Retirement and After -II
Continued from Previous Page
With a desktop things became much easier although it took quite a bit of time for me to get the hang of it. For me the advantage was I didn’t have to mail my letters; they could now be e-mailed and could reach almost instantly. The ones to Central Chronicle would appear the very next day and those to the Statesman would take a little more time.
The Upper Lake of Bhopal was having a rough time and had dried up quite a bit. I was feeling distressed as, it seemed, the apathy of the civic authorities would destroy the Lake. I sat down to write a letter, a kind of a distress call but it turned out to be too lengthy. I took a print out and took it to the office of the Hindustan Times to give it to the editor. As the editor was unavailable I handed it over to one of the correspondents, Ambreesh, who, I believe, is now with India Today. That happened to be a Friday and I thought I would meet the editor on Monday. But before I could do that it was published on Sunday with a photograph of the Lake from the newspaper’s archives.
Quite clearly it was appreciated by the Editor, Mr. Askari Zaidi, who took special interest in the layout of the article and selecting a suitable photograph. I met him the next day and couldn’t thank him enough for his gesture. With that commenced a relationship with Mr Zaidi and the Hindustan Times that lasted for six years during which numerous articles of mine were published making me a known name (not a face) in the town. Mr. Zaidi encouraged people to write. He used to say that thinking people must be given a platform. But in the government such thoughts are considered pernicious.
Late Mr. Mahesh Buch and Late Mr. Kripal Dhillon, Prof. Zamiruddin and some others used to write in the newspaper very frequently. They were known commodities; I was a stranger and, kind of, a new kid on the block – unknown and faceless. Initially many in Bhopal presumed that it was one of the two brothers whom they knew was the writer. They had to be told that there was a third Bagchi who was, well, the ‘culprit’. The article made quite a splash and very few friends that I had congratulated me. One of the local editors, whom I did not know, came to congratulate me. By that time many of my articles had been published.
That was in 2001 and since then I have been, so to say, pushing my pen. The Hindustan Times reduced its city supplement to a mangled version of its former self. I was also told that newspapers like HT and Times of India (which started publishing later from Bhopal) were advised that any criticism of the government would entail deprivation of all commercial ads. The papers, to be on the safer side, discontinued accepting unsolicited articles. That shut the doors on my journalistic effort with the HT.
I, however, used to write in The Pioneer which too had started publishing from Bhopal. One Mr. VT Joshi, a very senior journalist who retired, if I remember, from HT used to be a member of our Saturday Club. He also used to run a syndicate which used to distribute features to several English language dailies in different states. Once I was introduced to him he readily accepted my pieces for circulation. This expanded my reach and if I sent a piece independently to Goa or Guwahati it would be published. However, the tie up with Mr. Joshi was short-lived as he expired while on a visit to Bangalore.
In the meantime, I started contributing to citizen journalism sites in India and the US. There still are a number of sites in India which unfortunately have been unable to make themselves secure. The US sites were however very welcoming. I recall the Ground Report of Rachel Stern, a UN intern, took all my pieces and after approval used to publish them. A time came when the site intimated that I did not need any approval and could post straightaway on the site. Unfortunately, she sold the site. Similar fate awaited many to which I used to contribute. For instance, Newsvine – an MS NBC outfit – ran aground after about a dozen years. Here some of my readers had become friends and used to exchange views with me. Likewise, the Third Report of one Mr. Boreli, a man who appreciated well-written pieces, sank when the outfit ran out of money. Another site, viz. “Media With Conscience” (MWCnews) just sank one fine morning without any trace.
It only proves that in a capitalist society independent journalism has no place. Money is a scarce commodity and none would like to place one’s bet on a venture that does not offer much return. Independent journalism hardly ever gave any return to its promoters. The first decade of this century was, nevertheless, the golden period for citizen journalism on the worldwide web. It, however, got caught up too soon in the machinations of the capitalist society for sheer motive of profits.
Nonetheless, there is one example that defies the above formulation and it is “Ohmynews” of South Korea. It is a site that was launched years ago by one Mr. Oh and still continues to offer citizen journalists its site for mounting photos and texts. I, too, used to contribute to the site before it became a more professional journalistic site. I had a very large audience and one of my pieces was picked up by a researcher in the US who even spoke to me on an international call asking for further details.
While the citizen journalism sites kept disappearing from the scene I kept writing for it had now become a passion and a manner of spending my days a little more fruitfully. Instead of passively waiting for the inevitable end it provided me a reason for being alive. Despite a repaired heart I am maintaining myself, with tireless efforts of my loving wife, well enough for my 83 years. Even if all the citizen journalism sites collapsed all around me I would still have my Blogger and Facebook accounts to express myself. Hopefully, they are not going to fail me and are likely to outlast me.