Tuesday, September 22, 2009

G S Bhargava Passes Leaving Memories of a Great Editor and Human Being

I HAVE to write this in a hurry, but I cannot hold it for another day because G S Bhargava was one person who helped me come up in the profession of journalism, fighting against so many odds.

The day I stepped into the old biscuit company premises of Indian Express, at Domal Guda just off the Tank Bund in Hyderabad, some time in early 1985, the person who caught my fancy was the tall, elegant gentleman who had a pipe in his mouth and kept on talking in Telugu mixed with English or English mixed with Telugu.

He was easy, affable and always accessible, unlike the other biggies in the office who kept you nervous trainee journalists at a distance. As I went in and reported, he smiled and told me Malayali journos were often trouble and hoped I too would keep up the tradition.

I don't know who he meant, but before I reached there people like Mony Mathews, now with Business Line in Thiruvananthapuram, had been making headlines in the Express desk there, and others like R Shankar and Talita Mathews were also at the desk; Shankar a fine gentleman menon from Guruvayur who spoke softly and Talita, a bulky young lady with short cropped hair and a sharp tongue, among others.

It was fun to be there, learning the tricks of the trade, often accepting the choicest abuses from the desk chief and news editor with a smile...

Bhargava was the presiding deity; he liked all and of course he liked the girls more. His family was away in Delhi and some times they flew down to Hyderabad and he brought his kids to the office once or twice and made our dreary life very happy.

First, he thought I was a real stupid guy. I was diffident and could not speak English much, and naturally when I addressed him my mouth went dry and my words often played hide and seek. Once he told me, you came from Kerala and I will see to it that you will go home in no time. Talita took up my defence and kept me under her wings...

But soon his wonderful humanity was visible even to me. He was such a large-hearted, generous person and his political views were left of centre, basically socialist. He had close association with the Indian socialists and was involved in many of their political movements.

Like all good socialists, he was critical of the communists and he knew I used to be a Marxist student activist. But unlike true socialists, he was very friendly even to commies and was always willing to talk to you, engage you in a debate even if you had been the most junior chap in the staff. Once, after he had retired and shifted to Delhi, he came to Hyderabad he came to the Express office and took me out and we had a long talk on some topic on which he had been writing in Mainstream or some other publication at that time. I had my different views and expressed them in a letter, and he was ready listen to me. In fact, it appears that he had a special liking for me as we came to know each other much closer, because on one of his final days in Express, after he had decided to shift to Delhi leaving Express, he came to the desk with a couple of books and handed them over to me. It was a parting gift from a great man to a boy who had come from far away with none to claim as a godfather in the profession.

I bow my head in memory of a great person, a doyen among Indian journalists, who has just passed leaving the profession that much poorer. His last book was a history of Indian journalism, published by National Book Trust. One of my regrets would remain my inability to visit him at his Green Parks residence in Delhi during those days I spent there. Parsa Venkateswar Rao Jjr, now a senior editor with DNA, who worked with us in Hyderabad, had promised to take there as he was indisposed, but unfortunately we could never make it.

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