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INTERVIEWEE* Name: Nandini Mehta [NM]

  • Occupation: Journalist, Editor

INTERVIEWER* Kai Friese [Kai]

Medium: Audio recordings* Format/ Type of File: .WAV

  • Language: English with phrases in Hindi
  • Location of Interview: Sujan Singh Park, New Delhi
  • Date of the interview: 21 December 2015

Clip name/DURATION: * Name: (1): kf_nmehta_raw_211215_1.WAV

  • Size: (1) 308 MB  Date modified :21 December 2015 10:48:46
  • Length 00:30:35

Interview Starts Keywords/Phrases/Points
0:00 [Kai] : Interview with Nandini Mehta on the 21st of December (2015) in Sujan Singh Park. So Nandini can you start by ...by telling me essentially where you came from and how you got into journalism when you started.

0:19 [NM] : So I came back from America in 1969 with an MA in Political Science and absolutely clear that what I wanted to do was to work in a daily newspaper. Sort of being in the thick of things. And I came back, I went for an interview to the Statesman.

0:38 [Kai] : In Delhi?

0:39 [NM] : In Delhi, which was then a leading Delhi paper, which it's no longer is. And they hired me as an apprentice at 200 Rs. a month and put me on the news desk.

0:53 [Kai] : This is in the year?

0:54 [NM] : 1969. 

0:56 [Kai] : And who was the Editor? Whom did you speak to?

0:58 [NM] : The Editor, the Resident Editor than was Kuldip Nayar. And I started on the news desk. I was there for six months. And then they moved me to the reporting section and gave me the New Delhi Municipal Corporation beat. Plus, I had to do night duty also. So, you know, crime and stuff like that, which was then fun. And I was the first woman to be hired by the Statesman

1:30 [Kai] : My god!

1:31 [NM] : And one of the things that I found was there was no toilet for women. There were only urinals. Of course the Editor had a attached bathroom so I was given permission to use the Editor's bathroom.

1:44 [Kai] : This sounds familiar....sounds a bit like Outlook.

1:47 [NM] : And the Statesman was an old fashioned kind of place so it still kind of colonial...had a lunch room where for 1 rupee we got a three-course meal, which consisted of dishes like hanging gilassy, otherwise Hungarian goulash and on Wednesdays we went native and we had ball curry what they called which was kofta curry. And we used to get a Christmas pudding at Christmas with an eight anna coin inside it. Everyone used to scramble to get that piece. So that was my early days.

2:27 [Kai] : And the next on tell me a little bit more about that what other characters were with you.

2:33 [NM] : Well there were lots of interesting characters in the newsroom. I remember on the news desk when I was ...when I first started there was...there were all these rather grumpy old men, and one of them at 11:30 at night used to crack a raw egg against his glass and then knock it back in and one day he got a bad egg and it went down. Then you know at that time The London Times correspondent Peter Hazlehurst used to share...used to work out of the reporters' room in the Statesman. And I have to say he was a South African and he had come from the one of the Johannesburg papers, and then left South Africa, and being someone quite strongly anti-Apartheid I learnt a lot of my reporting from Peter Hazlehurst. 3:25 He was a very good guide and he would tell an angle for a story or what to go after, ideas and that was a great learning experience. 

3:35 [Kai] : But you...did you ..were you on a political beat at all now or was Municipality as far as it got?

3:39 [NM] : What I did for the first political beat was the 19...was it '71 elections ... yes...I covered Indira Gandhi during a Delhi and Haryana, together with the Staff Reporter who then was the famous Raghu Rai. 

3:57[Kai] : Staff Reporter? 

3:58 [NM] : Staff Photographer. ---- [Kai : Photographer, right?] ---- Staff Photographer. So we used to go off and cover her election tours. 

4:05 [Kai] : And did you get to interact with her personally or any other aides?

4:10 [NM] : No. I remember I always wondered how she could manage to hold up without going to the loo ever! You know for hours on end we would start off at 6 in the morning and 8 at night she'd still be going. And I remember` once somewhere in the environs of Qutub Minar which was then all agricultural land, I said to Raghu, I said, 'Raghu I simply have to go, you know, so let's go into those sugarcane fields or mustard fields or whatever was there.' And I went ...as soon as I went in was ..about to squat a whole bunch of security people popped up from there. Another time we arrived ahead of her and I could dusty and this was somewhere in Haryana, and I had my dark glasses on and my head covered. I wore a saree always in those days. 

5:02 [Kai] : So you were looking similar to ....

5:04 [NM] : And yes they all thought...Raghu Rai was Rajiv Gandhi or Sanjay Gandhi and I was Indira and we kind of stole their show because the crowds came and threw garlands and mob dust and so forth. 5:15 Political story of the day.

5:23 [NM] : Then I left journalism from about the end of '71 until 1978 because my husband went abroad and I went with him. I was kind of cut off from it.

---Background of NM

---Came to India from US after finishing MA in Political Science in 1969.

---NM joined the Statesman as an apprentice at Rs 200/month in 1969 –News Desk.

---Kuldip Nayar as the Editor in the Statesman --- NM started at the News Desk and then moved to Reporting section after 6 months- New Delhi Municipal Corporation beat—night duty

---First woman to be hired by Statesman.

---no toilets for women—had permission to use Editor’s exclusive bathroom.

---No women’s bathroom at Outlook either.

--- On ambiance of Statesman---continuation of colonial styles.

--On co-workers

--- many grumpy old men---one would crack raw egg and knock it back at 11:30 prompt.

---Peter Hazlehurst, the London Times correspondent sit at Statesman.—NM learnt a lot from him.

---his advice

---NM covered Indira Gandhi during 1971 election with Raghu Rai in Delhi and Haryana.

--- NM did not interact with Indira Gandhi personally.

--two funny anecdotes from the field.

--- NM left journalism in 1971 as her husband was posted in Czechoslovakia.

5:35 [Kai] : Your husband was in the diplomatic service?

5:36 [NM] : Yes…yes... we went to Czechoslovakia and then from there to Bhutan.

5:42 [Kai] : And was this also I mean ...an impediment to your ...I mean apart from being out of the country was it a constraint that it was difficult for you to be a journalist because your husband was a government servant?

5:54 [NM] : Yes, because you know the Ministry of External Affairs had a rule that while wives were allowed to do certain kinds of jobs like teaching, this was conflict of interest and we were not allowed to work as journalists. 6:06 So I did not work as a journalist in all those years.

6:10 [Kai] : But now in '78 though you were still married so how was it that you ...

6:13 [NM] : Once when you're abroad you couldn't. 

6:15 [Kai] : I see.

6:16 [NM] : That was the thing. Then when I came back in '78 I joined ...it was one of Delhi's or India's first features magazine. It was called New Delhi run by the ABP group (Ref.: Ananda Bazar Patrika Group) And Khuswant Singh was the Editor. And I worked there for a year and a half and then Khuswant moved to the Hindustan Times and he took me with him. 

6:44 [Kai] : But tell me a little more about... about the New Delhi magazine

6:48 [NM] : New Delhi magazine it was kind of long form journalism...a little ahead of its time. For we did do a political stories, we did culture, we did international affairs 

7:04 [Kai] : And by now Khuswant Singh was not in with the Gandhis’ anymore? or was he?

7:09[NM] : No, he still was in fact in with the Gandhis because Gandhi came back to power in 1980, and he became a Rajya Sabha Member. I think it was in 1979 or 1980 that he was very much because he had stayed loyal to them through the Emergency and this was his little reward but he still remained a hands-on editor in that he would come back to the office every night at 9 O' Clock and wrap up the issue and look at all the pages. 7:43 Scan {CHECK the FIRST WORD} copy of the Hindustan Times space. It was really a kind of an interlude. 

7:50 [Kai] : And what kind of stories were you doing at New Delhi Magazine or were you on the Desk or what?

7:56 [NM] : Well, I remember doing stuff on Iran Revolution which happened then, which nobody was ever terribly interested but I was. I did a story on people who had collaborated with the Brits in the 40s, and it included some...a lot of RSS (Ref.: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu group) people who had been informers. 8:18 I remember that one. Otherwise there were kind of softer features. 

8:25 [Kai] : And ...and in HT ?

8:28 [NM] : In Hindustan Times I headed their weekend sections- Saturday and Sunday. And again we had I would say there was no real hard political stories that I did myself but I did assign my team to them. 

8:45 [Kai] : But did you feel you were being streamed in a particular direction because you were a woman as well or?

8:50 [NM] : Yes, I think in that ...the hard political stuff never came my way...I was put into that features kind of softer stuff at Hindustan Times and certainly at the Statesman except for the crime beat which I did cover, because there was nobody else on night duty that night....otherwise it was very much a softer stuff...cultural profiles, interviews with famous people `that kind of stuff.

9:20 [Kai] : But not politicians so much?

9:22 [NM] : No, I think I did do a couple of politicians like when the congress spilt happened or was it the Congress split or I did do a couple of Congress leaders. There was not much of an Opposition, you know at the end of 6s..1969-70.   It didn't really count for very much. 

9:43 [Kai] : But by now in this phase in ..in '79-80, you must have encountered other women ...women journalists.

9:51 [NM] : I did an interview I remember of quite a exclusive interview with Maneka Gandhi for a Hindustan Times....just about the time she split with her mother-in-law. ----[Kai : okay] ----I assigned one of my reporters to travel with Rajiv Gandhi who had just come into politics after his brother died. 10:12 We did do some politics but not very hard stuff.

10:19 [Kai] : And you didn't focus on building your own network of contacts in ...in the political world?

10:29 [NM] : In the sense that I would ...I would commission stuff to be written and there were MPs and so on my radars to write. 

10:38 [Kai] : Did you hire other women since?

10:43 [NM] : Yea, I did ...I didn't hire consciously women or men or whoever I thought was right for the job. For example, at the Hindustan Times one of the people whom I hired as an intern Navtej Sarna, who's now the High Commissioner in London. He was bright young kid who wanted to learn journalism. Then I took another longish break ..went off to Paris....husband.

--- move to Bhutan

--- Rule of Ministry of External Affairs---wives allowed employment in certain sectors like teaching.

---- NM joined journalism once back in India in 1978 ---joined New Delhi of ABP Group --- Khuswant Singh as editor---- when Khuswant Singh moved to HT, he took NM too with him.

---More on New Delhi

--Ahead of its time- mix of political, culture, international affairs

-- Khuswant Singh still in Gandhi’s good book—made Rajya Sabha Member as a reward for his support to them during Emergency.

--- Khuswant Singh still hands-on at HT.

---Profile of NM at New Delhi

­---NM did a story on Indian collaborators with Brit in 40s. esp. RSS.

---NM at HT

---NM did the weekend sections ---assigned tasks to her team.

---On being cornered because of her gender.

--yes, because no hard political work came her way…mostly features.

---NM did interview a few politicians as there was no Opposition as such.

-Any encounter with women journalists in 79-80?

---NM did an exclusive interview with Maneka Gandhi after her quarrel with Indira Gandhi.

---NM assigned one to follow Rajiv Gandhi as he entered politics.

---NM had a list of MPs she wanted to or to be pursued.

---was unbiased in hiring people---competent.

--hired Navtej Sarna.

---NM left journalism as her husband posted to Paris in 1982.

11:10 [Kai] : This was when?

11:12 [NM] ; This was ...1982 but from there I wrote a monthly letter from Paris. 

11:19 [Kai] : For? The Hindustan Times?

11:20 [NM] : For the Hindustan Times----- [Kai : I see. ] ---- Again it was softer kind of cultural lifestyle stuff from Paris. But that's all that I was allowed to do.11:29 I couldn't remain on the  [FEW WORDS inaudible {TOO MUCH BACKGROUND DISTURBANCE] Well it was an interesting experience in that...this was the time when all those cultural festivals of India were happening. And then I got a job which I applied for as the Press Attaché of the Festival of India in France. So that got me in touch with a lot of French journalists...cultural figures like Peter Brook, 11:58 [NAME UNCLEAR] and so many others, and then when I came back, one of the people I met in Paris as Press Attaché was Vinod Mehta who had started the Sunday Observer in Bombay and was planning to then open a Delhi edition. So I think a week before I left Paris, come back to India, he phoned me...in those days these transatlantic calls were very rare, and he said, 'will you join my paper in Delhi?' And I said, 'yes.' He said, 'when are you back?'  I said, '5th of May.' He said, 'join from the 6th.'  I said, 'okay'. And I did. and it was, you know ...there was a real baptism by fire because we were a shoe string budget, tiny staff and trying to bring out well ..it was the first Sunday paper in Delhi. 

12:56 [Kai] : And what was your role?

12:57 [NM] : I was a New Editor, which meant again commissioning and writing stuff on my own and production too...the whole lot. So I would never go home before 2 O’clock at night. And brought out a good paper but I did found that I couldn't keep up with the hours. And I applied to the Indian Express who was looking for somebody...they were moving their ..again their weekend sections from Bombay to Delhi. 13:30 So I applied, I was interviewed by Suman Dubey who then Editor- and Chief, and given the job. And again joined straightaway. 

13:37 [Kai] : Again for the weekend section you said?

13:39 [NM] : Yes, the weekend section was fairly political. In that way always had a news and review kind of political cover story. I did also handle the Wednesday Edit page-midweek. But these went to all editions of the Express. The weekend and the Wednesday Edit Page. And the Bofors scandal was at its height. And Express was deeply involved with that and it was a very political place. Then they, I think they also had lot of run-ins with the Rajiv Gandhi's government which had come up by then. This was 1986.

14:28 [Kai] : At this time the management .... the ownership of the Express was committed to.... ------ [NM interjects Ramnath Goenka was the Editor] ----  ... pursing the...(left incomplete)

14:35 [NM] : Ramnath Goenka was the Editor and the owner...not the editor. He was the owner, but a very hands-on owner. And among the things that happened then was a lock-out that was organised we think, it was clear with the connivance with the Government of the day to shut down the Express14:54 So at that point they shut down the Delhi Edition. I used to fly to.... (interrupted by Kai's query)

14:59 [Kai] : So that was called by the trade union?

15:02 [NM] : Yes, but they had their...their...captive trade union people who worked with the Congress at that time. So I used to fly to Bombay every weekend and bring out the weekend Supplement from there. 15:16 It was quite exciting.

15:17 [Kai] : And did you interact with Goenka yourself at all?

15:19  [NM] : Very much so. During the lock-out, he used to have a house in Sunder Nagar, and I used to go and work out of there when I was in Delhi and eat that very extremely frugal fair that used to be provided in the Goenka household because usually some watery vegetable and a couple of chapattis, and that was it. 15:40 And he would be running and saying -Give me the despatch, I'm going to the telex machine and he revelled in all of this. Arun Shourie then took over from Suman Dubey. And ...

15:54 [Kai] : Suman Dubey was in-charge while the Express was going after the government for Bofors or? 

15:58 [NM] : No, Suman Dubey did not quit over this ...whole Bofors...enquiring that the Express launch.

16:05 [Kai] : He wasn't comfortable with it personally or he though it was wrong or?

16:08 [NM] : I think he was such a close friend of Rajiv Gandhi that he found it untenable and he then subsequently joined as Rajiv's Information Advisor I think or something he joined to Government...Suman Dubey...and his brother-in-law Arun Shourie took over.

16:24 [Kai] : Fascinating. 

16:26 [NM] : So those were exciting times. I remember the day when we tried to break the lock-out. And the Delhi Police came in its van and put us...took us all into their ...their lock-up in Daryaganj Police Station where we fed on Tandoori chicken, chole (Ref: Chickpea) and stuff and let off. 16:49 But we did get locked up for day. And then eventually we broke the lockout the whole bunch of us. Then there was another ...another period after the Emergency...after the Bofor sting was over and ...I'm trying to remember the sequence...17:10 Yes, we went on strike...at the Express ... the whole bunch...all the journalists.

17:15 [Kai] : I see...on what issue?

17:16 [NM] : Because this was the...there was a wage board for journalists...forget whether it was Pannikar or was some other. Now during this whole Bofors' period where the Express had gone through difficult times, we all agreed that we will not take salary raises and we will take salary cuts because the paper was...

17:36 [Kai] :...struggling ...

17:38 [NM] : ....struggling . 

17:39 [Kai] : I see...so I mean it impacted the advertising?

17:43 [NM] : Yes, completely. The government absolutely cracked down and there had been that long lock out and all of this. And so when I think it was the V.P. Singh government that came back into power. Came into power, I think that was '89 was it? When the government lost the vote of confidence in Parliament....I'm not sure ---- [Kai : Yeah] ----

18:09 [Kai] : I've forgotten the year myself. It's okay

18:11 [NM] : but the V. P. Singh Government came and Mandal and all that stuff. Anyway we thought that now we can implement the wage board, which is an act of Parliament so you are bound to it really to do it. 18:26 And Ramnath Goenka said- No, I'm not going to do it. So then we said well...we'll go on strike. And it was a strike. And that was long strike.

18:34 [Kai] : How long?

18:36 [NM] : I think it was six months. 

18:37 [Kai] : WOW!

18:38 [NM] : Yea! Eventually we went to the Supreme Court - us journalists. And we won.

18:46 [Kai] : So the paper shut down for six months or they came out? 

18:48 [NM] : Lot of people broke the strike....some of us held out. I was one of them. 

18:57 [Kai] : Remember some names  of who ...who were the scabs ...?

19:00 [NM] : One of them was ...don't want to say this...

19:03 [Kai] : All right, it'll be a matter of record so...okay.

19:09 [NM] : But we walked back in triumphantly and ...

19:13 [Kai] : And were given your raises?

19:15 [NM] : Yes, we got our raises and... 

19:17 [Kai] : Did Goenka speak ...address you all personally or..?

19:20 [NM] : No, he did not. He didn't come to Delhi during that time but then the Mandal agitation ratcheted it up and he sacked Arun Shourie over night by a message on telex saying that - You are removed as an Editor. (Dtd. c.1990). And I think after that Prabhu Chawla came from India Today to the Indian Express. I didn't get on with him. 19:45 And I quit.

--NM wrote a monthly letter to HT on cultural stuff.

---Acted as a Press Attaché of the Festival of India in France –met Peter Brook, ______ and other figures.

----On return to India, NM joined Delhi edition of Sunday Observer.

---Trials at Delhi edition- shoe string budget, scanty staff so a challenge.

--On NM’s role here.

---writing, commissioning, production.

---found the hours taxing so resigned.

---joined Indian Express’ weekend section which they were moving to Delhi---Interviewed by Suman Dubey (Editor and Chief)

----fairly political—also handled Wednesday edit-page.

--Time of Bofors scandal.

--Express had run-ins with Rajiv Gandhi’s Government. –Time 1986.

---Ramnath Goenka, the owner---had a personal bone to pick with Gandhis---his business interests suffered.

--incident of a lock-out in cahoots with Rajiv Gandhi’s Government- Delhi office of Express shut down—NM used to fly to Bombay for work.

---Lock out led by trade union in cahoots with Congress.

--- Interactions with Goenka he personally suffered—had to sell his wife’s jewels.

---Arun Shourie joined Express after Suman Dubey.

---Suman Dubey was a friend of Rajiv Gandhi and left because he was uncomfortable and joined as Rajiv’s Information Advisor.

---more on the lock out and attempts to break it.

--- day out in Daryaganj jail.

---breaking of the lockout post Bofors.

---strike by Express journalists.

---over revoking their willing agreement to accept pay cut during Emergency in face of Express’ financial troubles.

---Cracked on Express and advertisements.

---Once V. P. Singh’s government came to power thing stabilised sought to implement the wage board---Goenka’s refusal met with a 6 months strike.

---Journalists went to Supreme Court and won.

---Express continued to be in print as some journalists broke up from strike.

-Mandal Commission Goenka sacked Arun Shourie.

---Shourie replaced with Prabhu Chawla of India Today.

19:49 [Kai] : Any anecdote of confrontation with him or you just found unpleasant working with him?

19:53 [NM] : Yea, there were many. He was always trying to say- insert such and such thing into the story. He had his little scores to settle, which he was always trying to do, which I found (inaudible)..

20:06 [Kai] : But you felt he was clearly politically affiliated or...

20:10 [NM] : Yes, he was politically ...he wanted to settle (a) personal scores, he had a massive chips on his shoulder, he was altogether a thoroughly unscrupulous, unethical person. I didn't want to work with him.

20:21 [Kai] : But did you feel he was allied with a particular party or...

20:22 [NM] :Whereas let's say I mean Arun Shourie had political views that I did not agree with  but one could respect the man in other ways. He didn't try to do this sort of thing. So then I left the Express. This was I think in '92 perhaps. And then my husband got posted to Central Asia and I went off.

20:49 [Kai] : Okay, so now the break?

20:50 [NM] : And then I only came back in 1999.And I looked to get back in journalism but there was nothing happening. I didn't anything. Well I was called to the Hindustan Times and offered a job there- Delhi Times Editor. And I said - no, I'm the wrong person for Page 3 and all these, ...those things so I didn't take that job.

And then three or four years later, I get a call from Vinod Mehta one day saying- what are doing? you belong in journalism, come back. So I did. I went to Outlook. I was there for five years. 

21:35 [Kai] : Yes, I remember you from there. Where you were features editor from the beginning?

21:39 [NM] : Features Editor from the first year and then Managing Editor. 21:45 So it meant the whole {CHECK ONE WORD] boom....very much writing myself but I did commission. 

21:54 [Kai] : And ...and that was your last journalistic stint?

21:59 [NM] : Yes, and Vinod kind of stepped down , I left Outlook, you know.

---NM quit as Prabhu Chawla did not work fair…settled personal scores through news stories.

---One could respect Arun Shourie.

----NM moves to Central Asia.

---NM returned to India in 1999--- but could not enter the journalism again.

---Offered a job at Delhi Times as editor but refused as not her cup of tea.

---Call from Vinod Mehta to join Outlook as Features Editor there for five years ---met Kai too.

---worked s Features Editor and Managing Editor.

----last journalistic stint---stepped down when Vinod Mehta left.

22:06 [Kai] : Tell me it’s going back a bit but you were talking earlier about the other women journalists who you knew and when there weren't too many of you around. Who were they and how well did you know them?

22:20 [NM] : Well when I started in the Statesman...Hindustan Times had two women journalists. One was Prabha Dutt, the other was Usha Rai. And Indian Express had Razia Ismail. So there were really just four of us. Then towards the end of my stint at the Statesman, Madhu Jain joined. And I think right after that Tavleen Singh. 

22:44 [Kai] : okay

22:46 [NM] : One of the things I did Express was start a column by ..start ..you know I could commission ...so I can claim to have given Shashi Tharoor his first column, Tavleen Singh her first column, Ram Guha's first published piece in the press, Mukul Keshvan...some of these 

23:16 [Kai] : I also want... I mean some sense from you about the trajectory of ...of the Indian print media in your own career. 23:30 Do you think things have changed substantially in ...in terms of the independence of ...of ..of a print media.

23:44 [NM] : I think the print media was much more independent. Well say those early days there was no really Opposition. The Congress was in power. I wasn't here during the Emergency years but before that it was fairly tame. And there were, you know, your political correspondents were all very thick with the politicians and they're so called scoops were always just little shared leaks where the government brought out the line that it wanted to bring out. 24:15 By the time joined the Express in the mid-80s, it was a much more politicised world. We had...let's say Ramnath Goenka was an unusual newspaper editor in that he was willing to take on the Government at a huge cost to his...to his business interests...at really tremendous cost, I know that he sold his wife's jewellery and did all sorts of things. 24:42 So it was a very heady time to be in journalism and I did a lot of actual political reporting at that time apart from other things I covered all the elections for the Express and planned their coverage...election coverage. And nobody ever censored a story or told me - don't write this or write that. For example, I did predict that Rajiv Gandhi was going to loose and those stories were forth and he did lose.

I think again Outlook was again a very independent editor whose owners, whose proprietors gave him a fairly freehand. It didn't feel particularly any interference but I think today it’s a much more corporatized world the print...the print media and certainly television too. But I think the kind of people who came into journalism in my later years were far better than when I started out. 25:51 I mean they were people with a real vocation at least the men were. Otherwise the men who tended to go into journalism were either losers or people who wanted proximity to power and to hob-nob with the politicians and then get their things done; and that I mean journalists were forever taking favours from the government and things which today would not happen.

---On NM’s encounters with other women journalists.

--Prabha Dutt, Usha Rai, Razia Ismail and later Madhu Jain and Talveen Singh.

--Under NM, many prominent figures did their firsts prints in paper- Shashi Tharoor, Talveen Singh, Ram Guha, Mukul Keshvan.

---On changes in Print Media.

---Print media was difficult earlier lack of technology---narration of it.

---on kind of people who joined as journalists.

--Ramnath Goenka of a different mould.

---NM predicted Rajiv Gandhi’s defeat in elections.

---now media has become corporatized

---on types of journalists who entered.

--on links between the government and journalists.

26:20 [Kai] : Do you think it doesn't happen today and to the same degree?

26:23 [NM] : Maybe it does. 

26:26 [Kai] : But are you saying that in some sense you 26:31 see that the ...the ...that the media grew a spine after the Emergency and then lost it again?

26:38 [NM] : Yes, for a ....and then lost it again, I think because ...because of big business houses, which had other business interests investing more and more in television and print. Then the independence definitely, I think, though I personally did not experience it because I was lucky enough to work with Ramnath Goenka. He was a one of a kind. And then Vinod Mehta. 

27:07 [Kai] : Any particular story or assignment that you ...you treasure as a moment?

27:23 [Kai] : Or a low point?

27:26 [Kai] : Essential I am asking a high point or a low point?

27:31 [NM] : Well see the high point was covering elections 27:37 in Bihar. You get a real feel of how distant Delhi is. And what the concerns of people far away from Delhi are, which are, in the drawing room will tell you somebody don't get that sense. 27:56 It was a time when we worked under you know actually the mechanics of journalism were much more complicated and difficult in that there were no computers. At the Hindustan Times for example under Labour Law because it was hot metal printing we had to be given a glass of milk and a bitter moong dal every day to counteract lead poisoning. 

28:22 [Kai] : My goodness!

28:24 [NM] : So those things are became 28:27 {WORD in audible} almost but that's what it was then page make-up, I mean used to be done manually you know where you would print out and then paste up columns and all of that. Or when you were on an assignment reporting, you had to go to some telex office in the middle of nowhere and I...if there wasn't one then got on the telephone, and it took hours and hours to just dictate your story or two find that telex office and get that telex operator to send out your story to reach in time for...in a daily newspaper, those deadlines were important. 

29:10 [Kai] : I know you were not around during the Emergency and you weren't working but did you keep in touch with ...with journalists. Can you tell me a little about what...what....

29:22 [NM] : No, I actually didn't because (a) for much of that time I was in Czechoslovakia where we were completely cut-off because during the time it was part of the Soviet Bloc, and behind the Iron curtain. We didn't even get Indian newspapers. And or they would arrive every two weeks in a huge big bundle. So I was cut-off. I didn't really get a sense of what was happening. 29:53 So I didn't really

29:54 [Kai] : And in Czechoslovakia you wouldn't have faced any embarrassment about the Emergency?

29:58 [NM] : No I'm sure there fully behind Indira Gandhi. Similarly in Bhutan, I mean this was a time when Bhu...Bhutan was not connected by air. It took you three full days to reach there. So again you didn't get post, you didn't newspapers, there was no television. You got some radio news, and that was about it. So one really did feel quite cut-of. 

30:26 [Kai] : Lovely!

30:28 [NM] : I have nothing very interesting to tell you. 

30:30 [Kai] : Aree, it's a good story.

30:31 [NM] : No, it's not.

30:34 [Kai] : laughs.

--- on media growing spine post-Emergency.

--- yes media did grow spine but has lost it again because of business owner as investors in media.

---NM’s personal high point in career covering elections and understanding ground realities of people living away from Delhi.

---Time of different mechanics of journalism—ex Labour Law required printers to be given milk and bitter moong dal to counter poisonous lead printing processes.

--- on how newspaper was brought together sans computers.

---On any experience of Emergency by NM.

---None as NM completely cut-off being on Czechoslovakia.

---cut-off while in Bhutan too.

---NM admits that her story isn’t really exciting or has details.

Interview Ends