Meeting deadlines to beat the eclipse

I set eyes on a computer for the first time in The Hindu’s fifth floor Indian & Eastern Newspaper Society (IENS) office on Rafi Marg. It was April 1988, the year I joined The Hindu as a city reporter covering the crime beat.

Like the computer, I was in awe of the satellite technology used by The Hindu to begin printing its first edition in North India in September 1986. And it was not just me. This was a major talking point in the rest of the city’s media circles.

There were days when all reporters were asked to file early as an eclipse would make the INSAT 1-B satellite unavailable to transmit the pages from Madras.

There was also the odd day when the city edition was delayed as the taxi carrying the pages received from Madras in Connaught Place had a breakdown on the way to Gurgaon where it was printed.

In 1986, The Hindu employed all of 32 people in two largish rooms on the first and fifth floor offices of IENS (now INS) Building on Rafi Marg, very close to the centres of power. The team looked after editorial, circulation, advertisement and administrative work.

Today, The Hindu has over 200 staffers housed in two floors of Milap Building on Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, an address shared with other Delhi newspapers, our Senior Regional Manager, S.Ramanujam, a sales trainee in 1986, says.

The paper then had a distinctive six-column layout, setting it apart from other newspapers, which were all eight columns.

In the early days it was tough. No one quite knew The Hindu in Delhi. “Did you say Hindustan Times?” was a common response many reporters got.

Some of us also found that our exclusive stories used to make their way into other newspapers with more circulation from time to time. It could be quite frustrating.

Our Chief Reporter, the genial late N.K. Doval, would every week ask a reporter to prepare the engagement column. It was not a job any of us relished. Given our lack of visibility, it would often be tough to fill the column. But we managed.

A few years later, our long-time News Editor Y.P. Narula, now retired, would show me that many entries for the engagements’ column came with The Hindu printed on them!

We had arrived in the city.

It was a time when reporters did not get bylines. But The Hindu had a system that one would come your way if you travelled abroad. I got my first byline — “From Amit Baruah” — from Male. What a heady feeling that was!

Of all the stories I wrote for The Hindu as a city reporter, one stands out. My photographer colleague V.V. Krishnan (now Photo Editor in Delhi) and I set off for the Delhi Ridge to do a feature on a cantankerous Begum of Somewhere, who inhabited a monument in the Delhi Ridge, off Sardar Patel Marg.

As we approached, she set her dogs on us, and we literally ran for our lives, jumped on Krishnan’s motorbike and fled to safety.

There was a story alright, just not the one we had set out to do.

There are many stories and many individuals who have worked hard to build The Hindu into a major Delhi newspaper, which has grown from a circulation of about 20,000 to over one lakh (in the Capital alone).

And, yes, we are a newspaper that still has an engagement column.

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Printable version | Jul 20, 2021 3:33:53 AM |

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