The Scribe Remembered by Dr. K Saradamoni
This is a book about the life and times of N. Gopinathan Nair, also known as Janayugom Gopi, a journalist who is remembered, among many other things, for developing the Janayugom as the definitive voice of the CPI in his country.
This memoire is edited by K Saradamoni, the wife of the journalist N. Gopinathan Nair. He was a journalist who at the age of twenty five started and edited the paper Janayugom in KeralaIndia. He was a courageous pioneer in the trade union movement in Kerala. He later moved toDelhi, where he was mainly a special correspondent reporting on various socio-political developments and the Parliament proceedings first for the Patriot daily newspaper and later for the united news agency. He was described as a ‘frank fearless and principled journalist’.
The book is bi-lingual, Malayalam and English. Besides the contents, preface and acknowledgement, the book has a major section where one gets a representative selection of Nair’s articles in both languages.
The book has three parts:
1 Delhi Days (his writings)
2 The Obituaries
3 The Memories.
The ‘Delhi Days’ is a description and analysis, of epic proportions, of the developments from 1962 to 1989. Even after moving to Delhi he followed developments in Kerala with keen interest. Along with assignments in his new workplace, he wrote incisive articles on issues including industrial policies, agriculture, land reforms and the problems in food shortages, education and the changes in social relations and much more about Kerala.
The excerpts from the newspapers included are informative and comprehensive historical records of a time of great change. The mammoth tasks of social reforms are recalled and the first organisations in Kerala were caste and social reform organisations, but there were limitations to their power. There was a growing realisation that the British colonial domination had to be put to rest. There are descriptions of the first trade unions, peasant revolts, and the beginning of true socialism. Gopinathan reported on all areas of development, social, scientific, educational and political. There seemed to be a total integrity to his reporting which gained him great respect. He was able to handle journalism and politics together and was renowned for his fairness in reporting any situation regardless of his own opinions.
When reporting on the election of Indira Gandhi with Tyrrell Burgess, Gopinathan gives a wonderful background to this event from the time of Nehru’s death which is a colourful historical record of the political progress and development of that time. His writing is straightforward, factual and very very well informed.
A thousand miles away from our modern journalism, which relies on sensationalism and believes history only goes back as far as their last edition. This journalist had great challenges, some competition, opposition and financial, and always realised that readers don’t just want political news they want a wide variety of all kinds of subjects including sports and film news, human interest stories and very interestingly, elephant stories as Malayalee people are very fond of Elephants.
The Obituaries section of the book is a compilation of writing from friends, neighbours, colleagues, and businessmen. He is held in the highest regard by all as an honest and intelligent man of integrity in his personal life and his profession. Just to singe out a few, the tribute from N.D. Dev, states that he spent six months in prison with the journalist and felt that every day spent with him was a lasting political education. Another from V.Lakshmanan, who said that the early days were fraught with financial worries, Gopinathan, had days when he did not eat and he walked five or six miles twice a day in order to get to work to bring out the Janayugom.
The Memories section is another compilation of tributes from family and friends. He is remembered personally for his kindness and warm smile and calm nature and his compassion for common people. The editor of the Straits Times Singapore, Ravi Veldor said,
‘…one can only be grateful to have had the opportunity of spending a little time in his shadow.
This book is very well put together and informative and the use of language is wonderful. I found some of the history heavy reading but this may have been because it was all new to me, so I learned a lot. It is truly historical literature. I can also say it was a privileged to have the opportunity to read the book carefully and learn about a man who is now a legend.
I am also grateful to Dr. K. Saradamoni for allowing me to spend some time in her shadow.