Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
Quiz question: what are the following lines about?
It can all be seen as a metaphor for India itself, which is growing younger, hipper and more willing to take chances, awash in cash as its economy expands at 9 percent per year.
For the answer, check out this Washington Post article by Emily Wax, a lazy piece of journalism that is full of facile observations and clichéd analysis like the lines above. It’s not as bad as the Sean Thomas piece I linked to a couple of months ago, of course—but that’s hardly praise.
For one, Wax gets her facts wrong, and shows she hasn’t done basic research on what she is writing about:
[Twenty20 cricket] condenses nearly a week of match play into three hours, with shorter “overs,” which are similar to innings in baseball.
Shorter overs indeed! Then Wax explains that Indians are unused to people showing as much skin as the IPL cheerleaders are:
The American women’s presence has caused a stir across India, a conservative, Hindu-dominated country where even at the beach, women often shun swimwear in favor of saris, which are made of at least six yards of billowing fabric that covers everything from the neckline to the ankles, sometimes leaving the belly exposed.
I’m sure Wax’s editors did not ask her which beach she visited, if she went to one at all. Why upset preconceived notions? And what stir have the IPL cheerleaders caused? They’ve been written about because it’s a new gimmick for cricket, and not because they show too much skin—Wax would find as much skin on any of our entertainment channels, or in our glamour magazines, the entertainment pages of newspapers and online photo galleries. (An example from today…)
A quick Google search reveals that Wax seems to be a celebrated young foreign correspondent, but in my view, the best judges of that are not peers or bosses, but the residents of the places you are reporting from. To someone who does not know India, this piece of hers must seem full of insight and telling detail, instead of the sloppy hackwork that it is. But who cares what the natives think?
(Link via email from Gautam John.)
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