Hartman de Souza, I am sure, is an honourable man, but he’s clearly one with a hearty distaste for facts. Also, clearly, he has a febrile imagination — well he is a “theatre veteran” — that leaps swiftly from allusion to innuendo and from that shaky branch to the firm ones of accusation and conspiracy. And on that high perch he sits back satisfied that Goa has been saved from rapacious mining and worse capitalists.
Alas, when I call him, having read his bizarre, baseless piece (You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, October 28), he is full of rage at the world, but no facts. When I tell him how we have not violated or bent a single rule in acquiring or renovating our old house, he rages about how the rest of India is destroying Goa. When I tell him my heart bleeds for the same jackfruit tree that his bleeds for, and that it is across the road and not on our property, and that we too complained when someone cut it down, he rages about how rich Goans are destroying Goa.
When I tell him we are impassioned tree lovers and that we have gone to exemplary lengths to save every single firm and infirm tree while renovating, he rages about how consumerism is destroying the world. When I tell him the house we bought was an old ruin in an inner village, half hour from the closest beach, and not some fancy villa by the sea, he rages about how he is sick of other Indians descending on and destroying Goa.
When I tell him the house cost us less than a one-bedroom apartment would in Delhi, he rages that he can’t himself afford to buy a house in Goa. (I tell him nor can I in Delhi.) When I tell him the reporter he has cited was asked to leave the magazine on account of poor performance, he rages that the world will soon run out of water and power and food (and love). When I tell him we don’t do mining, our investors don’t do mining, I have no friends who are mining barons, and that we actively refused sponsorship from all the Goan mining companies for our Think conclave, he rages that all mining is bad, everywhere.
When I tell him he would do better to look for the genuine bigdogs and their landed excesses, he rages that he is sick of the state of the world and will hunt them all down.
He tells me he’s very pissed off my book launch took place in a cultural place owned by the Salgaoncars. I ask him whether he dismisses Arundhati Roy’s wonderful critiques because they are published by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins. He tells me that’s semantics. I tell him that’s complexity, in an intricately intertwined world. He tells me he hates the words ‘pragmatism’ and ‘negotiation’. I tell him that’s a frightening position. If you wish to persuade, you should be willing to be persuaded. He tells me he’s past caring.
I don’t tell him that our journalists have in the last few years done more work than anyone else against land and mining violations in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Haryana and other states. I suspect for him if it isn’t in Goa it doesn’t count.
I don’t tell him that Tehelka’s public interest journalism ends up in crucial PILs, Supreme Court mandated special institutional tribunals (SITs), and impacts policy on a myriad human rights issues on a regular basis. I suspect, for him if it isn’t in Goa it doesn’t count.
I don’t tell him I go to the courts several times every month to defend ourselves against those whose wrongdoings we’ve exposed. I suspect, for him if it isn’t Goa it doesn’t count.
I don’t tell him that if the top 100 media editors and owners declare their assets I would be delighted, if included, to declare mine. Such revelations might explode his rage to potentially fatal levels.
I don’t tell him that my house or what I do with my legitimately earned money is no one’s business but my own and I resent this absurd, gratuitous intrusion into my personal life. I could, like him, take a leap of surmise and conclude he’s been set-up to attack us by one of the dozens of crooks we’ve exposed (as happens to us all the time by rabid right-wing fundamentalists, whose poison and bile one does not even bother to respond to). But I don’t make that acidic surmise and I offer him a correction because I know his heart bleeds for the just and the right, and he has put much of his life behind the good fight.
But the good fight, as we have all painstakingly learnt, cannot be all rage, blind and blinding. It cannot be rage to burn the world down. It cannot be rage that first massacres your own fellow soldiers.
Tarun J Tejpal is a writer, publisher, and the editor of Tehelka
The views expressed by the author are personal