Brings Back Memories
T T Ram Mohan’s apt tribute to his latefather T T Vijayaraghavan (“Other Days, Other Times,” EPW, 25 March 2017) evokes fond memories of the fledgling economic journalism of the 1970s and 1980s. T T Vijayaraghavan was known affectionately as TTV in the Economic Times (ET), the leading economic daily of the day. I have particularly fond memories of this unique journalist who stood apart for his gentle demeanour and a sense of high professionalism from the loud-mouthed lot.
I joined the ET in 1971 during D K Rangnekar’s editorship. Rangnekar had a unique aura as a top-flight and scholarly journalist who is credited with laying a sound foundation for economic journalism and coverage of the corporate world. Nehruvian ideology and an obsession with a socialistic pattern of society (the resolution of the Avadi session of the ruling Congress party) underlay the intellectual dialogue. Anti-Americanism, still fresh in the aftermath of America’s devastating defeat in Vietnam and their subsequent withdrawal from that tiny country had given some heft to the verities of the ideologues of non-interventionist internationalism and a socialistic pattern of society. TTV was a witness to the most important events in the world and India. He had a balanced perspective on most developments and not surprisingly his writings reflected his personality. He was a dispassionate observer of economic and political developments of those decades. T T Ram Mohan has encapsulated the basic essence of his writings. Those days were really ecstatic and to my young mind, a bit idyllic. I was interested in books and after reading reviews in the ET, I coveted writing them myself. I was told to see TTV who was in charge of book reviews.
I very vividly remember this soft-spoken gentleman whose lanky figure had a slight stoop, walked gently in the corridor till he vanished into his cabin, rarely to be seen talking or gossiping in the editorial arena or the corridor on the third floor during the day. Most misunderstood his self-imposed isolation even amidst the otherwise cacophonous atmosphere of a daily newspaper as a sign of his stiff-upper-lip kind of British snobbery. Far from it, he was a British gentleman in every sense of the term. In a way he fitted the British tradition of faceless but forceful journalism and I am sure his gentle personality did not permit pompous permissiveness or loudmouth self-justifications that informed and still inform most journalists. He was the least political of the journalistic lot of those times and enjoyed a “majestic isolation,” submerging himself in his work with fierce fealty to the paper and old-world sincerity and dedication.
So I had a little trepidation in approaching him for a book to review. After I introduced myself to him and expressed my desire to review books for the paper, without a word he opened his cupboard behind his chair and fished out a few titles for me to choose from. I was really overwhelmed by the faith he showed in my ability to review books even as he continued to give me books for reviews. I was lucky to develop a certain bonhomie with him and I could see he did have a certain affection for me. After that began a fairly long association with this magnificent man and a humane personality that lasted till he left the ET in the early 1980s. While the ET was slightly towards the left-of-centre, the EPW was and is avowedly left to the centre on the ideological spectrum. The EPW continues to be the torchbearer of Indian intellectualism in its best sense even as ET has moved along “market capitalism” in its pragmatic sense. In those days, both these papers did have distinct Nehruvian lure. I vividly remember TTV’s gentle face, soft words, a willingness to listen to the other person and a patience to bear baloney that marked him apart from the rest of the journalist lot. I must say the ET staff in those days was extremely cooperative and friendly but TTV was unique in his own way.
S R Kasbekar
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