Journalism is the discipline of gathering and reporting of issues and trends, including the process of editing and presenting the news articles. While under pressure to be the first and foremost to report the exciting and up-to-date stories, the model newspapers need to be equally keen on maintaining the highest standards of accuracy, quality, and style.
V.K. Narasimhan [VKN] strove hard and succeeded in achieving such a name and fame for all the three papers — The Hindu, Indian Express and Deccan Herald — rendering a total service of 48 long years.
VKN had a tumultuous youth. Even as a student, he had plunged into the freedom struggle. He was convicted for sedition and sentenced for six months or in lieu pay a fine of five hundred rupees. The fine was promptly paid by the elders in the family, who thereafter weaned him away from the freedom movement and left him in the safe hands of A Rangaswami Iyengar, the then editor of The Hindu. Thus started the professional journey of this titan among journalists.
VKN had become a legend in his own lifetime and was hailed as the salt of the earth in his profession. He was a role model for fearless and forthright political analysis, which came into its own during the Emergency in 1975-1977, when he was in Delhi at the helm of Indian Express.
VKN admits that he was influenced by three powerful personalities in his life — Mahatma Gandhi, Karl Marx, and Sathya Sai Baba, in that order. This accounts for the last book that he wrote in 1990, entitled “From Bapu to Baba”.
This book is not a biography; it is both a bouquet of tributes to VKN by a galaxy of his admirers, and select gleanings from his own writings. The first part of the book commences with an autobiographical article by VKN, written in 1981, “after he bade farewell to journalism”. The next piece, again written by VKN, is homage to his mentor and master in The Hindu, N Raghunathan. The third article is biographical in nature, written by his son, VN Narayanan, who has brought out the book in celebration of his father’s centenary. Apart from these, this part contains 16 thumbnail sketches about VKN, written by his friends, relatives, and peers.
The second part of the book is a selection of articles written by VKN at different times. The first essay is a brilliant comparative study of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Three other articles deal with democracy, of which he was a diehard votary. Articulating his views on the “Need for a moral catharsis”, an article that he wrote in 1977 and reproduced here, VKN laments: “The moral deterioration that has overtaken this country in so many different spheres — in politics, in the administration, in the business world, in the educational field, and in social life — is the most depressing feature of our national scene today after 30 years of freedom”. Perhaps, he will turn in his grave, seeing that the situation has gone from bad to worse, another 35 years down the line.
The concluding chapter in this part is a choreography of his commentaries on different subjects, being words of wisdom culled from his writings and aptly captioned as “Ideas and Issues”, which bear ample testimony to his genius as a journalist.
GOD’S OWN MARXIST — Insights on V.K. Narasimhan on His Centenary: Edited by V.N. Narayanan; Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Race Course Road, Bangalore-560001. Rs. 125.