"Arunji, you must have been surprised to receive a call from me?" Churan Mal Tapori said.
"Yes, Mr. Tapori, I was. But since you were so insistent I agreed to see you for a few minutes. Frankly I still can't quite place you," Arun Show Ree the doyen of investigative journalism in Bharat replied looking with rather ill-concealed distaste at the short, fat and prosperous looking man sitting opposite him.
"Well Arunji I started my life selling peanuts on the pavements and by sheer dint of dedication, determination and desperation rose to become the uncrowned monarch of 'bhajiwalas'."
"Are you the president of the Vegetable Vendors Association?"
"Of course not! I am the uncrowned Bhaji King of Bharat. I purchase vegetables from the farmers and sell them to the consumers after packaging and branding them. My head office is here in Amchi Mumbai and I have branches all over the country. Surely you must have heard of 'Climax Kaddu', 'Karamati Karela', 'Adbhut Aalu', 'Titanic Tamatar', 'Bindaas Bhindi' etc etc. All these brands are from the house of Tapori - the 'Betaaj Badshah of Bhajiwalas'. "
"Very interesting Mr. Bhaji....sorry Mr.Tapori. And now since I am equipped with enough information to write your biography can you tell me what you want from me?"
"Yes, yes I was just coming to that. My son is creating a problem?"
"Come on Mr.Tapori, if your son is creating a problem what am I supposed to do? I am neither a paediatrician nor a nanny."
"Easy Arunji. That is the problem with you journalists. You have no patience. You are always running after some line - either a by-line or a dead line. Anyways, as I was telling you my problem is my son. He is studying in class nine in the best public school of the city. His friends' fathers are all big shots - bureaucrats, industrialists, film stars, ministers etc. Now naturally he is ashamed of me or rather my profession. He even hates his name - Puran Chand Churan Mal Tapori and calls himself Pee Cee. Well, to make Pee Cee happy I want to diversify into a profession which is much more respectable."
"So what will you do? Instead of peddling bhaji you'll peddle dry fruits?"
"No, no, Arunji I have decided I'll launch a newspaper?'
"What? Are you crazy? You know nothing about the publishing business and you want to straightaway launch a daily which is about the most difficult thing to do?"
"I know my limitations. That is why I have come to you. You were at one time the most revered and feared journalist in the entire country. Though your writing might have lost some of its sting I am sure, given the right opportunity, you will once again create the same magic."
"Taporiji...I hope I can call you that....Taporiji...I am surprised that you have such an indepth knowledge of the milestones of journalism. You are quite right. Over the last couple of decades or so I have been concentrating on more serious stuff like writing tomes on various aspects of policy and polity. But now I want to get back into the action filled world of the daily newspaper. But I must warn you I brook no interference from anyone, not even the publisher."
"Yes, of course. I'll give you complete freedom. I have only one condition. Every issue of our newspaper should carry below the name the legend - 'Published by Churan Mal Tapori and one and only son Pee Cee."
Show Ree hesitated for a moment and then said, "Okay Taporiji, that should not be a problem. Now I think we should part and meet after a week. By then I'll have a strategy worked out to launch our newspaper."
A week later Show Ree entered Tapori's room on the nineteenth floor of the impressive Tapori towers. He was followed by a young lady clad in a tight fitting jeans and a tighter fitting T-shirt.
"Taporiji, this is my assistant Miss Sweety Chadda. You can call her Sweetyji."
They shook hands and the meeting began.
"First of all Sweetyji will present the findings of the exploratory study which she conducted on our proposed project."
Sweety got up and began speaking," Taporiji as far as the print media is concerned this is the age of specialisation. We have magazines on different subjects ranging from computers to cats, from furniture to fibreoptics, from sex to semantics and G- strings to Geriatrics. In the field of newspapers too this trend is catching on. In today's increasingly competitive world if we want to survive then niche marketing is the only choice. That is why we have to select a suitable category, subject or slot which will be the focus of our newspaper."
"I think that is a great idea. Let our newspaper focus on vegetables. We can call it ‘Bhaji Bulletin’. That way I too will be able to contribute an editorial every day devoted to the various aspects of bhaji growing, packaging and branding."
"Don't be silly Taporiji. Who will buy a newspaper devoted to bhindis and baingans, Kaddus and Karelas? Now please allow Sweetyji to continue."
"As I was saying Taporiji, we have to look for a subject which is new and untapped, yet one which is of current interest and will continue to remain a hot favourite."
"The only topic I can think of is sex. There is not a single newspaper devoted to sex. It is of current interest and will continue to hold the interest of humanity till the very end of civilisation. We can call the newspaper Indian Sexpress and have a front page editorial on different days by experts such as Sunny Leone, Shobha Day and Dukhwant Singh. All the condom manufacturers can be roped in to advertise in the newspaper."
"Brilliant Taporiji. I think you are thinking on the right lines. Except that, ironically, a paper devoted to sex will never see the light of the day in the land of the Kamasutra. Instead we can have a paper devoted to another aspect of life which is as common as sex," declared Arun Show Ree.
"What's that - poverty, pollution or population?" asked Tapori.
"No, it is a four letter word beginning with 'S' which has become a part and parcel of our national psyche."
"I got it. Its sexy as in 'Meri Pant bhi sexy, meri mooli bhi sexy, meri lauki bhi sexy hai .....’ Tapori got up and started wriggling to the tune of his tuneless song.
"No, no Taporijee. The word is Scam. This is one word which has redefined the art and craft of politics in the country. It has left no one untouched. Sari, Dhoti, Urea, Land, Fodder, TV, Wheat, Rice, House....these are seemingly innocuous words. Now just add the suffix scam and see what happens. It opens up a Pandora's box of corruption, wheeling dealing, theft, bribery and what have you. Taporiji our newspaper will be called 'Scam Times' and will be devoted to the exclusive coverage of Scams."
"Great. Your idea is even more delicious than a red and ripe tomato, but Sweetyji and Arunji can you fill the pages of a daily newspaper with the news related only to scams."
"Of course. We have already decided on the layout. The first page will be feature national and international scams. Page two and three will have political scams while page four and five will have financial scams. Page six will be related to scams in the area of sports and glamour," explained Arun Show Ree.
"But will you get enough sports and glamour scams to fill a page?" Tapori wondered.
"But of course. The peccadilloes of heroes, heroines, directors, choreographers, spot boys et al can be featured on these pages. Then we have honourable sportspersons like Agaruddin and sports administrators like Kaal Madi who will provide enough fodder for our needs," Sweetyji declared.
"To continue with the layout, page seven will be devoted to history. It will be called 'Memories of another day/night' and will feature scams down the ages. We can start with the 'Lakshagrah' episode in the Mahabharata. After all it can be considered the naani of all political scams."
"We can also start a serial 'Sex scam down the ages' and begin with 'Draupadi Vastraharan' episode ," chipped in Tapori
"That's simply brilliant Taporiji. I must say you have all the makings of an avant garde publisher, with your insightful understanding of the media," gushed Sweetyji.
"Page eight will be devoted to 'Leisure and Lifestyle'. This page will carry a comic strip based on a new character Arun - the Scam Buster'. This strip, which has been created by yours truly, will chronicle the adventures of Arun as he goes about cleansing the entire system," Show Ree declared and bowed as Taporiji and Sweetyji applauded.
"Very good, Arunji and Sweetyji. I am very happy with your planning. Now let's start the preparations for launching - 'Scam Times',” Tapori announced.
Three months later the first issue of 'Scam Times' hit the stands all over the country. Alas it was also the last issue. On the front page it carried a profile of the 'Scamster of the Year' - the first, last and only nomination of its kind ever made in Bharat. P.K. Kachori the Chairman Cum Managing Director of Aloo Tamatar Syndicate (ATS) had been awarded the title. ATS had bagged the Government tender for supplying 10 kg of Aloo and Tamatar to all the slum dwellers in Amchi Mumbai, every day for a period of one year. ATS had taken advance payment and duly completed the order.
There had been only one minor deviation. In the clause -'supply of 10 kg of Aloo and Tamatar, Kachori had erased 'K' and dutifully supplied 10 g of the vegetables to the slum dwellers. This minor aberration had made Kachori rich by a few hundred lakhs.
Arun Show Ree, the messiah of middle class morons, had stumbled on this scam while working on a scoop for 'Scam Times'. Only a day before the issue was to hit the stands Show Ree realised that Kachori was one of the many aliases of P.M.Tapori and ATS just one among his numerous concerns. Now Show Ree was in a terrible dilemma - the kind which would have the 'serial' writers in the throes of cerebral ecstacy. On one side was duty and on the other booty. (Show Ree had been offered twenty 200 lakhs and life time editorship of Scam Times by Tapori to keep his trap shut). Ultimately duty triumphed over booty and the rest as they say is history. Tapori landed in jail and 'Scam Times' folded up.
However, Show Ree being Show Ree managed to turn this 'calamity' into a glorious opportunity. He went into hibernation with Sweetyji and emerged six years later with his magnum of all opuses - 'Lies, Lies and even More lies - A Brutally Honest Critique of Middle Class Morality and Urban Angst' - by Arun Show Ree with footnotes by Sweetyji.
The book went into second reprint the same day it was released. Later that year it bagged the Pull-it-Sir Prize. It is now being made into a Hindi film by Mahesh Butt starring Imran Hash Me as Show Ree, Mallika Sharbat as Sweetyji and Bomman Iraqi as Tapori. The film has been titled: Jannat mein Murder ka Raaz.