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INTERVIEWEE* Name: Uma Vasudev (UV)

  • Occupation: Journalist

INTERVIEWER* Kai Friese (Kai)

Medium: Video + Audio recordings* Format: Audio .wav

  • Language: English with smatterings in Hindi
  • Location of Interview: Residence, Defence Colony
  • Date of the interview: 11 March 2016 11:48

Clip name/DURATION: * kf_UVasudev.WAV

  • Length 00: 49: 44
  • Bit rate: 1411kbps
  • Size: 502 MB
  • Date modified: 11/03/2016

Interview Start

Keywords and Phrases

UV’s background beginning in journalism fond of sports tennis father an irrigation engineer posted across India refusal to go to hostel sister Aruna far more disciplined easy to find admission while travelling- Bangalore, Dhaka, Mysore

Took to journalism probably because of exposure first article at 10 in Lahore

Approval from grandfather grandfather a Politician in Punjab and a writer

Grandfather being given knighthood Narang (???) The Adventures of a Rupee'  awarded rs.10 languages- English, Urdu, Punjabi interest in arts and ghazals on nature of Urdu College life interest in sports-tennis---almost a national champion daily routine mother helped mother unique---she drove

Writing freelance in Delhi middles range of topics-arts, music student at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya

0:00 [UV]I hope my voice comes out properly.

0:04 [Kai] Interview with Uma Vasudev on 11 of M arch 2016 at her house-home- in Defence Colony. Uma you could start by telling me little bit about how you began in journalism and when?

0:21 [UV] Oh! When is a very dicey question but any ways it was years ago and in fact, I was, I was basically very fond of sports in the beginning. I used to play a lot of sports. I used to play a lot of tennis.

0:40 [Kai] This is in Delhi? 

0:40 [UV]..No no no in Delhi, in pre-partition my father was in government. and he was posted all over India. So I had a gala time.

0:50 [Kai] Meaning he was in civil service?

0:51 [UV] He was in the Irrigation. He was irrigation engineer. But he was in the service which took him all over India...north Punjab or Karnataka, or South India. So but I was a bit of a rebel in the sense that my younger sister, Aruna, who's very disciplined and very and also very very good in whatever she takes up. She's become quite a name in Indian films. But I said, 'I'm not going to go to the boarding school at all'. They shoved me into this Lahore thing and I raised a shindy there. And I said. 'I'm not going.' So I had a lovely time and I am so glad that I was like that because he was posted all over India.  His service took him all over. So I just went everywhere -----[KAI: with him] ----with him. And at the time it was not difficult to find admission in schools or anything, so wherever we went whether it is Bangalore...the convent was there 1:52 I went to school there... went to Dhaka, I went to school there. It was ...it was...Mysore and all these places…everywhere...the whole of India. So I had a very, I think I had a very...I think I've never ...maybe that made me take to journalism eventually because all these experiences and all these places ----- 2:10 [Kai adds] Seeing the country. -----  2:11 ...was a very enriching one. And ...I think I wrote my first article when I was 10 and I, that was in Lahore... we were in Lahore at that time and my grandfather or my nana...that's my mother's father...was a politician and also a minister in the government in Punjab...in Punjab Government. And he himself was a writer, so I wrote 

2:39 [Kai interjects] He was with Congress or ? (NOTE: Kai’s and UV’s conversation overlaps)

2:41 this little piece... (in response to Kai's question)..At that time no...it was the other party...they had a party and all...He was a well very well known, sort of a person...Narang, and he was given one of those knighthood also (Note she mentions Narang but it’s mumbled) and then they all later all the people who had made been Sirs 3:04 later on rejected their titles and all. But I was 10 years and I wrote this little piece about the …about a rupee- 'The Adventures of a Rupee' 

3:16 [Kai] Oh! A coin thatnarrative

3:20 [UV] Yea it was a [??] rupee coin. And actually talking about this is like going into a pre-independence period which was quite lovely in fact. And I wrote this piece and I...he said, 'show show'...'read it read it.' So I read this 'The Adventures of the Rupee'.... where it is in a poor man's hand and then it goes from one place to the other, ends up in rich man's pocket and all that. So he was very happy and very pleased. So he gave me a ten rupee note! 3:54 Now ten rupee in those days was Wooo...you can't imagine what it was. That was my first prize in writing. 

4:02 [Kai] And this was in English?

4:03 This was in English...English. I only wrote in English though one studied Hindi in any case. And Punjabi, I didn't study...we all spoke Punjabi.

4:17 [Kai] And Urdu?  You could read and write?

4:18 Urdu, I learnt because I was very fond of the language and I learnt the script and everything. And then I was very fond of music and all those ghazals and everything and then I had lots of Muslim friends also. In any case in Lahore it was not a question of Muslim or Hindu. Urdu was generally...Punjabis particularly spoke Urdu...Punjabi and familiar with Urdu. And I've always loved the language, it's got a terrific, it's got a beautiful flow in it. It has a very majestic, you know, feeling about the language. So I learnt the script also and everything. And 5:02 how….then the first writing thing was that little essay for which I got this money, and I was so happy. I think from then onwards...in case it was always on my mind always...to want to write and to put down on paper what I saw. So that's the beginning of journalism...journalism. And later on of course books.

5:33[Kai] But then your former career ...college or straight up to that or…?

5:40 [UV] No... Then you see it all relates to writing. And in college of course it was again...emphasise was always on this...I mean I had to really...Frankly college was always side sort of a thing because other things were really my concerns and my love and my involvement- sports and writing. So both...I don't know whether the two go together or not, I don’t know because sports mean a lot of physical exercise and physical time. And writing means cut off from people, sit down and write. So it was a very peculiar combination I must say when I myself look back at it because I used to get up at 6 in the morning and get to the exercises and run off. I used to play tennis...I became a bit of a champion also. 

And I think I would have been number one in tennis...women's tennis one year If I had...I didn't play one particular tournaments so that was it. 6:54 But it was my mother, you know, who was quite amazing because tennis meant tournaments because I was interested in championship whatever. And she used to take me all over to play all over to play in the tournaments. She used to accompany me. And I was too young. I started off around 10 years -12 years old so she used to accompany me. And so I became a... I think I would have been a No. 1 but I didn't play in one tournament so... was No. 2. 7:29 But along with that...I also wonder sometimes how this very physical involvement which is you know, you get up, you do exercises in the morning, then my mother used to drive me to the gymkhana to play tennis in the morning. Then she would sit there while I was practicing, then we would have breakfast there and then she would drive me back. She used to drive herself so...which was very unusual at that time...for women to drive but she would...but she was also quite a woman.8:03 So was my father for that matter. And along with this morning thing---exercises... going for a run, getting ready for tennis, and then going-coming and then going again in the afternoon to actually play and then the tournaments and along with that this passion for writing. So I used to at that time write a little piece here, like I told you about my grandfather but that was much earlier. And then later on--------8:33 [Kai interjects] Meaning you were writing freelance...pieces for newspapers or…? -------- 8:36 I was writing....at that time that was just the beginning actually. Yea earlier I was writing freelance. 

8:43[Kai] In Delhi?8:44 [UV] In Delhi.

8:45 [Kai] What kind of things?

8:48 [UV] Anything.

8:50 [Kai] Were they used to be all middles or?

8:51 [VU] Yea middles...there used to be lot of middles. and I used to feel very happy when middles used to come also. But then I started writing...then you see I was interested in classical music...very passionately involved of classical music...come to think of it, it was really mad. I used to go for my music lessons to the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. 

9:17 [Kai] In C.P. in those days ...was it in Connaught Place? 

9:19 [VU] Connaught Place...it was in Connaught Place. And in the morning was my music and then rush back and go for tennis and then come and then afternoon...again tennis and then ...

9:37 [phone rings...Kai: pause it? ------- [UV asks: yeh coffee hai ya chai (Is this coffee or tea?)] ----- Shall I pour you some? Hai (Yes?)?---- [UV] Yea. Can I have some?]


Beginning of writing in journalism freelancing for various newspaper and magazines sent articles to the people known to her later on wrote a regular column sent to Indian Express, Times of India, Statesman took out own magazine Surge in 1950s wrote on various things married to an IAS suggested to be posted in MP continued to write from Bhopal Surge from Delhi asked to be an editor at India Today by Purie (confusion over Purie generation-father or son….name of the father) allowed to continue with Surge while working with India Today India Today to promote India’s image abroad office of India Today Film business of Aroon Purie’s father in Karol Bagh

9:48 [Kai] Now to drag you back to the beginnings of writing in journalism9:51[UV] So this is a very ...the whole (muffled spot) Get up at 6 in the morning and as far as writing...I was a freelancer...writing articles for magazines or newspapers.

10:03 [Kai] But you would just send off or were you going to newspapers and magazines offices to pitch?

10:09 [UV] No, it depended on who I knew...if I knew the person then I would go and give it....later on of course one sent it because it was a regular column once a week and the column would go.

10:20 [Kai] So who did you know at the earliest you could send things or I mean which publications were you freelancing?

10:26 [UV] I was writing for the newspapers...Indian Express, Times of India ------- [Kai: Statesman maybe?] ---------Statesman. Statesman was very popular at that time. And I think I used to do a regular column in those days at one stage. These were all various stages. But the first one was a freelance very much. I was never ...I never joined a paper as such and then I began to bring out my own magazine also. It was called Surge.

10:54 [Kai] When is this?

10:54 [UV] S.U.R.G.E....This was in the 1950s. 

10:57 [Kai exclaims]: Oh! Really! How did you do that?

11:01 [UV] Because I was full of...because I was writing for papers...I was writing articles...I was doing these columns.11:07 [Kai] Okay, so you'll have to tell me little bit more...what kind of, I mean in your freelance work...what kind of pieces were you writing? Reviews, essays...

11:13 [UV] I was regular...used to be in the Times of India. They used to have what they a middle. And I used to do a lot of middles and they were from...they were from any area... whether there was an incident about a woman, whether it was art, whether it was some happening somewhere…so I used send these. And that was also even after I got married. I got married to an officer who had joined the IAS, and he was posted in ...in fact ...because I suggested when I was going to marry him, I said...they had to choose which state they wanted be in. So I said choose Madhya Pradesh because at that time Madhya Pradesh was known for its great forests and jungles, and tigers and all sorts of things. So I was very interested. 12:05 So I got married and then I used to write from Bhopal or wherever he was posted. I used to write these weekly columns for the Times of India and I was a freelancer so I used to send to whoever I thought ...Statesman...quite a bit to Statesman, Hindustan Times, Times of India.  That was anything I felt like .... later on kya...right from the beginning I was interested in classical music in any case. So I used to write on music also.

12:37 [Kai] And the Surge magazine in the 1950s' was in Delhi or12:41 [UV] Delhi…Delhi. I had started bringing it out.

12:46 [Kai] How did you raise the money and what kind of magazine was it?

12:52 [UV] It was a ...actually it started off as a ...you see I was an editor of India Today at one point.

13:02 [Kai] But that is later...that is in the '70s ------- [UV: No…no no no] ------ 13:05 [Kai] India Today starts in 1970s. 

13:07 [UV] '70s when it started I was the first editor [Kai interjects: That's the story you have to tell me in full.....(some exclamations)...Surge ka pehle bata dijiye (Tell about the Surge first)]..

13:18 [UV] Surge ko pehle se nikal rahi thi mein (was taking out Surge before that). So I told Purie ... Aroon Purie… he was going to be the owner and all.13:28 [Kai] How long did Surge appear for...until when...if it was started in the '50s?

13:32 Surge was appearing before that (Read as: Surge was appearing well before India Today). So I made it a condition. I said, 'look I'm not going to stop bringiing out my magazine but if you like I'll be the editor of India Today but I'm going to bring out my own magazine also' So Aroon Purie, I think it was Aroon Purie ----- [13:55 Kai: Aroon Purie…. was he around ...this ...will it be what '75? '76?]

13:58 [UV] '75. 

14:01 [Kai] But were you dealing with Aroon or with his father?

14:04 [UV] Father ka naam kya tha? (What was the name of the father?)

14:04 [Kai] Father ka naam mein bhi bhool gaya hoon (Even I’ve forgotten the name of the father). Magar haa Aroon was the beta. {NOTE: Vidya Vilas Purie was the father’s name even though later on Kai remembered it as D. D. Purie} I don't think ki he was here right in the beginning. I think he was a student. 

14:14 [UV] Well... (doubtfully: father) ...I forgotten father's name. Must be the father because it was started at that time ------ [Kai: Yea!] ----- And he said ...I said, 'look I'm bringing out this magazine of mine so' 

14:25 [Kai] D. D. Purie… I think the father is D. D. Purie 

14:27 [UV] D. D. Purie Yea...'I'm bringing out this magazine, I'm not gonna give it up' So he said, 'don't worry...don't worry. We are bringing out India Today to ...to promote India's image abroad'

14:40 [Kai] Hai...this is what I've heard.14:41 [UV] Ya! And not in India so you can keep bringing out your magazine. 

14:45 [Kai] So original idea was to market it entirely abroad? ----- [UV: Yea] ----- to export it? ------ [UV: Yea...that was it. That's why he said, 'you can bring out your magazine because mine was for India and...' I mean those kind of set up] ---- 14:57 [Kai] So Surge had been continued as publication from the '50s up till the 70s?

15:01 [UV] Yea but in-between I mean … I was acting journalist. And so it was condition which he agreed on. So I said, 'fine'. So that's how I started with India Today also. 

15:15 [Kai] So tell me a little bit about that...about the first days with India Today...where were you...who did you hire. [UV in the background: I was in Delhi ] ...where was the office?

15:23 [UV] Office? ------- [Kai interjects: in CP only or...?] --- Yea yea C.P. only ------ [Kai: F Block or that Thomason Building?] ----- 15:35 [UV] No wait a minute! It was something upstairs also in Connaught Place. I don't remember now. It was very much there and... gosh! Can you imagine I'm forgetting! It was in the Outer Circle also at one point...upstairs in the first floor. So any way that was it. So I was...

16:00 [Kai] And did you do the initial hiring of the other staff or ...?16:05 [UV] Yea I did partly but partly Aroon.... Aroon's father was the one who actually started the whole thing. Aroon's father as far as I can remember, he was a ...he had a place in Karol Place. They were selling something.

16:27 [Kai] They were film distributors I think because Thompson Press they bought later but the initial business was film distribution.

16:34 [UV] Film distribution and he was the father. They had a place in Connaught Place ------- [Kai interjects: Hamilton House or something like that. And nearby the old American Express building used to be that side] ---- [UV agrees: that's right. It was there also. So I met the father and then I did this.


More about India Today beginning more about Surge Surge published articles on politics, culture, music, theatre etc. UV knew people and she asked them to write in Surge attention to cover Set-up of India Today professional- own printing press

Had two other journalists including Dilip Bobb discussion over name India Today or India Today Reports black and white edition articles on politics, arts and films

16:51 [Kai] How did...Sorry India Today stories are interesting to me. Can you tell that in detail...how it began....How they first got in touch with you?

17:02 [UV] Well, as far as I remember it was so long back. I was happy with...not happy ...but I was very tied up with my own Surge magazine and all that and then. But I'd been writing quite a bit. So all these...columns everywhere and this sort of a thing. So that's why they asked me.

17:21 [Kai] And Surge was not a political magazine? So the Emergency had not 

[UV in the background- No, it was political in the sense that…I had political articles and I had articles on culture, music, theatre everything but also political and also sociological. I knew everybody at that time, you know, so I had...in fact I have got some of the older issues] 

17:46 [Kai] Have you got them?

17:47 [U] They must be somewhere.

17:49 [Kai] That would be fascinating to see.

17:51 [UV] Yea, I'll try and see if there's but all the most well-known people, I got hold of to write in my magazine. [KAI: In Surge?] First thing, it was not a very great, you know art... art paper and that sort of a thing. It was very simple except that I was very happy with.... not happy but very concerned that the cover should be what it should be like. 18:18 And... that of course was always there. The aesthetic aspect of journalism or… So it became quite popular. But then India Today was also there.

18:31 [Kai] So how long... How long did it take before you brought out the first issue in... of India Today?18:37 [UV] No that was not so long because they had a proper set-up. They had their press. They had their own...they gave me one or two other journalists also to help with the magazine and all. 

18:50 [Kai] Do you remember the initial team? Who else was there? ---- [UV in the background: No I don't remember]

18:52 [UV] No... Yea

18:56 [Kai] Was Dilip Bobb there from the beginning?

18:58 [UV] Dilip Bobb was there and then the other chap ...the one who is bhool gayi....you know what happened... I got one of those issues...when we shifted from here, I don't know what they did with all those issues. I'll find it. If you just hold on one minute, I'll go and see if there's issue.

19:17 [Kai] We can look for that afterwards.

19:18 [UV] So it was quite an experience to ...

19:25 [Kai] And was it called India Today because I've seen it some place being called something like India Today Reports...or some third word in the title? Was it just straight India Today?

19:37 [UV] No, it was India Today

19:39 [Kai] Okay, and what...it was black and white presumably?

19:41 [UV] Yea yea yea...black and white.... black and white and politics as well as arts, film reviews because this chap's father was concerned with films.

19:57 [Kai] Films, yes...so they wanted to….

19:58 [UV] And...then I don't know what happened. Actually I was very concerned with my own magazine also. So finally I said, 'forget it. I want to concentrate on then ... (NOTE: She leaves the sentence unfinished)' then I started...


Whether UV mixed in journalist circle during Emergency at Press Club etc. She did…(But her response is not Emergency oriented but rather more along the lines of general journalists interaction) Scindia House set-up of India Coffee House Indira and Feroze Gandhi coming in An Urdu writer Alvi joined UV’s et al table incident of Alvi being short of money yet inviting UV for coffee Kai’s attempts to bring conversation back to India Today and Emergency UV confused about the timeline UV doesn’t speak much about Emergency talks about her book on Indira Gandhi UV admired Mrs Indira Gandhi Emergency against Mrs Gandhi’s democratic beliefs Reference to coup in Pakistan in favour of a more democratic set-up Mrs Gandhi possessing a strong temperament connection between authoritarian tendency and ruling a country

20:18 [Kai] Were you ...I mean it was obviously an intense time and a conflicted time for for journalists. Did you mix a lot in journalistic circle? Did you go to the Press Club?

20:32 [UV] Yea yea...of course...even now Press Club is a second home. 20:37 Not lately (NOTE: This part is rather unclear) that much20:39 But Press Club of course very much. And just sitting in restaurants, talking to people. There used to be a lovely Coffee House in Connaught Place. 

20:51 [Kai]: The United Coffee...The India Coffee House, you mean...where Palika is now?

20:56 [UV]The India Coffee House which was in the Scindia House. And all the journalists used to come there. It really was a journalists' place. And all come for coffee and everything. Indira Gandhi and Feroze also came once. It used to have a side sort of a place where ...slightly covered and it was two or three of them, if you want to be, right, very private when you sat there. But it was open to them all. We used to sit in the main thing and everybody used to collect together. I remember a lovely incident when a chap came from Lucknow. He was a Urdu writer and his name...Alvi. And he came up to me and he said, 'I'm from Lucknow' and introduced himself and all that. And he was a poet. And I was very fond of Urdu in any case. So I said fine, and met the others. So he started sitting with us at our table. Our table meant that, you know, one went to the Coffee House and somebody else would come in... everybody had a favourite little gathering and a favourite table...lovely place---- [Kai interjects: yes] ---- absolutely gorgeous. And so he came...he began to sit with us. 22:21 Then I used to...we used to pay in turns, whoever was there but he didn't have much money. So whenever...he couldn't afford coffee for...it was in fact coffee was for 4 annas....4 annas one cup of coffee. So one day he said, 'coffee mere saath pijiye'. So I said okay. So he came and we ...just the two of us sat at a table and already ordered two coffees. So it was 4 annas ... there were 16 annas to a rupee at that time. So 4 annas...the cost of the coffee was 4 annas a cup. He ordered two cups of coffee...8 annas. And then the bill came and all and he gave 4 annas tip. So he gave 12 annas. So I said, 'Thank you, it was very nice.' Later on I learnt that he used to live in Old Delhi...from Lucknow he had come to Old Delhi for some reason. So he had only the four annas left. And four annas he had got because it cost by bus from Connaught Place to Old Delhi ...more than that I think. So he had kept this four annas and walked to Old Delhi. So those were very, you know very different kind of an atmosphere. Next to us was Sharda Ukil School of Art. So... next to the coffee house I mean. So all the artists used to go up and down and they were on the first floor. Then of course the animated discussions ...all the editors used to come to the Coffee House and the correspondents and all that.

24:24 [Kai] But in the Emergency did you...I mean...because a lot of people have told me also Coffee House times...how conversations ended ...people became very scared. I'm presuming you have had felt this time close to the Congress. 

24:42 [UV] Yea, I was actually always close...I mean not close to the Congress. I was not in politics. 24:47 [Kai] But but personally at that time you felt sympathy with the Indira Gandhi Emergency?24:51 [UV] Yea but at that time there was no ...there was no Emergency or anything at that time. So there was no question of....

24:58 [Kai] No but when you were at India Today?... which was the Emergency...that was the last years of the Emergency.

25:07 [UV] The first years in fact. 

25:10 [Kai] Nahi, '76 I think. The Emergency was 1975-77. India Today I think began in 1976 if I'm not wrong. I've never seen the first issues. [Kai is mistaken, IT was launched in 1975] 

25:22 [UV] '76? 

25:22 [Kai] That's what I understand

25:29 [UV] Any way I'll look up, I'll tell you. I've got some issues, I'll show you. 

25:33 [Kai] But did you have a sense of ...of conflict...would you get into arguments

25:38 [UV] I was very much...I was actually politically, I was not politically inclined to be for party politics and active politics. But naturally one was writing about politics. And my first book was on Indira Gandhi any way. So... No, I did admire her a lot actually and the Emergency came later...much later. In fact, I wrote another book also.26:05 which because I also remember a time during the Emergency when I ...I used to meet her in any case. And I heard that she was...she said, 'Pakistan!'...You know in Pakistan they had done away with some chap at some point.... some ruler or the other which democratic.... towards democracy...democratic system. So she at that time Emergency was on, and she said, 'Pakistan has removed this thing you know.' So she was not.... she was very unhappy having had to do this. And she really was a democrat at heart but when I say she was a democrat at heart but she had a very strong temperament, which ...

27:06 [Kai interjects] And authoritarian streak 

27:08 [UV] Authoritarian this thing...streak but then on the other hand as a ruler...even a democratic ruler, you just have to have a certain sense of direction which of course she had but methodology naturally. But there is a tendency...there was this bit of tendency but then she went from that itself. But she was actually a democrat at heart that I've always believed...because of the way she was brought up...the old experience of what she had gone through and the father like that...the father like Nehru and....So I have never believed that she would have continued with a system which was...


Sanjay Gandhi and his role UV wrote an article on him starts interview with Sanjay Gandhi and the rumour that he drinks a lot Sanjay Gandhi as being strong willed and at the time no involvement with Emergency UV left India Today before end of Emergency

UV starts talking about Surge came in conflict with Aroon Shourie Saeed Naqvi Madhu Purie Aroon Puire talks again of Surge--- no industrial backer --- business plan dependent on adverts---- distributed through stalls---monthly----Talks about Inder who helped her---Inder’s background----search for press and paper by Inder---- Printing press being bought for Surge and kept at Defence Colony House

Kai attempts to find out if in post-Emergency period UV’s closeness to the Gandhi caused trouble----- UV ambivalent ---- Mrs Indira Gandhi feeling embarrassed about Emergency----UV talks about her book on Mrs Indira Gandhi --- Editing error of the book’s name (Faces instead of Phases) ----UV’s book on Hariprasad Chaurasia and later Kashmir---another book on Indira –Courage Under Fire

28:00 [Kai] Sanjay...did you know at all because one narrative that comes up in this whole thing is that that Sanjay would have continued with the Emergency. He would have liked to continue it because she decided that she couldn't do it anymore.

28:12 [UV] yea yea...there was a long article on him. In fact, I was bringing out my magazine called Surge and a whole issue was on Sanjay. I don't know if I can find it.

28:20 [Kai] That would be great if you could find it.

28:21 [UV] The cover page is Sanjay and yea I interviewed...I talked to him. He was staying with 28:31 the mother in the house so I said, 'I want to talk to you' And this was when she was a Prime Minister. 28:39 So he said, 'come.' So I went to the house. In any case I did want to meet her also but this was especially with him and it was a place where there was a sofa over there. So he said, 'come and sit'. So I sat down and then I took my tape recorder. I just don't know where I put that wretched tape with interview.

29:04 [Kai] Oh! So you have a cassette somewhere. 29:08 [UV] Yea...It must be somewhere… So took my...and he was absolutely at ease. 

29:13 [Kai] This was at home or in the office?

29:14 [UV] At home at Mrs Gandhi's ...Prime Minister's House. So I said, 'I want to interview for my magazine. I was bringing out my magazine also.' He said, 'fine, ask.' So the first question I asked, 'I heard that you drink a lot' and he said, 'What!' I said, 'I hear that you drink a lot.' So he says, 'I don't even have orange squash.' like that...That's how the interview started and I did get the impression, I got the impression...I met him later on also but I got the impression he had a...he was a very strong willed kind of a person and …but at that time he had no question of ... no sense...no ...what shall I say...involvement in the conflict of a Emergency sort of, you know, but he had … he had the tendency to be authoritarian that was very much there. 30:23 But otherwise he was nothing … bit ....will show you that interview …. I think I've got it somewhere.

30:30 [Kai] It would be great if you could find...yea...both the magazine and cassette (?). 

30:34 [UV] Yea…that magazine is there.30:36 [Kai] Were you still the editor of India Today when Emergency ended [in fact UV was a Contributing Editor at IT from its first issue] or did you leave before that?

30:44 [UV] No no I left before that. 

30:46 [Kai] And you remember that...the circumstances of that...did...was it because things were changing?

30:52 [UV] That was not a very controversial kind of thing because I started bringing out my own magazine. I was very keen to bring out my own, which was called Surge. S.U.R.G.E. And I was editing India Today. So when I first asked this person ----- 31:12 [Kaik adds: Purie] ----... Purie...He said,  'no no no that would not be the problem because India Today is going to be sent abroad and you can bring out your own magazine.'

31:20 [Kai] And that happened for the first few issues? It was sent abroad?

31:22 [UV] yea yea...The whole idea was to send it abroad...to project India’s image outside India and all that. But then gradually...

31:33 [Kai] Were the people writing to you from abroad also?

31:37 [UV] Not so much from abroad.

31:39 [Kai] Saeed Naqvi was not writing?.... I know he was supposed to join...he did write.

31:42 [UV] Saeed Naqvi...he did write. All of them wrote for me. They were working in other papers and all but mine was a magazine so they could write and they all wrote. I'll get hold of some editions.

31:54 [ Kai] Yeah, I'm dying to see those old issues. I've seen one.

31:58 [UV] So that was not a problem. I mean India Today (NOTE: For the next 2-3 second UV just mumbles but given the gist of the conversation she's probably saying Purie had no problem with her working at India Today). But then after a while then I opted out myself.

32:09 [Kai] It became a conflict? Did they change because at some stage they decided to start selling it in India?

32:14 [UV] Yea, India also and then I, this chap ...who's the ladka ...(Both Kai and UV: Aroon Purie)----- (Kai: Or the sister came first) ---- 32:25 [UV] The sister came from America. She used to be in America. She was there ----- (Kai interjects: Madhu) ---Madhu...but this Aroon Purie when he came, then I wasn't very much, sort of, happy with him in that sense. ...temperamentally kahe do jo kuch bhi hai. So I left and I was bringing out my own magazine. Then they took India Today in ...earlier as I said, he said that, 'we're not going to project it ...we're going to send it abroad only...it was to project India's image abroad' But then they became very much part of the Indian thing and I think their first editorial from...forgotten his name...also well-known journalist. Anyhow so that I had nothing much to do with them later on. 33:14 So uhmm

33:16 [Kai] But you continued with Surge?33:17 [UV] Yea yea...continued with Surge 

33:19 [Kai] And how long did that continue for? 

33:20 [UV] But Surge was like a happy-go-lucky thing because it depended on the money. How much ads one could get? How much money so one brought it out? And I didn't give it to any big time industrialist as backer of the magazine. So it was all on how many ads one could get, how many money one could get. So it went on for quite some time 33:42 And it became...

33:44 [Kai] But the model for you at that time was ad based. You made money on ads not on sales so much?

33:54 [UV] Yea yea...ads only...sales too…

33:54 [Kai] Who was distributing it? Do you remember?

33:57 [UV] No I don't remember now. Distributing in the sense that one gave it to people in the stalls every where

34:07 [Kai] Okay, but you didn't go through a distributor like India Book House or…?

34:10 [UV] No no.

34:13 [Kai] And was the government buying it at all because …34:18 [UV] I don't even remember actually. Government must have got some...something but not as a not as a government sponsored thing. (Kai: Okay). Luckily not that. 

34:29 [Kai] So tell me how long did this continue? How long did you keep it alive?

34:33 [UV] The magazine? Magazine kept coming out off and on----- [Kai adds: It was irregular.] ---Yea

34:42 [Kai] But originally it was a monthly or what was the ??

34:45 [UV] It was a monthly because I couldn't manage it otherwise and...

34:53 [Kai] And it had a staff or were the contributors all...?34:56 [UV] No, I had one person...one person working with me who would look at the proofstruths....(???) But otherwise there was one other person...there was one other friend of mine. We were very much together.35:13 [Kai] Who's this?

35:14 [UV] He is a person called Inder...He died later on...much later on but he was the one...He and I ...He would get the paper...he would get this and that and all. There's lovely short story...not lovely, I shouldn't say…my own short story. My book of short stories is just out. And there's a story in it where I talk about running this magazine. This person called Inder

35:43 [Kai] Inder who if I may ask?

35:45 [UV] Inder...He is...His brother was ambassador...and just retired, I think a year back only. He'd come back. He ...Inder was a happy-go-luck sort of a... happy-half businessperson and you know that sort of a thing...interested in politics and very talented in everything but he was a ...not professionally, you know, working somewhere. So we used to bring out this magazine together. And he was very very good in that because he would get the paper, he would talk to the printer [Kai adds: take it to the printer. Where would it be printed?] 

36:30 [UV] Long time, it was forty years ago. [Kai helps: Caxton Press...] Caxton was one yea. and then there was one press which was not in Delhi itself. Caxton was in Delhi? 

36:48 [Kai] Caxton is near Jhandewalan. 

36:50 [UV] I think Caxton was there. Then there was one press here also. So it was, you can't imagine, what a college time one had because one would ...he would go searching all over the place for a press which would take less money. So whether it was a these areas...kaun se areas hain yaha ke jo....those...kya kehte hain (Read: what are those nearby areas….what are they known as?)? The old bazaars and what not...we used to roam around all over the place looking for a press. 37:23 [Kai] Acha..in Old Delhi also?

37:23 [UV] No… no… not Old Delhi but New Delhi but the area was very different at that time. Middle Delhi not Old Delhi but ------37:35 [Kai interjects: not Bahadur Shah Zafar...I mean the big presse is were on Bahadur Shah Zafar]37:39 [UV] There were no big such...woh nahi. [Kai: Purani Delhi aur Nai Sardak] Purani Delhi nahi. We were all looking for...there used to be press you know, in little places where they used to bring out pamphlets and things like that.37:51 [Kai] Where where? For letter press and all that I've looked at only Old Delhi.

37:59 [No no this in between area which is not Old Delhi but Connaught Place ke age ja ke (Kai: not Jhandewalan? Karol Bagh?)--- Karol Bagh yea Karol Bagh and that area. They used to have these places. And I, can you imagine, I had a person who was working with us on the technical side so we got a printing press here. A printing press here, this house was different. This has been rebuilt. And I had a room, an extra room where we put the printing press.

38:38 [Kai] Oh! You had your own press? 

38:40 [UV] We put it there, yea!

38:41 [Kai] Where is it!

38:42 [UV] Oh god! That was ages ago. So...

38:46 [Kai] So was it a letter press or an offset or?

38:51 [UV] Letter press.---- [Kai: okay...WOW!]---- And he used to...and we had this one chap --- [Kai: The compositor] ---- who worked with me for god knows how long. And he used to print there itself. 

39:01 [Kai] Yehi...Defence Colony mein?

39:02 [UV] Ha...defence Colony mein. This house was very different at that time ---- [Kai: SO Surge was published here...printed here?] ---- At some part....some part of the time. Listen it's a mad thing. Maybe I should write about it! So anyway that was that.

39:19 [Kai] Kab tak?....yeh nahi bataya! When did it cease publication and how? I mean, you ran out of money I presume...it's not easy.

39:26 [UV] No no...not ran out of money also that naturally  (NOTE: This reads contradictory but that is how UV put it).... money didn't collect...it came as each issue was there...and one would get the ads and then one would take the money and then bring it out. So it was quite a job. I was...I'll show you if I find an old issue and ...but it was also very political as well as cultural. Because the cultural thing was very much part of my this thing...learning classical music myself, you know. Also interested in the arts. So this was actually one magazine which was dealing with both politics and the arts...there were not very many magazines at that time and ….

40:13 [Kai] But did you...were you under pressure or did you feel victimised at all in the post-Emergency period because you had been close to the Congress and the Gandhi family? Did it become more difficult to sustain yourself to get ads and even contributors?

40:37 [UV] No...not really because you know, I really don't remember when the magazine Surge cease to come out in fact. But no I didn't suffer either during the Emergency or after but the feeling was there...little bit of tension but not really. ----[Kai in the background: but afterwards? to which UV agrees]---- because I...Mrs Gandhi didn't do anything to make me feel that I had... Apart from her political things, she was a very nice person and I think she, I remember during when I told you, I think, a little while back, when Pakistan lifted their own Emergency period, she just banged happily...banged her table in the flat and said, 'we must get rid of the Emergency ... even Pakistan has'. So because she was grown up on it...the whole democratic thinking from her grandfather onwards not just....not just the father but the grandfather.

42:05 [Kai] So she felt embarrassed about it?

42:08 [UV] Yea...she actually did.... not something which she was naturally inclined to do at all.. at all. So it was a very traumatic period I must say but then I wrote a book. What happened....42:29 [KaiUV]  I heard you wrote a very critical book about it but I haven't seen it myself....so.

42:34 [UV] No... critical not critical yes in a sense ... one is a whole book on articles ...big fat book on Indira Gandhi...biographical. Then this one is...shall I show you? 

42:48 [Kai] Sure

(NOTE: Kai and UV are almost silent as they glance at the book or whatever)

42:54 Sorry, you're showing me. Are you saying this is your second book on Indira Gandhi? ----- [UV: Second one]----And you're saying it was supposed to be two phases of Indira with Ph and he made it towo F.A.C.E.S. ------[UV: Yea My God!]---- And you didn't see that!

43:06 [UV in still a scandalised tone] No no! I had two P.H.A.S.E.S ...when they came out with this ---- [Kai: in '77?] ---- Yea.

43:13 [Kai] And was she angry? 43:15 [UV] Yea, of course...my god you can't imagine. All her ...these chaps you know, when I came in, they booed booed like hell and then of course they became okay but this was...this is...this is...this is a novel I'd written. She also (Completely incomprehensible).

And this is my biography of Hariprasad Chaurasia because I told you....Then there's this book on [Kai completes: Kashmir]---Yea because I'd done lot of filming there and that sort of thing. And this is including fairs and festivals and this is a shorter version of----- [Kai adds: Indira Gandhi] ---- Yea a different one.

44:14 [Kai] But this one is called Courage Under Fire. Kai laughs  ---- [UV: Yea] ----More positive. But this was when? After that one. -------[UVL: Ya ya this is little later, I don't remember now ]--- So there are a total of three books on Indira Gandhi? ---------[UV: Yea]------[Kai: What was the first one called? ] -----------[UV: The first one...isn't it here?] ------ [Kai: No there's only Two Phases...Two Faces rather is here...uske pehela kya tha]--------[UV: Where's my first book on her?] ---------[Kai: That's not here] ------- [UV: Just let me see. ] ------ [Kai: Sure] 


Kai’s question about end of journalism for UV with the end of Surge. UV kept writing for Times of India, Hindustan Times more focus on books Talks about a novel that she wrote while studying in Shimla---- written in terms of ‘I’ but the ‘I’ is masculine Doesn’t write much anymore UV goes back to talk about her writing days after marriage planning another book now Kai and UV go through the books written by UV----a cover done by Satish Gujarl ----- offered by American publishers to print----going with Vikas Publisher---Narinder Kumar becoming a good friend

44:42 [Kai] Then journalism for you essentially came to an end with the end of Surge or did you return to freelance writing? 

44:52 [UV] No I kept writing. I kept writing. I was writing in Times of India, Hindustan Times all these papers. Then ....I didn't stop in that sense but what happened....I think I wrote another book. Actually I was writing books also nah! So this is Indira Gandhi thing but…I'd written a novel ... two novels. In fact, I wrote one novel while I was in Shimla after partition and all ...studying in Shimla. And I was in college and I wrote this novel. And you know...Shall I show it to you? 45:38 [Kai: Sure but go on talking but...]  I know because I want to see ...tell you show you what's written on it. And actually, it is quite a sensation because funnily enough...in those days it's quite funny...I mean everything related to me is really odd because that book is written in terms of 'I'...'I'  and 'I' is a man and I've written that book. And I wrote it when I'd just finished college and all and after that one or two years later and even I didn't realise that I'd done that. That the whole book is written in terms of an 'I' 46:24 and the 'I' is a man. So it was a very strange sort of thing that happens when one is in the creative mood or whatever you might call it. In fact, that book got a terrific review and they said that it should be put the syllabus...Punjab syllabus for the B.A. classes and that sort of a thing. So it's been quite a ----- [Kai: roller-coaster]-----Yeah! 

46:55 [Kai] Okay ...you keep in touch....now you don't write anymore but you keep up..

46:59 [UV] No no no...I write in the sense that...no I'm not writing in any newspapers ..not anymore in the sense that I haven't done it. But I was writing quite a bit after I got married, went to Madhya Pradesh and I used to write a regular column from there...which paper...Times of India, I think 47:21 And didn't stop writing from there and then I wrote that book also. My husband was in the IAS so he was posted there so I had a terrific room to myself ...my books and everything and whatever I felt like doing so...From there used to do a regular column. 47:40 And lately, I've not been writing for the papers....journalism as such in that sense...I've not been...I'm planning another book.

47:54 [Kai] I see...on what?

47:57 [UV] No I'll tell you first, the other one of course are books on music and and theatre also and all that...so that also took...can't bring them all here now, I'll just tell you. 

48:07 [Kai] no no ...very nice. Oh ! this is great to see

48:11 This cover incidentally was done by Satish Gujral. 

48:15 [Kai] Aaa. I can see it. And for both of these you interacted with Indira? 

48:24 [UV] Ya Ya...by god…yes. You see this one---- [Kai: the first one]---- came out first and of course went...interacted all the time and then it was going to be published by an American Publisher and as usual I'm quite mad....and they ….and they were going to take two-three years or something like that. So I told them...I said, 'no forget it'. And in the meanwhile this other publisher in India ----[Kai: Vikas]----- Vikas...Narinder Kumar became a very good friend of mine...he said, 'no no no, let's publish it here.' So I wrote to the ----[Kai: Americans] ---  I said, 'forget it but I can't wait for two years and it's being done here'. Everybody would have died to have it done there but no. Then he published it here. He published it nicely actually. Then of course there are other shorter ...not shorter but paperback editions of that also...came out later. So that was that.

49:27 [Kai] Oh this has been fascinating and it would be great to get copies of those Surge ones and do you think you have any of the early India Today or it requires a lot of searching?

49:37 [UV] I have ...let me see if they are there ----[Kai: Ha dek lete hain]

---- because it does require...I haven't sorted out all my out all my papers yet. 

Interview Ends