Dear Reader,

In my stupider days, I’d joined a ‘youth leadership organisation’ that, I realised far too late, functioned like a cult: learning its history was incentivised, endlessly building up your leaders was encouraged, criticism was considered a personal dig at the President, and (again, I realised too late) there were dance rituals.

 

At the induction, we were made to introduce ourselves with an adjective that began with the first letter of our names. So, for example, India’s leading newsperson would be atrocious Arnab, his next-in-line nincompoop Navika…RSS Rahul…rudderless Rajdeep…you get it.*

 

I decided to forego ‘venerable’, because that’s how you don’t get action as a 19-year-old, and went with ‘vulnerable’ instead. Vulnerable Varun (“haha keep him away from the drinks haha”). I was just looking for the coolest alternative, but it turned out to be a premonition.

 

For starters, I stayed in the organisation for two years. I did recruitment drives in colleges, won some drinking contests, engineered a grand conspiracy that ended with someone believing Ayodhya was in Sri Lanka, and repeatedly participated in an election process where winners would have buckets of water poured on them. Because enough people had told me that apart from the terribly wasteful things that were unworthy of actual leaders, we were in fact the leaders of tomorrow through the other (mediocre) work we did as enablers of exchange programs.

 

We were jocks. To this day, I’m astonished that calling myself Vulnerable Varun in front of strangers is not the most cringeworthy thing I’ve done.

 

Such is the power of the vox populi. Until recently, for example, the cool people of the internet had me convinced that intelligence meant reading and reading meant books.  But in a stunning development, I’ve realised that great journalism is…great.

 

So here it is, the first edition of a newsletter that I hope can become a sturdy archive of human stories that were warm, heartbreaking, comical, romantic, gripping, and, most importantly, necessary. I hope to send it every week. The first one’s been difficult to put together: there’s just too much good work out there.

 

There’s no story of the week in this edition, just a selection for different tastes.You’ll spot them lower down, with pretty buttons that click through to the articles.

 

I’m listening to you over the course of the week but remember that all emails signed without adjectives will be ignored and all critiques WILL be considered personal digs. In the meantime, you are expected to build me up and get on a recruitment drive. We are the readers of tomorrow.

 

Yours,

Scrumptious Shetty

*Some of those aren’t adjectives, but are some of them journalists?

 

Articles:

 

Illustrated story: Inside a detention centre

Anthony Bourdain and the missing piece

Insta influencers are killing hotels

Illustrated story: Are you broke or poor?

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