Some people, especially journalists, are going about saying that Mr. Rajiv Gandhi has failed miserably in his new job. This is far from true. The director-general of Doordarshan was telling me this morning: "What has been Indian Airlines loss has been Doordarshan's gain."
"I do not see the connection," I said.
"I thought that was obvious," the director-general said. "Ever since Mr. Gandhi left his job with Indian Airlines and started working full-time with Doordarshan, the quality of our programmes has improved beyound recognition. You know, his mother was quite right in getting him into television."
"In what specific manner has Mr. Gandhi's employment with Doordarshan improved the programmes?" I asked.
"Is there need for me to enumerate!" the director-genral said. "He is our main and often only newsgatherer. Do you realise that 90 per cent of the present news would not be there if Mr. Gandhi was not with us. Say, instead of him, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee had been appointed by Doordarshan, hat news would there have been. Though, between you and me, I can tell you that Mr. Mukherjee was never considered by Doordarshan."
"Travelogues, for one thing. Till Mr. Gandhi joined our services, the cameras never used to go beyond Doordarshan studios at its various centres. At the most to a cricket ground for a Test. Now Mr. Gandhi takes his camera crew all over the country, to Bastar villages, Kerala fishermen's settlements, little forgotten places in the Rajasthan desert, the hills of Mizoram. And what incisive interviews he conducts with the villagers, no doubt prompted by his assistant, Mani Shankar Aiyer. I tell you, if Mani Shankar were to be a little better groomed, he would also make an excellent TV personality. Then we would not require the likes of M. J. Akbar."
"We have no complaints on that score," the director-general said. "He has a pleasant smile, like Siddhartha Basu's, though of late he has started frowning a little Mr. Gandhi, not Mr. Basu, and he dressed for the occasion, sometimes closed coat, sometimes blanket round the shoulder, sometimes in a jacket and tie, once in a while like Mr. Moti Daryanani. It is all good visual media, make no mistake."
"I won't," I said. "Then I can assume that you are completely satisfied with Mr. Gandhi's services with Doordarshan."
"Well, almost," the director-general said. "Mr. Gandhi has this one fault of criticising in public the minister for information and broadcasting, Mr. Vithal Gadgil. So many times we have tried to explain to him that he is only a professional, no matter how good, and should not challenge ministers. Tomorrow Mr. Gadgil may transfer him."