Monday, April 24, 2017

A tribute to my late father

I lost my father, T T Vijayaraghavan, a veteran journalist, last December. It's turned out to be more shattering than I could have ever imagined.

I grew up with the smell of newspapers and books around me and the goings-on in the world of journalism were the staple of conversations at home. I have spent time in the corporate world and in academics but have never quite managed to get the journalism bug out of my system. I remain at heart a journalist, thanks largely to father's influence.

Here's a little tribute I penned in EPW. A former colleague of father's has responded with a very touching letter to the editor.

PS: As the tribute is behind a pay wall, I reproduce it below:

Other Days, Other  Times 

Remembering T T Vijayaraghavan

T T Vijayaraghavan (TTV), who passed away recently, was a member of the core group of journalists that launched the Economic Times (ET) in 1961. TTV joined the paper as assistant editor and served it with distinction for two decades. The other key members at the inception of the paper were: P S Hariharan (editor), T K Seshadri (news editor), Hannan Ezekiel and A R Rao (both assistant editors).
The idea of producing a financial daily in India was altogether novel at the time. There were serious doubts as to whether there was a large enough market for such a paper. It is to the credit of Shanti Prasad Jain, the then proprietor of Bennett Coleman and Company, that he gave the idea his fullest backing, and supported its losses for several years. Jain was keen that the fledgling daily attract the best talent, so he encouraged the management to offer its recruits terms that were superior to those of the Times of India (ToI), something that caused heartburn at the group’s flagship.
The ET staff were lodged in the third floor of the Times of India building in Mumbai, along with those of ToI. A striking feature was the long corridor with a line of cabins with Belgian glass to the left (on the opposite side was the ToI newsroom and further down the ET newsroom). These cabins, which had a certain aura about them, housed the editors of ToI and ET and the assistant editors.
TTV’s background had prepared him well for the assignment. He had obtained his Master of Arts in economics from the prestigious Presidency College in the then state of Madras. B D Goenka, son of Indian Express founder Ramnath Goenka, was a classmate at the intermediary level and G Kasturi, later to become a legendary editor at the Hindu, at the masters. TTV developed a friendship with Kasturi that lasted a lifetime.
After a brief stint in government, in Shimla, TTV plunged into journalism, joining the Hindu as a reporter before being transferred to the editorial desk. He spent 10 years with the paper, imbibing the basics of news gathering, layout, and analysis from personalities such as Kasturi Srinivasan (its then editor), the formidable editorial writer N Raghunathan and K Balaraman, later to become the paper’s celebrated Washington correspondent. TTV remained unshaken in his conviction that no Indian paper could match the Hindu in thoroughness and credibility.
From the Hindu, TTV moved to the Eastern Economist, a financial weekly published from Delhi and edited by E P W Da Costa (no connection with this journal!). Long before the Economic & Political Weekly made its mark, the Eastern Economist had established itself as a quality publication.
TTV’s five-year stint at the Eastern Economist proved useful to the launch of ET. He was well-tuned to a range of economic events that would require coverage and comment. The core group spent several months in coming out with dummy runs before the paper was formally launched.
One of TTV’s early contributions was to start a page for book reviews. He remained in charge of the page throughout his association with ET. He wrote a column, “Men and Ideas” in which he profiled important personalities in the news. The response he got was heart-warming: a profile of Homi Bhabha fetched a dinner invitation and a folio of Bhabha’s paintings.
Some five years after the paper was set up, Hariharan left and D K Rangnekar took over as editor. Rangnekar, who had a doctorate from the London School of Economics, was that exceptional journalist who combined academic depth with the racy writing that is the hallmark of journalism. The paper gained in stature in his time. ET’s editorials came to be closely followed by the powers-that-be in New Delhi.
One incident that comes to mind is when the Shiv Sena went on a rampage against people from the South, beating up Malayali hawkers in the Flora Fountain area. ET carried an editorial, “Glaring at Noon,” borrowing the title from Arthur Koestler’s famous novel about the Stalinist era. The edit hinted at collusion between the state government and the Shiv Sena. A day or two later, Rangnekar got a call from the chief minister (S B Chavan, as I recall). The chief minister fumed about the editorial; P N Haksar had called and conveyed the Prime Minister’s displeasure. How could ET have painted such a dark picture of the city? Rangnekar told him quietly—so he confided in TTV—“I saw it with my own eyes.”
The ET of that era was a very different paper from what it is today. News was mostly macroeconomic, business or corporate news was secondary. The editorial policy hewed closely to the Nehruvian line. Socialism (and a prominent role for the public sector), secularism and non-alignment were taken as verities.
Mornings at home began with a dissection of ET and other papers. Why had ToI chosen to spread the main story over four columns? Two columns would have been more appropriate; the Indian Express had got it right. Why had another story got buried in page five in the ToI? ET’s choice of page one was correct. The box item in a paper was plain sensationalism. And so on. It was an era in which sobriety, accuracy and a commitment to the public good were the touchstones for news coverage and commentary.
TTV also made his contribution to financial journalism in Tamil. For several years, he wrote a monthly column for the Tamil magazine Deepam founded by the well-known Tamil litterateur, Naa Parthasarathy. A connoisseur of Carnatic music, he wrote reviews of concerts for the Evening News, the afternoon paper run by the Times group and also on the cultural scene for the ToI.
TTV left ET in 1981, just a couple of years before he was due to retire. He briefly edited the management journal of the Bombay Management Association. He revived his association with Eastern Economist, then edited by Swaminathan Aiyar, producing a weekly newsletter that focused on developments in various sectors of the economy. He also wrote for the Indian Post and Business Standard.
I may be permitted to end on a more personal note. I started contributing to ET in 1987 while a student in New York. I was appointed stringer in New York for the paper in 1988. On my return to India, I continued to write for the paper. I began a fortnightly column for ET in 1997 which continued until 2013. It is fair to say that the family association with ET spans most of its history. It is a gratifying thought.
- See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/12/commentary/other-days-other-times.html#sthash.0HoyPyja.dpuf

The idea of producing a financial daily in India was altogether novel at the time. There were serious doubts as to whether there was a large enough market for such a paper. It is to the credit of Shanti Prasad Jain, the then proprietor of Bennett Coleman and Company, that he gave the idea his fullest backing, and supported its losses for several years. Jain was keen that the fledgling daily attract the best talent, so he encouraged the management to offer its recruits terms that were superior to those of the Times of India (ToI), something that caused heartburn at the group’s flagship.
 
The ET staff were lodged in the third floor of the Times of India building in Mumbai, along with those of ToI. A striking feature was the long corridor with a line of cabins with Belgian glass to the left (on the opposite side was the ToI newsroom and further down the ET newsroom). These cabins, which had a certain aura about them, housed the editors of ToI and ET and the assistant editors.
TTV’s background had prepared him well for the assignment. He had obtained his Master of Arts in economics from the prestigious Presidency College in the then state of Madras. B D Goenka, son of Indian Express founder Ramnath Goenka, was a classmate at the intermediary level and G Kasturi, later to become a legendary editor at the Hindu, at the masters. TTV developed a friendship with Kasturi that lasted a lifetime.

After a brief stint in government, in Shimla, TTV plunged into journalism, joining the Hindu as a reporter before being transferred to the editorial desk. He spent 10 years with the paper, imbibing the basics of news gathering, layout, and analysis from personalities such as Kasturi Srinivasan (its then editor), the formidable editorial writer N Raghunathan and K Balaraman, later to become the paper’s celebrated Washington correspondent. TTV remained unshaken in his conviction that no Indian paper could match the Hindu in thoroughness and credibility.

From the Hindu, TTV moved to the Eastern Economist, a financial weekly published from Delhi and edited by E P W Da Costa (no connection with this journal!). Long before the Economic & Political Weekly made its mark, the Eastern Economist had established itself as a quality publication.

TTV’s five-year stint at the Eastern Economist proved useful to the launch of ET. He was well-tuned to a range of economic events that would require coverage and comment. The core group spent several months in coming out with dummy runs before the paper was formally launched.

One of TTV’s early contributions was to start a page for book reviews. He remained in charge of the page throughout his association with ET. He wrote a column, “Men and Ideas” in which he profiled important personalities in the news. The response he got was heart-warming: a profile of Homi Bhabha fetched a dinner invitation and a folio of Bhabha’s paintings.

Some five years after the paper was set up, Hariharan left and D K Rangnekar took over as editor. Rangnekar, who had a doctorate from the London School of Economics, was that exceptional journalist who combined academic depth with the racy writing that is the hallmark of journalism. The paper gained in stature in his time. ET’s editorials came to be closely followed by the powers-that-be in New Delhi.

One incident that comes to mind is when the Shiv Sena went on a rampage against people from the South, beating up Malayali hawkers in the Flora Fountain area. ET carried an editorial, “Glaring at Noon,” borrowing the title from Arthur Koestler’s famous novel about the Stalinist era. The edit hinted at collusion between the state government and the Shiv Sena. A day or two later, Rangnekar got a call from the chief minister (S B Chavan, as I recall). The chief minister fumed about the editorial; P N Haksar had called and conveyed the Prime Minister’s displeasure. How could ET have painted such a dark picture of the city? Rangnekar told him quietly—so he confided in TTV—“I saw it with my own eyes.”

The ET of that era was a very different paper from what it is today. News was mostly macroeconomic, business or corporate news was secondary. The editorial policy hewed closely to the Nehruvian line. Socialism (and a prominent role for the public sector), secularism and non-alignment were taken as verities.

Mornings at home began with a dissection of ET and other papers. Why had ToI chosen to spread the main story over four columns? Two columns would have been more appropriate; the Indian Express had got it right. Why had another story got buried in page five in the ToI? ET’s choice of page one was correct. The box item in a paper was plain sensationalism. And so on. It was an era in which sobriety, accuracy and a commitment to the public good were the touchstones for news coverage and commentary.

TTV also made his contribution to financial journalism in Tamil. For several years, he wrote a monthly column for the Tamil magazine Deepam founded by the well-known Tamil litterateur, Naa Parthasarathy. A connoisseur of Carnatic music, he wrote reviews of concerts for the Evening News, the afternoon paper run by the Times group and also on the cultural scene for the ToI.

TTV left ET in 1981, just a couple of years before he was due to retire. He briefly edited the management journal of the Bombay Management Association. He revived his association with Eastern Economist, then edited by Swaminathan Aiyar, producing a weekly newsletter that focused on developments in various sectors of the economy. He also wrote for the Indian Post and Business Standard.

I may be permitted to end on a more personal note. I started contributing to ET in 1987 while a student in New York. I was appointed stringer in New York for the paper in 1988. On my return to India, I continued to write for the paper. I began a fortnightly column for ET in 1997 which continued until 2013. It is fair to say that the family association with ET spans most of its history. It is a gratifying thought.



T T Vijayaraghavan (TTV), who passed away recently, was a member of the core group of journalists that launched the Economic Times (ET) in 1961. TTV joined the paper as assistant editor and served it with distinction for two decades. The other key members at the inception of the paper were: P S Hariharan (editor), T K Seshadri (news editor), Hannan Ezekiel and A R Rao (both assistant editors).
The idea of producing a financial daily in India was altogether novel at the time. There were serious doubts as to whether there was a large enough market for such a paper. It is to the credit of Shanti Prasad Jain, the then proprietor of Bennett Coleman and Company, that he gave the idea his fullest backing, and supported its losses for several years. Jain was keen that the fledgling daily attract the best talent, so he encouraged the management to offer its recruits terms that were superior to those of the Times of India (ToI), something that caused heartburn at the group’s flagship.
The ET staff were lodged in the third floor of the Times of India building in Mumbai, along with those of ToI. A striking feature was the long corridor with a line of cabins with Belgian glass to the left (on the opposite side was the ToI newsroom and further down the ET newsroom). These cabins, which had a certain aura about them, housed the editors of ToI and ET and the assistant editors.
TTV’s background had prepared him well for the assignment. He had obtained his Master of Arts in economics from the prestigious Presidency College in the then state of Madras. B D Goenka, son of Indian Express founder Ramnath Goenka, was a classmate at the intermediary level and G Kasturi, later to become a legendary editor at the Hindu, at the masters. TTV developed a friendship with Kasturi that lasted a lifetime.
After a brief stint in government, in Shimla, TTV plunged into journalism, joining the Hindu as a reporter before being transferred to the editorial desk. He spent 10 years with the paper, imbibing the basics of news gathering, layout, and analysis from personalities such as Kasturi Srinivasan (its then editor), the formidable editorial writer N Raghunathan and K Balaraman, later to become the paper’s celebrated Washington correspondent. TTV remained unshaken in his conviction that no Indian paper could match the Hindu in thoroughness and credibility.
From the Hindu, TTV moved to the Eastern Economist, a financial weekly published from Delhi and edited by E P W Da Costa (no connection with this journal!). Long before the Economic & Political Weekly made its mark, the Eastern Economist had established itself as a quality publication.
TTV’s five-year stint at the Eastern Economist proved useful to the launch of ET. He was well-tuned to a range of economic events that would require coverage and comment. The core group spent several months in coming out with dummy runs before the paper was formally launched.
One of TTV’s early contributions was to start a page for book reviews. He remained in charge of the page throughout his association with ET. He wrote a column, “Men and Ideas” in which he profiled important personalities in the news. The response he got was heart-warming: a profile of Homi Bhabha fetched a dinner invitation and a folio of Bhabha’s paintings.
Some five years after the paper was set up, Hariharan left and D K Rangnekar took over as editor. Rangnekar, who had a doctorate from the London School of Economics, was that exceptional journalist who combined academic depth with the racy writing that is the hallmark of journalism. The paper gained in stature in his time. ET’s editorials came to be closely followed by the powers-that-be in New Delhi.
One incident that comes to mind is when the Shiv Sena went on a rampage against people from the South, beating up Malayali hawkers in the Flora Fountain area. ET carried an editorial, “Glaring at Noon,” borrowing the title from Arthur Koestler’s famous novel about the Stalinist era. The edit hinted at collusion between the state government and the Shiv Sena. A day or two later, Rangnekar got a call from the chief minister (S B Chavan, as I recall). The chief minister fumed about the editorial; P N Haksar had called and conveyed the Prime Minister’s displeasure. How could ET have painted such a dark picture of the city? Rangnekar told him quietly—so he confided in TTV—“I saw it with my own eyes.”
The ET of that era was a very different paper from what it is today. News was mostly macroeconomic, business or corporate news was secondary. The editorial policy hewed closely to the Nehruvian line. Socialism (and a prominent role for the public sector), secularism and non-alignment were taken as verities.
Mornings at home began with a dissection of ET and other papers. Why had ToI chosen to spread the main story over four columns? Two columns would have been more appropriate; the Indian Express had got it right. Why had another story got buried in page five in the ToI? ET’s choice of page one was correct. The box item in a paper was plain sensationalism. And so on. It was an era in which sobriety, accuracy and a commitment to the public good were the touchstones for news coverage and commentary.
TTV also made his contribution to financial journalism in Tamil. For several years, he wrote a monthly column for the Tamil magazine Deepam founded by the well-known Tamil litterateur, Naa Parthasarathy. A connoisseur of Carnatic music, he wrote reviews of concerts for the Evening News, the afternoon paper run by the Times group and also on the cultural scene for the ToI.
TTV left ET in 1981, just a couple of years before he was due to retire. He briefly edited the management journal of the Bombay Management Association. He revived his association with Eastern Economist, then edited by Swaminathan Aiyar, producing a weekly newsletter that focused on developments in various sectors of the economy. He also wrote for the Indian Post and Business Standard.
I may be permitted to end on a more personal note. I started contributing to ET in 1987 while a student in New York. I was appointed stringer in New York for the paper in 1988. On my return to India, I continued to write for the paper. I began a fortnightly column for ET in 1997 which continued until 2013. It is fair to say that the family association with ET spans most of its history. It is a gratifying thought.
- See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/12/commentary/other-days-other-times.html#sthash.0HoyPyja.dpuf

4 comments:

Mimi said...

Dear Sir
My heartfelt condolences to you and your family As your tribute is behind fire wall I could not read However the letter, which is readily available , says all Truly a great man! I do recollect reading his columns in my formative educational years especially being an Econ student I did not know that he and you were related - father and son !
I have been regular reader of your columns and blog posts I greatly appreciate your altogether different perspective and bold views on extant issues
His legacy will live in you and will be carried forward
May his soul rest in peace

The Big Picture said...

Hello Ms Mimi,

I am deeply touched by your note, thanks very much for your kind sentiments! There cannot be many who are acquainted with my father's writings as well as my own. Could I request you to drop me a line at ttr@iima.ac.in

TTR

Shivam Vishnoi said...

Sir Please accept my deepest condolences for your family's loss
Read your article second time today in newspaper, liked it as much as the first one.
May you and your family be comforted by the outpouring of love surrounding you.

The Big Picture said...

Shivam, Thanks very much for your kind words of solace

TTR