“Arunji, you must have been surprised to receive a call from me?” Churan Mal Tapori said.
“Yes, Mr. Tapori, I was. Frankly I still can’t quite place you,” Arun Poo Ree the doyen of print 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 and desperation rose to become the uncrowned monarch of bhajiwalas. I purchase vegetables from the farmers and sell them to the consumers after packaging and branding them. 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.”
“Can you tell me what you want from me?”
“My son is creating a problem?”
“If your son is creating a problem what am I supposed to do? I am neither a pediatrician nor a nanny.”
“Let me explain. My son Puran is studying 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 my occupation. Well, to make Puran happy I want to diversify into a profession which is much more respectable.”
“So what will you do? Peddle dry fruits?”
“No, no, Arunji I have decided I’ll launch a magazine?’
“What? Are you crazy? You know nothing about the publishing business and you want to straightaway launch a magazine which is about the most difficult thing to do!”
“That is why I have come to you. What you don’t know about print journalism can be written at the back of an Aalu.”
“Taporiji, I am surprised that you have such an in depth knowledge of journalism. But I must warn you I brook no interference from anyone.”
“Yes, of course. I’ll give you complete freedom,” Tapori said and they parted.
A week later Poo Ree entered Tapori’s room on the 19th floor of the impressive Tapori towers. He was followed by a young lady.
“Taporiji, this is my assistant Miss Sweety Chadda.”
They shook hands and Sweetyji began speaking, “Taporiji as far as the print media is concerned, this is the age of specialization. We have magazines on different subjects ranging from computers to cats, from furniture to fiber optics, from sex to semantics and G-strings to Geriatrics. In today’s world, if we want to survive then we have to select a unique category and make that the focus of our magazine.”
“I think that is a great idea. Let our magazine focus on vegetables. We can call it ‘Bhaji Bulletin’. That way I too will be able to contribute an editorial every week 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,” Poo Ree snapped.
“We should focus on scams. If there is one word which has redefined the art and craft of politics in the country, it is ‘Scam’. It has left no one untouched. Sari, Dhoti, Urea, Land, Coal, Fodder, Rice….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 Magazine will be called ‘Scam Times’ and will be devoted exclusively to the coverage of Scams.”
“But can you fill the pages of a weekly magazine with the news related only to scams?”
“Of course!” said Poo Ree. “We have already decided on the layout. The first 10 pages will feature the current national and international scams. Pages 11 to 15 will have political scams while pages 16 to 20 will have financial scams. Pages 21 to 25 will be related to scams in the area of sports and glamour. Pages 26 to 30 will feature scams down the ages. We can start with the Laakshagrah episode in the Mahabharata. After all it can be considered the Naani of all political scams.”
“Very good. Now let’s start the preparations for launching – ‘Scam Times’,” Tapori announced.
Three months later the first issue of ‘Scam Times’ hit the stands. Alas! it was also the last issue. On the cover 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 Poo Ree, had stumbled on this scam while working on a scoop for ‘Scam Times’. Only a day before the issue was to hit the stands Poo Ree realised that Kachori was one of the many aliases of C.M. Tapori and ATS just one among his numerous concerns. Now Poo Ree was in a terrible dilemma – on one side was duty and on the other booty. (Poo Ree had been offered 100 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.