By Rakesh Raman
Sex, sensuality, rape, emotions, spate of email dialogs, police chase, courtroom drama, media debates, shades of dirty politics, betrayal, et cetera.
With all these bloodcurdling ingredients, the ongoing case of Tehelka magazine editor Tarun Tejpal’s sex scandal that happened this month in a Goa hotel of India is a story fit for an action-packed Hollywood flick.
While the suspense is likely to lurk till the climax, here’s an analysis of the events that led the case to reach such a grotesque scale and become the subject of the latest Internet meme frenzy.
In his apology mail to the female victim, Tejpal said, “I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013…”
The incidents of “sexual liaison” happened in the elevator of the Goa hotel and lasted for a few seconds. These incidents are being termed as rape as per the Indian law. What was this lapse of judgment that Tejpal has stated? Can’t say, as his statement is full of ambiguity.
But it can be interpreted as his lack of judgement about the existence of a surveillance camera (CCTV camera) in the elevator where he allegedly outraged the modesty of his female colleague.
Obviously, when these incidents happened, Tejpal never thought about the surveillance cameras in the elevator. That’s why he went on to fulfill his desires. But later when the female victim protested in her email to Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, Tejpal was caught on the wrong foot.
Then he realized that he can’t tell a lie because there could be a surveillance camera in the hotel elevator. And if he told a lie, he will be caught through the camera footage. Thus, he was left with no other option but to admit his guilt. And he did so in his apology mail to the female.
Had he been sure that there was no camera in the elevator as it was later revealed by the hotel staff, he would have easily said that he never did for what he is being accused. Probably, that was the lapse of judgement on his part.
After admitting his guilt through the apology mail and offering to temporarily step down from the editorship of his magazine, he realized that his formal acquiescence is dragging him deeper into trouble instead of exonerating him from the rape accusation.
Now for the past one week he has been trying to give different colors to his earlier admission of crime by changing his statements with every eye blink. In his desperation to protect himself from the approaching claws of law, he is saying it could be a political ploy to destroy him because he did investigative stories on a particular political party.
Then he says it was a brief banter with the victim girl under the influence of liquor. All his attempts that sound like afterthought lies are aimed to clutch at straws to escape from the impending trouble which can be a punishment of several years in jail.
But why did Tejpal do all that for which he is in this dirty mess now? There may not be a straight answer at this stage, but the case can be viewed through a psychological lens.
After doing a sensational exposé against a political party in his Tehelka magazine in its initial years, Tejpal thought he has become a kind of messiah of truth. But many accuse him of doing sensational, yellow journalism or the journalism of blackmailing under the garb of journalistic investigations.
In this shady activity, however, he got extreme visibility that he mistook as his success. Tejpal failed to understand that success can’t be defined, as it’s a relative and abstract phenomenon. Everybody in this world is successful when they see the people below them and everybody is unsuccessful when they see the people above them.
For example, a jobless would think the one with a job is successful. And the employed would think they’re unsuccessful in front of others who have better jobs. Even a healthy beggar can be successful in the eyes of a lame beggar while the former would see them as unsuccessful in front of those who may be poor but not begging. Success is nothing but an illusion.
Like many others in this world, Tejpal has been a victim of this illusion. Name and fame that he got through shortcuts attacked his head like a fatal fever. As a result, he started living in a fool’s paradise.
When celebrities like Robert De Niro – an Academy Award-winning American actor – came to participate in Tejpal’s recent ThinkFest jamboree in Goa where the alleged rape happened, Tejpal got mesmerized by the mere presence of Robert De Niro.
In this fit of frenzy, he’d have thought he is the most powerful man and can do anything unencumbered – even playing with the body of an unrelated female. That he did, as is being said. The act was nothing but the crude demonstration of authority that Tejpal thought he enjoyed.
And he’s not alone in this game of promiscuity. Diversified sex has always been among the most popular ways to enjoy and express authority for high and mighty. In ancient times, kings and monarchs used to have concubines, celebs have mistresses, corporate bosses have beautiful secretaries who usually double as paramours, and now Tejpal chose this female colleague. But in his case, all went topsy-turvy.
And what followed has been disastrous for Tejpal. It’s said that even your own shadow leaves you when you are in darkness. Tejpal is facing it literally. Employees are leaving Tehelka magazine after this case became talk of the town. People are questioning its sources of investment and Tejpal’s links with shady characters.
Worse, Tejpal’s close associate Shoma Chaudhury, who tried a cover-up to save him, left the company a couple days ago when she saw the victim’s side gaining dominance in this case.
Now aging Tejpal stands alone in this battle that presumably he has already lost. But this case would certainly teach him many lessons so he could be more careful in future, as old habits die hard – all of us know.