Posts Tagged ‘Searchlight’


(Just thought I’d post this piece for posterity and for the record. This is the original piece sent to Tehelka, which was abridged for publication. It appeared on July 12, 2014. The link to that story is here.

Genes are a mysterious element in our system. It’s funny how they work behind-the-scenes.

My parents separated when I was around three or four, so whatever I heard about my father was from my mother – that he used to be a politician, journalist, lecturer. If there was more she didn’t tell me, and if she did, I was too young to remember. I only saw him as and when he occasionally dropped in at our place in Bhagalpur from Patna over the weekend, stayed the night and left in the morning. He scared me, because he had a volatile temper and used it at anyone and everyone, for any random reason. In my teens, I learnt he was a socialist and politician, who had been close to the late Jaya Prakash Narayan. Also, that his father had disowned him, when he joined the freedom struggle. Apart from that I didn’t know much else, and didn’t care. As I grew old enough to think for myself, I knew he was what I never wanted to be.

My first brush with journalism was when I was fourteen. I wrote an angry letter to a film magazine about a film I saw. They published it. I was shocked. Even more shocked when they sent me a cheque for 50 bucks. That was my brief flirtation with journalism, because I ended up working in the hotel industry in the 1980s.

In my twenties, rebellious and unemployed, a friend offered me a sub editor’s job at a local daily in Pune. I grabbed it. My father once came from Patna and asked me if I would ever become a News Editor. I said I didn’t know. I was a trainee sub editor earning 600 rupees. In the thirteen years after that, I became Assistant Editor of the daily. Then in 1994 my father passed away and neither I nor anyone from my family went for his funeral. It wasn’t possible anyway although I flew in to see him a week before he died. I don’t know who performed his last rites.

From Assistant Editor in a single-edition newspaper in Pune to a Chief Copy Editor at a seven-edition national newspaper in Chandigarh, to a Deputy News Editor at the same newspaper in Lucknow, I was now running the news desk. The day the editor called me to hand over the letter appointing me News Editor of the Lucknow edition, I broke down in her cabin.

Some years later, I settled again in Pune. I had quit journalism and gone into corporate communication. I took up teaching on a friend’s advice.  After all, twenty years was a long time to be in journalism. At my first lecture at a local college, I froze. Thankfully, that never happened again. I’ve been teaching journalism and occasionally PR for seven years now and a few hundred youngsters around the country are now my ex-students.

Then, like everyone else interested in writing, I began blogging (http://mohansblog.worpress.com), even as I returned to journalism a few years back. One day I was trolling the worldwide web and out of sheer curiosity I typed out my father’s name, and something popped out that left me stunned and turned my world upside down.

It was my father’s bio data in a book on the politicians from Bihar. It read: Educated in Darbhanga, Patna, Banaras and London; Left studies to join the non-cooperation movement, 1920; Assistant Editor and later Editor, Desh, 1921-23; Sub-Editor, Searchlight, 1924; Went to England for higher study and law, 1926-31; took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement, arrested and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, 1934-35; founder member, Bihar Socialist Party, 1934; Secretary, Bihar Socialist party, 1935-36; taught in Kashi Vidyapeeth, 1936; Editor Sangharsh, 1937-48; Secretary, UP Congress Socialist Party; Principal National High School, Lucknow, 1939-42; participated in Quit India Movement, 1942; arrested and detained, 1943-45; member, National Executive, Socialist Party, 1948; Editor Janata, 1948-69; member Praja Socialist Party, 1955-69; left politics and resumed teaching at Patna; died in 1994.

Truth be told, I really didn’t know my father at all.

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 11 Issue 28, Dated 12 July 2014)

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I always tell my students to be careful when they post things on social networking sites, because you never know when it could come back to haunt them. Of course, there are times when it does throw up things that are interesting too. Like last night.
I happened to be trawling the worldwide web looking for nothing in particular, when on a whim, I typed my father’s name in the window and clicked enter. On a whim, because I hadn’t thought of him in years, not since my mother passed away in 2003.
The relationship we (my brother and I) had with our father had been a pretty tumultuous one – my brother more than me, because while I lived with my mother since I was five or so, he stayed with my father. I guess both of us have never really forgiven my father for leaving my mother to fend for herself and her children, until he decided to take my brother along with him to Patna. Whether he did this out of some sympathy or sense of duty, I’ll never know.
I knew my father had been a lot of things like barrister, freedom fighter, lecturer and editor, but to read everything about him has left me completely stunned. My mother had never told me in details about his exploits. If she did, I was probably too young to realise the import of such things.
Anyway back to the present. So what popped up on google took me completely by surprise. It was a pretty impressive profile of my father, which I never knew existed. I was reading about things I never knew or ever heard from anyone. Call it a coincidence, but the places he stayed and worked in during his lifetime, I had unknowingly stayed and worked in as well. Then there was his career as a journalist, which was infinitely much more impressive than mine will ever be.
Then there was his career as a lecturer, teaching Law and Commerce at the Law and Commerce Colleges, respectively, in Patna, when he quit politics. I had heard from people he had taught that there were no empty chairs during his lectures and that his students kissed the ground he walked on.
I remember an incident that happened in Pune, when father came to see us. He was accompanied by a young man. When I asked him why he was there, the youngster said “Jayaprakash Narayanji told us that after his death, we should look after your father.” That left me quite unmoved, because in my book, as a husband and father he had failed. When father told me that he along with JP and others had written the Constitution of the Janata Party, headed by Morarji Desai, I caustically remarked that the experiment was then surely going to fail.
When he died at Darbhanga in 1994, neither my brother nor I went for the funeral. My mother cried when she heard the news, and I remember my brother and me telling her that she was shedding tears for a man who had deserted her and his children, when they most needed him. We had shut him out of our lives since then, to the extent that we had even given away the inherited family property to another one of our step-sisters. We wanted nothing to do with anything connected to him.
Seeing the profile on Google brought back a lot of memories. Had we (the family) misjudged him? I don’t know how my brother feels, but I think I am willing to let go off the past. I think it’s time to move on, tell my son that despite all his flaws and his philandering ways, his grandfather was a remarkable man. In his own small way, he had done his duty for his country and for his people, even though he had failed his extended family. But I guess we can’t all be perfect.