“Did you know all our Tehelka stories are gone?” I asked a friend and former colleague from my time at the magazine. As the words hung in the air, I saw his face fluctuate between the shock and horror that had dawned on me just a few weeks before.
In mid August, I had settled down with my laptop to tackle the tedious task of updating my résumé. A handful of my Tehelka stories have been a fixture since I left the magazine in early 2014. It had been my first job—I was tossed into the deep end of reporting and expected to teach myself to swim—and I had produced some of my best work as a rookie journalist.
I clicked on the links that I had stored for years, but instead of the comforting sight of familiar pages and words, I landed on a 404 error. I tried another link, and the browser again announced its trouble finding the page. A third attempt also resulted in the 404 error. As dread curdled in the pit of my stomach, I frantically googled my name and as many stories as I could remember—by headlines, by various combinations of keywords—but I came away empty-handed.
Sometime over the summer of 2018, the archives of Tehelka, the once highly regarded and always polarising news magazine, seemed to have disappeared. The bulk of the work done—by me, my colleagues and contributors, who included some of the biggest names in Indian media—over 18 years was no longer available online. A number of stories, erratically distributed on an old version of its website, was the only remnant of journalism that had catapulted sting operations into the spotlight and almost brought down a coalition government.
The internet never forgets. Nothing digital is ever truly lost. This is the moral of many a modern-day story—a warning, a lesson, a reassurance. Yet, in that moment and the days that followed, I truly believed that the foundation of my work as a journalist had been stolen from me.