Sunday, September 22, 1996

KTWV01-Issue 12: Rathikant Basu

Hi Stephanians,

It is with a great deal of pleasure that I put pen to paper, or rather hammer away at the computer keyboard this week. I bring you the story of a fellow Stephanian who has hit the big time. My joy at bringing you this news is not only because is he a fellow Stephanian, but also a very dear friend.

Rathikant Basu was in his second year of his BA (Economics) when I joined college in 1960. As another Bombay Cathedralite to join Stephens along with me was Sujit Bhattacharaya (son of the then Governor of the Reserve Bank P. C. Bhattacharaya), a Bengali, Sujit's circle of friends in college became my friends as did mine become his.

One of those who joined our flock was Rathikant, already a member of Mukarji Court and resident in one of the upper storey rooms of T-Block.

Rathikant was a widely travelled individual and added a great deal of spice to our lives. If I remember correctly, he had been living in Sudan for several years prior to joining college. Rathikant had a great sense of humour and his sharp wit used to have us rolling with laughter. Yet he had a very unsupposing attitude and a completely simplistic approach to all around him.

When I finished college in 1963, Rathikant was going on to his final year of his MA and studying hard for his IAS entrance exam. He got into the IAS in 1964 and was part of the Gujarat Cadre of 1964.

In the mid-seventies when I was on a trip to Ahmedabad I accidently bumped into Rathikant. He was then the Muncipal Commissioner of the City. He had not lost his humouristic streak. He was a bundle of efficiency. I watched him go through a day's work with a keeness hardly seen in bureaucratic circles.

Rathikant's success at the helm of Doordarshan is well known. His last IAS stint has been as the Secretary of the Departement of Electronics where he has been busy ushering in the rapid change in the electronics sector in India. I am reasonably sure that the lowering of import duty on software was one of his moves as he has always been progressive in his approach to a problem. India's export boom of software has been only because of this opening of the inward flow of technology.

At the age of 54, Rathikant has now been hand-picked by world media moghul Rupert Murdoch to head the Hong Kong based Indian arm of Star TV, News Television India. Reports say that he has been offered an annual salary of $500000 plus a chauffer-driven Mercedes. Rathikant takes over from Gene Swinstead in October.

Rathikant has been given directives to Indianise the network's programming which presently is highly westernised. There could be no one better equipped for this job, as is well known from his activity under the former Information and Broadcasting Minister, K. P. Singh Deo. Rathikant is a highly focused individual as well as results oriented, so will undoubtedly deliver the goods.

As was succinctly put by THE WEEK in its September 15th issue, "Doordarshan reached its azimuth during Basu's term as Director-General."

Rathikant will liase with the Hong Kong based Director, Gene Davis, but network programming and commercial decisions will now be made in India.

I am sure all you Stephanians out there will join me in wishing Rathikant the very best in his new job. I hope that he will drive his arch competitor, his former paymaster, Doordarshan, to higher standards by bringing in top-notch competition in the Indian TV news spectrum.

End of Reminder Messages

I am afraid that I will need you to subscribe separately to be able to continue to receive these reminders as the whole process seems to have got out of hand with my postings touching about 3000 every fortnight and the number of wrong addresses resulting in returns amounting to about 10% every time. My mailbox is just crammed with returned messages so it takes me a while to get to my normal mail. Most of the returns are people who have registered and then not informed me about change of address, etc.

Our main site has expanded at such a remarkable pace that I am getting fully tied down with getting these three webletters up every fortnight and also getting the mailing list out that it has really not left me much time for the investigative journalism for which my web pages were originally created.

Hence Stephanians who want to get a reminder from me should send a SUBSCRIBE message to our email address as otherwise from the next issue you will not get any reminder.

More next week,


Your Editor Jacob Matthan

Or as Rathikant would say "Arre Jacob"..

Sunday, September 08, 1996

KTWV01-Issue 11: Passing Hindi

Hi Stephanians,

I was one of those last batches from school that did not have to take Hindi for my school final examination. I did English and French, having spent a few years toying with Latin, and having given up Marathi and Hindi as bad jokes.

When I joined Stephen's, Mr. Arya was quick to catch hold of me to impress on me that I had to pass the Compulsory Hindi examination if I wanted to get my final degree. I did not take him very seriously when I heard I could try to get through twice a year in all my three years. I was supremely confident that I would get those 35% sometime during that long stint in the college.

I did make an effort by attending Mr. Arya's lectures a couple of times, but besides getting through the alphabet, I do not think I got much further, despite all the help given to me by my friends. I learnt to speak a corrupt form of Hindi, mixed with Punjabi swear words during my time in college!!

I faithfully sat the exam each year, and faithfully failed it. Of course, during the last year I just did not have much time, as Physics, Chemistry and Maths were giving me enough trouble.

When I finished my final exam in May 1963, I called on Principal Sircar. It was then it dawned on me that even if I got through my degree I was unlikely to be awarded the degree till I passed my Hindi test, and if my plans to go to England to specialise in Plastics was to materialise, I just had a couple of months to learn a language and pass an exam I had flunked four times in the previous 3 years.

As soon as I reached Bombay I decided to solve my dilemma. I located a young Hindi teacher, Mr. Laxman, who was quite different from the usual mould. He promised to sit with me day and night, if necessary. His method was quite unique as he came to the classes with nothing but the Navbharat Times, knowing that I had read the Times of India early morning. With that background he got me to read the editorial, which was about the same as in the English edition, and in absolutely difficult Hindi.

At first it seemed gibberish, but having understood the English editorial a few hours earlier, within a couple of weeks I was quite enjoying reading the Hindi editorial, the references to the Dictionary gradually decreasing. Within 4 weeks I was managing the editorial on my own and even composing a couple of decent Hindi sentences.

I went to Delhi full of confidence in early September and when Mr. Arya met me he seemed confident that now, at least, I would get through. Sure enough, I passed with flying colours. I had already joined the University in England when the results came through and I felt more chuffed at having passed the Hindi exam than actually having passed my major subjects.

I think the trouble I had with Hindi was equivalent to a couple of my classmates who struggled with English - if I remember correctly they were from Modern School in Delhi, and although they could speak English as well as I could converse in Hindi, they were just as word blind as far as English was concerned as I was word blind to Hindi. Poor Rev. Jarvis used to go crazy trying to teach those guys just enough of English to pass the exam.

I wonder if these language exams are still part of the present system?

Editor Jacob Matthan