AK Nanda dips into his rich reservoir of memories to pull out an experience that can serve as a useful tip for any writer. 😀
Looking back into those days of the early sixties, I feel in the words of Wordsworth,
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
The time was unlike what it is today. The scene was of letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred thoughts contend. There was a lot of excitement about the 5-year planning and its execution. PC Mahalanobis, as the Chief Statistical Advisor to the Planning Commission, was the main architect of the Five-Year Plan. It was his initiative that we have today the Indian Statistical Institute, an institution of excellence. The norms of public administration were emerging to keep up with the growing economy. The civic administration was also in the process of being recast to fulfill the needs of a growing population.
As my first job, soon after my MA, I had joined The Eastern Economist (the erstwhile Indian counterpart of The Economist) as Assistant Editor. I was seventh and the youngest in a group of six Assistant Editors, all of whom were senior to me in age and experience. The Editor Mr Eric PW da Costa was a tall, strapping, fair and good-looking man with a very powerful personality. Da Costa was known for his knowledge and its application in policy prescriptions. He used to dictate the editorials to his stenographer with such speed and precision that once two visitors from the World Bank who had already been ushered into his office, had to wait for a while till he finished as he didn’t like interruptions. Rarely did he reword or rephrase what he said and did not like to repeat either. Watching the whirlwind dictation, the visitors could not resist the temptation of asking the stenographer whether he had taken down everything! Incidentally, Da Costa had his education from Cambridge University.
A Special Issue on the Five-Year Plan was planned and discussed at the Editorial Meeting. The Editor listed out who would write on what. I was given the subject of development of social welfare as part of the planning process.
Our colleague, let’s just call him G, a scholar of repute who was known to have been awarded a Commonwealth scholarship and had been with the journal for quite some time, had his script ready but was looking for a suitable moment to send the script in. I did not have any hint about this. I sent my script in as soon as it was ready and it came back to me in just ten minutes with the large blue pencil scrawl on it – ‘OK’. Having seen my copy being approved so soon G quietly asked the editor’s peon, “Sahab ka mood kaisa hai?” The peon nodded reassuringly. G only wanted to be doubly sure whether the environment was conducive to his article being okayed. If Sahab is in a good mood, one can expect the blue pencil to run favourably.
No sooner was the script sent in, the editor rushed out into the hall, where all AEs were present. He was barefooted, his necktie hanging far down the neck, with his reading glasses up on his forehead and shouting at the top his voice. “What is this? This is nowhere what was discussed and decided at the meeting.” Fuming, he threw the script on G’s table asking him to rewrite the copy.
There was complete silence with a queer feeling of uneasiness. We all focused hard on the things in front, typewriter, notepad, stationery, coffee cup, whatever. No one even tried to steal a glance at what happened to G.
What a man learns by experience, he never forgets. Good content and good mood go together.
(Cartoon courtesy Antara)
More to read in Memoirs by A K Nanda
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