Experience: Ugly, Bad, Good!

 {who what  when went  where why how}

I am professionally akin to the migratory bird. Ask me how but do not read between the lines. I am a second-generation journalist with 20-years experience in print, television, public relations and online media. My father was a non-migratory creature and served for 20-plus years as a journalist in the Press Department of the USIS (United States Information Service) at the American Embassy seated in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.

Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, New Delhi

I schooled out from Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, New Delhi that was at a brisk-walking distance from my place. I did my Bachelors in English Honours at Hans Raj College in University of Delhi.

Hans Raj College

In New York

I backed it up with a Masters in Mass Communication and Public Relations.  My major growing up influences are Bruce Lee (Tao of Jeet Kune Do) and I  learnt Judo and Karate (Shotokan style). My major musical, satirical and anti-establishement influence is Frank Zappa (one of the greatest American avant-garde music composer, political rebel). I need a few moments to cock-a-hoop.

I have worked with diverse media companies (Newspapers, Tabloids, Magazines, TV channels & online portals both in India and abroad). I started my career with the Patriot newspaper in New Delhi, where I was given independent charge of the Editorial page and the Ideas & Book Reviews pages by the Associate Editor(s) J. Sri Raman (a prolific editorial writer and presently, columniston environment and nuclear-free world affairs), who taught me the finest points in headline writing and with my last boss at the Patriot newspaper –  Dr. John Dayal (at present, columnist and National Secretary of the All India Catholic Union and national convenor of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights) who read each of my ‘Jazz Yatra’ reviews enthusiastically.

Incidentally, that was a bipolar world; days of USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and  the ideological Cold War was at its zenith. I tasted/edited opinion articles penned by the likes of then CPSU Gen. Secy. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev and indoctrinaire articles written with flourish by most fine Indian diehard  Leftist ideologues such as Harkishen Singh Surjeet, Jyoti Basu et al. It wasn’t a happy feeling seeing the great Red Superpower bleed behind the iron curtain. Patriot was Leftist in ideology & content. I wasn’t! Can a jazz buff be a Communist? Perhaps, not. I was the ‘first person’ who ever wrote about jazz and covered the Jazz Yatras for Patriot (collar-up!). Some great jazz big bands keep sprouting now from the erstwhile Red Block. Fairly democratic.


My longest professional stint has been with India’s leading english daily Hindustan Times in the New Delhi office spanning nine-years. I joined HT at the News Desk, where eventually I juggled, as a copy editor, between the  nation and foreign pages. I was hailed for my headline skills and fondly called: The Headlines Man! by my peers and contemporaries like the DUJ supremo Javed Faridi  (also my political mentor) and illustrious editors viz. H.K Dua and Chandan Mitra. (The latter, now owns The Pioneernewspaper and is a BJP-backed Rajya Sabha MP).  The best compliment I ever won in HT was when the Deputy News Editor got a customary late evening phone-call from Mr. Chandan Mitra (CM)… “so what’s the page-1 anchor headline?” Tu Hai Meri Kiran…for real!” (when India’s lady supercop Kiran Bedi won the coveted Magsaysay Award; it was her husband’s reaction story). Is it by Chhabra?!

Some News Desk trivia: One christmas eve, an alliteration headline of mine got a prominent Page-1 top display in HT“Churches’ Chimes Cherish Christ”. It instigated me to collect good headlines. I made a collage out of mine! Out of bounds for Sotheby’s auction house. And, more recently, in 2008, while I was Associate Editor with news24online.com and  working in cohort with the wise, suave and seasoned  Portal Editor L. H Naqvi (ex-HT, ex-Tribune), one evening, the usually gregarious Naqvi ji walked up to me slowly, looking tired and groggy. I think it was past 9pm, “Ravi, you know Sania Mirza is upset with Bangaluru crowds. She has announced she will boycott playing there. Can you throw up some headlines fast?” I riposted “Sir, the only one that comes to mind is: SANIA GRAND SLAMS BANGALORE!“.  Naqvi ji (with a huge smile on his freshly wrinkled face) comes to my side, taps my vertebrae and says “Brilliant, go make it live. I am pushing the edited story!”

As for Mr. Mitra, ask him if he ever danced at my terrace garden? A connoisseur of  fine arts., especially Hindi cinema. He will tell you, how I bored him endlessly with legendary American musician and political satirist Frank Zappa anecdotes and tales of fakirs and Sufis! Affable Editor to the core, Mr. Mitra – and very down to earth. I  graduated to the business bureaux in my fourth year in HT, where I got the corporate beat.I ate my heart out at the Press Conferences’ buffets and nearly killed myself with calorie overdose. Alongside, I continued to dabble in feature writing and extensively wrote about various music genres and covered biennial jazz festivals. I penned obituaries in HT for the love of them: Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Frank Zappa. How I wish the world would’t lose such musical geniuses…

Thence, I worked as a Principal Correspondent with The Pioneer newspaper and learnt the dynamics of corporate stories from my Business Editor Amit Goel. The following year, I transmigrated  to the Asian Age newspaper  as a Principal Correspondent (Business Bureaux in both cases).  Yep, I loved each day working with enviable stalwarts like MJ Akbar and Seema Mustafa – Seema ji was always generous in summoning two hot cuppas of caffeine at tea time, exact 5pm, much to the pyrosis of other journos in office. A wonderful boss.

Indebted to MJ for having instantaneously approved of my music review column name: Sound Advise. It was never easy to get anything creative approved by Mr. Akbar. What a great writer and ideas man. Over me, Mr. Akbar’s genius had slathered…Allah O Akbar! I am a self-proclaimed jazz addict, Frank Zappa devotee and music collector (my immediate neighbors will vouch for this!). I have been covering myriad biennial Jazz Yatras since donkeys and have interviewed and written tributes for rock, jazz/music stalwarts like Max Roach, Didier Lockwood, Dizzy GillespieAmanda Jantzen, Judy CarmichaelMonique Debose, Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu, Indian Ocean bandJean-Luc Ponty and the great British Rock group Deep Purple, John Drumbo French, Andreas Rausch, Pauline Butcher Bird, Dave Latchaw, Robert Martin (Bobby), Barbara Rubin, Renee Michele, Gary Lucas and Barbara Dennerlein among others.

Later, I worked with a few features magazines such as Ambrosia (the first Alcobev trade magazine in the country) as a Principal Correspondent and moved on to the leading technology & IT publications – the closely family-controlled EFY Group, where I joined as a Sr. Assistant Editor. Not surprisingly, some of the ‘reputed’ publications I worked with as a full-time journalist were being published sans an editorial policy but  instead  vigorously pursued ‘suit-the-editor’ policy. I guess its the norm now with a lot of major dailies! I also mentored a few portals on business, technology and a  news television channel’s news portal (allegedly & covertly owned by Shahrukh Khan!). I have freelanced for: Expressions (American Express Card Holders Magazine), Today’s Traveller and Sun).

I interviewed Shahrukh way back  in 1990s inside the Sariska Palace. We both graduated from the Hansraj College/Delhi University. I found him to be a very decent person. Unlike the flashy Salman Khan, who was also around shooting for Karan Arjun. He refused to speak to the sole meek representative from the Press. My observation is based after my personal, brief interaction (in the late 1990s) with the two illustrious Khans.I came back impressed with the great Indian cinema villain Amrish Puri’s haunting baritone. At the same venue in the sprawling lawns, my pre-dinner efforts to cajole him for an interview failed. God bless his soul!

As a legal alien in New York, I worked for the India Abroad Newspaper in New York City  in 1991 with the great Editors duo Gopal Raju and Veena Merchant (the owners of the Indian diaspora centric newspaper/tabloid)and, subsequently, in early 2000 as a Special Correspondent with the Washington DC based India Post newspaperin its Toronto Bureau. (I had landed myself with my family and 2nd time pregnant wife as a Canadian immigrant in 2000. I eventually gave up my permanent resident  status in Canada soon after realizing I was an outright misfit for foreign nations). I recall, back in 1991,Veena Merchant gave me the New York Times style book and said “If you want to work with us, read this, understand it in the next 48-hours, we at India Abroad follow the NYT editing style”. The next morning, I gave back the style guide… as a reward for learning it, she took me out for shopping and I walked through the wondrous streets of Manhattan first time. On the way back, we bought canine biscuits for her demure poodle! A fine international journalist and a ‘famished foodie friend’ now with the AFP (Agence France-Presse), Paris head office, Abhik Kumar Chanda guided me through the thick and thicker in feature writing. My last assignment with an Indian diaspora newspaper was with the Melbourne/Australia based tabloid South Asia Times as its New Delhi Bureau Chief in the early 2000s that a co-journalist and ex-colleague Neeraj Nanda owns and edits.

Of late, I have been ghost writing (legally/under oath of secrecy!) for some of world’s biggest transnational   corporations  from countries such as France, South Korea and India among others. I have had a stint with 2 leading advertising agencies as a Senior Copy Writer and planned campaigns of repute. I have been both full time Associate Professor at leading private Mass Communication universities in Delhi and taught  journalism, writing skills, creative writing, media studies (introduced it in one univ) and soft skills (personality development)at various media and management institutes in New Delhi & the NCR. Most of my ex-students are working with leading media companies, dot com(s) and news channels pan-India.

I now manage a media advisory and communications company called the Right Impact Media Inc., based in New Delhi that also runs India’s First Online Magazine www.fnbworld.com

{{News for Soul}}

rVc in ideating modeRight Impact Media Inc., executes content creation and specialized writing for leading public relations companies of the country and undertakes complete websites’ creation with emphasis on aesthetics and specialized content. My small team comprises fine programmers and design experts.


Shah Rukh Khan's interview in Hindustan Times