IT’S UNWISE to mess with Mark Twain, but at TEHELKA we’ve always been poor at caution. The American felt, “Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction is obliged to make sense; truth isn’t.” Well at TEHELKA, all year, the reporters and editors work hard to make sense of the real world that increasingly washes over us like a tropical downpour, with the last month proving a virtual tsunami. It’s a big ask, to give coherence and moral framework to the very events that drench and batter us without pause. No wonder we often serve up addled accounts, as we try to read in the flying spray the shape of the shoreless sea. Yet that is what journalists must do: they must believe the truth can be made to make sense, else they lose their vocation.
But for one brief week, at the end of every year, TEHELKA lets go. It hands its pages over to the artisans of fiction, leaving them free to decode the world as they choose, with sense or no sense. To the critics — who wonder at such whimsicality — we say, it’s only a fleeting interlude, the stars of reality are straining at the wings ready to regain the stage. So take a deep breath, shake your head, perhaps locate a fresh perspective.
This special issue’s excesses and successes are owed to Nisha Susan and Gaurav Jain (who still read books when they go home). Assisting them have been designer Sudeep Chaudhuri and a clutch of terrific illustrators.
2010 has been like the opening frames of a Schwarzenegger film, insane noise, gunfire, blinding lights and strange creatures — and the promise of much more to come. Through it all TEHELKA’s small, very young, but highly-driven team has been at it furiously — from Maoist forests to power corridors; snaring awards and legal cases — trying to hold on to the founding thread of the idea of India. Like old Arnie’s films, 2011 threatens to demand even more of our stamina and senses. Like ol’ Arnie himself we promise to battle on, with alas less muscle but more eloquence.
Meantime, a happy new year, and some random pulp and noir.
TARUN J TEJPAL