This is the last Red Herring that will appear in this paper. Like all bad things (and, come to think of it, good things too), this column also had to come to an end. Although Buddhism and the law of conservation of energy — ‘Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form’ — allow for some kind of reincarnationary act on my part, it is unlikely that today’s readers (or what in technical jargon is called ‘the youth’) increasingly demanding something useful, something illuminating, or even a free key chain and cap with their morning reading these days will tolerate spending some three minutes of their lives each week reading this column any longer. Even Indira Gandhi knew when she had to call for general elections.
One of the perks of being on one’s death bed — or, if one is fortunate to be healthy, then against a wall facing a firing squad — is that one is granted a final wish. This cuts across cultures and even Amar Singh, I am told, was granted a last wish by Mulayam Singh Yadav before the former was cut loose to face the Big Empty. So I can be sure, dear HT reader, that you won’t mind me navel-gazing. One last time.
I started writing Herring off and on in these pages some 10 years ago when I looked around and found that people writing pieces with column names seemed cooler than people writing pieces without column names. And sure enough, after adding the two magic words ‘Red Herring’ to my pieces, I started getting a lot more imaginary readers than before. It was only after the launch of HT’s Mumbai edition in 2005 that my ‘column’ became regular, appearing every fortnight. Somewhere down the line, Herring became weekly. And the rest, as they say, is sophistry.
Never a political animal, I often used Herring as a platform to deal with political issues as if they were commonsensical things. So if someone described power as ‘poison’, I wrote about how he was either using that description to set himself up as a new, different kind of wielder of power, or that he was insuring himself against never attaining the level of power that everyone expected him to attain one day. (I had used the same logic of ‘I don’t want to study in IIT’ to get myself out of sitting for the IIT entrance exam that I would never have cracked.)
I also used this column to ensure that even if I had nothing reasonable to say, there would never be a repetition of what happened during the Emergency when editorial spaces in newspapers were left blank. Many readers have accused me over the years of not making sense, writing in a language that only the Aztecs would have understood after a round of teonanácatl (‘the god mushroom’), and of writing what even 13-year-old bloggers won’t find fit to upload.
But I had always believed that there are more things in heaven and earth, Harshavardhan-ji, than are dreamt of in well-written, smartly argued opinion pieces. Will Narendra Modi be a Sith Lord or Jedi Knight? How do you deal with homosexuals running riot and ransacking tissue rolls from kirana shops? Will Arvind Kejriwal ever have the time again to have sex? Is Shah Rukh Khan indeed the greatest actor to have played the role of Shah Rukh Khan (barring the one time in My Name Is Khan where Aamir Khan plays SRK)?
With so many earth-shattering things happening over the last eight-and-a-half years of Herring’s existence, it’s quite understandable that many readers have, especially over the last few years, popped burning dog poo in my mailbox for being self-obsessed, nonsensical and, most damningly of all, improper and offensive. But I would like to think that over the last quite a few Sundays, I have also made some of you feel paisa-vasooled and prettier.
But if Red Herring started when the Blue Turban became PM in 2004, it’s only right that in 2014 the former slides away like a tsetse fly inside a Europe-bound plane cabin especially when the latter’s already put on his roller skates. I’m sure we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when. But I will miss you, dear HT readers, especial... [Gunshots followed by a plop.]
Views expressed by the author are personal