Sunday Levity: A cheat sheet for Sominists

A brief guide to writing articles about India that people will notice

1. Choose at least one from The List of Odious Things: poverty rate, inequality, caste, communal riots, dowry, Bollywood etc. (Advanced or more ambitious writers can try their hand at more than two)

2. Then pick one from The List of Good Things: democracy, economic growth, stock market, IT industry, cricket, Bollywood etc.

3. Blend the odious items into the good ones. It’s okay if they don’t mix. Then sprinkle some adjectives, nouns, verbs and other optional ingredients.

4. You are done.

NB: Don’t worry about political correctness. It’s asymmetrical.

[This brief guide has been offered for people who are usually too busy to research their articles properly for the subject is complex and may not even have time to read Neelakantan’s seminal article on this topic. It was prompted by this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, via email from Amit Varma, which Salil Tripathi has dispatched into the stands, over the bowler’s head. The word “Sominism” was coined by GreatBong.]

Update: GreatBong on the issues Down Under.

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7 Responses to Sunday Levity: A cheat sheet for Sominists

  1. Hari 6th January 2008 at 13:51 #

    This issue of how poor writing about India has a counterpart in Africa too. Consider this scathing essay ( by the Kenyan writer Binyawanga Wainaina on how poor writing on Africa is. Wainaina and Neelakantan’s approaches are startlingly similar. Here’s an excerpt:

    “Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’…. Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these…In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving… Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love—take advantage of this… Bad Western characters may include children of Tory cabinet ministers, Afrikaners, employees of the World Bank. When talking about exploitation by foreigners mention the Chinese and Indian traders. Blame the West for Africa’s situation. But do not be too specific… Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.”

  2. BongoPondit 7th January 2008 at 11:34 #


    I wonder if there exists somewhere a Great Automatic Grammatizator (wiki) for such lazy authors.

  3. Nanda Kishore 7th January 2008 at 15:19 #

    Amusing that this Salil Tripathi managed to sneak in references to the Gujarat riots with the usual rhetoric. All because he desperately wanted to show how inclusive of minorities Indian cricket has been, as if that isn’t obvious to anyone with an iota of knowledge about cricket, leave alone India. I must admit I’m not knowledgeable enough about what happened in Gujarat, but what a devious mind at work! Reminds me of an article in The Age (Melbourne) by a Pakistani (Irfan Hussain) following Benazir’s assassination which somehow managed an entire paragraph about Modi/Gujarat with the usual genocide/pogrom references. Talk about sore losers.


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