Updated: Dec 18, 2021
I have good news to share. I am part of a collective effort undertaken by radio journalists to publish a book of their experiences. This book is called Sweet & Sour and is available on Amazon and Flipkart.
Getting published in a book at the age of 78 is a dream come true for me.
Having purchased books for years on online outlets, having a book with my contribution being sold online is a big thing for me.
Link to buy the book: https://amzn.to/3yqhprl
I had no formal training as a journalist. I never went to a school of journalism. I started my career as an army officer. Straight from my college, I was selected as emergency commissioned officer. My contract was for five years. After leaving army, I cleared PCS, provincial Civil Services examination of Haryana state and got my posting order as assistant excise and taxation officer, Hissar. At the same time I cleared examination of Indian Information Service . Well, my PCS post was gazetted while Indian Information Service post was non-gazetted.
Of course I was getting the benefit of army service in both. All my friends, family and relatives advised me to go for PCS post. But I opted for the other as I felt, Indian Information Service would offer me better opportunities to express myself.
Everyone who knew me thought I was insane. I was engaged at that time. I asked my then fiancée (and now my wife) Uma what was her opinion. I still remember her words, Harish, go by what your heart says. Your happiness ultimately matters to me. I was touched.
I went ahead with my decision. In January 1973, I joined All India Radio as assistant News Editor and served there till my retirement in 2004.
I served AIR in several capacities getting ample opportunity to express myself as News editor, gaining experience in editing. I worked as a correspondent feeding news for bulletins, writing scripts for spot light, newsreels, giving despatches for news bulletins and at times voicing my own scripts.
I also travelled extensively as AIR correspondent around the world as well as within the country. It was a highly satisfying experience. I had a short stint of about a year at Doordarshan news. I covered the China visit of prime minister Narsimha Rao accompanying him as part of his press party. I also made a documentary on China which was televised on the national network.
My acceptance into AIR news was like baptism by fire. I have no hesitation in admitting that I was total novice to AIR news at the time of my posting in General News Room, GNR in short, as assistant News Editor. I was ignorant about General words like slug for title of an item, DP for day pool . Editing an item for use in bulletins was unknown to me.
During my first week, I was assigned duty as day pool assistant. My job was to assist editor in charge, who was in charge of entire day shift, in preparing items for day pool from material received from news agencies like PTI, UNI, and ANI, and Reuter, inputs from our correspondents and other sources.
DP1 was for home items and DP 2 for foreign items and sports. As I entered GNR on day one, I was literally lost like Alice in wonder land. Editor in charge that day was KS Rama Nathan, one of best in this profession. He had beritone voice and brilliant memory. When he was compiling 9 pm bulletin, he would read entire pool, then dictate fifteen minute bulletin in one go. After that, he would keep walking in GNR humming some tune. He would not disturb his bulletin unless some very important news item was there.
On my first day, as editor in charge settled in his seat, I introduced my self to him .
He gave me some agency takes to make a story for pool. Now let me confess that I was totally blank about radio news. I had army background and never had any diploma or degree in journalism. Anyway I put in my best and placed stencil before Ramanathan. He was furious. He threw back a stencil at me and said, you call it a story, nonsense. Radio news is beyond you, go to some other media.
I was totally devastated. I went to bathroom, cried like a child. I kept thinking: what should I do? Should I ask for change of media? What if the same thing happens there also.No, I told myself, fauji spirit demands that I should not accept defeat so easily. I went back, collected used pool copies, stories done by veterans and started studying them.
Colleagues in the newsroom were really helpful and by and by, I started getting hang of the things. Once, I was compiling a two minute bulletin .Ramanathan came to my seat, picked up my bulletin and said ,hey, your bulletin is much better than your story. I felt elated.
An editor of Ramanathan's calibre saying a few encouraging words about my work was moral boosting. After about a month or so, test series in cricket started between India and West Indies. Ramanathan was editor in charge, and cricket commentary was on. I was not in the pool. I had finished my bulletin and was just listening to commentry. He looked at me and said, you know cricket?
My humble reply was, Sir, I play for ministry cricket team. OK, he said, can you do a story for 1400 hours. I will try, I said. I was elated.
Now was time to wash away the stigma that I am not good enough for radio news. I prepared full one page story and placed stencil before him. He looked up and said a real good job. In future, you handle all sports stories . My love affair with sports continued and when NSD decided to introduce Sports bulletin, the responsibility for setting up the Sports desk was given to me. I served in Radio news for more than thirty years . My first encounter with KS Ramanathan still brings a smile on my face.
About The Book Sweet & Sour:
Sweet & Sour is a collection of anecdotes by a group of media professionals, who were part of the Government of India, deployed in various media units under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. These anecdotes give a peep into policy in the making in the corridors of power in New Delhi, eye-witness account from Sri Lanka during the deployment of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, Afghanistan through its turmoil and several decades of internal conflict in Jammu & Kashmir. Several government journalists missed death by a whisker during the call of their duty. Started just as an exercise to unwind the nerves during the lockdown period in 2020-21, it emerged as a good collection of articles, some breath-taking, some poignant, and some hilarious. It certainly is worth reading.
Link to buy the book: https:'