hamburgers—everything traded in the West is now on sale at your friendly neighbourhood store,” but to guarantee this class a guilt-free consumption we hastened to add, “don’t worry, the Indian soul is not lost”. In April 2001, we had some seductive ‘brand’ prose: “Picture this. You wake up in the morning and savour some Tang orange juice. There’s Kraft cheese on toast for breakfast with some steaming Maxwell House coffee for company. Let the missus pack some red Washington apples…Toyota Corolla for yourself… Toblerone for kids…Carlo Rossi for friends.” And it was at the behest of the middle class that we wrote an open letter to the President in October 1999, asking why we should not “privatise” the government? And later asked ‘Why the **** should we pay taxes?’ (April 2001). .
It is tempting to view Outlook’s business pages with this now-familiar middle-class spin, but then that would be doing injustice to some of its hard-nosed stories.Sample this very accurate scenario-building by Sandipan Deb when we put out a special issue on the 10 years of reforms in June 2001.With cautious optimism, he asked: “Which of these futures are we heading towards? A) A society consisting of small numbers of the rich and super-rich living and a vast powerless majority of the underprivileged and impoverished.B) A country where equity is distributed efficiently and continuously, where every child born has access to the education, healthcare, justice and socio-economic infrastructure.C) A nation which trudges on, a mediocre plodder, with its standards for most aspects of life set at the minimum levels people would accept without resorting to violence.
“The truth is that 10 years after the reforms process began, future (a) is still possible, though perhaps not too probable.But so many times have governments flattered to deceive, so many times have unforeseen circumstances put a spanner in the works, that though one would like to hope that India will move to somewhere between future (b) and future (c), and closer to (b) than to (c).”
Take note of Alam Srinivas’ reportage when the battle of the Ambani brothers was raging in December 2004.There is not a phrase where he forgets the big picture and the small investor: “You or me—as one of 35 lakh shareholders in Reliance group firms—had no inkling of what was happening in India’s largest business empire. At some point in time, we ceased being part of the Reliance family. We, the part owners, however small those morsels, lost the trust of the two brothers who began running their companies like their fiefdoms.”
Or look at Paromita Shastri’s cover on the death of the Indian farmer (July 2005). Or an earlier one (September 2001) exposing flaws in the government’s food policy and the public distribution system, which pointedly asked “Why are 50 million Indians starving when 60 million tonnes of food rots in godowns?” These should complete the picture on the magazine’s spectrum of concern.
The ‘Lion & Ant King’ cover (June 2000) on two of the heroes of change in the last decade, Narayanamurthy and Azim Premji, was a high point of our tracking not just the new economy, but the paradigmatic shift taking place in India: “One is among the richest Indians in India, the other is the richest Indian on the globe; yet both are thrifty as hell…. Both have emerged as models to emulate for their peers in the same field in post-liberalisation India…. Both head companies that are cradles of talent. Both are notorious workaholics. Both can’t stand latecomers. Both have created tens of millionaires. Both admire Mahatma Gandhi….”
But when there was a hint of greed in the two heroes, we didn’t hesitate to remind them what they meant to us. In March 2005, we asked: “Murthy (has) put in an indent for 350 acres (1,52,46,000 sq ft) of fresh land for a new campus. And Premji has sought 100 acres (43,56,000 sq ft). The magic of the digital era, we had been told, was that it would require so little space unlike heavy industries… will somebody explain the logic of subsidising 2 crore sq ft of land to two cash-flush IT majors?”
Chapter Six: All Of 22 Yards
Let’s present two rather simple scenarios of a cricket match.One: Your team is losing wickets faster than you expected or bowlers are throwing the cherry wide of the mark.Scenario two: The opponents are crumbling like a pack of cards or your batsmen are hitting every other ball to the boundary.In both situations you cannot trust the way the game is going.A default instinctual question flies past your mind, like a Shoaib Akhtar delivery: ‘Couldn’t this match be fixed?’ This naturalised response to disbelief on the cricket ground is Outlook’s singular contribution to the viewing of the gentleman’s game.
Ever since the sad tale of a nation’s worshipped heroes betraying their adulatory masses was told in June 1997 by Aniruddha Bahal and Krishna Prasad, dozens of reputations have been sent to the pavilion.Wristy genius Azharuddin is still battling charges. One of India’s tallest cricketers, Kapil Dev, cried in public.South Africa’s Hansie Cronje could never recover from his bouts of confession. Pakistan’s Rashid Latif blew the whistle on his colleagues. Australia’s Warne admitted to some off-the-field topspinners.Some of the big bookies were traced to London and now, Lanka’s Muralitharan is in a jam. In short, the epidemic that we discovered has surfaced in all cricketing continents.
This was our big moment and it surely does not need a long chapter. We could have moved on by mentioning just one word: match-fixing.
Chapter Seven: Iconoclasts
Outlook’s had a quixotic relationship with icons.Amitabh Bachchan, ‘star of the millennium’, here’s how we handled him, not with care, not certainly with awe.In our July 20, 1998, cover Tarun Tejpal pitied him: “The signs of panic are everywhere…, Amitabh Bachchan, do-gooding avenger extraordinaire, coloniser of the collective Indian imagination, mythic alter ego and transcendent balm of an entire generation of oppressed, depressed, exploited, unhappy Indians, has been sadly trying to peddle soft drinks like Mirinda and electronic goods like BPL…his money managers have convinced him he is a brand. The truth is he is magic.” He was a fading icon then. When Amitabh turned 60, and had reinvented himself, Sandipan Deb found the hoopla ridiculous: “Has no one ever turned 60 before? Why do we make a god of Amitabh? Why do we think he’s Inspector Vijay in real life when he’s just a man with funny hair earning a living?” he asked. In August 2003, when the Big B had charmed himself again to the top of peoples’ mind, Outlook had an unusual quote, which explained his loyalties. When asked, “Will you do TV for Sahara?” He said: “Sahara is like my home, even if I’m asked to sweep their floors, I’d do it.”
When Aamir Khan became a producer with Lagaan for the first time, we had a curious take: “Aamir Khan has gone nuts. In the era of Tommy Hilfiger-inspired, made-in-Manhattan romances, he has invested a packet, Rs 25 crore to be precise, on a period film about a motley group of villagers living in Champaner in 1893. If that weren’t enough, he has entrusted the ambitious project to a bloke called Ashutosh Gowarikar…”
With King Khan, the man of the decade, we put him on cover in December 2000 when he turned entrepreneur and said ‘Raju Ban Gaya Businessman’. We evaluated his revenue model, made forecasts, but it turned out to be little like an unsustainable bull run in the stockmarket. There is little news of his business projects today.
For Aishwarya Rai, the world’s at her feet, but for Sanjay Suri, reviewing Bride and Prejudice, her expressions “seem to halt in the early stages of formation; who knows which particular look might trap her in an unflattering snapshot? She travels the world a prisoner of her facial paint” (August 2004).
But when cricketing icon Kapil wept after his name was dragged into the match-fixing scam, Sandipan Deb was generous: “I don’t know if Kapil Dev took money and tanked a few games, and I don’t care.Let’s assume the worst-case scenario: that he did deliberately under-perform in 10 per cent of the matches he played for India.That leaves us with 90 per cent.That is enough to last me a lifetime as an Indian and a cricket lover.” We were not shackled by the history we created.
Sachin Tendulkar, some would say, has been a particular favourite of Outlook.The ‘Sachin, an Intimate Portrait’ cover (August 1998) or the ‘Last Hero’ cover (January 1999) may have propelled this impression. In the August cover, Aniruddha Bahal wrote: “He has the aura to look at immortality in the eye and turn away.Maybe, on the inside he’s all cyborg, an advanced android form of 2135.” In the January cover, Dom Moraes wrote the only poem written for Outlook in 10 years: “Tall, cold, and arrogant, the captains came/To break this boy, and found he was a man….”
But in true Outlook tradition Sachin didn’t escape scrutiny.Many times we hastened to predict his end. As early as September 1999, we discussed threadbare his ‘sacroiliac joint’. Later his tennis elbow, hamstring, whipcord muscles and all the parts that help his heavy bat swing came under microscope. Probably his best is over, but the “genius” is still around and is not incapable of springing another surprise for another season.
While we are with icons we should mention the survey we conducted for the greatest Indian in our August 2002 Independence Day issue.We kept Mahatma Gandhi out of it.But the irony of the polls was telling, our readers who were all the while accusing us of supporting an Italian for prime ministership, voted an Albanian, Mother Teresa, as the greatest Indian. Khushwant Singh called it “the triumph of goodness amidst all the despair”. In December 1995, under the title ‘Baiting the Mother’ we had run exclusive extracts from Christopher Hitchens’ book, The Missionary Position, that examined with irreverence the motives of the future saint.
Soma Wadhwa’s cover on ‘True Leaders’ in September 1999, in which Mahasweta Devi, Aruna Roy, Baba Amte, Medha Patkar, Verghese Kurien et al figure, celebrates the alternate route to the hearts of the people. What better ‘alternate’ icon could have Outlook promoted in 10 years than Arundhati Roy. It would not be immodest to say that her journey as an essayist and public intellectual began at Outlook. She wrote ten long essays in ten years, all with an emphatic ‘I’, including one in which she sounded like Lady Luther King Jr: “If protesting against having a nuclear bomb implanted in my brain is anti-Hindu and anti-national, then I secede….”
Chapter Eight: Writers’ Zone
The crucial literary debate Outlook enthusiastically participated in the last decade was the face-off between Indian English writers, who until the ’90s were perceived as a group of fringe experience peddlers and their regional language counterparts, the venerated masters writing in Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam and other ‘vernaculars’.
During the last decade, in the context of change, excessive market play and the refurbished position of English as a global language, this debate lost its innocence and took a venal pitch. Rushdie fired the first salvo in his foreword to the The Vintage Book of Indian Writing. He said that virtually none of the writing done in the last 50 years in languages other than English quite measured up. Tarun Tejpal took Rushdie to task in his review of the book (July 1997): “The entire world knows Rushdie stirs a mean curry…he has sinned.”
The debate polarised when Arundhati Roy won the Booker in October 1997, but even before she had won the prize, she told Sagarika Ghose (September 1996): “I’m unhappy about reports implying that I am a mercenary who is hawking her book to the highest bidder.” By the time Sir Vidia received the Nobel in 2001, English writers had become cruelly indifferent to their regional counterparts.Girish Karnad’s Kannada play in August 2005 Odakalu Bimba, which Outlook reviewed, presents this debate in perspective and speaks of the dance of Mammon on the soul of writers.
One should also take a look at Sheela Reddy’s cover story before the Neemrana conference, Midnight’s Orphans (February 2002), in which Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay says the unfair advantage of English writers is “just like a fair-skinned woman has in our society”.In the same copy, Dilip Chitre said: “Regional writing doesn’t have to consult an English language mirror to know its face.Should nimbu pani compete with Coke?”
The other fine literary moments on Outlook’s pages: when we wrote an obituary for ‘oriental gent’ G.V. Desani and got Scheherazade Alim to speak of his Forster Chacha.When Sir Vidia said he had no advice for young writers and Vikram Seth said he was not a “recluse”. When we discovered the dilapidated Motihari home of one ‘Jaarj Arwil’ and Nirad Chaudhuri at 98 quirkily said, “every morning the woman next door comes to check I am not dead in my bed”. When we celebrated 50 years of Ray’s Pather Panchali and Karnad called Devdas ‘Hamlet of the East’. Not to forget Khushwant Singh recalling watching a ‘blue movie’ with R.K.Narayan.
In the last decade, some fine quality prose was written in our Diary columns, which in their best glow contain benign humour, a self-deprecatory worldview, gentle torment and cruising leisure of chatty words.
Chapter Nine: Especially Yours
Our special issues have contributed to our editorial equity. In ‘FMCG times’, these issues are rare efforts, created in far greater leisure and far lesser hassle of a weekly news cycle. The topics we have picked for these issues are deceptively simple like ‘What is Indian?’, ‘What If?’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Technovators’ etc. But through the 100-odd pages, we nurture them to become trees with a full bloom of branches, and roots running deep. Through these issues we have engaged some of the most perceptive minds. The detailing that has gone into these issues is encyclopaedic and entertaining (revisit Lingua Indica—An Irreverent Glossary in the August 2001 Independence Day special). Here’s a letter that hints that these special issues may have found a permanent place in our readers’ bookshelves. Jambunathan Raman wrote about our August 2005 Independence Day special: “I just flipped through the pages and decided it’s an issue worth preserving. I straightaway bought two copies and archived one.”
Would you believe that some of these special numbers have been edited by a person who crazily swallowed, sildenafil citrate, commonly known as Viagra, to write a story on its efficacy in the July 27, 1998 issue of Outlook?
Chapter Ten: End Notes
If you have stayed with the magazine, there are other good reasons to it as well. All the words we wrote in these 10 years were complemented by avant-garde design and resonant pictures.Outlook was among the first news organisations in India which gave editorial positions to an illustrator (Ajit Ninan) and a photographer (Prashant Panjiar).That should explain the importance that was given to the crucial visual element, which has a subterranean impact on a reader’s mind.The magazine was first designed inhouse, by a team led by Pranab Datta and consisted of our present executive editor Bishwadeep Moitra and Ajit Ninan.The magazine underwent a design change in March 2003 and will certainly evolve into other avatars with the changing patterns of visual life around us and in the media.
Finally: Put the word ‘outlook’ through a google search, within 0.08 seconds, and it yields about 15,30,00,000 results. As you sift through the results, you realise that there is a whole world out there, which shares the ‘outlook’ name: There is BBC’s ‘Outlook’, ‘Agriculture Outlook,’ ‘Food Outlook,’ ‘Grisham Outlook,’ ‘Presbyterian Outlook,’ ‘Socialist Outlook’ and, of course, Microsoft’s ‘Outlook Express’.Outlook is also the home of Canada’s longest pedestrian bridge.
Since they share our name, in a kinship society that is India it is fun to imagine, like in a Bollywood script, that they are all distant or lost cousins in an anonymous cyber cosmos.There is probably some dormant gene that links us up with all those who share our name elsewhere. Like Microsoft, we too began in a little garage and then became a two-room establishment in the Lodhi Hotel, before moving to AB-10 in Safdarjung Enclave, with attitude and expectation from the future. From then on we have tried to play the unassuming, modest role of a pedestrian bridge!