Kajal Basu (Photo: Proteeti Basu)
As a rule, I am not interested in the editorial comings and goings of any newspaper or magazine. As an exception, I am when it happens to be a dear friend, journalist and fellow “übernutcase” (his description) Kajal Basu.
Kajal, who has pounded all journalistic beats over the last more than three decades, is about to take over as Editor of Tehelka, India’s first investigative news portal laid low by the ignominy of its founder-journalist Tarun Tejpal’s serious legal problems over charges of rape. This post is not about Tejpal but in a sense it is because it was his individual high-profile and self-absorption that made and unmade Tehelka as a media brand. With that elephant led out of the room, now on to Kajal.
Kajal is a classical journalist in so much as it means someone obsessively focused on hard facts, irrespective of their ideology and consequence. Quite easily among the most widely read journalists in India, he is also man of preternatural curiosity who is unmoved by ideological dogmas and rigidities other than pointing out the follies in harboring them. He is a thorough humanist unencumbered by religious certitudes. In short, he is a journalist as a journalist should be. It is from this standpoint that I believe his return to a news organization he was once closely involved in since its inception augurs well. At a time when, the Indian media is being coopted by political and corporate ideology, it is essential that it has seriously and intelligently contrarian voices such as I expect Kajal to provide as the Tehelka helmsman.
No one knows its better than him that it is going to be a Sisyphean task with the torments of Tantalus to match. (Kajal will understand this labored fusion of Greek mythologies). Kajal is not just taking over a seriously damaged brand but also a politically despised one. Tehelka has generally been disliked by politicians but none as much as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) whose dispensation has just been given a handsome parliamentary mandate. It may not seem like but it is precisely between being damaged and despised that Kajal will find a great opportunity to turn it around.
I have no doubt whatsoever that Kajal will get on with the job with the passion of a classical journalist whose judgments are influenced entirely by facts as they really are and not as they masquerade or dress up. One good thing that is going for him is that he enjoys an enormous goodwill among journalists of a certain generation and of a certain mold. He will be able to mine his resources rather well. As I said in my Facebook update, here is to Kajal as he helms Tehelka and raises it to his own caliber.