By M.V. Kamath
Indian Regional Journalism by P.K. Ravindranath, Authorspress, 108 pp, Rs 225.00; Khasa Subba Rau, Fearless Journalist by Dr D. Anjaneyulu, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 111 pp, Rs 120.00 and Random Harvest: Biographical Sketches by B.P. Radhakrishna, Geological Society of India, 291 pp, price not given
Though today the print media in India sells literally lakhs of copies of newspapers which are flourishing, very little is known of Indian journalism. Though there are individual histories such as those of the The Hindu and The Times of India and to an older generation the tradition set up by dailies like The Statesman, The Tribune, Hindustan Times, The Free Press Journal and The Bombay Chronicle, not to speak of The Indian Express and The Hitavada, is common knowledge, it is amazing that the Indian literati knows so little of what is usually described as the ?language media?, thereby meaning newspapers in the Indian languages. How many would for example, know who the editors are of Malayala Manorama or Rajasthan Patrika or Jame Jamshed or Maharashtra Times? Has anyone outside Andhra Pradesh heard of Eeenadu?
It is this lacuna that P.K. Ravindranath, himself a journalist of distinction, has attempted to fill in his short study entitled Indian Regional Journalism. When and why did regional journalism in India begin to flourish? What was its role during the freedom struggle? What influence did it exert on it readers? In this short but compact study, Ravindranath has tried to provide some answers, not in as much detail as one would have liked him to, but certainly in a manner to arouse interest in the readers. Separate chapters are devoted to the history of Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam and Telugu journalism that are in their own ways, eye-openers. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the country but the people'spurchasing capacity is on the low side. And yet, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi are among the ten newspapers in the country with the largest circulations.
The penetration of Malayalam dailies is 85 per thousand people which is twice the national ratio. Or take the spectacular case of Eeenadu, the Telugu daily which was launched in 1974 from Visakhapatnam: its first print order was for 4,000 copies; by 2002 or some three decades later, its circulation had risen to 8,41,890 with a readership of 97.20 lakhs. How did this happen? In his tantalisingly short work, Ravindranath tries to provide the answers.
P.K. Ravindranath, himself a journalist of distinction, has attempted to fill in his short study entitled Indian Regional Journalism the story when and why did regional journalism in India begin to flourish?
Dr D. Anjaneyulu'sbiography of Khasa Subba Rau, who he aptly describes as ?fine editor and fearless journalist?, is another attempt to introduce long-forgotten journalists who, in their days, brightened the political scene and imbued their readers with the spirit of nationalism and sacrifice. Today'sjournalists are accustomed to living in five-star hotels, making foreign trips, giving parties and attending many given by others and getting large salaries. Journalists of the pre-Independence era came from a different background. Quite a few lived poverty-stricken lives but such was their reputation as forceful writers and men of conviction that wherever they went, they commanded attention.
Such a one was Khasa Subba Rau who, as a young man of 34, fought for Independence. The word ?fought? has unfortunate implications in today'sNaxalite culture. Khasa, as he was familiarly known, did not carry Kalashnikovs. He belonged to the Gandhian era of non-violence. And he ?fought? the British imperial administration the way the Mahatma taught him to fight-non-violently. The Mahatma wanted Congress volunteers to offer satyagraha at shops selling foreign-notably British-goods. That meant picketing in front of them. For that Khasa had to face whiplashes, until he fell down unconscious.
The author of this brief biography recounts that event when the sight of a scar-bruised body oozing blood brought tears to the eyes of Khasa'sfellow-satyagrahis. In later years, of course, Khasa became famous as editor of Swarajya, Swatantra and editorial writer of The Free Press Journal. Khasa was an ?untypical? journalist, soft-spoken and shy to the point of being reticent at times. For him, journalism was neither a career nor a profession, a vocation or even an avocation. To him, it was a crusade, a vital part of his very existence that brought out the best in him. Some considered him too reckless to be a sound editor, inconsistent often in his judgement of people and personalities. To some he reminded what Walt Whitman once wrote: ?Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.? But for all that, Khasa remains incomparable; certainly a man of his times, but then, what a man!
B.P. Radhakrishna is that strange scientist-cum-geologist who has not only distinguished himself in his own highly specialised sphere but could well have been the editor of any national newspaper because of his breadth of vision and style of writing. Radhakrishna, during his long years of brilliant service to the Geological Society of lndia, had written editorials for the house journal many of which were brought out in an anthology under the title Random Harvest, Memoir 51. It turned out to be a masterpiece of an anthology and a collector'sitem. He has now brought out yet another volume entitled Random Harvest Memoir 60 which is a collection of biographical sketches, portraits and tributes written by Radhakrishna between 1984 and 2004, of men and women, many of them scientists but quite a few who distinguished themselves in other fields, whom Radhakrishna admired, personalities like C.V. Raman, George Everest (of Everest fame), Birbal Sahni, J.B.S. Haldane, Sunderlal Bahuguna, M.A. Sreenivasan, C. Rajagopala-chari (Rajaji), J. B. Auden and Raja Ramanna.
Names familiar and yet, when one comes to think of them, still with little justice done to them. This is where Radhakrishna comes in: he makes these familiar names as well as other names even less well-known, become household terms. How many would know, for instance, that the very first secretary and the very first president of the Geological Society of India was one Darashaw Nosherwan Wadia (1883-1969), whose famous textbook Geology of India was published by Macmillan, London in 1919? The short biographies of 45 people and personalities included in this book, make it a work of outstanding merit; the anecdotal nature of the tributes paid makes the book un-put-downable. One feels one can'tthank Radhakrishna enough for his efforts. May, one pray, there be many more random harvests of his writings to remind Indians of their own rich and glorious heritage.
(Authorspress, E-35, Jawahar Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-110092; Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, Kulapati K.M. Munshi Marg, Chowpatty, Mumbai-400007.)