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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 49, November 23, 2013

My Own Interactions with Nikhilda

Monday 25 November 2013, by Humra Quraishi



It was around the spring of 1987 I had first met Nikhil Chakravartty for an interview. He was then the Chairman of NAMEDIA, editor of the weekly Mainstream, and his column in the Sunday Observer was said to be ‘the pulse of the country’s political scenario’.

In fact, before I had met him for that interview, I had heard him at various meets/discussions/ interactive sessions. There was something about Nikhil Chakravartty that had made him stand out. There was something about his personality that had left a definite mark. He was forthright. And he spoke with a strong sense of conviction; in that bold way. And he never looked hassled or angry. He could be termed as one of those journalists who wrote and spoke most fearlessly against the political establishment and the mess around. His analytical essays focusing on the human rights violations in and around the Kashmir Valley could be termed not just bold but laced with stark facts. He was one of those veteran journalists who believed in delving right into the causes, detailing all possible aspects. In fact, his features/essays on the then situation in the Kashmir Valley should be preserved, for they hold out some hard-hitting realities of that traumatic period—a phase which could be termed the turning point in the recent history of the Kashmir Valley.

And my interview with him was longish but let me try putting some of those vital excerpts from it. Excerpts of that interview with Nikhil Chakravartty—in 1987:

Q 1

— You were born in 1913, and with that you are in your mid-70s. But you look much younger. The why to this?


1 — I am not responsible for my young looks. It is hereditary. My mother never had a streak of grey hair. And in college I looked like a school kid ... till date I do a lot of work for I believe that if an old car is kept in the garage for too long it stops working. Also, my profession is such that you get addicted to meeting people and probing around! Also, I’m a tension-free sort of person.

Q 2

Do you feel as active today as you’d felt, say, a decade back?

Ans 2

— No, not really. I do concede that ten years back I could do a lot more than I can do now ...I had a heart attack in 1971 and then there were stones in the kidney and all that slowed me down a little but I’m still going strong and keep travelling.

Q 3 —

How do you travel?

Ans 3 —

Well, I catch a bus. No reservations about that. And I prefer to travel alone ...For my profession travelling is a must as I want to see for myself the situations and ground realities, whether here or in Iran, Poland or in Afghanistan .... You have to travel and meet the masses, to know the ground situation, those realities ...

Q 4 —

Social decay has set in, with hypocrisy hitting the very social fabric, denting-cum-affecting our attitude towards women.

Ans 4 —

It is a complex situation. Our society is one of extremes. Either we are totally withdrawn or head over heels in love. The balance is missing ....And it is deep-rooted because of our social background, which is a mix of feudalism and modernisation. But some day we will definitely be able to get out of this. Take the example of China where women were very oppressed but Mao’s revolution changed the whole nation.

Q 5 —

Do you get apprehensive with those health related setbacks? Now that you are ‘old’/in your 70s do you think of death?

Ans 9 —

Death does not upset me, maybe because I have cremated about 40 persons so far ... But I would prefer that it is not a lingering sort of death ...

I’m by nature very self-contained and I’m proud about this ... If I’m sick I don’t like people coming over to see me. And I hate being dependant on anyone...

Q 6 —

You comments on Modern India.

Ans 6 —

In Modern India society has less taboos and individual freedom is encouraged. But do let me add with emphasis that with all our modern living, a great amount of insensitivity has crept in. Norms have been shattered. There is no concept of Indian-ness left, and only the RSS and Arun Shourie’s views are thriving in this so-called Modern India ....We have not developed culturally and that’s the root cause of our decay.

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