Sunday, 30 September 2012

How I shot myself in the leg, literally

First off, I apologise for the poor pun. (I don't know what it is that draws Indian mathematicians to puns - `the poorer the pun the better' seems to sum up the attitude! Suri, Paramu and Balaji are all, for instance, masters at this game!)

Talking of math, which signifies numbers to most people, today (Sept. 29th, 2012) should have seen the 29th article being published in my fortnightly column Different Strokes for Different Folks that has been carried for more than a year now in the newspaper editions in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore of the Times of India. But this happy coincidence was not to be, because I was informed just last week that for various reasons - such as the sky-rocketing rupee-dollar exchange rate, the consequent rise in price of newsprint, possible stylistic reservations about there being too much `me' in the column - the editors had decided to move my column from the newspaper format to the online format. Sure enough, I looked in vain for my column in today's newspaper, and then by a roundabout route I discovered where the online version could be found.

Ironically, the 28th instalment in my newspaper column was devoted to technologically disabled people who, for instance, were not comfortable with computers, email, etc. I am periodically contacted by some regular readers of my column who request me to mail them a copy of an article they had managed to miss. More than one reader was not too delighted when I answered that the whole collection could be accessed online in at least two places, for both of  which I provided e-addresses. One reader specifically said she did not have access to a computer.  I feel quite terrible that I have never really had a chance to tell people like her - from among many of my reading public (who are often more than 70 years old) - that I am grateful for their support, but unfortunately they will not be able to read any more of my stuff because they do not access the internet. Since I now have no way of explaining to them the reason why my column is missing from the customary spot on the op.-ed. page which it occupied for more than a year now, I request any of their contacts or friends who is reading this to convey the news of why that is so.

In case you are wondering about the title of this piece, I am wondering if my last article might have preempted the decision of the editors to move `my strokes' to what might be an e-black hole for many! In fact, I am beginning to worry about having agreed to ToI publishing my column only online and not in newsprint. On the one hand, as was pointed out to me by the editors, my articles will reach a much larger number of people than my blog will; but on the other hand, does this arrangement not, I ask myself, go against the grain of my column's  raison d'etre of the need for an inclusive society?

I guess I am seeking some sort of reassurance that this step (of forsaking a few in the interest of gaining a lot elsewhere) does not constitute some manner of capitulation. Some of my friends have been telling me that I should not lose sight of the fact that maximising the number of people my column can  reach should be the goal. I hope they are right!

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