Thursday, October 13, 2011

When Leaders Turn Journalists

Our leaders of today are either too tongue-tied or just-about-literate to tweet their thoughts in 140 characters. Thankfully the Men in Whites of the pre-independence era were very unlike these gotta-ask-the-high-command’s-permission-to-pee types.

The netas of yore were more educated (Dadabhai Naoroji was a Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy), erudite (Ambedkar wrote a thesis on Ancient Indian Commerce) eclectic (Aurobindo Ghosh knew Greek, Latin and Classical Sanskrit), fearless (Subhash Chandra Bose slapped his Professor for his Anti-India remarks) and forthcoming (Gandhiji never held back his views - be it on potty cleaning or proudly sporting the loincloth).

Quite a few of these gentlemen were gifted writers and fairly opinionated. So invariably they ended up founding newspapers, journals or periodicals to speak their mind. The names that they gave their journals make for interesting analysis. The character of the name strangely mirrors the character of the author!

The unorthodox and sharp Dr. Ambedkar chose the unconventional Mook Nayak (Leader of the Dumb) as the stand-out name for his weekly. He could have chosen something sober like Mute Voice, Silent Majority or Dalit Times. Instead he preferred the stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb strategy. Almost like his blue suit in a sea of khadi. In stark contrast, look at Gandhiji’s Harijan (God’s own people). It’s as lofty, religious and noble sounding as the ‘half-naked fakir’.

Aurobindo’s explanation for calling his periodical Arya is almost autobiographical: “Arya means an effort or an uprising and overcoming. The Aryan is he who strives and overcomes all outside him and within him that stands opposed to the human advance. Self-conquest is the first law of his nature.”

Tilak’s Kesari (Lion) is but a cryptic way of summating the audaciously proud braveheart inside Bal Gangadhar. While Nehru’s anglicised National Herald offers us a clue of how Jawaharlal perceived himself – as a harbinger of things to come.

Imagine if we apply this character-revealing-journal-names theory to today’s paradigm…then Advani will end up editing Wrath Yatra, Rahul will preside over Photo Op India, Yechuri should lord over Bleeding Red, Pranabda should start PC Fix and Manmohan would make the right publisher for Voiceless Voice.