Who's genuine? The original Enid Blyton (left) or Mumbai Mirror's dead ringer (right)?
Once upon a time there was a writer called Enid Blyton. In an era devoid of attractions such as Fickleodeon and Craptoon Network, all children could do on the weekends was read. And Blyton, despite her limited vocabulary and dated Briticisms, quickly found a place in our hearts. Talk to ten middle-aged Indians who are proud of their English, and eight would admit they grew up reading Blyton.
Then came the age of political correctness. It became fashionable sometime in the 70s to criticise Blyton for being racist, sexist and a lot of other things. While that may or may not be true from the 'modern' point of view, the most effective way to trash her is to get a reporter to write about her in a newspaper such as The Times of India. Or its sister publication, Mumbai Mirror.
Indeed, there was a reference to Enid Blyton in Mumbai Mirror on August 9, bringing up the (surprise!) golliwog connection. It was part of a full-page feature on celebrities who have made foot-in-mouth remarks.
It was dispiriting, but thankfully the article went on to admit, not altogether accurately, that "the truth is that only one golliwog ever appeared as the villain, and in just one Noddy book, while elsewhere in her fantasy works golliwogs appeared as heroes". But that's not the point either.
It's rather unfair, I feel, to pick on a 20th-century writer whose only fault was to reflect the age she lived in. It's even more galling to see her lumped with the likes of Rimi Sen.
That's not all. To add insult to injury, the photograph that accompanied the paragraph on Blyton was of New Zealand-born World War II servicewoman Nancy Wake. Fittingly, the headline above the picture read "Other Gaffes".
Now, how could anyone make such an egregious error? My theory goes like this:
a) Clueless Young Scribe (CYS) gets brief to write article on foot-in-mouth celebrities, including Blyton.
b) CYS goes to Google Image Search to 'source' pics from the Web. So what if pages are copyrighted; what else do you expect from a paper that claims it's "Cut for You"? (I used to wonder what that meant, till it dawned on me — Mumbai Mirror was claiming that it spares us the trouble of cutting-and-pasting stuff ourselves from the Net.)
c) Nancy Wake's photo gets indexed and thrown up in the search results because a page describes her as someone "whose exploits with the French Resistance make Sebastian Faulks's fictional Charlotte Gray read like an Enid Blyton girls' school frolic."
d) Not bothering to read the page, CYS assumes that Nancy Wake is Enid Blyton and carries the photo, ignoring a few quadrillion other genuine pics. Why? Well, for one thing, Wake was arguably prettier-looking than poor Blyton ever was...
And that sums up the TOI philosophy in a nutshell. When I'm famous and dead all I hope is that the Times doesn't carry a picture of Milind Soman in my obituary notice because he looked much better than I did.