Once a journalist, always a journalist. Take my friend Inder Malhotra, once the senior journalist with ‘The Times Of India ‘, ‘Statesman', and several other national papers. He has retired since then, rather left the job with the ‘Times' in a huff and on a principle - management interference. There is a vital difference between the two.
However, to return to Inder Malhotra. He continues to write for several publications, syndicated articles, independent articles, independent articles. His articles adorn several edit pages, a lucid style, content, intellectual honesty, the highest degree of credibility.
There are a lot of senior retired journalists who contribute to various syndicates or have formed their own syndicates. Most of them sit in New Delhi and write, drawing on their vast experience. They write reasonably well and are useful members of the journalistic fraternity, though fringe members. Without their regular contributiosn, newspapers would have to hire on their staff senior writers, pay for their houses, cars, servants, telephones, space in the office. You get the same service from them by paying them a small fee. The going rate is Rs, 1,000 per article, which is a biggish sum to my mind, but not that big.
However, since most of them are desk-top writers, there are no fresh inputs in their work. This is not the case with Inder Malhotra. He is travelling aroudn the country at his own expense, meeting politicians, party worker, local journalists, attending political meetings, collecting facts and figures, analysing them. Once a reporter, always a reporter.
Inder Malhotra started life as a reporter. So did Girilal Jain and Kuldip Nayar. Which, when they rose in their careers, made them mobile editors. You read their edit page articles and read those of others. The other argue, debate, analyse, give opinions, sometimes pontificate, though not always. But the gentlemen I have mentioned, report. And, in this category, I must mention Tavleen Singh, she is, arguably, the best among them.
M.J. Akbar also is a travelling editor. I remember some of his earlier pieces, including one at a railway level-crossing, sitting in a dhaba, having tea and collecting political notes, while waiting for the tran to pass by. There is a collection of his reports on riots in various parts of the country. Read it if you can get hold of a copy. And, recently, we watched some of the World Cup matches, and, being a reporter-editor, he reported the games. His despatches had more life in them than most of the cricket correspondents!
So, Inder Malhotra was in town the last three-four days. He went to Aurangabad for the Thackeray meeting, which, tragically, did not take place. This morning, he left for Madras, from where he proceeds to Andhra. We will be reading his despatches shortly. Then we will get a rough idea of who is going to sin the election.