Tehelka as Metaphor
||This article has an unclear citation style. (November 2009)|
|Prism Me a Lie, Tell me a Truth:Tehelka as Metaphor|
|January 18, 2009|
Tehelka as Metaphor is a 2009 nonfiction book by renowned Indian journalist, Madhu Trehan. The book is an account of the Tehelka exposé and its aftermath. In the year 2001, Operation West End, sting operation and an undercover news story by Tehelka.com, exposed the bribery and corruption prevalent in the top brass of Army and then Indian government, which led to the resignation of then Defence Minister, George Fernandes.
Prism Me a Lie Tell Me a Truth: Tehelka as Metaphor is a searing account of the aftermath of Operation West End. The story’s heroes, villains and victims have been analyzed and demystified in this thrilling, true coverage of a sting operation that gave investigative reportage a whole new direction.
Madhu Trehan does a bestselling forensic study of the imperatives at the root of the story. She writes about how the Indian bureaucracy so easily misused instruments of democracy and power to get back at Tehelka and destroy its investors, without leaving any footprints. Numerous participants of the same sting operation have related their versions of the story in the book, but interestingly, and almost expectedly, none of the stories tally!
The book contains exhaustive personal interviews and provides a deep insight into modern India as well as modern journalism. Even as Trehan talks about a ‘ray of hope’, she asks whether (it) will actually ‘bring about a change in this highly cynical, jaded, Machiavellian society.’ 
Operation West End
Tehelka’s reporters masqueraded as arms dealers and bribed top-ranked army officers, gave 1 lakh rupees to the president of the then ruling party in the form of political donation. Several army top brass, were captured on camera, colluding to take bribes in order to approve a fake defense contract being pushed by the journalists masquerading as arms dealers.
The exposé was not just about those trapped on camera. In the aftermath, it became an exposé of how the country and its systems function.
As soon as the tapes were made public on television, a national furor forced the resignation of then Defense Minister, George Fernandes. The Indian government, shocked and humiliated at the public exposé, immediately ordered a probe into the entire matter. It was later revealed that there was no evidence linking Fernandes to the impropriety in the deals.
Consequently, Tehelka was accused of fabricating allegations to malign Fernandes’ image at the behest of his political foes. It was declared that the operation was a biased and motivated campaign against the ruling party.
Tehelka is an Indian weekly magazine edited by Tarun Tejpal. It started off as a news website in the year 2000 and became popular through an exposé of match-fixing in professional cricket in India. However, its biggest claim to fame came from the Operation West End sting operation. Following hostile action in the aftermath of the sting operation, the site was forced to close down operations temporarily. In 2003, Tehelka.com was relaunched as a weekly newspaper and in 2007, shifted to a regular magazine format.
Madhu Trehan is a veteran journalist of 37 years and one of India’s bestselling authors. After completing her schooling from the Welham Girls School, Dehradun, she studied journalistic photography at Harrow Technical College & School of Arts in 1968 and received her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, New York, in 1972. Before returning to India in 1975, Trehan worked in the Press Section in the United Nations in New York.
Trehan is considered a pioneer in investigative journalism in India. She started India’s leading news magazine India Today with her father V.V. Purie and brother Aroon Purie. After marrying renowned Indian surgeon, Dr. Naresh Trehan, she went back to New York to start her family.
On her return to India in 1986, Madhu Trehan produced and anchored a path-breaking television news magazine program known as Newstrack for TV Today. The program was an instant hit and became famous for its incredible journalistic scoops.
In 2000, Trehan left TV Today to launch wahindia.com, a website and print magazine. In the year 2002, Roli Books commissioned her to write a book on Tehelka’s Operation West End. The 600-page book took six years of painstaking research and contains forty exhausting personal interviews that help demystify the entire story.
Released in February, 2009, Tehelka as Metaphor has been getting rave reviews. The book has been received well by the Indian media, with many Indian journalists singing praises of how extensively researched the book is. A guide to modern journalism, it has been touted as a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the workings of the Indian society.
The Hindustan Times, India’s leading English daily, has reviewed the book, “Madhu Trehan delved into the old story of Tehelka and came up with a new tale of contemporary India. Trehan's narrative brings out complex human encounters on the Tehelka tapes.”
The Tribune said in its review of the book, "It is a book that matters and will stand the test of time." Popular columnist, Tavleen Singh, observed, "Trehan has used Tehelka as the prism of corruption and shown a justice system unable to deal with it."
World renowned women's magazine, Elle, reviewed, "The book lurches with equal comfort between Kurosawa, Virginia Woolf and The Matrix in its frame of reference, and continually finds itself asking perhaps unanswerably large questions about integrity and the nature of truth."
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