Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Open - Fast turning into a farce

The Open started out as a decent magazine, and with Sandipan Deb and later Manu Joseph as editors, it got positioned as the one 'neutral' magazine on the street. It informed and provoked in equal measure, and was soon way better than the rag that is called 'India today' and the magazine-that-was Outlook.

Then Barkha-gate brought it to the limelight, and in many ways the magazine reveled in this. Even then, the magazine did not come undone. Then Hartosh Singh Bal happened. Smart guy, but usually too smart by half for himself. Magazine increased its 'unconventional' quotient. But in many ways, fell into the trap of being different for the sake of sounding cool. Now, it has become the magazine that writes stuff merely to provoke. There just is not enough substance. If the entire magazine were to be given a virtual nickname, it would have to be 'troll'.

While Manu Joseph wrote provocative (but freakishly well thought-out) pieces on Indian pride and religion (Islam in particular), Hartosh Singh Bal got into a war of words with William Darlymple - Bal and WD's reply. It would have been alright if Bal had stopped it at this. The Open then went on to print a rebuttal of a rebuttal which was completely unnecessary. Pseudo-intellectualism at its worst. As a reader, you were left with the feeling that these morons' sense of self-worth was so screwed that they believe this would interest me. I mean, investment bankers have smaller egos than this. Like Calvin would have said - I deeply resented the editors' assumption that this would amuse me (Calvin is a genius, btw).

This streak in the Open Magazine team to be contrarian is beginning to grate. When the whole country was talking anti-corruption, they ran with a cover story going how the middle-class is hypocritical and how Anna Hazare is a muppet. For the record, Anna Hazare is a figure-head, and most of India knows this. The earlier the Indian media gets this, the better. The magazine also became more pseudo-intellectual. For instance, I cannot even figure out what is being said by Hartosh Singh Bal here .

But all these are pardonable sins. Hartosh Singh Bal is probably like this school bully who has to have the last word and establish his ability to think a lot and think differently. The readers' complete lack of interest in this showcase of Bal's intellectual prowess be damned. There is half a chance that Bal might even be provoked enough to construct a reply to this in his mind rubbishing the credentials of yours truly (that is, in case one of the 4 people who reads this is not more than 3 levels of separation from Mr Bal). But, as I said, these are pardonable sins.

The main reason I am stopping my subscription is the space occupied on the Open Magazine by one Mr. Akshay Sawai. I refuse to fund any institution (in however indirect a way) that facilitates the upkeep of Mr Sawai. Now, I dont know Mr Sawai personally, but what I have read, I can only state that the Guardian's description of one of the football commentators would suit him perfectly. The phrase was - Efforts should be taken to cure Mr. X of his delusions of adequacy (or something to that effect). More on that here.

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