He's as much of a media rarity as silence on an Arnab show. The antithesis of the party spokespersons who think that this arena and our ears are their captive prey. Just as they are full of sound and fury signifying piffle, he is the man with the soft voice and the sharp scalpel. No make that 'chisel'. He is society's archaeologist, quietly chipping away at apparent chaos to reveal the core of our sadly lost civilisation.
Santosh Desai's byline came into The Times of India via Rahul Kansal, himself an astute brand builder, who suggested we ask him to write for us from the perspective of his day job: analysing consumers and gauging their response to a product. Mediamorphosis was at full throttle, as much in content as in the vehicles of delivery. Society very definitely had outstripped the state in the race for our attention. And we were desperately seeking writers who decode the babel of social change. This guy was Eureka material.
He had a fresh, indeed unique, approach. I guess this was because his was a training and experience not native to conventional media pundits. His pieces were markedly different in subject matter and the angle of approach. Before long we gave him a column, and I came up with the name, 'City City Bang Bang'. It sounded clever, but it soon became clear enough that both parts were inappropriate. Santosh's Monday column in the TOI tackles issues, reactions, attitudes which are universal not merely urban; and our is anything but a swashbuckling sheriff from the Wild West, spitting out, 'Say yer last prayers critter, coz I'm gonna drill yer fulla holes.' He doesn't go for the jugular. He goes for the brain.
He's the object of as much envy as admiration among our fraternity. He's an outlier,
yet has a readership that the most dyed-in-the-ink journos would kill for. They sharpen their daggers in vain. You have to have that set of gears in your head, those long years of peering down the microscope at consumers and markets to be able to come up with what is his unchallenged IPR: drilling down to the concept behind the event, presenting his supporting arguments with clarity and arriving at a conclusion. He has the integrity, the self assurance to admit that this surmise could be open-ended.
Too often we professional pontificators use the opposite method. Decide on a premise and then force fit the facts to prove it. Conceded, his is the more sensible way.