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A Grand Sweep


T.C.A. Srinivasa Raghavan

FIRST DRAFT: WITNESS TO THE MAKING OF MODERN INDIA
By B.G. Verghese
Tranquebar, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 573, Rs. 600.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 12 December 2010

Once upon a time, and not very long ago either, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in New Delhi where several large and small newspapers have their offices didnt used to be as horribly crowded with cars as it is now. From 1982, when I first went to work there at the Express Group, until 1987 when George (as underlings like me called him when he was out of earshot) worked there, you could count the number of cars on your fingertips. One of them was Georges, a cream coloured Fiat parked opposite the Express Building, slightly to the right. It would get there at 9.30 am and go away at 6 pm. In those days editors didnt have to hang around till midnight to reinforce their handsonimage which, in my opinion, is a manifestation of their insecurity. You were influential because you were the editor; and had authority if you had a record of intense morality with an ability to distinguish between right and wrong and stick to your decision. B.G. Verghese was one such editor and I had the privilege of working as a leader writer in economics for the Indian Express when he edited it during 198287. The only things I learnt from him in those eight months were discipline and the ability to stay focussed. To write 375 word editorials on large subjects, you needed both. He also permitted me to write signed articles on the editorial page, which was a rare honour in those days. I had complete freedom to write whatever I wanted and only once did he call me and shake his head as he handed the article back to me. I remember his words: You are calling Rajiv a complete nincompoop? In the profession, B.G. Verghese was generally seen as rather a colourless and boring man; in fact he is neither, as even a few moments spent with him show. His total command of the English language means he uses the exact word; and his wry sense of humour serves to prick many a balloon. The two combine to great effect when he puts you, or better still, someone else down. But in this book, the overarching goodnesshas overwhelmed the natural human tendency to tell all. So he has refrained from telling all the stories he could have done, not the least of which would be his experiences, first at the Prime Ministers Secretariat (as it was called ...


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