Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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My Schadenfreude at the Expense of Snob Journalist Narasimhan Ram

by Sachi Sri Kantha, March 29, 2010

I never received a response from either Ram or any of his editorial desk colleagues. As such, ever since the story broke with the Archna Shukla story in the Indian Express of March 25th [“Battle for control breaks out in The Hindu very divided family”], that Narasimhan Ram has fallen into some kind of a pit dug by his immediate circle, my glee at his expense got an unusual surge. I followed the readers’ comments to this story. And I paste below a selection of them, in case of you have missed any.

If you call me somewhat of a sadistic type in delighting myself in schadenfreude, I plead guilty if it pertains to Narasimhan Ram, the current editor in chief of the House of Hindu in Chennai. The reason: I cannot forgive him for undermining the Eelam Tamil cause, and his repetitive use of a derisive epithet about the LTTE and its leadership.

My email to Ram

On July 20, 2009, I sent the following email to him. Excerpts:

“Attention: Mr. Narasimhan Ram, the editor in chief, The Hindu

Dear Sir:

Greetings from Japan. I have read your commentary that appeared in the Guardian (UK) on June 2, under the caption 'The idealist I once knew became the

Mr. Narasimhan Ram Editor in Chief The Hindu (Chennai) daily

Tamils' Pol Pot', on the death of V. Prabhakaran. I'm currently preparing a critical review of this piece of yours. I thought, I'll first clarify with you a couple of issues.

(1) You have been using this phrase 'Pol Potist' ad-nauseam. In the two English dictionaries near my desk, I couldn't find this word 'Pol Potist'. I'd appreciate if you can provide a definition for this word.

(2) You have also mentioned about this "Pol Potist state" of Prabhakaran. Can you kindly enlighten me, for how long have you stayed to experience life first hand in this so-called "Pol Potist state", while Prabhakaran was alive.

If I do not hear from you within a reasonable time limit (say, two-three weeks), I

may take that your silence makes it that you don't have anything positive to contribute for my kind request. In that case, I'll be tempted to use this email verbatim in my forthcoming critique. Thanks in advance for your courtesy and reading this email.”

I never received a response from either Ram or any of his editorial desk colleagues. As such, ever since the story broke with the Archna Shukla story in the Indian Express of March 25th [“Battle for control breaks out in The Hindu very divided family”], that Narasimhan Ram has fallen into some kind of a pit dug by his immediate circle, my glee at his expense got an unusual surge. I followed the readers’ comments to this story. And I paste below a selection of them, in case of you have missed.

Readers assess Ram’s pecadilloes

My schadenfreude at the expense of N. Ram doubled in the revelation that quite a number of Indians share my view on the credentials of this snob journalist. Below, I provide 11 readers’ comments. Note that I have made only marginal revision (such as errors in spelling and formatting, without altering the text in anyway) for clarity

“1. Hope good sense prevails and set their house in order

by: Srinivasan. The society benefited a lot of the Hindu's news, editorial and opinion from the days of its inception to till date. The recent changes in management under N.Ram's leadership brought it more a socially relevant paper than ever before. It will play a crucial role in the coming days when India itself is undergoing tremendous changes in many fields. This is a family feud. When it was started 136 years back, there were only 3/4 family members, now it is grown to over 150. It is natural that some problems may erupt at this stage. This feudal family produced some of the best liberal minded socially conscious people, an unusual phenomenon. I wish their differences be sorted out in a friendly way and continue to provide the society with their usual news, editorial and opinions which exhibits a high degree of objectivity and integrity. It has a great role to play in other media like internet and tv if they stay united.

2. The Hindu lost its reputation

by: Omkar. Ever since Mr. Ram took over this paper became very biased. More so in the recent times. Can't find a reason to carry the headlines for some one like M.F.Hussian or his likes. It is time for this paper to change its title from 'The Hindu' to some thing so by saving the name of a great religion. Hardly there are any general unbiased news. Either it is full of ads or biased editorials with Psudedo secularism. I hope this paper returns to its old days soon.

3. Hey Ram

by: Krishan. From the time Mr. Ram took over as Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu the newspaper has stopped fair reporting. All know Rams left leanings and anti Hinduism character. Let it be so. But he interferes too much in reporting factual news for his own reasons which is well known among those close to his family. Even in recent Modi's affair he took pride in reporting first about non existing summons to Mr. Modi to appear in court on a Sunday. Why he is so desperate to fix Modi? He is more loyal to painter Hussain than Hussain himself. We all know how famous The Hindu was. Now it has fallen on bad days due to this one man. Hey Lord RAM!. Save us from this atheist/communist Ram for the sake of truth.

4. The Hindu Feud

by: Jayaseelan. The decision of Mr. Ram to launch defamatory proceedings against another reputed daily shows that journalism has stooped to a very low level. It is time that Mr. Ram step down and pave way for a smooth transition. The Hindu, which was famous for its unbiased reporting has now become very pseudo-secular and leaning towards the Left due to Mr. Ram. The paper's quality of Reporting has also taken a beating and old employees are now leaving the organization.

5. Family Feud

by: Krishnakumar. Having provided a platform for Prakash Karat and his ilk, Ram now wants the paper to be life time mouth piece for discarded left with his editorial control over the Hindu for perpetuity.

6. Poetic Justice

by: T.A.P.Senthil kumar. Ever since Mr. Ram took over as Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, he used to express his own personal opinion instead of the newpapers' opinion in the name of editorial. He whole heartedly supported the Rajapaksa regime's atrocities against the Tamils blindly only because he has a personal rapport with him. Like this there are many instances when Mr. Ram used to misuse his official position as editor-in-chief to express ridiculous opinions against the public opinion. The recent one is his article from Washington which was published in the front page related to citizenship granted to M.F. Hussian by Quatar, in which he has ridiculously justified the painter's drawings vulgerly depicting Hindu goddess by saying that when the sculptures temples and paintings in Ajantha and Ellora are depicting Hindu goddess in nude, there is nothing wrong in M.F.Hussian's paintings. There are many instances he has misused the newpaper to further his own interest. Now it seems he is reaping what he sowed.

7. Ram aur Murali

by: visvachandra. Governance and morality are easy to preach and are ever green pet topics to be used when writing articles/Editorial and riduculing non communist political parties. This has become the guiding principles of the Hindu. Every one in Chennai knows that Mr. Ram was accommodated after the family feud ended during the Bofors Expose. But Mr. Ram should gracefully exit since he has become senile.

Questioning by other family members certainly is not acceptable for Mr. Ram when his own family and wealth are involved. Surely these developments are not surprising. Also one can see that none except Mr. Ram has reacted so far.

8. Change and its ramifications !

by: Chanakya. Pre Independence jewel The Hindu was a symbol of perfect journalism. It was a complete newspaper and was part of many middle class families. But the trend has changed and changed for worst during past decade. Unnecessary screaming headlines, biased reporting, left political bent and open attempts to commercialize the paper. This left many wondering whether this newspaper still deserves to carry the title the Hindu which undoubtedly belongs to a great religion. The paper has fallen from the grace and it would be better if management decides to give up the name also.

9. The Hindu Feud

by: Parameswaran. Once a family with 12 children, our family has grown to almost a community with more than 150 members in it. We used to like the Hindu till one decade back when the the Hindu used to publish only truth and absolutely unbiased. For the past one decade this newspaper has become one of the most biased newspaper totally leaning towards 'left' and the so-called 'psuedo-secularism'. All of us and our extended family members have stopped buying/reading this newspaper and the case is same with lot many educated people in Tamil Nadu. I think the time has come for Mr Ram do a bit of soul searching and find out where he went wrong.

10. Present state of the Hindu

by: Mohanavadivelu. In my youth I followed the Hindu in my small town Salem, Tamilnadu. Nowadays to me the Hindu was sold by its old glory. They gave irrelevent news. For example watch the front page news of Sunday [21.March 2010] edition of businessline: Private equity investors get meager returns from IPOs. This news fetch top priority in the Hindu, where this news will be treated as mid page substance for other business dailies. The Tamil brahmins must not treat readers as asinine. The Hindu must wound up as it is too old to keep with reality.

11. Most welcome development

by: Ekalavyan. This family feud is most welcome. The entire country will benefit from this. Very many thanks for this fine piece of Journalism.”

My Take

Among these views expressed on Ram and the Hindu daily, I agree with most, but I contest the view of Chanakya that this daily was a “pre-independence jewel and a symbol of perfect journalism.” Hogwash! None other than Jawaharlal Nehru had noted in his 1936 autobiography, the anti-independence stance taken by the Hindu during the Indian independence struggle. Here is Nehru’s view.

“Among the Indian-owned English newspapers, the Hindu of Madras is probably the best, so far as get-up and news service are concerned. It always reminds me of an old maiden lady, very prim and proper, who is shocked if a naughty word is used in her presence. It is eminently the paper of the bourgeois, comfortably settled in life. Not for it is the shady side of existence, the rough and tumble and conflict of life.” [An Autobiography, Oxford University Press, 1988, sixth impression, p. 327]

There is one thing that the Hindu management and its editors cannot do now. Though priding itself as a newspaper of long tradition, they cannot open their archives and reprint the Hindu editorials verbatim, from 1920 to 1947. I mean, on a daily basis. If they do this, their sycophancy to the British imperialists will be openly revealed. Nehru’s evaluation of the Hindu as the paper of bourgeois would be proved.

Considering the time and tempo of the days (in 1936), Nehru’s critique of the Hindu as ‘the paper of bourgeois’ was tactful and mild. I’d be more open in criticizing Narasimhan Ram as nothing but a snob journalist. His repetitive use of pejorative ‘Pol Potist’ adjective to Prabhakaran is tasteless for many Eelam Tamils, including me. It is my impression that he uses it as an euphemism to undermine an inferior caste connotation. For political correctness, he refrains from using the fisherman caste. That he leaves to his employee mouthpieces like D.B.S. Jeyaraj. While his friend Chandrika Kumaratunga used repetitively ‘Hitler’ epithet on Prabhakaran, Ram refrained from using it, as it would taint one of India’s idols of freedom struggle - Subash Chandra Bose (1897-1945), who was a Hitler acquaintance. Even Mahatma Gandhi had some nice words for Hitler. Nothing wrong with Gandhi himself; he placed both Hitler and his nemesis Churchill at the same pedestal, as racists.

Who is a snob? The dictionary defines a snob as, “n. somebody who looks down on people who are not cultivated or not from a high social class.” Ram’s attitude to LTTE was characterized by snobbery. He was an ardent practitioner of this art of snobbery. Lexicographer Eric Partridge (1894-1979) stated that “The predominant characteristic of snobbery being the display of a feeling of superiority, a display sometimes conscious but usually unconscious, and a feeling usually conscious yet seldom acknowledged, snobbery frequently issues in arrogance, or in condescension, or in an arrogant condescension.” I provide as an appendix, excerpts from a 60 year-old essay on snobs by Partridge. All what Partridge describes perfectly fits to N. Ram and his presidential friends circle (such as Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa).


The Speech-Habits of Snobs

by Eric Partridge

The world contains far too many of those people who have nothing to say – and who keep on saying it. Nothing can be done about them: they’re made that way, as also are those who inevitably say the wrong thing.

But there is another group, small in comparison to the total population but, in the world’s intellectual and cultural life, important. They could be more important, because, although most of them know what to say and a few have something worth the saying, their manner of saying it is unfortunate.

They speak like snobs; more, they speak as snobs; indeed, they are snobs. This is not the place for a profound and erudite disquisition upon the psychology of snobbery. But lest the ensuing remarks upon the language employed by snobs should appear either baseless or rootless, it might be well to mention that the least objectionable snobbery proceeds from an exaggerated sense of privilege; occasionally snobbery arises from a sense of mere financial superiority, and sometimes from a sense of intellectual superiority. If snobbery arises from more than one, especially if from all three, of those causes, it can be a very unpleasant – or, if disguised, a dangerous – thing to encounter.

Not all snobbery is social. Indeed, social snobbery is by far the least dangerous, although it may often seem the most unpleasant. Easily recognizable, it can, without much difficulty, be handled – either circumvented or nullified, whether by ridicule or by silent disregard. Nor, of course, is all snobbery verbal. For obvious reasons, however, only the verbal can be dealt with in such an article as this.

In what ways does snobbery show in speech? It is fairly easy to discern the speech-habits of snobs, but, as in all such matters, it is anything but easy to pin them down. The predominant characteristic of snobbery being the display of a feeling of superiority, a display sometimes conscious but usually unconscious, and a feeling usually conscious yet seldom acknowledged, snobbery frequently issues in arrogance, or in condescension, or in an arrogant condescension. But arrogance and condescension appear far more clearly in bearing and in tone than either in phrasing or in single words.

Snobbish speech can often be detected by the use of understatements so frequent and so insultingly deliberate that the recipient must be very thick-skinned or extremely imperceptive if he does not realize that the speaker thus employs understatement precisely because he feels that he is superior to the subject – or to his audience. Most educated and most cultured persons occasionally employ understatement; they, however, employ it whimsically or apologetically, and they do so from an innate modesty; they do it gently, not with the suggestion of an ornately velvet glove over a haughty, brutal fist.

Snobbery often issues in a playful euphemism – in humorous or would-be humorous terms more offensive than the simplicities for which they have been substituted. These euphemistic terms are more offensive because they obviously have not been prompted by modesty in the speaker, nor by consideration for the hearer; intentionally or unintentionally, they express the speaker’s feeling of moral or intellectual or social superiority.

Or perhaps it issues in a marked triviality of speech. (Speech may, of course, become the printed word.) Like the rest of us, snobs may or may not have trivial minds. If snobs have trivial minds, their inevitable triviality of speech does not, of itself, indicate snobbery. No; I refer not to such trivial speech as springs from the quality of mind but to such as springs from a quality of character: to triviality employed, at first deliberately and then perhaps so habitually that it becomes ‘second nature’: to triviality that forms a weapon in the snob’s fearsome armory; to triviality that, by implication, is designed to enhance, in the mind of the hearer, the importance or, at the very least, the considerable merit of the speaker – a triviality that, quite explicitly, is designed to depreciate or even to snub the hearer himself.

As towards sex, so towards liquor and gambling; as towards life, so towards death; the sophisticate, whether male or female, adopts callousness partly because it is supposed to be smart but partly also because it implies in the user an insolent contempt of ‘the universal debt’ and an arrogant disregard of good, or even of common, sense in respect of physical or financial health.

Less repellently, snobs tend to follow verbal fashions, especially the vogue words and phrases of the wealthy or the influential or the publicized intellectual or the ‘fascinatingly’ artistic.

Many snobs are stupid; not quite morons, yet certainly stupid rather than intelligent. With a touch of acuteness not, among such persons, so rare as one might think, these particular snobs have come to make a virtue of their lack of true intelligence. Nowadays, it is regarded as ‘cute’ to be shrewd yet not noticeably intelligent. And it is very ‘cute’ indeed to be merely ‘smart Alec’ instead of genuinely smart. That, however, constitutes a form of snobbery unlikely to last more than a few years. After all, snobbery must have a comfortable basis of self-esteem.

[abridged to 851 words, from ‘From Sanskrit to Brazil; Vignettes and Essays upon Languages’, 1969 reprint, pp. 54-64.]




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