Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lessons in Journalism - The Story of Pothan Joseph

Link to the book.
The stories from the indian struggle for independence can never bore me. Between sepoys rebelling, folks walking to the sea to make salt, young men lobbing grenades into the parliament, intellectuals building armies in exile, there's enough to keep a reader entertained for eternity. Yet I can't help feel that our popular history texts trivialize the characters turning them into single-layered cardboard figures, and reduce the happenings to a Ramayanic good-vs-bad narrative. There were a bunch of other visionaries who played their part; through their letters they shifted the consciousness of an empire and chronicled the goings-on for future movements to emulate. Pothan Joseph, one of the stalwarts of that tribe, offers an exhilarating study. Joseph edited dozens of newspapers and was directly responsible for the Hindustan Times, the Indian Express, and the Deccan Herald to rise to such heights. Joseph's body of work, of which I was woefully unfamiliar till I read this book, is a rich collection of some of the most inspiring stories of the Independence movement. Along the way you meet some unheralded characters; freedom-fighting brits such as Annie Besant and B.G.Horniman who challenge our predilection for an indian-good-english-bad outlook, pathbreaking journalists such as Khasa Subba Rao and Frank Moraes. Most revelational for me, however, was the introduction of a fresh dimension to the well known protagonists - Gandhi, Jinnah, Sarojini Naidu, Rajaji etc. not as freedom fighters but as journalists and media managers. One of the most enjoyable biographies I've read! Be warned that at the end of the book, especially after you read the appendix containing reproductions of Joseph's articles, you might feel disdain for the Indian print media in its current form.
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