There are many people all over the world who have distinguished themselves in their work, profession or occupation but have largely gone unrecognised beyond their immediate circle. That is but natural. Unless one is constantly in the public eye like an Amitabh Bachchan or a Dhoni or even a Narendra Modi, the prospects are that they will pass into history unknown, unhonoured and unsung. That does not mean that their contribution to the social growth of their times has been any less. It is merely that good, even outstanding work, usually goes like roses that blossom and then ultimately fades. That has been the fate of thousands. And that has been the fate of K.Shivram who, in his time, distinguished himself, as the title of the book says, Master of the Newsroom, a journalist par excellence.
Like many journalists or, for that matter, lawyers, doctors, engineers and other professionals, Shivram never got down to write his memoirs in detail. He was far too busy editing dailies like the Free Press Journal (where, it may be stated, he first cut his journalistic teeth), the Indian Express and a short-lived daily called Newsday to devote his time to write a full-fledged autobiography. Born in 1925, he quietly passed away in 2005, aged a respectable eighty, greatly mourned by his numerous friends and admirers. It seems a pity to many who knew him closely that he should be forgotten. So, a few of them who were his close associates decided to put down their own thoughts of one who was so dear to them and this book is the result.
Shivram, incidentally, had made a brief attempt to write about his stirring journey through life. His own account is slightly disjointed but it does tell quite a lot about the man. He was born in Madras (now Chennai) in a distinguished family?Shivram calls it a large family,?his father having become one of the leading lawyers of the Madras High Court.
In subsequent years, his father who had declined an offer of a High Court Judgeship was to be appointed Minister for Rural Development in Cochin State?the first elected Minister of any then Indian State, only to pass away not long after. Shivram was full of patriotic fervour and he and his elder brother Bhagyanathan were to participate in the 1942 Quite India Movement, only to be arrested and imprisoned in Viyyur Central Jail, even while they were students. Bhagyanathan after his release joined the Christian College in Madras to complete his graduation.
Shivram believed in service and his icon was Mahatma Gandhi. With remarkable courage Shivram went to Wardha and then to Sevagram, only to be told by the Mahatma (who Shivram shockingly did not at first recognise) that wisdom lay in completing his studies before seeking to participate in the work of uplifting the masses. Disappointed, Shivram took the first train that steamed on to the railway platform, not knowing where it would take him. It took him to Bombay (now Mumbai). The rest is history. He applied, and got a job in the Free Press Journal, whose editor then was a historical figure, S. Sadanand. He knew little of politics and even less of journalism but he was quick to pick up and was in no time to rise to the top and acknowledged as such. That, it hardly needs to be said, explains the title of the book. But he had problems with the boss, the mercurial Sadanand himself a Kerala Tamilian, if that means anything. Sadanand could sack a staffer in a moment of uncontrollable anger but, and it speaks for his essential goodness, recall him with genuine goodwill and affection.
In that sense he was a paternal figure. His staffers understood him and got along with him famously. Some time in 1950 Sadanand passed away and the Free Press Journal went into the hands of a businessman who was more interested in making money than in breaking news. This became, at one stage, so nauseating to some of the senior staffers that they resigned practically en masse to start their own paper called Newsday, with the support of some financiers. But it didn'twork. The boys had no knowledge of management and were perpetually short of cash. Inevitably it had to be closed down, to everyone'sdismay. They had learnt a good lesson. Idealism has its place but without managerial and financial support it could only lead to disaster.
Shivram, like his other colleagues thereafter were to go their separate ways; Shivram worked in many places but ultimately settled down in Ahmedabad, where he brought up his family. His colleagues in the Free Press Journal never forget him, and after his passing away decided to recall the man whose never-ending support and affection enabled them to make their own mark in journalism. They include T.J.S.George, editorial advisor to The New Indian Express, A. Hariharan who once was news editor of the Free Press Journal and later of Hindustan Times, Dhan Karkeria, Director of Karizma Communications, M.K.B. Nair former deputy editor of the prestigious Economic Times, Kartikeya V.Sarabhai, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Foundation and P.K.Ravindranath, retired Chief of News Bureau, The Times of India and later Press Advisor to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Director (Publications) of Nehru Centre, Mumbai. The tributes they pay to Shivram are touching because they come from the heart.
As T.J.S.George put it: ?Shivram was an excellent teacher?It was he who made me understand that editing involved not just command of language and a sense of news, but a great deal of aesthetics.? To George, and his colleagues readily agree with him, there won'tbe another like Shivram. This book, happily, is not just an eulogy of an excellent journalist, but also serves as a record of our times, the idealistic fifties when to be alive and working in the media was very heaven. One can'tthank Shivram'scolleagues enough for what they have done. Consciously or unconsciously they have provided his readers with a glimpse of media and national history so relevant for a new generation. The GenNext.
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