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Book Excerpt: From Life Among the Scorpions by Jaya Jaitly

Jaya Jaitly - Life Among the Scorpions



Tehelka Sting I

CONSPIRACIES AGAINST PEOPLE PERCEIVED TO be in ‘power’ are meticulously planned and have a carefully orchestrated process. The perpetrators are efficient, stealthy, networked and rich. It is easy to go after unsuspecting innocents and paint them as criminals. With ample help from a blood-thirsty media, a gullible and inflammable public and the cynical adage that ‘politics is not about fact, it is about perception’, they always have an advantage.

On 22 June 2000, George Fernandes, Digvijay Singh and I were on a morning flight to Rajkot to attend a state Samata Party conference. The Times of India was at hand. On the very front page was a small column headed, ‘Jadeja fixes a good match’. It stated categorically that ‘cricket star Ajay Jadeja has married Aditi Jaitly, the daughter of Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly, in a secret wedding’ (see photo section). A ‘close friend from the ITC golf course’ is quoted as saying, ‘Jadeja confessed that he has married Aditi’ with additional information about him keeping it a secret because he planned to make a film with Sonali Bendre and it would ‘affect his star status’. We were stunned. My daughter was in London for a dance performance. Ajay was there for a match, I think, and of course they had been classmates at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and good friends since the age of eleven, but they had been extremely careful not to flaunt their friendship in an age where a celebrity’s personal life is front-page material for voyeurs. Family respect and propriety within honest, liberal attitudes were values we brought up our children with. For a very brief second, I was hurt that my daughter would get married behind my back. I was instantly ashamed of losing faith in her openness, but if I had momentarily faltered, why would the media and public not believe it? I called Aditi in London as soon as we landed in Rajkot, where the media obviously made our poor Samata Party conference secondary to this.

Aditi had just woken up when I told her what The Times of India said. She burst out laughing and said, ‘Ma, it’s so ridiculous you should throw the newspaper in the dustbin.’ Ajay and Aditi were both quite used to gossip being written about Ajay and did not give it a second thought.

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‘Heartbreak’: Arundhati Roy’s reaction to the Tarun Tejpal sex case

The same people who are outraged at what happened with Tarun Tejpal and his young colleague are not outraged by what is happening systematically in militarised areas like Manipur, Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, says novelist and activist Arundhati Roy in a BBC interview.

arundhati_roy“The fact is that what has been alleged against him (Tarun Tejpal) is a pretty serious crime and you do have to admire the fact that a young colleague did have the courage to stand up and say what happened to her which isn’t normally the case.

“Yet, because of what happened in the [Delhi] gang rape last December, there is a lynch mob that is howling in a maximalist way. I think what we miss is a real addressing of the problem. On the one hand we are talking about sexual harassment, molestation and rape being a phenomenon which very many women go through. Is this media hysteria going to address the problem?”

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Opinion round-up: The fall of Indian novelist and journalist Tarun Tejpal

‘A Self-Styled Messiah’: Maheshwar Peri (Outlook)

TejpalThe stupidity of our nation gets greatly exposed with the extreme reactions to Tarun J. Tejpal—the cult following of his journalism at one end, and the lynch mobs baying for his blood, following the outing of his sexual escapades, at the other.

Tarun comes across as a sexual predator, on the prowl, in search of his next victim. He used his power and influence over young women half his age.

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A former editor speaks: Hartosh Bal on Tehelka’s ‘overdue’ demise (Firstpost)

Firstpost reached out to former Open editor Hartosh Bal for his view on the impending end of Tehelka. Bal was hired as Bureau chief at the inception of Tehelka magazine in 2004 and served for nearly 18 months. Moreover, as a veteran journalist, he offers an astute and startlingly candid view of the magazine and its place in the media landscape.

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The desire, the assassins and the masks – Tehelka: the unmaking of the maker (The Telegraph)

Sankarshan Thakur on Trun Tejpal and Tehelka: The great pity is, it’s not all about Tejpal or his dual lust for rarefied celebrity and subaltern stardom, Sir Vidia Naipaul and Soni Sori. Nor only about the bolt of disrepute he has called upon himself. The great pity of it all is that this is also about a brand he created and an institution he failed to craft.

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Analyse that: Manjula Padmanabhan on the Tejpal sex case

tarunThe Situation: Man enters lift with Girl, at a resort hotel. Man forces intimacies upon Girl. She protests, reminding him that she’s his employee at a well-regarded news magazine and his daughter’s best friend. He persists until Girl finally runs out. Traumatized and furious, she consults her friends. In the meantime, there’s an exchange of text messages between Man and Girl in which he refers to the incident in veiled terms.

Scenario One: She leaves the resort immediately, citing ill-health. Once work resumes, she confronts Man. He claims total memory loss. However, in view of her very obvious distress and his own text messages, he agrees to give her a generous severance package and excellent character references in exchange for her silence.

Girl’s friends insist she must go to court. She decides however, that this will only cause terrible harm to her best friend, besides exposing herself to the corrosive scrutiny of India’s conservative society. A month later, Girl has a great new job and gets on with her life though she is no longer friendly with the family.

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Tehelka case: not sexual assault, “only light-hearted bantering,” says Tarun Tejpal to court

TejpalTarun Tejpal, the founder of  Tehelka who has been accused of raping a younger colleague by the Goa Police, has said to court that the “encounter was only light-hearted bantering which lead to a moment of privacy between the two individuals. ”

Mr Tejpal’s version of events – offered in the Delhi High Court to support his request for anticipatory or pre-trial bail – sharply contradict an earlier version of events he offered.  In an email to the young woman last week, he wrote, “I apologize unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgment that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions…despite your clear reluctance.”

The court today gave him no relief and posted the hearing to tomorrow.

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India: Arundhati Roy speaks out in Tarun Tejpal rape case

‘This is Rape Number Two’ says the Indian novelist and activist: Outlook

tarunTarun Tejpal was one of the partners in India Ink, the publishing house that initially published my novel The God of Small Things. I have been asked by a number of journalists for my reaction to the recent events. I have been hesitant to say anything because of the howling media circus. It seemed vile to kick a man when he was down, especially when it seemed pretty clear that he would not get off lightly and that punishment for what he had done was coming his way. But now I am not so sure. The lawyers have moved in, and the big political wheels have begun to spin. My silence is liable to be vested with all sorts of absurd meaning.

Tarun was a friend for many years. With me he was always generous and always supportive. I have been an admirer of Tehelka too, albeit on an issue to issue basis. To me Tehelka’s great moments were when it published Ashish Khetan’s sting operation on some of the perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and Ajit Sahi’s work on the SIMI trials. However, Tarun and I inhabited very different worlds and our views (on politics as well as literature) far from bringing us together, caused us to drift apart. What has happened now has not shocked me, but it has broken my heart.

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India: Tarun Tejpal not welcome at Taj Literature Festival

tarunAfter being shunned by his own kinsmen, Tehelka chief Tarun Tejpal received another blow, when the Taj Literature Festival organising committee cancelled Tejpal’s invitation and banned his books from the festival.

To be held between December 12-14 and inaugurated by actress Sharmila Tagore, the Taj Literature festival is being attended by literary personalities from all over the country and abroad. After Tejpal’s name was muddied by the molestation controversy, the festival organizing committee held an emergency meeting on Friday evening, after which it was decided that Tejpal’s invitation should be cancelled and his books ‘The Alchemy of Desire’ and ‘The Valley of Mask’ be banned from the festival.

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Essay: Women — Vulnerable to violence

At a time when a shocked India is dealing with the allegations of rape against a high-profile writer and editor of Tehelka magazine, Tarun Tejpal, Dr. Usha Bande throws some light on an ugly reality: the rampant violence against women in the Indian sub-continent.

sea-of-innocenceViolence is a lived reality of a woman’s life that she alone experiences, suffers and endures. No amount of words can explain the pain and terror it causes because it is an experience that is personal. In a short story entitled “It was Dark” by Shashi Deshpande, a nine year old raped girl is in shock and when asked about the incident she can only repeat “it was dark”. This darkness is the subjective experience of every traumatized woman who falls a victim to violence be it sexual, domestic or social.

Violence against women is a hydra-headed monster that refuses to listen to reason; it is not intimidated by law; it refuses to make a retreat and that is why we need multi-pronged approaches to eliminate it. Violence, aggression and cruelty, wife bashing, rapes, acid attacks, murders and torture – indeed, this surfeit of violence is becoming more complex and manifest day by day. What reaches us is far less than what actually takes place and goes unreported.

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Tehelka sex scandal: It’s a lie, I am being framed, says Tarun Tejpal

TejpalHours after the Goa Police registered an FIR and accused him of raping a colleague, Tehelka magazine founder Tarun Tejpal Friday alleged that the victim was lying.

His lawyers, he said, know he is being framed and are aware of “political forces driving much of it”.

“It is a totally mendacious account of what happened, in its details, in its tonalities, in its very suggestion of non-consensus,” Tejpal, who stepped down as editor-in-chief of the weekly magazine Wednesday for six months over the alleged incident, said referring to the allegations by his colleague.

“In cold light of day, much of it will sound unsavoury, but now the inquiry will reveal it all,” he told The Indian Express in response to questions emailed to him.

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Indian novelist & editor of Tehelka accused of sexual misconduct, steps down for 6 months

Tarun Tejpal steps down as Tehelka’s Editor for six months over alleged sexual assault: NDTV

tarunTarun Tejpal, the Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka, has stepped down for six months after being accused of sexual assault by a woman journalist who works with the weekly magazine.

A person close to the journalist rejected Tehelka’s claim that she is “satisfied with the action taken.” She alleged that the woman was subjected to “an act of grave sexual misconduct” and said she was “completely shattered and emotionally scarred.”

“The act happened continuously over a period of time…and despite the girl pleading that she is almost the age of his daughter…she pleaded ‘please don’t do this’…Her ‘no’ was not accepted…it happened once and it happened the next day,” the journalist’s confidante alleged.

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