LETTER TO DNA

NOTE:
Dear Friends,

I really feel strongly about our newspapers being more kid-friendly and appropriate for the general public. I was taken aback by Ashley Tellis’s article in last Sunday’s edition of DNA, which I found VERY inappropriate for a national daily newspaper. I have no personal issues with Mr. Tellis’s politics or his activism. But I feel very strongly that he needs to be aware of his audience. There are blogs and alternate media that have just as big an audience as a national newspaper. Articles from our daily newspapers are often read out in school classrooms. Obviously, this article would not be one of them. Anyway, please read the article, and if you feel the same, do write to the editor to voice your displeasure, at: inbox@dnaindia.net

Dear Editors of DNA,
This is to inform you that my family, along with several others, are shocked and surprised at the content published in last week’s Sunday edition and may be terminating our subscriptions.
Initially, many of us switched over from Times of India to DNA, because we felt DNA had more integrity and wasn’t gimmicky, in terms of publishing racy pictures, etc. However, Ashley Tellis’s article, ‘The Bad Sex Award goes to Indian Men.’ was in very poor taste and not at all fitting for a daily newspaper that caters to the general public, including children. My children read the Sunday edition and the last thing one would want their child to read is a sexually explicit rant (that too by an unhappy and cynical man). As a trained journalist, one has to ask whether this article was even read by your editors and whether DNA has any censorship protocols in place. I would like to make clear that I am a strong supporter of gay rights and found this article very insulting to gay Indian men as well. Tellis’s generalizations and graphic descriptions do nothing to create awareness of the struggles and challenges of the gay Indian community. The topic in this article could have been addressed with much more dignity and class.
I am so disappointed that DNA could stoop to this level. It really had the potential to become one of India’s foremost newspapers.
I would appreciate an explanation as to how DNA feels this sexually explicit article is appropriate for their Sunday edition and why they felt no need to censor the contents, although they censored the word ‘fuck’ in it. I think your younger readers deserve an apology and that you should have a warning in the beginning of such articles that content may be inappropriate for ages 18 and younger. Nevertheless, you have lost quite a few readers/supporters because of this, myself included.
Regards,
Shikha Malaviya
(Bangalore)

SUNDAY PAPER LOSES ITS INNOCENCE

We have been subscribing to DNA (Daily News & Analysis) for almost a year now and have been satisfied with it, for the most part, despite its political leanings towards the BJP. Times of India had too much gratuitous oomph in the form of risque pictures (although Times of India’s Crest edition has redeemed their reputation significantly.) and I was looking for something that was crisp and creative. DNA initially gave me that impression. I always enjoy their Sunday Mag section, because it gives me something to think about, whether they be opinions or book reviews. I might not agree with everything, but that’s what freedom of expression is all about. And then enters Grumpy Gay Indian Man who doesn’t seem to like society in general. I know, on the one hand BJP and then Gay rights? Well, that’s the beauty of Indian democracy and I love that DNA has no qualms in representing a spectrum. However, I was quite disturbed by what I read in the October 7th issue, in an article by the ever controversial and outspoken Ashley Tellis. I had a problem with Tellis’s strong views in the past regarding Jeet Thayil’s Booker Prize nomination and blogged about it  This time, Ashley’s ire is targeted at gay Indian men, in a piece called ‘The Bad sex award goes to Indian Men.’

In the first paragraph, Ashley Tellis says:
‘One of the best-kept secrets about gay life in India is that almost all gay sex here is lousy. I have to report that I have never had decent sex here, and I don’t think I ever will. Apart from the fact that Indians in general are lousy at sex and have all sorts of weird hang-ups about it, gay sex here has a particular set of sicknesses associated with it. So, Indian men who want to and do have gay sex also have no qualms about being disgusted by it and doing it badly. Culture legitimises that.

The subsequent paragraphs go into graphic detail about gay Indian men and their sex practices

Now if this article appeared in OUT magazine or in Trikone, I’d have read it and said fine. But the Sunday newspaper which my children flip through? I’ve never seen an article like this in The Hindu, The Times of India or Indian Express. Which makes me wonder what is DNA’s agenda? What tone are they trying to set. Every paper has an agenda. I went to journalism school, I read Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent. All media persons would agree that a newspaper has an agenda. But something here just doesn’t seem right. I’ve lived in two of the most gay friendly cities in the world and had vocal gay/lesbian professors/friends, but have never seen this type of bitterness/disdain for their society and people. Which brings me to the question, ‘What is Ashley Tellis’s agenda?’ Is this all just a publicity stunt for both the DNA and Ashley Tellis? After all, I’m talking about him and I’m sure others are too. To balance the spectrum, I’ve never even seen an article on heterosexual sex like this in the Sunday newspaper. Trust me, my reaction would be exactly the same.

Could I be overreacting? Am I a prude? Read the article and tell me what you think? Would you want your children reading this in the Sunday paper? Obviously, if I don’t like it, I can stop reading it, which is probably what I will do. I’m giving my DNA subscription till the end of this month.

All those in passionate pursuit of preserving the good old Sunday Newspaper, say aye!