The saplings Usha Rai planted on our Fleet Street

8 August 2011

Delhi is celebrating its centenary as the capital of India, and a number of newspapers led by the Hindustan Times have been using the opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane.

 The Hindu Business Line too is running a series, and the sports journalist Norris Pritam (left) turned his eyes on the Fleet Street of India—Bahadurshah Zafar Marg—where a number of newspapers (The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Pioneer, et al) and their allied publications are headquartered.

Pritam’s reminiscence contains a number of anecdotes from some of the more permanent residents of the lane, who have watched the B.Z. Marg scenery change in more ways than one.

# “In the good old days, just three cars were parked in front of Indian Express,” recalls R. Ramachandran, who worked as editorial assistant with seven editors. “It was an Italian Fiat of S. Mulgaonkar, a Premier Padmini of Ramnath Goenka and a Dodge of Saroj Goenka.”

# Satya Dev Prasad, popularly known as Panditji, has been running a paan shop outside Express since 1977. “Why just the traffic, even journalists have changed. “Now you don’t have people like Verghese saheb (B.G. Verghese). When his son was getting married he (Verghese) asked me to photocopy some wedding ceremony papers on office machine, but paid for it.”

# For some of the young and more enterprising, the walks also afforded a brief ogling session. I won’t reveal more, but let me confess we were quite intrigued by a young girl in black tights who used to come out of the Times Building. Very quiet and serious looking, she always carried some fancy files and books. I never got a chance to ask her about those files. Now I find her anchoring CNN-IBN talk shows with aplomb! Yes, Sagarika Ghose it was.

# Fleet Street has an even stronger connection with NDTV. In the 1980s, Radhika Roy was chief sub-editor at the Express and Prannoy Roy, now founder and chairman NDTV, used to pick her up after work. In white shorts and T-shirt, after a session of squash I guess, he would often come to me at the sports desk to check county cricket results. It was still the days of old-fashioned PTI ticker and I gave him the teleprinter copies.

# Amidst all the drastic changes, perhaps the only thing that remains unchanged, apart from the buildings, are the few trees that Usha Rai (left) had planted in front of TOI and Express building. The saplings have turned into mature trees and provide much-wanted shade to the paan shops run by Panditji and his colleague Birbal. “I wish there were more Usha Rais in the profession,” sighs Panditji.

Map: courtesy Maps of India

Read the full article: Delhi’s Akhbaar road

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2 Responses to “The saplings Usha Rai planted on our Fleet Street”

  1. Law of Omerta Says:

    ““In the good old days, just three cars were parked in front of Indian Express,” recalls R. Ramachandran,”

    ———-

    What an evil set of words to say!!!

    What is good about only three people in a newspaper establishment being able to own a car? Who is this guy Ramachandran!

    I guess he is one of those guys who believes that only the small politically connected elite should be able to own cars, houses, etc and rest of the country should be dirt poor.


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