One Girish Shahane (GS) asserts that the highly recommended and commonly used travel guide, Lonely Planet (LP) is islamophobic. Mr. Shahane has tried to buttress this assertion by arguments all of which turn out to be facile. GS comes up with numerous farcical arguments, which are captured below:
For starter, GS argues, LP is islamophobic because he says LP mentions Ahmad Shah Durani as a Mughal, Ala-ud-din Khilji as Pakthun.
Durrani was, of course, not a Mughal at all. But hey, these guys are all Muslims, right? Mughal, Turk, Afghan, big difference. That attitude is probably why Allaudin Khilji is wrongly labelled a Pathan.
That said, it is indeed more than a tad rich to project minor denominational errors, even if present, as examples of deliberate islamophobia.
Girish Shahane takes objection to Padmini’s Jauhar citation in LP Travel Guide.
The great poet and mystic Amir Khusro, who chronicled Khilji’s campaign, made no mention of any Padmini. The story was dreamt up much later
Would Girish Shahane take objection to arabian fables circulated in books on Jerusalem like mohummad taking a winged horse for flight to Jerusalem or jesus coming out of dead. One would suspect he would not.
Girish Shahane then goes further, underplays mughal vandalism and cites natural causes for falling of temples. Referring to Sri Kalahasthi Temple he says
Temples, even grand ones can collapse from natural causes, as evidenced by the recent fall of the 500 year old gopuram of the Srikalahasti temple.
Consider that Aurangzeb, who had serious iconoclastic tendencies, camped in the vicinity of Ellora for years, and toured the site at least once, and the place still looks dandy. (And then GS cites Historian Jadunath Sarkar) Jadunath Sarkar refers in his biography of the emperor to Aurangzeb’s letter about Ellora, in which the king calls the caves transcendent creations.
GS then gets angry with LP take on ‘Hindu’ Vijayanagara empire and highlights that as a manifestation of islamophobia. He bilges
I have no idea where Lonely Planet got the idea that Vijayanagar was founded as a confederacy of Hindu leaders aligning on religious lines against Muslims. The story isn’t even the prevalent myth about the origins of the Vijayanagar era.
Girish Shahane makes many other irrelevant assertions and wild allegations. It is more than likely that GS’s efforts are a manifestation of ulterior motives. Islamophobia has become a new bogeyman like racism for the left – to be used for intimidation and smear. It is an old left tactic to perpetrate & justify violence and then peddle victim-hood.
What is even more remarkable is that GS has not thought it fit to disclose his links to organizations that compete with LP. While he says that he operates as a freelancer, he seems to have intimate links to Outlook Traveller (Rajputs suck write up?) and Time Out Magazine (Communist Terrorists are cool like ‘Bhagat Singh’ propaganda?).
Prem Panicker and Yahoo India News are doing themselves and their credibility no service by allowing their platform to be used for low cunning calumny. They have allowed publishing of a slanted, loaded, factually disputable, sensationalist piece which goes against basic journalism ethics.
PS: It is refreshing to see Lonely Planet transparently address the Girish Shahane calumny.
Update (October 28, 2010)
Girish Shahane responded to the above blog post on October 27, 2010 with this exercise in deception. His post is a case of double standards and doublespeak that dubious journalists deploy to confound readers in an attempt to divert attention from their shoddy work – when credible flaws in their content have been revealed. Read on.
Girish Shahane pretends/presumes that I dont understand who a freelancer is.
A freelancer = a self-employed person, esp a writer or artist, who is not employed continuously but hired to do specific assignments.
I’m much more loyal to Time Out; after all, I had a column in the mag for years, and think it’s kept an incredibly high standard since its inaugural issue.
Now here is someone having an association with Time Out Magazine, a column at that for years. A magazine column is a big deal. He should have declared this info in a piece that went on to make such a one-sided attack of a rival publication. That is no ethical journalism.
Girish Shahane goes on
But my Time Out loyalty doesn’t extend to guidebooks.
There is now an LP India Magazine, which competes with Time Out Magazine. From the brand angle there is definite competition. And as we can notice there is no love lost between Time Out and Lonely Planet.
I leave it to discretion of the reader to decide in the light of above facts to make up her mind on Girish Shahane’s integrity.
Girish Shahane then responds to what was pointed out: his shoddy write-up in Outlook Traveller. He says that it was all someone else’s fault and that he wishes to retract his name.
The Outlook Traveller experience, in fact, was a disaster. I wish there was some way I could remove my name from the piece on the Web. My story was changed radically and a number of new sentences added, containing factual errors. For example, the City Palace is called “a complex of beautiful buildings in granite and marble”. Anyone who has been to Udaipur knows there’s very little granite and marble in the City Palace. But there the error stays, with my name attached.
GS manifested anti-Rajput bias in the referred piece alluding to Rajputs as cowardly and as losers. He has avoided directly owning up on that. And Girish Shahane then makes a factual error when he asserts there is little granite and marble in the Udaipur City Palace. Check Link 1, Link 2, Link 3. Actually there is more than ‘little’ granite and marble. GS’s credentials as travel writer remain seriously suspect. Lest one may think that the piece on Udaipur is an isolated case of shoddy travel writing, let us look at Girish Shahane write up on Jaisalmer, which is as much mediocre as his other travel writing.
This was the man they were looking for — tall, with piercing light eyes and a luxuriant parted beard, everything a Rajput could want to look like. In the years since that first shoot, he has posed for dozens of campaigns, posters of which are plastered on the walls of his shop. He has also won the Mr Desert competition organised by the tourist department. The catch in this story is that Laxmi Narain, for that is his name, is a Brahmin.
Girish Shahane gushes that the model for an advertisement campaign is a Brahmin by Jati. How on earth is this jati information relevant to user who has purchased travel guide for meaningful use. Non sequitur reference to Rajputs here manifests again GS’s gripe against Rajputs.
I was so furious with Outlook after that assignment, that I swore off writing for them, before agreeing to do a piece just fifteen days ago. None of the editorial staff responsible for shredding my Rajasthan articles are there any more, so I decided to let bygones be bygones.
Meanwhile, I’m in Delhi again, trying to get a paper done for a seminar tomorrow. I’ve visited about once each month for the past six, and discovered in the process that Delhi drivers know nothing about the city. One time, I wanted to go to the India International Centre, asked the driver if he knew it, or IIC or the Habitat Centre (which the autowallas usually know). He kept shaking his head. I said finally, OK, just take me to Lodi Gardens and I’ll direct you from there. He had not heard of Lodi Gardens. Today my driver got lost looking for Kasturba Gandhi Road and then Maharani Bagh….every tourist car driver seems to have arrived in Delhi within the past six months.
So Delhi drivers are all ignorant, neophytes? Girish Shahane manifests serious wackiness – generalizing isolated experiences to pass loaded and denigrating value judgments.
Now what do we make out of the integrity of Girish Shahane? Many times, what a person choses to be ‘muted’ on tells us far more about the person than what he choses to ‘comment’ on. Girish Shahane has avoided responding to what was pointed about the canards that he peddled as History to accuse others of phobias. Once a person understands how smear works it is very easy to see through Girish Shahanes efforts here. My full sympathies are with Yahoo India News and Prem Panicker.