British Journalism and the Search for the Truth

Rajneesh Narula

(Another in my occasional essay series)


This Valentines Day I picked up a whole pile of newspapers, because I had a sudden craving to see yet another photograph of Shilpa Shetty, former Bollywood Star, and Holy Mother of the Crusade Against Racism Amongst Second-Rate British Celebrities. Disappointed by the uncharacteristic absence of pictures of Her Holiness, I began instead to read an article in The Observer entitled, ’The 50 men who understand women best’. As my eyes drifted down the list, I must admit I was not completely surprised to see my name firmly embedded at number 13.  Just before some fashion designer, but obviously outclassed by men such as George Clooney and Daniel Craig, and the guy who invented the pill.  It’s flattering to be in such august company, and to be described thus: ‘Although not quite as well known, suave or good looking as some of the others listed here, Rajneesh Narula…(blah blah) … this is one man who gets an A+ from us for the sheer effort he has put into unravelling the complexities of the opposite sex... in touch with his feelings, secure enough not to be threatened by being sensitive and sharing. We wish there more men out there like him.’


What a nice valentine’s day present, I thought to myself, mentally planning how –once news of my availability permeated London society – I would juggle my evenings between Rani Mukherjee, Natalie Umbruglia and Beyonce with the demands of my work.


Ok so I am kidding. I wasn’t number 13.  I was number 5.


Ok, ok, fine, I didn’t make the list at all. But I do feel aggrieved that my efforts to understand the female psyche are not acknowledged by thinking people everywhere, suffering as I have done over the years in response to the rather complex and ever-shifting whims of most women I have known. I feel as if I have given of my soul, that I have been in touch with my feminine side (while at the same time maintaining a certain degree of testosterone driven alpha male behaviour), only to suffer trauma after trauma at the hands of the female population in general, largely unappreciated, and (mostly) unloved.


Now, as you are all probably aware, I take every word printed by British newspapers as gospel - as one should -  because everyone knows the Brits are into understatement, and in no way engage in vulgar hyperbole or exaggeration (unlike their American cousins). They would rather go bankrupt than print unfounded rumours, gossip, tasteless photographs, or indeed anything that is not scientifically accurate. In short, British newspapers are the fountain of all knowledge, and maintain the highest standards of journalistic integrity.


So I took my exclusion from this list very seriously indeed, and decided to search for the causes of my general lack of appeal to the opposite sex, striving to answer that most elusive of questions: what do women want? And why am I not providing it?


Now as everyone also knows, women are not at all superficial: Scientific journals (such as Vogue and Cosmo) insist that women everywhere prefer brains to brawn (and bemoan the shortage of such intelligent conversationalists in society), so I felt, what with the PhD and all, I would be In Like Flint, the Cats Pyjama’s, Prime Property, A Valuable Asset.


Now, to compound this argument, I read an article in the Daily Mail (an intellectual newspaper of the highest probity) explaining that the body hair is directly correlated with intelligence. Note that as an undergraduate I was occasionally referred to as ‘the missing link’, so frankly, my IQ should be second to none. And if women crave intelligence, then I should really need bodyguards and a social secretary. Clearly this was a case of market failure – women everywhere simply had no clue what they were missing, simply because they did not know I was available. I decided to market myself on a very respectable British dating website, pointing out (subtly; we are in England after all) the hirsute issue and the immense over-supply of grey matter that I represent.  I must sadly report that there were no takers whatsoever.


I could only conclude that I was lacking some very important resource. Could my ex-girlfriend be right (a woman who felt it necessary to regularly remind me that I was the least attractive man she had ever been with) that despite my adorable eyes, and cleft chin, having a body like Brad Pitt was really more important? I discounted this theory the very next day, when a fact-filled tabloid ran a story (just below an educational picture of a woman not wearing a blouse, probably to illustrate the medical hazards of nude sunbathing without sun block lotion) about how honesty was a ‘very valued characteristic in a potential mate’. Given that only modesty prevents me from changing my middle name to ‘honesty’, I began to wonder, surely there must be some law in my having so many attributes, and I was about to be locked up for my own protection. I started to expect an assassination attempt using Polonium in my sushi by the Global Association for Himbos.


But again I began to think: Why exactly am I not being pursued and harassed by women on the streets of London, Mumbai, Paris and New York?  Why had Shilpa not yet called? Yet another classy British newspaper provided an explanation (I think it was The Sun). Apparently, ‘shyness in a person is usually rated as an extremely attractive personality trait’.  Now shy? Me?


But still, it seemed incredulous. So sensitivity, warmth, humour, intelligence (enhanced by hairy torso), and honesty all get points, but they all get cancelled out just because I’m not shy?


How unfair, I thought to myself.  Sulking, I returned to the original article which so blasphemously excluded me from the List of the Elect. What did these folk have that I did not?


I re-read George Clooney’s entry, so as to see what I might learn from the master himself (positioned as he was at No 1), and discover that indeed, the man is NOT shy, makes good conversation, is charming, intelligent, sensitive and honestly admits to being honest. And the available evidence would even suggest that the man is not hirsute.  So in a George-Rajneesh comparative table, he is ahead of me on only one single count: handsome. And what with the hair, surely I should be doing the trumping?


So should I be considering – as implied by ex-girlfriend - plastic surgery?  As I dashed to search for the best Harley Street surgeon to turn me into a Brad Pitt/Keanu Reeves clone, I read in the Evening Standard that, ‘cosmetic surgery can reduce your chances of finding a partner’.


As you can imagine, my head began to spin when I saw no solution to the question-du-jour. We have established with some certainty that all I do not have vis-ŕ-vis Georgie boy is the looks department, but overcame that thanks to my yeti-like hairiness. All these questions, dear readers, all this information, brought me no closer to a Nobel Prize immediately won by answering: what do women want? Or, more modestly, what is it that I don’t have that women want?


These contradictions might possibly indicate that the truth of the matter might be that women themselves do not know what they want? But if this were true, would there not be a world full of unhappy single women? Clearly everyone knows this is not true, so I immediately discounted it.  After all, women had the gift of foresight, the much admired female intuition.


I had to allow for another possibility (frightening as it seemed): Could it be that British newspapers do not demonstrate a preference for scientifically accurate reporting? If British newspapers engage in hyperbole, surely people would sue them regularly? Indeed, if this were true, surely some of them might actually lose money?  What a completely ridiculous thought.


My quest for the truth, gentle readers, continues, buoyed by the discovery that George himself admits that his most satisfying relationship so far has been with his pet pig (The Guardian). Not sure I like what that implies though….

070430 London