IT is good to know that Anant Pai, who passed away recently continues to be remembered. Anant Pai is the ‘Uncle Pai’, originator or Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, not to speak of Indrajaal Comics and to whom Hitavada’s magazine for children, Twinkle Star (March 5) paid handsome tribute. Wrote its editor Aaswari Shenolikar: “His work cut across boundaries, cut across ages and the living proof of this is my younger sister who has a huge collection of Amar Chitra Kathas.” It’s with a heavy heart that the world bids adieu to a master story-teller. We, at The Hitavads, too pay a tribute to this great man who revolutionised the Indian comic scenario…”
And he added: “The history that I learnt and still remember is due to the Amar Chitra Kathas that brought alive everything that took place years ago. Hats off to the creator Uncle Pai whose work is revered even today.” The media, in many ways has a role to play, not only in the education of people, but in helping raise cultural and literary standards, and how can this be done?
In this matter, The Hindu is far ahead of other dailies. The Hindu Literary Review recently completed two decades of promoting good literature – both in English and the Indian languages. As part of this commitment, and to recognise and reward outstanding literary talent in Indian writing in English and works in translation, The Hindu Literary Review has now instituted ‘The Hindu Literary Prize for Best Fiction’. The Award consists of a cash prize of Rs five lakh and a citation. Meanwhile, yet another award has been instituted: ‘The Hindu Saregama MS Subbulakshmi Award’ and the first recipient has already been chosen. She is Nisha P. Rajagopal. An engineer by training, reported The Hindu (April 1), she had realised that music was her true calling. Her family supported her. Her family moved all the way from Toronto, Canada, to New Delhi, just so that Nisha could learn and engage with music at a deeper level. She had begun her music lessons with her mother, a well known Carnatic vocalist, Vasundara Rajagopal, in Toronto.
Meanwhile it is a matter of deep sorrow to lose a journalist friend, Ajit Bhattacharea who passed away on April 4 . Not many media noted the death. Hindustan Times (April 5) did. Bhattacharjea and been diagnosed with brain tumour six months ago and was hospitalised since then. A close associate of Jayaprakash Narayan, he began his career as a sub-editor and reporter at Hindustan Times in 1946 and went on to become its editor. He was later to be appinted he paper’s Washington correspondent when I first came to know him. During his career he had edited two other papers and served as Director of the Press Institute of India (PTI). He chose to edit Jayaprakash Narayan’s weekly Everyman’s when restrictions were imposed on the media during the Emergency. Usha Rai, his deputy at PTI is quoted as saying: “He would always stand up for the underdog. His writings revolved around issues that touched the lives of the common man. The Right to information movement was very close to his heart.”
Bhattacharjea in his time was Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies and editor of Transparency Review, a journal of the Centre of Media Studies, New Delhi. His colleagues will miss him. He stood for values than for power and prestige as his willingness to edit Jayaprakash Narayan’s weekly would indicate. Were he in good health, surely he would have appreciated the remarks made by Press Council of India’s chairman Justice GN Ray as quoted in Asian Age (December 27, 2010).
Justice Ray had expressed grave concern over the growing trend of monopolisation of media and cross media ownership in the country, while addressing a seminar on “Save Ethics, Save Media” organised by Tripura Journalists Union in Agarthala. As Justice Ray saw it most of the media houses have turned into industrial houses. Citing several instances where the newspapers are venturing into the electronic media by launching television channels and monopolising the media, Justice Ray opined that such attempts should be stopped through suitable legislation. He said this has been done already in America and Australia and there was no reason why that shouldn’t be replicated in India. Of course, the question may be asked why, if a paper could be run by private owners, the same should not run a television channel as well. As is well known, this is happening in a large measure in Andhra Pradesh. There have been charges, mostly made in private, that these channels are being misused for political purposes. It is so, but if the print media can misuse Freedom of Expression, why blame television channels?
Justice Ray wants the government to regulate the functioning of the media because “guidelines and ethics are not followed, which is not good for a healthy society”. Perhaps the government should also try to regulate the utterances such as that made by senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh who has been spreading hatred against the RSS by likening it to the Nazis. As Justice Ray sees it, as quoted by The Hindu (December 4, 2010) “self-regulation and a sense of responsibility are a must at the individual level too”.
But before I forget, let it be said that The Hindu fiction Award 2010 went to Manu Joseph for his debut novel Serious Men. The winner was chosen from the eleven works shortlisted from 75 entries of Indian fiction written in English. According to Shashi Deshpande, novelist and juror for the Award, the jury decision was unanimous. Among the runners-up were Upamanyu Chatterjee, Kalpana Swaminathan, Anjali Joseph, Soumya Bhattacharya, Tishani Joshi, Tabish Khair, Palash Krishna Mehrotra, Daisy Hasan, Anjum Hasan and Manjul Bajaj.
Time have changed. One wonders whether the GenNext has ever heard of HG Wells who, among other things, foresaw the invention of tanks, television and the atom bomb! He wrote over a hundred books, but British fiction, it would seem, is now out of fashion in India.