January 24, 2007

B2B: Dr.Basu of India Weekly

Kini, in his latest post, says I forgot to mention the media oligarch, Dr Tarapada Basu, who brought out London’s India Weekly in the sixties. A great soul (despite what Kini says).Tarada, as he was fondly addressed among the local Bangla crowd, was undisputed doyen of London-based Indian journalists of his days.

Representing Hindustan Standard, Calcutta, Dr Basu was much bigger than the professional designation he held. He was un-ransferable, unlike his colleagues in Hindustan Times, Indian Express and The Times of India, who came and went away from London once in three years or so.

A generous host, Dr Basu knew how to take care of his Calcutta boss, Mr Ashok Sarkar (if I got his first name right) of Ananda Bazaar Group.Mr Sarkar, along with Mr Tushar Ghosh of Amritha Bazaar Patrika, amd Mr Narasimhan of The Hindu made unfailing annual London visits (or was it twice yearly?) to attend Commonwealth Press Union meetings. Dr Basu set up meetings for them with higher British bureaucracy. He also ensured that the India High Commission hosted a reception for the visiting media barons.

Dr Basu was generous enough to allow India Weekly minions, such as yours truly, to use his office space at Carmellite St. If Kini and I can claim to have worked off the famed Fleet Street, it was due to Dr. Basu’s generosity. Had it not been for his patronage India Weekly would have operated from a garage in Southall or Shepherds Bush. Dr Basu once sent me on a week-long tour of England, sponsored by the Commonwealth Press Office. We were taken to Birmingham, Manchester, and some other towns, put up at five-star hotels, driven around in Austin Princess. Everywhere we went they lined up meetings for us with the mayor, local industrialists and other VIPs.

The press tour was for a group of journalists from Commonwealth countries. We were six of us, representing newspapers from Canada, Australia, Pakistan and India. The invitation was for Hindustan Standard. Dr. Basu made me its ‘representative’ for the purpose of the press tour. Who wouldn’t have nice thoughts for such a man? On another occasion, the Indians Association in Manchester invited Dr Basu to be the chief guest at their Independence Day function. He deputed me. I was required to make a speech, and take questions from the audience. I guess I was able to mask my nervousness from the audience. If my hosts on the dais noticed, they were decent enough not to embarrass me or report it to Dr. Basu.

Kini makes a reference to Goger, the Fleet St. pub we used to frequent. Would like to draw his attention to a zine5 piece I did some time back – My Fleet Street Stint.

Related items on B2B thread:
A blog-to-blog chat
Confusing chronology
Our Fleet St. Days

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