Posts Tagged ‘Star of Mysore’

A half-century in the service of the Paper Tigers

16 June 2014

image

The evening newspaper Star of Mysore profiles M.R. Subramanya, popularly called by his admirers as “Paper Subbanna“, who has just completed 50 years as a newspaper distributor in Mysore.

Subbanna entered newspaper distribution in 1963 after unsuccessfully launching Chitralaya, a tabloid devoted to the Kannada film industry in Bangalore.

“I am happy with my profession and I am contented in life. The advent of TV has led a steep fall in newspaper readership which is regrettable but reading a newspaper over a cup of tea is itself a different and a wholesome experience.”

Photograph: courtesy Star of Mysore

An Editor reveals his friendship with a politician

7 April 2014
Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy (right) with the politician H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday

Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy (right) with the politician H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday

The relationship between politicians and journalists is usually an after-dark activity in India, with neither participant ready or willing to put the other’s involvement on the record.

Wise heads in politics will counsel newcomers against getting too close to journalists, because, well, you never know when the snake could discover its fangs.

Grey beards in journalism will lament such proximity, because, well, it could harm the holy grail of our profession that textbooks say exists—”objectivity”.

K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of the evening daily Star of Mysore, swerves off the beaten track to pay a heart-warming tribute to the three-time BJP MLA in Karnataka, the former mayor of Mysore, H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda, who passed away yesterday.

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

It was 1979; Star of Mysore was into its second year of publication from its office in Saraswathipuram near Kamakshi Hospital.

One afternoon, a young, lean, tall man, neatly dressed with his shirt tucked into his pants held in by a leather belt, wearing specs with thin plastic frame, came to my desk hesitantly wanting to discuss an incident to be published.

He was an angry young man. There was clarity in his speech and honesty in his voice.

The officer in charge of issuing cement permits in those days of scarcity and license-permit Raj at the divisional commissioner’s office was partial and corrupt, he said and wanted the paper to expose him.

He had come to me after creating a scene at the office with the support of the disappointed permit-seekers. I grabbed the opportunity and published the story with his picture.

Lo and behold, a leader was made.

Having been a journalist in Bombay, I knew every leader would have his detractors. Soon, I was fed with information about his antecedents, specially as a manager in the Janata Bazar. But I knew there was not much truth in it.

He was already into poultry business with his unit at Martikyatanahalli on Bogadi road, eight km from city. He was staying with his family in his own house near our office. His name was H.S. Shankaralinge Gowda.

And soon we became very close friends.

***

The first quality I found in him was his helping nature. Second quality was his societal concern. The third quality was his immediate reaction both in words and deeds.

To me he was a unique kind of a person. Naturally our contact blossomed into friendship. This bonding had helped both of us in succeeding in our chosen field of activity.

To cut out details, he as a politician and I as a journalist and newspaper publisher.

I remember those early days, he on his scooter and I on my motorbike, going to his farm, in the evening, to spend some ‘quality’ time enjoying boiled eggs and omelette aplenty or even a chicken fry. And he would load my motorbike’s side box with vegetables and trays of eggs on the rear seat despite my protestation.

To further strengthen our friendship, he found out a three-acre land close to his which I bought, but later sold, just as he himself did with his farm.

Again, it was at his insistence and moral support that in 1983 I built my own house at Kuvempunagar in a 60×40 site.

A dashing man of courage and confidence, I was convinced by him that I could build a house knowing that I did not have required money.

In the meanwhile, he was wanting to become a politician, Janata Party politician. By then I had built personal rapport with the leading politicians of Janata Party in city as a journalist and through my elder brother late Dr K. B. Subbaiah.

Again rivalry and he was nowhere in the race for Corporation election ticket.

I was doing the background work no doubt, but it was his presence of mind and the way he reacted in lightning speed that enabled him to wangle a ticket from Janata Party.

One day, he was in my ‘own’ house at 7 O’clock in the morning on his scooter. By then I had a Fiat car.

I took him to the government house to meet Azeez Sait [the late Congress leader], made him speak to M.S. Gurupadaswamy [former Union minister], went to T.V. Srinivasa Rao’s house in Vidyaranyapuram where Shankaralinge Gowda’s challenger for the ticket too was there.

He gave me a sheepish smile and whispered, “what have I done to you?” in Kannada.

First I went into a huddle in a room with H. Kempe Gowda, the city president of the party, Azeez Sait and T.V. Srinivasa Rao. Gurupadaswamy did not come but had given his consent. Then I called my friend and introduced him to the party honchos.

Well, Shankaralinge Gowda never looked back.

***

It was I who advised him to change his sartorial choice immediately to that of what politicians are seen wearing. In his case, kurta and pyjama, with a stoll.

I was his political guru (and he would embarrass me by declaring it in public meetings) till he won the first MLA election from the BJP which he joined, again, at my insistence and a little help. Later, both my guruhood and friendship too faded away to the point of occasional telephone contacts.

I recall today the timely help given to me by Shankaralinge Gowda when I had faced threat to my life and harassment by those who were upset by what was published in those early first 10 years. It was during those trying days Shankaralinge Gowda showed his sterling qualities of heart and head for a friend.

If anyone doubts the time tested saying that ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed,’ here I am to vouch for the veracity of such a saying. He was a friend who stood by me, specially on two occasions.

One, when I was harassed and threatened by one who was exposed for cheating students seeking medical college seats and two, when my life was threatened by another group taking offence to what was published connected to LTTE.

Shankaralinge Gowda may not be with us today but his memory and my days of friendship with him will always remain indelible in my memory.

Adieu my friend, goodbye.

RIP, Shankaralinge Gowda.

Also read: A song for an unsung hero, C.P. Chinnappa

9 steps for success from a (super-successful) editor

When a freelance writer cannot meet an editor

Is ‘corrupt, corporate media’ scared of AAP?

25 January 2014

After hailing the Aam Aadmi Party’s breathtaking rise to power, in fact after paving the way for it with its somewhat uncritical coverage in its Team Anna avatar, much of the mainstream turned against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after he sat on a protest at a public square this week.

In fact, The Times of India, which led the wide-eyed gee-whiz coverage initially, felt duty-bound to run a comically self-important front-page clarification, explaining the sudden change in the tone, tenor and texture of its coverage.

Why, asks Vikram Muthanna, managing editor of the evening newspaper Star of Mysore. Is it because the media has too many skeletons to hide?

“The details of the Delhi incident of course were made murkier and louder by now what seems like an anti-AAP media.

“The same media which went hyper and showed us doctored tapes of AAP reportedly accepting cash, which some say cost Shazia Ilmi of AAP her seat, who lost by just 326 votes. But then once it was proved the tapes were doctored the raw footage was never shown.

“The man who made it, earlier was given ample screen, but was never brought back to be grilled. In the Delhi incident a media that gets a sound byte from all and sundry did not get too many residents’ opinions. There was also no clarity and consistency in reports, why?

“So while the media says the AAP Minister Somnath Bharti has brought bad name to India internationally, maybe selective journalism did too?

“The same media just before the elections said AAP will not get more than 6 to 10 seats, in a way encouraging voters not to waste their vote and stick with the winning horse, the BJP, only to be proved wrong.

“Is the Corporate owned media with other varied interests suddenly scared that too much anti-corruption may come knocking on their own doors or are they trying to play ball with BJP who is sure to win many more seats than any other party right now?”

Read the full piece: If AAP is anarchist, how about BJP?

Also read: How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

Mukesh Ambani ‘sues’ TV channels on Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal taunts Mukesh Ambani on sue threat

Should the media too come under Lok Pal?

Is The Indian Express now a pro-establishment newspaper?

Tarun Tejpal & the tale of the poor shepherd-boy

5 December 2013

Tejpal-AmulMAIN

The elevator implosion of Tarun J. Tejpal and the plight of Tehelka as a result have been discussed ad nauseam after the first emails were leaked on 20 November.

But the commentary, outrage and sympathy have come from the usual set of bold-face colleagues, rivals, friends, socialites, feminists and lawyers, among others.

But how is a scandal like this viewed in smalltown India?

K.B. Ganapathy, the editor-in-chief of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, dips into his reading to offer a mythological perspective.

***

kbg

By K.B. GANAPATHY

In a city, on the banks of the sacred Ganga, called Makandika, there lived a Sadhu. He was well-known for his seeming simplicity and piety.

He had taken a vow of silence and lived wholly on alms.

He lived inside the precincts of a temple and often seemed in a state of samadhi (trance). Visitors to the temple were impressed and revered him.

Whenever he felt hungry, he would walk the streets of the town to beg.

On a particular day, he went to a rich merchant’s house and stood in front of the door silently because he was under a vow of silence about which people in the City knew.

The merchant was taking bath.

His beautiful unmarried daughter saw the Sadhu.

In keeping with the tradition of giving to the less fortunate and the holy persons, she came with a measure of rice to give to the Sadhu.

At the sight of the beautiful daughter of the merchant with her perfectly moulded breasts, her slender but not too angular hips, her graceful movements and her lustrous smile and sensuous eyes, the Sadhu was overwhelmed with desire for her.

As she poured the rice into his begging-bowl, he forgot his sacred vow of silence and let forth a groaning sound from his lips: “Oh no, oh no, oh yes, oh no…”

The merchant, who heard the Sadhu groan, looked out through the window only to see the Sadhu walking away in haste, moaning and groaning.

The merchant was disturbed.

Such a sacred person leaving his house with such seemingly hurt feeling! He rushed to the temple post-haste and begged the Sadhu to tell him the cause for the agonising sounds from his lips.

The Sadhu remained motionless and the merchant thought he would not speak, continuing with his vow of silence. But the Sadhu spoke — in a feeble, disembodied voice: “I was distressed at your house as I suddenly saw into the future. That beautiful daughter of yours carries a curse. When she marries, you and your wife, your sons and other daughters will all die”.

“What do I do?” asked a distraught merchant in great anxiety.

“There is only one solution,” said the Sadhu. “Put your daughter in a basket, close the lid and set her adrift in the Holy Ganga. However, tie a lamp to the basket and tether it to the bank of the river with a rope.”

Unquestioning piety has its dangers.

The merchant carried out the Sadhu’s instruction at night to the letter by doping his daughter, without telling anyone in the house.

As the basket with merchant’s daughter was wobbling in the water like a buoy, the Sadhu put his own plan into action. He called his two disciples and asked them to go to Ganga, look for the basket with a light and bring it to him without opening the lid, no matter what.

However, before the disciples could reach the Ganga and sight the basket, a local Prince who had gone to the Ganga for bathing, saw the basket, took it to his Palace and on opening the lid, was overwhelmed looking at a sleeping beauty.

When she opened her eyes, her peerless beauty mesmerised the Prince instantaneously and she too was immensely pleased and overjoyed to see a handsome Prince by her side.

They get married.

The Prince then orders his soldiers to put a monkey in that basket and leave it in the place where he had found it.

At last the Sadhu’s disciples sight the basket, carry it dutifully, despite the jumping noisy animal inside and place it before the Sadhu who by then had become impatient and even a bit angry too towards his disciples whom he asked to leave the place and leave him alone.

By now, the monkey was exhausted trying to escape and was quiet.

Alone in the shadowy darkness behind the temple, the Sadhu prepared to open the basket with pent-up passion and lust. His body chemistry changed awakening the coiled serpent all set to strike at the merchant’s beautiful, nubile daughter!

But when he opened the lid of the basket he was horrified to see a bony, hairy hideous monkey that sprang and attacked him furiously.

It was as if his own vile lust had jumped out of the basket, to punish and sear him for the rest of his life.

***

Like it was to Tarun J. Tejpal, the founder and editor of Tehelka, where his own vile lust had jumped out of the lift, to punish and sear him for the rest of his life — no matter he is acquitted or not.

However, fate may have a different plan for both — the victim and the tormentor. The victim of sexual harassment and rape (now under the new, amended law after Nirbhaya’s rape and death in Delhi), a junior journalist of Tehelka, if not married, may find her prince charming in time, but I am optimistic of a bright future for Tarun Tejpal as well, knowing my country, its political leaders and pseudo-intellectuals.

Public memory is short.

You can kill innocent Sikhs or you can kill innocent Muslims. You may utter a belated sorry when the day of reckoning comes during the election or use some subterfuge and indulge in rigmarole to soothe the seared souls of the survivors of these pogroms. And the perpetrators of the evil are again seen ruling us!

In a similar manner, who knows, the stigma and painful pecking at his once glorious persona may make him even more successful.

What could be the theoretical cause for Tarun Tejpal’s present predicament and plight suffering the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” to quote Shakespeare in Hamlet.

Aroon Purie, the editor-in-chief of India Today explains it this way: “It is the ‘God’ complex which I have seen in so many successful men. They reach such heights of success that they live in their own world and think the normal rules of social behaviour do not apply to them, neither do the laws of the land.”

How true!

Many of the stakeholders in his mushroom companies numbering about eight, are all suspect. There seems to be reasons for this, which only an IT or ED department can unravel.

We find his business empire stinking and also sinking as we access internet. DLF and 2G Spectrum of Unitech, with names of Robert Vadra floating around, do give us a murky picture of his activities — a kind of Tughlaq Durbar.

When at parties, it was ‘who is who’ of Page-3.

***

I was reading a book titled ‘Tales’, a collection of stories by Acharya Ratnananda. Let me re-tell the story before taking leave.

There lived a proud but benevolent King.

One day he called his Prime Minister and said, “Mr Prime Minister, there is a misgiving in my mind that worries me and it is this: As you know, all of us in this creation have some definite work to do. A King rules, a soldier fights in war, a trader trades, a teacher teaches, a preacher preaches, a mason builds, though as people they do other things also. This is law of the nature. Likewise, even the creator, God, should have a job to do. What is that? I would like to know.”

The Prime Minister, unable to answer, suggested that since the question borders on spiritual and metaphysical studies, it be put to the Bishop. Accordingly, the Bishop was called before the King. The King repeated the question.

The Bishop did not know the answer but sought time for fear of punishment.

Next day, the shepherd boy of the Bishop saw his master worried and silent. “What troubles you, Master?” the shepherd boy asked. The Bishop dismissed him in the beginning but later relented and told him the King’s question, “What is God’s work?”

The boy told the Bishop that he knew the answer but would reveal it only before the King personally. Helpless, the Bishop took the boy to the King and said, “This shepherd boy would answer your question. Please ask him the question.”

The benevolent King, though seemed offended at the audacity of the Bishop, all the same, agreed to the suggestion and repeated the question.

The shepherd-boy heard the question and said that it was a very simple question but since the person asking the question becomes a Shishya, a disciple, and the person giving the answer becomes the Guru, a Master, the Guru should go up and occupy the throne and the disciple must come down and sit on the floor, which is the protocol.

The benevolent King accepts the proposition and vacates the throne which the shepherd-boy immediately occupies.

“Come on, give me the answer. What is God’s work?” The King was in a hurry and impatient.

The shepherd boy said in great aplomb: “Here is my answer. What is God’s work? Well, God’s work is to push down the Haughty and push up the Humble. The God’s work is seen right now here.”

To return to Tarun Tejpal, God seems to be working overtime to cut him to size and put him in his place. For now the Police lock-up in Goa is his place!

Tarun Tejpal and his cronies, always busy partying with social celebrities and political honchos, must have raised their cut-glasses of joy year-round and clinked them in toast to the chorus: “Cheers, let us screw India.”

This kind of non-patriotic cheering must have stopped since Tejpal’s arrest. So be it. And who has the last laugh? BJP!

(A longer version of this piece appeared on two consecutive days in Star of Mysore)

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal steps aside as editor of Tehelka

Life yourselves up, dearie, or get into my elevator

POLL: Is sexual harassment rampant in Indian media?

Online petition to protect Tehelka journalist’s privacy

Tarun Tejpal was trapped in a skin not his own’

Tarun Tejpal: Fear and self-loathing in Goa

Aroon Purie and Vinod Mehta on Tarun Tejpal

Tarun Tejpal, Manish Tewari and relief at PBC

***

Tarun Tejpal on the five facets of his life

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

A magazine, a scam, a owner & his Goan house

NYT, WSJ weigh on Tehelka‘s Goa controversy

Tehelka promoter says he didn’t turn off FW tap

When a freelance writer cannot meet an Editor

4 September 2013

Three weeks ago, V. Gangadhar (in picture), the well-known Bombay satirist who created the character Trishanku, wrote a diary in Outlook* magazine, in which he lamented his inability to meet K.B. Ganapathy, the erudite editor of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, on a visit to the southern city.

Gangadhar wrote:

I was glad to have met Ronnie Mitra, an unsung hero in retirement in Mysore, but was disappointed to be given the cold shoulder by a well-known local hero, K.B. Ganapathy, founder-publisher of the tabloid Star of Mysore.

I’m always keen to meet fellow journalists to talk shop, and things have been happening in Karnataka. So I seek an appointment at his impressive office and get it for 11 am the next day after assuring him it’s just a courtesy call.

The next day I reach his office and end up waiting for 45 minutes. When I call him, he says, “I’m on the other side of town and can’t say when I’ll return. But why do you want to meet me anyway?” I explain again that I’m on a visit to the city and want to talk journalism. The lack of responsiveness is quite surprising and I have nothing to do but return home.

Indian editors, I have found, are not all that keen to meet fellow journalists. The editor-in-chief of a south Indian daily for which I’d been a columnist for over 20 years has never met me even once. He’s always busy in meetings.

In my 50 years in the profession, I’ve learnt that editors, very visible now on TV news channels, do not seem to have time for fellow journalists­—especially if they are freelancers or columnists.

***

Ganapathy has now responded to Gangadhar in his column Abracadabra, invoking his co-townsman R.K. Narayan and Gentleman magazine:

I was in Melbourne, Australia, when my son Vikram Muthanna, holding fort in my absence at office, called me to inform that a popular columnist V. Gangadhar had written a ‘Mysore Diary’ in Outlook magazine where my name was mentioned and wanted to know the background.

Already into my eleventh day at Down Under, I was unable to recall the failed encounter with Gangadhar. My son would not budge and read out the relevant part from that piece.

Lo and behold, my memory was revived. V. Gangadhar. The man who had identified himself merely as a freelance journalist and wanted to see me for no specific reason.

As it happened, I was too busy those few days but in deference to the professional bond, I gave him the 11 ‘O’ clock appointment the following day, and noted it in my desk diary, not trusting my memory. Didn’t someone say, “The palest ink is better than the best memory”? Yet, one has to look at the diary if it were to serve the purpose!

Unfortunately, I was away from city early morning and could not make it to office before 11 ‘O’ clock. It was then that a telephone call came from Gangadhar. Hell, I cursed myself but could not shrink the distance to reach the office to make the meeting happen. The meeting did not happen. So be it.

It was only when my son reminded me about Gangadhar’s ‘Mysore Diary’ as a reference, I, remembered the man —the ‘freelance journalist’ whom I have read in Outlook magazine where he writes his column ‘Secret diary,’ a satire in these days where this form of writing is as rare as hen’s teeth.

Be that as it may, I would now be alert when and if this ‘freelance journalist’ lands in Mysore next time and calls me. Love to break-bread with him and wash it down with whatever liquid he likes best!

This also reminds me of R.K. Narayan, the well-known Indian novelist writing in english. He was fond of me and would ask me occasionally, probably when he was bored, to visit him in his Yadavagiri house and I would happily go. Once I was with him in the upstairs hall, talking about his life in Rajya Sabha and Indira Gandhi over a cup of coffee with strong aroma that would make one’s nostrils flap.

The gardener below came up and said that one person had come to see R.K. Narayan.

“Ask him the purpose of his visit.”

The gardener went down and returned with a visiting card. Narayan saw the card and mumbled in Tamil, “Why do these people come without appointment and at odd times. Tell him I cannot see him.”

The gardener went down again and came back to say he had come from Bangalore and would take just 10 minutes. Narayan once again picked up the card, looked at it and told the gardener, “Tell him I cannot see him and he has come without appointment.” That was it.

I asked who that man was. What Narayan said was a revelation of Narayan’s approach to business and principles.

An English magazine called Gentleman published from Bombay had excerpted from Narayan’s novel, ‘A Tiger for Malgudi’ without his permission, thus violating his copyright. Narayan issued the publisher a legal notice. The publication wanted to negotiate with Narayan and it was about this that person wanted to talk.

“Why didn’t you meet him then?” I asked Narayan.

“Why should I? He has not taken an appointment. Anyway, my lawyer is there,” he said in a matter- of-fact manner.

For the record, Gangadhar used to write a fortnightly column for The Hindu.

*Disclosures apply

Photographs: courtesy Outlook (top); Star of Mysore

And so, India’s three best cartoonists are…

3 July 2012

It isn’t often that Indian cartoonists talk about their craft—or their colleagues and compatriots.

There is, for instance, a famous incident of the doyen of Indian cartooning, R.K. Laxman, being asked in the course of an interview with The Illustrated Weekly of India, about a younger cartoonist then working for the Indian Express.

Ravi Shankar? Fantastic sitarist,” was Laxman’s put-down, sotto voce.

***

Ajit Ninan, the former cartoonist of India Today and Outlook now a consultant with The Times of India, speaks about Laxman, in an interview in Star of Mysore:

Q: How would you differentiate yourself from R.K. Laxman?

A: I am a man of details and I think India is a country of details. Look at our architecture, the temples, fashion—everything has a lot of details. There is no school of cartooning and it is my seniors who helped me. I learnt by observing their works and have slept over their styles. Mario Miranda‘s details, Abu Abraham‘s simplicity of thought and Laxman’s works—something of everybody is there in my work.

However, Laxman’s cartoons had lengthy captions. I try to finish it within 10 words or even less. Almost 70% of my time goes into drafting captions.

When your drawing is so detailed, why burden it with words?

Q: Who would rank as the best Indian cartoonist?

A: R.K. Laxman—because he was a typical South Indian genius. He was a big crowd-puller and by nature he was funny, sharp and witty. Next is Mario because he brought out Indian architecture and humour, food, language, fashion through his drawings. He was a complete cartoonist and very versatile. The third would be Sudhir Tailang.

Image: courtesy Shafali

How a small newspaper registered its protest

15 March 2012

Stories of newspapers running blank editorials and news columns during the censorship era of the Emergency in the mid-1970s are legion.

But in this day and age, when space is calculated in square centimetres?

Star of Mysore, the 35-year-old evening newspaper from Mysore, ran this front-page on March 3 to protest the murderous assault on journalists by lawyers in Bangalore.

A front-page editorial noted grimly:

 “The Fourth Estate is the new target.

“In the new resurgent India, the media has played its role in exposing the wrongs done to this nation by its own people and has given voice to the weak. The Press, the fourth pillar of democracy, has so far kept check on the three other powerful pillars—the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary—and has done so in the interest of keeping the citizenry of this nation informed and to get it involved in national issues.

“This success of the media in getting people involved in issues that concern the nation is what has made the other three pillars uncomfortable…. A media that helps create awareness among the citizenry making it pro-active is not in the interest of the powerful in the other three pillars of democracy. And so, on March 2, while a certain section of lawers went on a thrshing spree on media persons, the police stood like helpless bystanders.”

Image: courtesy Star of Mysore

Also read: A blank editorial, a black editorial and a footnote

A song for an unsung hero: C.P. Chinnappa

 

M.R. SHIVANNA, a true 24/7 journalist, is dead

22 May 2011

sans serif records with regret the passing away of M.R. SHIVANNA, an unsung hero of Indian journalism, in Mysore on Saturday. He was 55, and is survived by his wife and daughter.

For 30 years and more, Shivanna slogged away in remarkable obscurity and was one of the pillars on which stands India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore. Starting out as a sub-editor in the local tabloid, Shivanna, a son of a farmer, had grown to be editor of the family-owned SoM at the time of his death.

Shivanna was no poet. His prose wouldn’t set the Cauvery on fire, nor was it intended to.

First in at work and last man out of the office, he wrote simple functional sentences day after relentless day. While dozens of young men cut their teeth at Star of Mysore on their way to bigger things in Bangalore and beyond, Shivanna stayed on, lending his boss K.B. GANAPATHY the kind of quiet solidity every owner and editor can only envy.

Here, CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY, one of Shivanna’s myriad ex-colleagues, who moved from Star of Mysore on to Frontline, The Week and The Times of India, among other ports of call, pays tribute.

***

By CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY

“(MRS).”

For decades, lakhs of Mysoreans have seen these three letters of the alphabet appended to thousands of news reports in Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mitra, Mysore’s dour media siblings, steered successfully by its founder-editor K.B. Ganapathy.

For most readers, these initials are a daily mystery, unravelled only in the anniversary issue of the two newspapers in February and March, respectively, when a mandatory “long-form” piece or an interview appears with the full form of the byline: M.R. Shivanna.

But for the remainder of the year, (MRS) was a byword for his straight, unaffected style.

As a journalist, Shivanna knew his limitations and that perhaps was his greatest strength. In a world of flamboyant story-tellers, he was the odd man out. Shorn of scholarly airs or intellectual pretensions, MRS pursued his vocation with a constancy of purpose, a fierce diligence that is rare in a profession where careerism has taken hold.

At times it seemed as if MRS literally lived in the newsroom, straddling two worlds, two sensibilities.

He finished his work at Star of Mysore, which is an English evening newspaper, in the afternoon, only to seamlessly drift to the other part of the building and discharge his duties at Mysooru Mitra, the Kannada morning daily form the same group.

You called the office at any unearthly hour, and more often than not MRS would pick up the phone, ready with pen on paper. A bulk of the information from across the districts was communicated over phone by a network of stringers and reporters, who spoke in varying  degrees  of clarity. MRS was an expert in tactfully prising out ‘news’ from these guys, night or day.

MRS was a 24×7 journalist before 24×7 became business jargon.

***

In 1990, just before taking up my journalism course, I ventured to work in Star of Mysore as a trainee.

K.B. Ganapathy, after a cursory chat, called in MRS and asked him to take me under his wing and put me through the paces.

At first glance, MRS was distinctly unimpressive: He was frail, he had a funny moustache, he tucked his shirt out, walked with a slouch and was staccato in his speech. He fobbed me off to his colleague at the desk, Nandini Srinivasan, who helped me tremendously through the early years.

Over a period of time, slowly, steadily I built some rapport with MRS. Sometimes he would call me out for an occasional smoke which I would readily accept in the hope of having a good conversation. But MRS would keep to himself and allow me to do all the talking, seldom proffering advice or insight, a genial smile displaying his tobacco-stained teeth.

There was a manic phase, of about a month or so, when I drank with him regularly at a fancy bar in Mysore. These sessions were unremarkable, almost matter-of-fact,  as MRS insisted that the Hindi music be played at an exceptionally high volume. There was no chance for exchange of ‘journalistic views’ leave alone banter.

Through the years in college, my association with Star and MRS continued. He would give me occasional assignments and background on stories that I was following.  Although writing in English did not come naturally to MRS, he honed it over the years through repeated practice.

His news reports were structured tightly in the classic “5 Ws and 1 H” formula, and it served him well.

There were reams and reams of buff paper on which he wrote with a cheap ball point pen that leaked, smudged and grew errant due to over use. He had this peculiar habit of bringing the nib close to his lips and blowing at it, like as if he was fanning a dying cigarette. He did that always, probably to fuel his pen’s fervor.

As an old-school journalist brought up on letter press, MRS also used and understood sub-editing notation better than most journalists. He used a red ink pen to underline a letter twice for capitalisation, a hurried swirl to denote deletion, “stet” if he wanted something to stay as is.

And for all his limitations with the language, if you were ever at a sudden loss for a word, those standard ones that you use to embellish journalistic copy, MRS would spout it in a second. The words swam in his head all the time.

Instinct and Intuition guided his journalistic disposition.

Passion and Persistence gave it  further ballast.

***

In 1993, “MRS” won the Karnataka Rajyothsava award. And as it happens in journalistic circles, there were whispers of how he had engineered it all, how it was a complete joke, how he was underserving, etc. MRS continued unfazed, doing what he did best, day after day after day. In due course, the tired critics went to sleep.

Many years later, at the Taj Lands End in Bombay, I hastened to the breakfast buffet for a quick bite before a conference. I had by then quit journalism to join Intel.

I heard a familiar “Hello, Chethu”.

I swung around to see MRS holding a bowl of fruits.

Over breakfast, he told me that Intel had flown him down to cover the event and simply amazed me with the information he had collected about the company’s latest products and plans. He kept jotting down notes verifying and cross-checking facts as we spoke. That evening we promised to get together but it didn’t happen.

During R.K .Laxman’s  last visit to Mysore about two years back, MRS took on the entire responsibility of hosting him in the City. Apart from ensuring that the Laxmans stayed in a friend’s hotel he organised their trip to Chamundi hills for an exclusive darshan. Laxman was profusely thankful to him during the visit.

On their last day in Mysore, MRS called me over the phone. He began with enquiring about my well being and slowly moved on to  a long conversation on Laxman’s perspective on various issues around him. I took the journalist’s bait and went with the flow filling him with facts, quotes, trivia.

I imagined MRS at his desk, his pen scribbling away on sheafs of paper, periodically blowing into his nib, probably conjuring the headline, the lead, the middle for his copy.

MRS will continue to write wherever he is. In the end, the smudges don’t matter really.

Also read: A song for an unsung hero: C.P. Chinnappa

***

IN MEMORIAM

Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: journo who broke Dalai Lama story

Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu

Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist

T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer

M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer

The 25-paise mag where R.K. Laxman began

4 April 2011

R.K. Laxman may have made his name after a lifetime at The Times of India, but it was for a small Kannada humour monthly called Koravanji that the Mysore-born cartoonist drew his first works.

The magazine had been inspired by the British satirical magazine Punch. The first issue saw the light of day, today, 70 years ago and shut down 25 years later, in 1967.

A CD containing 300 past issues of Koravanji (which refers to fortune-telling tribal women) was released in Mysore last week, and a website has been launched to keep the jokes going.

***

Prof A.V. Narasimha Murthy, former head of the department of ancient history and archaeology of the University of Mysore, recounts the origin of Koravanji in Star of Mysore.

“The editor of Korvanji was Dr R. Shivaram, popularly known as RaShi. He was a medical doctor but his stethoscope could detect humour. It seems that he was a regular reader of  Punch, the internationally known humour magazine.

“The college in which RaShi was studying auctioned all the old magazines including Punch. Shivaram managed to collect Rs 3 to buy them. But the Principal of the college himself purchased the lot at Rs 4.

“The boy was highly disappointed. But the understanding Principal presented all the volumes to Shivaram as a gift. This precious gift from the Principal was a turning point in the career of young Shivaram and years later he started the monthly magazine Koravanji.

“The first issue appeared on Ugadi day of Chitrabanu Samvatsara (1942). Each issue was sold at 4 annas of 25 paise. Newspaper agents purchased the copies but did not pay the Editor/MD. The doctor who had made a good name had no cure for these agents.”

Koravanji‘s editorial menu comprised humourous skits, light hearted poems, parodies, gossip, limericks, cartoons, etc. The absence of obscene lines and double entendre was a stand-out feature, according to the professor.

Links via E.R. Ramachandran

***

Also read: Laxman & Narayan: How one family produced two geniuses

Look, who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

EXCLUSIVE: The unpublished doodles of R.K. Laxman

Has namma R.K. Laxman drawn his last cartoon?

Who really named All India Radio as Akashvani?

16 November 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes: Mysore’s preminent position in the setting up and christening of All India Radio as “Akashvani” has gone uncontested for well over half a century. Now, in the 75th year of AIR, an unlikely challenger has emerged from 300 km away.

A 70-year-old woman has stood up in Udupi to assert that it was her late father, Hosbet Rama Rao, a former district education officer in Mangalore, was the man who first used—and thus gave the nation—the unquestionably evocative brand-name, “Akashvani“, for the radio.

In other words, the claim busts the belief widely held by Mysoreans that it was their townsman M.V. Gopalaswamy (in picture, above) who coined the word after setting up the nation’s first private radio station in his residence “Vittal Vihar” (in picture, below), about 200 yards from AIR’s current location.

***

Anuradhagiri Rao says her father, while serving as a teacher at the government college in Mangalore, anonymously published a booklet titled ‘”Akashvani” in 1932 on the phenomenon of the radio set. She says he drew inspiration from mythology in Kamsa‘s case when an ‘ashariravani‘ (voice without body) predicts his death.

Thus, voice from the akasha (sky) was ‘Akashvani‘, meaning celestial voice,” she has been quoted as saying in the New Indian Express. Her father, she adds, did not reveal his name fearing victimisation from the then British government, as he was then beginning to establish himself as a writer.

To bolster her claim, Anuradhagiri Rao adds her father’s book with the “Akashvani” title was acknowledged and adopted as a non-detailed text book for high school students by the text book committee of the Madras presidency. The book was printed twice in 1941 and 1945.

She also says an Indian Express editorial in February 1987 had doffed its hat to “an article from an unknown writer” for naming “Akashvani“. That unknown writer doubtless was her father.

Needless to say, she wants his name to the immortalised.

***

There are two problems with the claim. First, Anuradhagiri Rao bases her claims on an anonymous booklet published in 1932.  Although radio had been around for a while, sound broadcasting began in India in 1927 but All India Radio formally began operations only in 1936, according to AIR’s official website.

Second, there is the small matter of official history.

Akashvani Mysore has just brought out a 406-page souvenir to mark the platinum jubilee of the station.

In her editorial, Dr M.S. Vijaya Haran, station director, AIR Mysore, writes:

“Dr M.V. Gopalaswamy is the father of Mysore Akashvani. He served as the professor of psychology and the principal of the Maharaja’s college. The radio station that he started in 1935 in Mysore is his great contribution to the field of culture. This was the first private radio station in the whole of India and it speaks volumes of a person’s interest, passion, hard work and the instinct to do good to his fellow human beings….

“For six long years Dr Gopalaswamy ran AIR single-handedly spending money from his own pocket. Owing to financial constraint he handed over the administration to the Mysroe city municipality. Later from 1 January 1942, the provincial government of the Maharaja assumed the responsbility of running the organisation.

“Even then Dr M.V. Gopalaswamy continued to be director (till 2 August 1943). After that his colleague, Prof N. Kasturi was appointed full-time chief executive with the designation ‘assistant station superintendent.’ The radio station continued to function under the care of Kasturi, who was a thorough gentleman and a well-known humourist….

It was during that [Kasturi] period that All India Radio was baptised as ‘Akashvani‘ , a name that has been an appropriate metaphor for this wonderful organisation. The radio station flaunted with aplomb the title ‘Akashvani Mysore’ before its facade. It wafted on the waves and reached the hearts of listeners lending them undimmed pleasure. Later on, when All India Radio came under the administrative fold of the Indian government, the radio stations continued to use the name ‘Akashvani‘. The credit of lending this beautiful name ‘Akashvani‘ to all the radio stations of the country belongs to Mysore Akashvani.

Vijaya Haran’s editorial does not, of course,  say Gopalaswamy christened Akashvani, merely that he set it up.

So,while the parentage of Akashvani is not in question, it is Prof Gopalaswamy’s role in naming it that is clearly under question. Did he call it “Akashvani Broadcasting Station” when he started broadcasting as a hobby in 1935, as an earlier souvenir published in 1950 (and included in the platinum jubilee souvenir) avers?

If the name Akashvani evolved under N. Kasturi’s helmsmanship, did Kasturi himself think up the name? Did Prof Gopalaswamy, who was no longer its chief, have any role in it christening or, as a college principal himself, did Gopalaswamy draw his inspiration from an academic 300 km away?

Gouri Satya, the Business Standard journalist who is a walking encyclopaedia on Mysore, wrote recently that “a few sat together and hit upon the name Akashvani for the toy broadcasting station“. Was Hosbet Rama Rao among the few?

In the evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, reader K. Radha Chengappa writes:

“The truth is revealed by late N. Kasturi in his book Loving God, page 76 (early 1920), where he refers to his colleague Dr. M.V. Gopalaswamy of Maharaja’s College, Psychology Department.

“He writes that Dr. MVG had bought a mini Philips transmitter and desired to use it to broadcast educational programmes for the common man an hour everyday. After some years, he managed to secure permission to use short wave transmission programmes.

“For this project, he had roped in Kasturi and when he wanted an Indian word for the broadcasting station, Kasturi’s choice was Akashvani and this word stuck for AIR (All India Radio).”

Or was it Rabindranath Tagore who is supposed to have done so “in the 1930s”?

***

Photographs: courtesy Akashavani Mysore platinum jubilee souvenir

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