Today Sunday Sentiments is 20-years-old. It can now claim to be an adult column! However, the elements of juvenility that you frequently glimpse are a true reflection of my personality. I’m a child at heart. For some, in fact, a spoilt brat. The moments of sententious pontification – and I have to admit there are a few – may come easily but they’re not really me.
I have often been asked what is ‘the true story’ of Sunday Sentiments. This morning, somewhat self-indulgently, I have decided to give you a potted version of it. It’s an interesting if quaint story.
Sunday Sentiments began as a diary. The first, on the 6th of July 1997, boastfully recounted a dinner with then prime minister Inder Gujral. I couldn’t hide the fact I was delighted to have been invited. Sadly, beyond that point and a few other details I didn’t have very much else to report. Showing-off was my real intention and purpose!
Over the years Sunday Sentiments has developed in many directions. First, it’s travelled right across the Hindustan Times. It began on the outer page of one of the weekend supplements. At that stage it was a diary. Then, developing wandering feet, it entered Brunch but only for a brief temporary sojourn. Perhaps feeling out of place, Sunday Sentiments fled the magazine for the op-ed pages of the main paper. There it’s stayed ever since.
Here, surrounded by the wise, Sunday Sentiments developed its present form. It became a single issue column although its length, under pressure of space, kept shrinking. It also acquired a split identity. On occasion it transformed into an eccentric if not idiosyncratic column.
This schizophrenia permitted me to speak with two voices: one for serious reflections on major issues of the day, the other to ventilate quirky ideas and even, occasionally, jokes and frivolous thoughts.
Either way, the aim was always to inform or entertain. Rarely was it to preach. Indeed, when expressing an opinion became inevitable – or irresistible – I tried to do so by raising questions that would prompt the conclusion I was pushing at rather than assert it upfront.
Did I succeed? I’d like to think so and often, when people asked about my political views, I felt I had because that suggested they were unable to glean them from what I had written. But my critics were always sure they knew and they weren’t always wrong!
I’ve now written 1,040 columns over two decades – one every week. Column lengths have changed over the years, but at a conservative estimate, that’s the best part of a million words. If I say so myself, that’s an achievement both the paper and I can be proud of.
Over the years these columns have been published in two collections by different publishing houses. A third should be out soon.
Finally, this Sunday, I want to thank you, my readers, for your loyalty and support. That’s the sole reason why this column has survived for so long. And the day you start turning the page without pausing to read these sentiments I’ll know the end has come.