Remembering my Chief Reporters
While driving down to office I was wondering what should I write in my blog this week. There were so many topics that crossed my mind but I finally decided to pen down my thoughts about my chief reporters, the men who shaped my journalistic career in its initial years. I had the distinction of working with some very fine men who not only guided me through my journalistic journey but also honed my skills.
I have fond memories of all my Chiefs who supervised my work in the first ten years of my 30 years in the profession. Incidentally an interesting fact is that barring one, all my chief reporters were Brahmins.
My first job was in National Herald where I worked for five and a half months under DK Issar, a hard taskmaster and to my mind one of the best connected crime reporters of his time. He used to have a vicarious pleasure in making reporters slog and would often make us type out our stories four to five times. This activity was also to drive home the point that he was the Boss and everyone should follow his diktat. This contributed to improving my speed and I could on any day finish a report faster than most of my contemporaries.
Issar had developed a strong liking for me primarily because I always obeyed his orders and secondly because he and I had the same birth date. He used to call me “Flint” a name of a movie character at that time. He acquainted me with the finer points of crime reporting. He knew a lot about cops and most important he knew how to make them share information with the media. In fact, I have no trouble in acknowledging that my apprenticeship under him helped me to become one of the finest crime reporter in the city subsequently. He made me cover two beats—Crime and University in addition to four or five general assignments, something today’s reporters may have difficulty in coping. My day would start at 7.30 in the morning and I would be at office easily till past midnight. I firmly believe that a person like Issar should be in the training team of every big newspaper organization. He knew how to put a newcomer through the drill and ensured that there were no shirkers in his team. He later became my colleague once again when I joined Hindustan Times in 1995 where he was the chief reporter of the now defunct Evening News. I owe a lot to him and I continue to be in touch with Issar, my first Chief Reporter.
John Dayal was a well-known name in journalism and he took me to Patriot in July, 1980. Though he was my chief for barely two months, he taught me how to structure a series or how to present a good story. John was replaced by Avdesh Bajpai, a good hearted person whose main concern was to meet the deadline. Bajpai was happy if one did his or her work on time and I shared an excellent relationship with him because I never let him down professionally. He had to leave after a year and MK Kaul became my third chief reporter during my two years and three months stay in Patriot. I was slightly nervous at first when he took over but Kaul Saab turned out to be an outstanding manager of men. He had the extra ordinary ability to draw the best out of his reporters and it was a matter of time that I developed a good rapport with him. I was sad when I had to leave Patriot in September, 1982 for the Times of India since Kaul was a good boss.
Mohammad Shamim took me to the TOI but I never had the opportunity of working under him since by the time I joined Yoginder Bali was already the Chief Reporter of TOI. I will write on Shamim Saab someday as he had a great influence on me and I considered him as a father figure for his numerous virtues and unparalleled professionalism and integrity. Bali was a nice chief to work with and he was one of the most versatile journalists I have come across in my career. Shamim used to often joke about Bali (the two were very close buddies) that Bali could even produce a five-page interview with a dead body. I am grateful to him that he introduced me to political reporting in February 1983 when the Delhi Metropolitan Council elections were to take place. He also gave me ample opportunities to cover exciting assignments like the Kumbh Mela in Hardwar in 1986. Bali sent me on numerous trips with the armed forces and I was able to see the conditions in which our jawans lived as also was inspired by the high morale of our fighter pilots. Bali continues to be my friend and guide and I cherish my long association with him.
In 1986 when the Hindu started its Delhi edition, I left the TOI to move over along with NK Doval and PK Bhardwaj. Doval who was addressed, as Kaptain Saab by all of us because of his ex-army background was a nice human being and had unbelievable connections in the Delhi administration and Municipal Corporation. He had immense faith in me and I never let him down. He would have continued as the Chief Reporter for many years but a massive heart attack somewhere in 1987 end forced him to move to the bureau. VK Vardrajan, succeeded him briefly. Vardu was only concerned with work and was always in a hurry to leave office to be in the Press Club in the evenings. He finally switched to the Bureau and PK Bhardwaj took over as the CR Bhardwaj was the best thing to have happened to the Hindu which was trying to find its feet in Delhi. I always thought that Bhardwaj was one journalist who knew more people in Delhi than I did . He was an unassuming leader who could get information out of anyone. He was also my boss for a short while and I moved over to the Political Bureau of the Hindu in 1990.
Subsequently, I also had the opportunity of leading the local teams of the TOI as the Metropolitan Editor for nearly three years and that of HT for six years as the City Editor from late 1995 onwards. I can say it with a lot of satisfaction that both my teams in TOI and HT were amongst the best and gave sleepless nights to our competitors. I do not know how I fared as a boss since it is for my reporters to comment on that. But my regret is that two persons I thought would have made excellent chiefs from both my teams were never able to assume that position. Shailesh Shekhar in TOI branched off to other things and Anju Sharma in HT died prematurely in a plane crash.
Someday I will also write about the eminent editors I worked with. They included Hari Jai Singh, RK Mishra, Inder Malhotra, Girilal Jain, G Kasturi, N Ravi, Dileep Padgaonkar, AN Sen, Gautam Adhikari, VN Narayanan, Vir Sanghvi and Chaitanya Kalbag.