Posts Tagged ‘Deccan Herald’

When a veteran reporter heard he had the big ‘C’

22 January 2015

vattam

Journalists see plenty of disease, despair and death in the line of duty. Even if we do not entertain prospects of immortality, our near-constant exposure to the dark and grim side of life somewhat inures us to its only certainty.

But what when it hits home?

Krishna Vattam, for 40 years the Mysore correspondent of the Bangalore-based dailies Deccan Herald and Praja Vani, has been there, done that—and survived to tell the tale.

In a new book, Joy of Conquering Cancer: A Spiritual Dimension, to mark the silver jubilee of his triumph, cancer-survivor Vattam describes how he heard the bad news 25 years ago, and what happened thereafter.

***

By KRISHNA VATTAM

It was a hot day in the summer of 1990. A professional errand to a cancer detection camp, a chance stroke of luck, which brought unexpected and ever unsuspected developments, led me and my family to live through nearby a three-year period of agony, trauma, anxiety and uncertainty.

Call it a freak incident, an ordain of God or the graciousness of the Almighty – if I had skipped this visit to attend a far more important engagement, important from a journalist’s perspective, I wonder what would have happened and whether I would have been able to catch cancer in time and outwit the disease before those deadly cells had grown up to trip me into the abyss of no control, giving me no opportunity to look back and share my experiences with you today.

When I stepped out of my house on that sunny morning in the first week of April 1990 to attend the cancer detection camp, I least suspected that I was going there with the disease in my being.

The Bangalore–based Kidwai Memorial Cancer Hospital, in an outreach programme, had organized the camp in Mysore in the expansive Nanjaraja Bahadur Choultry and it was the first of its kind in this city.

Bharath Cancer Hospital, which owes its existence to the vision of B.S. Ajai Kumar, an NRI Doctor, was opened in Mysore a few months after the Camp was conducted.

The local Jain community had sponsored the medical camp and medical practitioner Dr. Prasanna Kumar, an assistant professor at the JSS Medical College, who was a leading member of the community and my close friend, came to my residence and invited me to give the inaugural function of the camp.

He requested me to give a good coverage of it in the Deccan Herald, the leading English daily in Karnataka, which I was privileged to represent as its Mysore Correspondent.

A good number of people from the city and surrounding villages had registered their names at the Camp for getting examined, and it turned out to be that the ailments many of them were suffering from were unrelated to cancer.

There was a formal inaugural function of the Camp for about 45 minutes and after that the doctors dispersed to examine the registered camp attendees.

I do not call them patients, as in the strict sense of the word they were not. They had come to consult, since such free health check camps were rare in those days. It mattered little to them, whether the consultants they were seeing were oncologists or general practitioners, but, in their opinion, they were all doctors who could attend to any kind of ailment. I spent some time in the examination rooms.

I saw my friend Nissar Ahmed Shariff, a very good footballer, coming out with his mother from one such room, looking very depressed. As he saw me, he could not control his emotions and with tears rolling down his cheeks, he told me that the doctors suspected that his mother had cancer.

I was also moved and placed my right hand on his shoulder and comforted him saying “Don’t worry, God is with you”. Then he stepped forward and addressing his mother, who was standing behind him, with folded hands, said “Maaji, Ooperwala hai.”

It was easy to console and comfort others but when it comes to oneself, how helpless and distraught one could be, I realized very shortly thereafter.

A big printed pamphlet hung around the huge column of the Choultry building, caught my attention. This poster, which was printed both Kannada and English was one such public information in nature, asking people having those symptoms to get examined in the camp.

One such symptoms was “difficulty in swallowing”, I noticed.

It nearly shook me off the ground.

Yes, I had been experiencing this problem for some time now.

***

It was around November 1989, about six months before this camp, I was attending the South Zonal Conference of the INTACH Conveners at Cochin, Kerala, as the Convener of the Mysore Chapter of the Indian National Trust Fort Art and Cultural Heritage.

As I was having lunch, I found it difficult to swallow the cooked rice. I stopped eating and set aside my plate in the basket meant for used dishes.

This did not worry me for after my return to Mysore. I felt normal and was able to eat without any difficulty.

But in February 1990, I experienced a similar problem while I was returning from Varanasi after participating in the National Conference of INTACH Conveners, I bought some oranges at the Varanasi Railway Station.

Once seated in a compartment I leisurely peeled an orange and put a small piece into my mouth and found I could not swallow the chewed orange. I went into the toilet compartment, thrust two fingers in my mouth and forcibly vomited the orange stuck in my gullet.

I felt relieved physically but I was worried. On my return to Mysore, I consulted a few ENT specialists and x-ray was also taken during the course of their examinations. None of them could detect anything abnormal. I felt reassured.

***

When I noticed “difficulty in swallowing” on the pamphlet at the cancer detection camp at the Nanjaraj Bahadur Choultry at Mysore on that day, as one of the symptoms of cancer, I began worrying.

Just a few minutes before, I had infused a sense of confidence in Nissar Ahmed and his mother I found myself in a state of shock now.

A press reporter who went to cover the inaugural function of the cancer detection camp got examined on realising that he too had one of the symptoms of Cancer. Here too the doctor who examined him assured that his difficulty in swallowing my not necessarily be related to cancer. He suggested having an x-ray taken in the mobile unit which had been brought along with the medical team from Bangalore.

The general human tendency is not to think of the worst and the words of the doctor that my problem may not be related to cancer as such, and his encouraging words, “Not to worry”, lulled me, so much so, that that I did not bother about my visit to the camp or about the x-ray in the days that followed. I was attending to my duties.

Ten days later at about 10.30pm the telephone rang at my house.

I took the receiver and heard “Is it Krishna Vattam”, a voice enquiring from the other end. “Yes, speaking”, I replied. “Vattam Saab, take it easy. From the x-ray that was taken in the camp, the doctors suspect it to be cancer. You have to go to Kidwai Hospital tomorrow,” the speaker at the other end informed me.

The word sounded like a death warrant to me. Even as he was speaking, I instantly began to experience shock waves passing through my body.

Like a paralytic, I felt that my legs were benumbed.

I could not stand and felt that I was being pushed down.

I squatted on my haunches still holding the receiver in my left hand.

I had not informed my mother or Kamala, my wife, about my visit to the cancer detection camp and the x-ray that was taken there.

I had felt that the change situation of the unintended “checkup” did not call for the family members being informed. Further I had thought that any such talk may unnecessarily lead them to worry about my health.

My mother, who was sitting on the cot next to the table on which the telephone was placed, jumped out and rushed towards me crying out, “devare” (oh God) as she saw me sink on my knees with the receiver in my hand.

Kamala, who was resting in the adjacent room, rushed to me, and I heard both of them, amma and wife, anxiously asking me over and over again, “What happened?” I babbled in a voice that faltered, “They say I have cancer.” These five words uttered by me made them feel that the world around us had collapsed.

I rested my head on the mother’s bosom just as I would have done as child after suckling, although the situation faced on that day by a 57-year-old son and his 82-year-old mother and suckling child of its young lactating young mother were of two different nature.

After all, the bond of a mother and a son in the same at all times. Kamala rested her head on my neck, and all of us were weeping. When Shyam, my son, returned home from Times of India office, where he was serving as a reporter of the paper, he found us all weeping.

Kamala was the first to break the news to him. He went out of the verandah, sat on the granite bench within our compound, and was sobbing silently.

Shortly, thereafter, amma and wife went out and began consoling him. “Our Lord Narasimha is there. Appa has done no harm to anyone. He will never let us down,” I heard my mother reassuring her grandson.

The beds for all of us to sleep on that night were spread out in the “hall”, the living room as it is known in common parlance in some parts of South India. None of us could sleep throughout the night. All of us had our eyes glued to the ceilings as we anxiously contemplated the future that had suddenly begun to look uncertain.

I held amma’s hand with an intense feeling of an assured protection and safety from her as I would have done as baby scared of ghosts.

In this confused and disturbed frame of mind, eager to avoid brooding over the call I received just an hour ago from Kidwai Hospital informing me about the suspected cancer in me, I began to reflect, as it were, on the tryst I had with destiny, the path I had followed throughout my life till then.

(Excerpted from Joy of Conquering Cancer: A Spiritual Dimension, published by Darpan, an imprint of Prism Books, Rs 125)

***

Also read: ‘You can’t be a bad person but a good journalist’

Write to Krishna Vattam: krishnavattam@gmail.com

Telephone Krishna Vattam: 094-483-42549

Can ‘Modi Sarkar’ create an Indian CNN or BBC?

10 June 2014

The point has been made before but bears repetition. If Britain can have a BBC, if America can have CNN, if Qatar can have Al Jazeera, if China can have CCTV, if Russia can have Russia Today, why cannot India?

Why do Indian broadcasters, public, private or autonomous, not have the vision or the resources or both to establish a global news brand?

The veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi addresses the issue, in Deccan Herald:

“The media’s critical faculty has been so numbed over a century of colonial experience that it cannot, on occasion, separate news from propaganda….

“Not having our own means of covering world affairs, our media ends up using stuff which is part of someone else’s agenda.  It is sometimes inimical to our interests.

“Public opinion in India gets manipulated whenever the US throws a tantrum with, say Bashar al Assad. On Egyptian or Syrian elections we have only western versions.

“We do not have a single news bureau in SAARC countries, China, Japan, anywhere. For the world’s largest democracy, this is something of a shame.

“If we had a news bureau in Kabul, we would have been much better informed about the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat or the circumstances in which Alexis Prem Kumar was kidnapped. Must we depend on western journalists to inform us about Kabul, Jaffna or Kathmandu?

“Must the world’s largest democracy be a passive recipient of images beamed from news centres controlled by CNN, BBC, Reuters and Associated Press?

“This is a disgraceful state of affairs….

“New Delhi gives away billions in assistance to SAARC neighbours. It must take a leap of faith and concurrently invest a billion dollars in its own media which must also cover world affairs as comprehensively as CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera.

“The returns in power, prestige, influence and business will be astronomical.”

Read the full article: Colonial mindset

Also read: Why hasn’t India thrown up a global media mogul?

‘Has media blacked out RIL takeover of TV18?’

6 June 2014

As India’s biggest business house Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) goes through the motions of formally taking complete control of one of India’s biggest TV networks, Network 18, the veteran journalist and commentator Kuldip Nayar writes in Deccan Herald:

“I was not surprised when television channels did not cover the taking over of a large TV news network by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited.

“Most channels — roughly around 300 — are owned by property dealers who can afford to spend Rs 1 crore, an average monthly expenditure, through money laundering. Every one of them wants to be the Reliance one day.

“What has taken me aback is that the press has reported the deal but has preferred to keep quiet.

“Even though journalism has ceased to be a profession and has become an industry, I was expecting some reactions, at least from the Editors’ Guild of India. But then it is understandable when it has rejected my proposal that editors should also declare their assets public, the demand which they voice for politicians.

“Double standards make a mockery of the high pedestal on which the media sit.”

Read the full column: Where’s free media?

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Also read: Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win CCI approval?

Reliance has no ‘direct’ stake in media companies

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

When your paper has six mastheads, it’s news

26 March 2014

It isn’t everyday that the front page of your newspaper also sports the mastheads of other newspapers, but this is how the front-page of the Hindustan Times looks today, as it announces an advertising tieup with the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group in Calcutta and the Hindu group in Madras.

A bunch of advertisers—Amul, Britannia, Fortune oil, Garnier, Godrej, ICICI, Kellogg’s, Marico, Morgan Stanley—have even pledged support as “advertising partners”.

HT calls the move a historic first although a similar plan for classified ads in the early 2000s, when newspapers first began feeling the impact of The Times of India‘s predatory practises, came kaput. Then Eenadu of Hyderabad and Deccan Herald of Bangalore were partners.

The “One India” plan has been registered as a trademark™, although one of India’s oldest portals oneindia.in has been around for years now.

Oddly, the announcement is a flanking jacket advertisement in HT, it isn’t so in The Telegraph or The Hindu.

Also read: When journo dedicates book to journo, it’s news

When a Delhi journo joins New Yorker, it’s news

When an editor draws a cartoon, it’s news

If The Economist looks at Tamil News, it’s news

When a stringer beats up a reporter, it’s news

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

When a politician weds a journalist, it’s news

When a magazine editor marries a starlet, it’s news

When dog bites dog, it’s news—I

When dog bites dog, it’s news—II

Tarun Tejpal, Manish Tewari and relief at PBC

2 December 2013

From Off the Record, the Monday gossip column in Deccan Herald:

Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal‘s fall from grace has brought a sense of “divine justice” in Prasar Bharati, where the invisible presence of Tejpal—thanks to his closeness to the information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari—was one of the contributing factors behind a long-standing “difference of opinion” behind Tewari and Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar.

“Tejpal is believed to be one of the outsider journalists, whom Tewari wanted to rope in Doordarshan in an attempt to revamp the image of the public broadcaster. Sircar opposed the move and favoured full time government employee in the DD.

“The public broadcaster’s experiment with journalists from outside like defence analysts Ajai Shukla ended in a whimper as Shukla too resigned within days. Later a Tejpal company reportedly received contracts to prepare two different programmes for the DD and there was pressure on the top brass of Prasar Bharati to air those programmes in slots with high viewership.”

For the record, Tarun Tejpal’s name was removed from the board of Prasar Bharati after the alleged sex scandal felled him, and the Indian Express reported that just before the fall, Amaraman India Pvt. Ltd, a firm owned by him, had bagged a contract for 52 shows.

Photograph: courtesy Jitender Gupta/ Outlook*

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 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

In a family-owned paper, only furniture is fixed

21 October 2013

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Nothing is what it appears to be in the thicker-than-water but funnier-than-fill-your-metaphor-here world of family-owned newspapers.

Siddharth Varadarajan, installed as editor of The Hindu in a G.Kasturi-N.Ram putsch in 2011, ostensibly to professionalise the paper but allegedly to prevent Malini Parthasarathy from ascending the throne, has resigned dramatically via a Twitter announcement.

“With The Hindu‘s owners deciding to revert to being a family run and edited newspaper, I am resigning from The Hindu with immediate effect.”

The resignation came after a meeting of the board of Kasturi & Sons removed Arun Anant as CEO, and redesignated editor Varadarajan as “Contributing Editor and Senior Columnist”.

Only two days ago, on 19 October 2013, the well-regarded Varadarajan had posted a picture of his renovated office in Madras, in what seemed likely a preparation for the long haul.

At 3.40 pm, roughly two hours before Varadarajan announced his decision to quit, the Janata Party-turned-BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, whose petition on Varadarajan, an American passport holder, helming a newspaper is hanging fire, tweeted:

“Will US citizen turned Naxal survive as editor. Just read Company law which states even NRI editor is FDI for a newspaper.”

The reactions were mixed.

Siddharth’s elder brother, former Newsweek International editor Tunku Varadarajan, who called thambithe best journalist in India” in a recent magazine interview, tweeted on his brother’s exit:

“The only decent editor The Hindu has had in nearly a decade has been ousted in a squalid boardroom putsch. Hey Ram!”

In contrast, Anant Goenka, the scion of the family-owned Indian Express, tweeted:

“Happy the family seems to be sorting their issues out—stability at The Hindu, especially before elections, will benefit India.”

***

A statement put out by N. Ram, who was appointed chairman of Kasturi & Sons Limited at Monday’s board meeting, read:

N. Ravi has taken over as Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, and Malini Parthasarathy as Editor of The Hindu. Arun Anant is no longer the Chief Executive Officer of Kasturi & Sons Limited, the company that owns and publishes The Hindu Group of publications. N. Ram has become Chairman of KSL and Publisher of The Hindu and Group publications; and N. Murali, Co-Chairman of the company. These decisions were taken by the Board of Directors of the Company at its meeting on Monday.

“In consequence, Siddharth Varadarajan, who was made Contributing Editor and Senior Columnist, The Hindu, has submitted his resignation.

“The Board also decided to allocate specific responsibilities to other Directors.

“The decision to make deep-going changes was made chiefly on the ground that there were recurrent violations and defiance of the framework of the institution’s longstanding values on the business side, and recurrent violations and defiance of ‘Living Our Values’, the mandatory Code of Editorial Values applicable to The Hindu. The whole effort is to restore employee morale, good industrial relations, and the trust of this newspaper’s more than two million readers.

“The existing editorial arrangements for Business Line, Frontline, Sportstar, and The Hindu (Tamil) will continue unchanged and the process of professionalisation, now involving a mix of shareholder-Directors and other professionals, will continue.

“The 135-year-old institution reaffirms its commitment to its core editorial and business values, and excellence in journalism.”

Below are the facsimiles of the board resolution:

20131022-122128 AM.jpg

20131022-122811 AM.jpg

***

For the record, G. Kasturi, who played a pivotal role in the last round of blood-letting in the paper (several members of the family including N. Ram’s brothers N. Murali and N. Ravi, and cousins Malini Parathasarathy and Nirmala Lakshman resigned at Varadarajan’s appointment), passed away in September 2012.

At the time of quitting, Malini Parathasarathy (who now runs The Hindu centre for policy and public policy) had tweeted:

Siddharth [Varadarajan] far junior to me appointed as Editor makes it untenable to continue“… “Tremendous family jealousy and misogyny

Kasturi’s sons—K. Balaji and K. Venugopal—have, among others, reportedly put on record their opposition to the latest changes.

Also, for the record, the Bangalore-based family-owned newspapers Deccan Herald and Praja Vani have seen a similar rearrangement of the editor, depending on board-room dynamics, but all within the family.

First, the eldest of the three brothers K.N. Hari Kumar was ousted as editor after his younger brothers K.N. Tilak Kumar and K.N. Shanth Kumar joined hands. Then the first and second joined hands to remove the third. Eventually, the second and the third joined hands to restore status quo ante.

***

Photograph: via Facebook

Also read: N. Murali: Hindu is run like a banana republic

N. Ravi: Why I quit The Hindu

Malini Parathsarathy: Why I quit The Hindu

Nirmala Lakshman: Why I quit The Hindu

HT, Mail Today, and Kumar Mangalam Birla

16 October 2013

Hindustan Times headline: “Coal Scam: CBI books former coal secretary, K.M. Birla”

Mail Today headline: “CBI registers 14th FIR in coal allocation scam”

On the morning after the central bureau of investigation (CBI) named industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla in the coal allocation scam, the news is the page one, lead story, in The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, Deccan Herald, The Pioneer, Business Standard….

But not the Hindustan Times or Mail Today.

HT which belongs to the Birla family (chairman Shobhana Bhartia is daughter of K.K. Birla, whose brother B.K. Birla‘s son was Kumar Mangalam’s father, Aditya Birla) consigns the news to a single column story on page 10 in its Delhi edition.

Mail Today has it on page 25. The tabloid belongs to the India Today group, which is part-owned by Kumar Mangalam Birla, who bought a 26 per cent stake in his personal capacity, in India Today‘s holding company, Living Media in May 2012.

Mint, the business berliner which is owned by HT Media, has it on page one with a single-column story leading into page 3.

Also read: HT wedding unites Birlas and Ambanis

Zee News, Jindals and the silence of the media

Lokmat sets up the freedom of the press statue

Karan Thapar takes on Shekhar Gupta on credit

‘Media irresponsible in Kishtwar coverage’

18 August 2013

The incidents in Kishtwar in Jammu & Kashmir on the eve of Id, the culmination of the holy month of Ramza, leading upto Independence Day, occupied plenty of media attention, as the BJP smelt political capital ahead of general elections.

The State’s chief minister Omar Abdullah sparred with the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, on Twitter; her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, was disallowed from visiting the spot, and Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, weighed in.

The issue threatened to get out of proportion till it was overtaken by other incidents.

The media doesn’t quite come out smelling of roses in the entire episode, writes Zahir-ud-Din, an editorial consultant with the Kashmir-based English daily, Kashmir Reader, in Deccan Herald:

“Contrary to established precedents, the media also behaved irresponsibly this time. Chief Minister’s statement (spelling out the number of Hindu and Muslim casualties) was carried prominently by all the newspapers. It became a Hindu-Muslim issue.

“The media in Jammu Kashmir has matured enough due to two decades of bloody conflict. By and large the media have behaved responsibly.

“For example, the Chittisingpora massacre was reported by one of the leading newspapers of the state without mentioning the faith professed by the victims. The intro of the story read: ‘Amid shock and utter disbelief the people mourned the killing of 35 Kashmiris at Chittisingpora, a hamlet in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district.’

“Similarly the 1998 Wandhama massacre was reported with utmost responsibility.

“What, therefore, happened this time? Why did mediapersons resort to reckless and irresponsible reporting? Why was Chief Minister’s irresponsible statement carried prominently? This type of reporting is a serious offence under Section 153-A of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) and if law is allowed to take its course, all the newspapers that carried the statement and the Chief Minister himself can be booked.

“A senior journalist while commenting on what he called ‘molestation of journalistic norms and ethics’ said a victim is neither a Muslim nor a Hindu.”

Read the full article: The ‘Bhoots’ of Bhunzwah

A national newspaper goes ‘local’ in Bangalore

17 June 2013

NEWHINDU

The Hindu has unveiled a new hyper-local look in Bangalore with the tagline “Bringing Bangalore Back to You”.

Writes the paper’s editor Siddharth Varadarajan in a front-page note:

“Why you might ask. After all, Bangalore has known The Hindu for its credible, fearless and unfettered reportage. For never dumbing down. For vanguard journalism that brings the world to your doorstep. But Bangalore has evolved, and so have we. So we bring Bangalore back to you….

“We bring the city to you in a chic new design with a fresh clutch of content: sharp investigative stories and new columns in the main edition, and a crosses and mains neighbourhood view of your locality in Bangalore Local, our weekend special.”

For the record, The Times of India leads the Bangalore market, with Deccan Herald a distant number 2, followed by Bangalore Mirror. The Hindu, The New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle and DNA are all jostling for the fourth to seventh places in India’s most crowded English newspaper market.

How Praja Vani reporters tracked Karnataka poll

8 May 2013

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On the day politicians count their seats in the Karnataka assembly elections, the 65-year-old Kannada daily newspaper Praja Vani, from the Deccan Herald group, has a page one, colour-coded graphic that chronicles the journeys undertaken by its reporters to bring the poll to its readers.

The final score: over 27 days, 10 reporters (including three women) travelled 15,000 kilometres to bring 66 spot reports.

Dinesh Amin Mattoo, Praja Vani‘s well-regarded former Delhi bureau chief,  now an assistant editor based in Bangalore (represented in red), alone travelled 4,150 km across 14 of the State’s 30 districts.

Image: courtesy Praja Vani

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