Sunday, September 14, 2003

125 years and going strong

The Old Lady of Mount Road is celebrating her 125th birthday. I have a been reading it for atleast 15 years now. Yeah, I was a early starter with it and usually headed for the last pages to get the daily update on my cricket and other sports as per the season. These days, I usually go to the Tamilnadu section of the Southern States page of the online edition.

In my house, The Hindu was usually handed to me via my cousin. My father left early in the morning, often meeting the newspaper boy at the door when he left. But sometimes, if I was lucky I got it first when my cousin was brushing his teeth or heading for his morning ablutions. But he was sure to snatch it from me as soon he was ready to read it. But after he got married, I got first shot almost everyday, spending a quality 15 minutes everyday. And according to my mother, everytime I got delayed for school, it was always because I chose to spend time with the "Hindu paper" rather than putting my school books into the bag or filling my water bottle. And whenever it was our class's turn with the news during the morning assembly at school, I had to spend another 10 minutes at least to make sure that I got valid reasons to say "This is Ananthanarayan with the morning news hoping that your news isn't bad news", a la-Clark Kent. Hence the Hindu was as good a part of my life as cricket or the Hardy Boys.

When in college, I spent time each day at the college library checking out the news in the Hindu and also for other unmentionable reasons. And in college I also became hooked on the word games, the Sunday crossie and the weekly Discovery Channel Quiz in the Indian Express. So much that even in Chennai, I bought the Express every Sunday much to my mom's chargrin that I read not one, but two newspapers.

Here in the US, its the online editions. Though I have almost stopped reading the Express, due to the time zones, The Hindu is almost always my first read in the early afternoon, when it is usually updated. I wish they would improve the design of the online edition, but then the whole charm would be gone.

The Hindu has always had a reputation of being a staid newspaper without any sensationalism. So much that even when a certain N.Godse broke a million hearts by killing Gandhiji, The Hindu still was calm enough to put news of this incident and subsequent happenings not on the first page, but in one of the inside pages. Its another fact that in 1948, The Hindu used to have only ads on the first page. But its exemplary that they did not want to change their usual activities even at the face of such extraordinary news. Btw, does someone know whether this same practice was followed when India became independent?

Closer to present, I heard that R.Mohan, one of the foremost cricket journalists in the nation, had to resign his position in The Hindu's staff when his name came up in connection with the match fixing scandal. Though his name was mentioned only in passing and he was never really even censured, he still had to leave on the instructions of the Hindu's top brass.

The Hindu is one of the familiar sights that I remember from my childhood and reading it is one of those things that I hope to do for a long time now.

UPDATE: Dunno how i missed this, but there are atleast two instances of highly sensationalised investigative journalism from the Hindu, one of which I keenly followed. The other, I learnt after reading the special supplement today. I don't know how I missed mentioning about Chitra Subramanian and her Bofors investigative peices filed from Stockholm. I keenly followed the case and for a time was the in-class expert on the Bofors 155mm Howitzer. I have heard she was pregrant during the time she spent in Sweden covering the case. In that way, she reminds me of Chief Marge Gunderson from Fargo

The second case (which predated the above mentioned Bofors series by atleast 80 years) was the The Crash of Arbuthnot & Co.. Arbuthnot & Co was one of the Big Three companies in the then Madras Presidency, the other two being Binny and Co. and Parry and Co. and was a big player in South Indian commerce and had financial interests even in the American Railroad and South African gold mining. It was a banking firm, the precursor of the numerous nidhis and chitfunds of the recent past. The Hindu then was just finding its feet and when Arbuthnot & Co. crashed, it became the mouthpeice of the affected investors who ranged from small families to Maharajas of various princely states. This opposition indirectly led to the incorporation of the first ever "Native" bank, "a bank which depended on the savings of those in the South had to be incorporated locally and managed by Indians who were locally known and respected", which a couple of years ago, ironically fell into the bad times that befell its predecessor too - Indian Bank. If that is not irony, what is ?

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