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The following passage appeared in a recent Tehelka story on Kaavya Vishwanathan.

Author Samit Basu rises to her defence, “If you wanted to steal from someone’s work, why would you pick obscure stuff?” The plot’s fairly original, but some paragraphs definitely seem a copy. Says he, “There are also speculations that maybe someone at the publishing house inserted these passages last minute! It could’ve also been an authorial breakdown, since she had to write the book in two months — there was a great deal of pressure. She’s really young and one can never really tell whether the copying was intentional or not.”

1) At no point did I defend KV’s actions, so the ‘rises to her defence’ would seem, to put it mildly, incorrect. I told the Tehelka reporter it clearly looked like plagiarism, given the passages on the Net, and that while she should clearly be punished if she’d copied other writers’ work, I felt sorry for her, because of a few reasons, mostly listed, and was waiting to see the rest of the story unfold – and was also in no position to say whether the copying was intentional or not, given that I hadn’t read the books. The quote was taken, as far as I remember, after KV’s apology. In any case, there was no question of defending Kaavya Vishwanathan, though I tried to balance the condemnation with a degree of sympathy, because the poor girl must be going through hell right now.

2)“If you wanted to steal from someone’s work, why would you pick obscure stuff?”
This makes no sense. But perhaps more importantly, I didnt say it. What I did say was I thought it was a shame that she’d chosen to copy such silly passages, and that if she really wanted to plagiarise, it was really stupid of her not to pick more obscure writers.

3) The speculations I spoke of related not to her publishers, but to the book packagers she was working with. Clearly the reporter wasnt aware of the distinction.

Anyway, the reason I’m even bothering to blog about this (I’ve been misquoted before, it’s no big deal, and Tehelka is a nice paper, so I didnt write to anyone or anything, and there were no hard feelings) is that today I’ve discovered a Wall Street Journal article which misquotes from the misquoted Tehelka piece, and make things even sillier.

Says Salil Tripathi somewhere in the middle of this silly article, “More remarkably, Samit Basu, author of two fantasy novels published by Penguin India, has vigorously defended Ms. Viswanathan in the popular Tehelka newspaper, saying: “There are also speculations … and one can never really tell whether the copying was intentional or not.”

So now ‘rises to her defence’ has become ‘vigorously defended’ for no reason other than that it helps the author of the article reach the conclusion that “There’s nothing wrong with a little national pride over a young star living out the Indian-American dream. But wouldn’t it be nice if at least once in a while, the Indian media could admit it was wrong.”

It would also be nice if ignorant commentators on the Indian media would stop indulging in lazy journalism.

“Last week, when her book was pulled from shelves on charges of plagiarism, some Indian commentators continued to defend Ms. Viswanathan.” –says Mr Tripathi, while qisquoting misquotes that were taken well before her book was pulled from the shelves, when it was too early to say anything definite.

Perhaps Mr. Tripathi has heard of things like clarifications? Of actually getting off his ass and asking people direct questions, instead of reading late articles even later and then drawing silly conclusions? Perhaps he should learn that it’s more important to get your facts straight than it is to throw together some sloppy assumptions to draw an incredibly sloppy conclusion and meet a deadline? Well, I don’t really care whether Mr. Tripathi learns how to write articles for newspapers in his lifetime or not, but his unprofessionalism makes me look like an idiot in the Wall Street Journal, which is always something I can do without.


About Samit Basu

Novelist. Best known for fantasy and science fiction work. Most recently, The City Inside (Tordotcom)/Chosen Spirits (Simon and Schuster)


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Copyright (c) Samit Basu. Images copyright respective holders.
May 2006


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