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A treasure trove of insights

Bhaskar was witness to many important events outside the country, which changed the course of the world, like the birth of Bangladesh, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union
Last Updated 03 March 2024, 00:18 IST

When veteran journalist BRP Bhaskar looks back on 70 years of his journalism, he also traces the history of independent India from a vantage point not available to many. He was witness to many important events outside the country, which changed the course of the world, like the birth of Bangladesh, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. He joined The Hindu as a trainee journalist in 1952 and worked in various positions in The Statesman, Patriot and Deccan Herald.

The Changing Mediascape is an account of his life in journalism. BRP was a reporter who looked for stories, got them and told them well. He had an eye for detail and did not fail to dot his i’s and cross his t’s. He was a commentator and editor who explained and interpreted news to readers as well as a consultant for the television media. It is difficult to find a person who has so many facets to his personality. In his book, BRP describes the story of his journalistic life with details of the news events that he handled in various capacities. He has an extraordinary memory and even the smallest details of events which took place decades ago and personalities who figured in them are recollected in detail and even in chronological order. We get conversations in direct speech from 50 years ago and events as they unfolded in place and time. He does not lose the big picture either. 

The personal and professional lives of the writer and the history of independent India and the media are entwined in this account. BRP explains his events or situations with anecdotes and interesting snippets, humour or witty comments, all of which contribute to the rich and varied narrative. He traces the growth of the media from the days of the telegram, the linotype, typewriters and teleprinters through computers, satellites and phones to social media. Technology has impacted media and changed it beyond recognition, but the inherent conflict of interest between truth and power has remained a critical media issue through time and in many societies, he says.

BRP was personally involved in many incidents or situations that he describes. He was an observer of many others. He throws light on some important events of the country’s history like the 1969 split in the Congress party and the 1975 Emergency and on world events like the birth of Bangladesh and the fall of communism in Europe. He always adds some information to what we know about them and provides some fresh insight or makes a personalised observation, which sets us thinking. 

BRP’s last regular job in the print media was with this newspaper and he had fond memories of his association with the paper. Although there were other openings, he says he stayed put in this newspaper till 1991 when he superannuated, because he could not convince himself that he would be happier elsewhere than in Deccan Herald. His consultation assignments with the electronic media and with newspapers abroad came later. 

BRP’s account of his life and times is valuable for the information and insights that it provides about the country, the world and the profession of journalism, all of which have seen vast changes over decades. We also see his evolution as a journalist through his varied experiences. He is the quintessential journalist who knows how to find a story, tell the story, explain and interpret it. He has a very wide range of interests, which is an essential quality of a journalist. In many such autobiographical narratives, the narrator is at the centre of the story even when he is an observer. BRP maintains the right professional distance and objectivity. Journalism was different in pre-independence India. It had to rediscover itself and evolve after Independence. The author gives a glimpse of that evolution. 

The values and concerns that guided him in journalism and the values and concerns of a newly independent India were much the same. The conflicting but healthy interaction between the two domains changed both, and BRP has both influenced and internalised those changes. He retains his interest in and curiosity about the world after watching it in close quarters in all its good, bad, weird and absurd ways and writing and commenting on it for over seven decades. There is no trace of cynicism and despair in his writing. What’s more, he is active on social media in his still young nineties!

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(Published 03 March 2024, 00:18 IST)

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