Friday, September 16, 2005


I seem to have offended all Indian staff and students at work (a couple of dozen, I think) with an article about drought in India (and its effect on farmers) that came out in the most recent issue of the magazine. Most of the info that's got back to me has been second hand, but it seems that it’s partly a pride thing – the article makes the region I wrote about sound poor and in need of help (which it is), but people feel it has been badly represented.

I stand by the information in the article (which was taken from a report by a senior researcher here and cleared by him) but in hindsight I should have run it by somebody from the same area (the researcher is Nepalese).

Apparently there is also some offence at the use of a photo that shows farmers (all male) without tops on. One of the Indian staff is intending to talk to me about it when he gets back from the region described in the article. I don’t know if he was planning to go there anyway or if he’s going because of the article, but either way people seem to be taking it very seriously. One Indian friend here
was apparently chastised for talking to me at lunch the other day. I've never been blacklisted in my life.

I actually gave the guy going to India a lift to work the other day. He was standing on the footpath and waved me down when he saw the work car; I assumed he must have missed the work bus or something -- or at least that's what I thought until I realised it was him. It seems awfully coincidental that the lead guy in the newly-formed anti-secretwombat brigade would (presumably for the first time ever) be standing on my route exactly as I drive by. Coincidence or not, the chat was amiable enough.

Not sure yet how I’ll handle it. If the topless photo is a real problem, we might need to publish an apology in the next issue, but I don’t think we can publish an apology about the information in the story. I’ve let people know that if there are grievances, send them to me in a letter and we might be able to publish that in the next issue. Whatever happens, even though I feel bad for offending people – many of whom I know and like, and (I think) like(d) me – this is by far the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to me at work. In a funny way I'm glad of it (though the offended people are not an audience I would actually want to offend).


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