This column’s 25! And there’s much to cherish
I’ve often been asked what is “the true story” of Sunday Sentiments. This morning I’ve decided to give you a potted version. It’s an interesting tale
Twenty-five is an interesting age. You can contest a Lok Sabha election, the doors of all bars are open and people no longer think of you as a boy or girl. At 18 or 21, you’re considered young. At 25 you’re an adult. Well, that’s how old this column is today!
What pleases me is sometime during the last quarter century, it’s become part of the architecture of this page. It’s there every week. Hopefully, people like what they read, but the column’s presence is no longer a surprise. However, I trust familiarity has fostered fondness.
Of course, the content keeps changing. First, there’s the juvenile side of me. Part of me is an adult, but another is a child at heart. But alongside a spoilt brat, I can also be pretentiously sage. Sententiousness comes to me as easily as silly jokes and weak puns. I suspect it’s this peculiar combination that’s contributed to the column’s longevity. If you don’t like the Sentiments that appear on one Sunday, there’s a good possibility you’ll like the column the week after.
I’ve often been asked what is “the true story” of Sunday Sentiments. This morning I’ve decided to give you a potted version. It’s an interesting tale.
Sunday Sentiments began as a diary. The first, on July 6, 1997, boastfully recounted a dinner with then Prime Minister Inder Gujral. I couldn’t hide the fact I was delighted to have been invited. Sadly, beyond that point and a few other details, I didn’t have very much else to report. Showing off was my real intention!
Over the years, Sunday Sentiments developed in many directions. First, it’s travelled right across the Hindustan Times. It began on the outer page of one of the weekend supplements. At that stage it was a diary. Then, developing wandering feet, it entered Brunch, but only for a brief sojourn. Perhaps feeling out of place, Sunday Sentiments fled the magazine for the op-ed pages of the main paper. There it’s stayed ever since.
Here, surrounded by the wise, Sunday Sentiments developed its present form. It became a single-issue column, although its length, under pressure of space, kept shrinking. It also acquired a split identity. On occasion it transformed into an eccentric, if not idiosyncratic, column.
This schizophrenia permitted me to speak with two voices: One for serious reflections on major issues of the day, the other to ventilate quirky ideas and even, occasionally, jokes and frivolous thoughts.
This is my 1,300th column. I have written one every single week. There wasn’t a Sunday I missed out.
There was, of course, a Sunday when the column didn’t appear, but that wasn’t my fault. A quarrel with the then editor led to his spiking it. It’s long forgotten and best not recalled, but I mention it to underline my point that I haven’t missed a “Sentiment” for 25 years!
At a conservative estimate, I have written well over a million words. Some of these columns have been published in collections by different publishing houses. Two were produced by Wisdom Tree, a third by HarperCollins.
On quiet afternoons I sometimes browse through them. I’m always surprised how much better I wrote when I first started. Age has made me ponderous although, I hope, and wiser. The lightness of touch that once came easily now has to be worked upon. Occasionally it even feels contrived.
Have you enjoyed these columns? After all, they are written for you. More than anything else, it’s your approbation they seek. So, this Sunday, I want to thank you, my readers, for your loyalty and support. But also, my colleagues at the Hindustan Times, who have stayed with this column for two-and-a-half decades. Those are the real reasons this column has survived.
Let me end by saying the day you turn this page without pausing to read these Sentiments, I’ll know the end has come. I hope I have the wit to realise that before someone else breaks the news!
Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story
The views expressed are personal