Today, as journalists are themselves in the headlines, I recollect this week’s meeting with a former journalist who is in dire straits, needs urgent care and compare with the existing breed who are not only greedy but gender insensitive.
Early in the morning of one Wednesday, I woke up early than usual, got some breakfast and headed to an unusual place along with another journo friend of mine, Basant Rawat.
Parked the car at BJP Office, and in Basant’s bike, we went to Sardar Kunj society. It was nostalgic for me because I used to stay nearby in the early 90s witnessing those great weekly riots that triggered for no reason. Never thought at that point of time I would one day be in the midst of one of the biggest riots in India – covering it.
As we entered the society, a 76-year-old former journalist was waiting for us. The previous day, Basant had fixed up the time. The meeting was to see how best we can help him out of his financial ruins. His name is Umesh Dharam Narain and he retired as Chief Sub Editor at Indian Express some 18 years back. Originally from Allahabad, he worked for Leader, the newspaper started by Motilal Nehru but lost the job as paper closed. When he was in his late twenties, he reached Ahmedabad and stayed at this place since then paying Rs 50 as rent even today. His life is a solid example of loneliness and extraordinary ego of being a journalist.
He was honoured by Gujarat Media Club, which made him an honorary member a few years back. In the last GMC Annual get together, he was invited – invitation being delivered by Basant – and he did come. At around 8.30 PM, he asked Basant whether he could go as it was not possible to get a transport late in the night. Basant in turn asked me if I could arrange some transport so that he can stay back and have dinner.
I promised to arrange a transport or get it done by myself but send him back to the auditorium from the exit door. At 10 PM, when the food counter opened, he was struggling to get a plate. All the current journalists were jostling to network with one or the other VIP. A few came with their own so called VIP entourages and stuck to them. But I saw Basant - who may have felt ashamed of the humiliation this senior journalist was suffering at the hands of a roaring public out to attack the food counter - helped him out.
As he was having his food - all alone - I was frantically searching for some cars which could get him dropped. It would have been an insult to him if we had hired an auto and pay the fare. I asked a few but their cars were full. I asked those whose cars were presumably empty but they said it is too late to do this ‘hard’ job. So I turned to one of my own friends - whom I had invited and not a journalist - to do the job of dropping this senior journalist home. He was more than happy and readily agreed. At 10.20 PM, Umesh Narain left Karnavati Club Golden Glory hall on a Mercedes-Benz B Class.
A few months into this, we thought we could help him in whatever way we can, a reason why we thought of visiting him. I had carried a few thousands and thought if need be, I can ask FB friends to contribute more as they have done in the past.
In the morning, I had read in detail how Tarun Tejpal had made a simple judgment error, which is also called sexual assault in normal parlance. I recollected the kind of journalists that we have today and those in the early 90s – to be precise my father’s era. Typically like all journalists of his era, he also never bothered to take care of his financial future leaving it as the sacrament duty of the next generation, that’s me.
Today’s journalists are well-connected and super rich – or rather I would say they use the connection to be super rich. There are very few power corridors where you cant find a journalist asking for favour for either themselves or at the behest of some interested party. When one talks of male brooding on female colleagues, one must also remember a reverse process is also prevalent, only that it is not reported.
Unfortunately for Umesh Narain this was not in practice as prevalent as today during his time. He has a fixed deposit through which he gets Rs 2500 monthly and one of his relatives sends him 2000 monthly.
When we sat with him, he had two types of slippers in each leg. Pant was so sweaty that it resembled an iron costume. Instead of buttons, safety pins adored his unwashed shirt. Though shaved, he apparently had not taken a bath for weeks. He has a hearing aid but still cant hear. I had to use pen and paper to communicate with him. After having a conversation for more than an hour, I realized he doesn’t need money but medical care, hygiene, cleanliness and a place where he can move out of his loneliness.
What came to my mind was Mother Teresa’s home for Destitute. So I urged him to move there. But he was in no mood to listen saying he will stay on his own terms. All he need is a free AMTS ride and a corporate help where he can draw some interest from a fixed sum. His house owner was also rattled but were used to his daily routine.
I was in a quandary then. If I ask his former colleagues to persuade him to move, and if he wants to come back, he may lose this place. But leaving him at this place without any care will be worse. This problem till date remains unsolved.
Originally Published on my blog Just a nostalgic reproduction
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