A narrow road divides St. Stephens’ and Hindu College. It is not more than 16 steps across, but speak to the students of either college, and they will have you believe that you were crossing a chasm to a different philosophy. All this is hogwash, of course. But there is a romance to college life, much of it in the heads of those who go to college.
It was 1991 and I crossed that road everyday. I did not have friends in Hindu. All my friends were in Hansraj, where I spent countless evenings. I have fond memories of Sanjeev (also a school buddy) who is now the MD & CEO of an upcoming cosmetic surgery brand, Arvind who is now a senior HR professional with the Taj Group, Anand who is remembered for loudly singing “we didn’t start the fire” when everyone believed that he obviously did, and Anurag who now directs violent movies. Anurag was not a friend but he was visible around the friends who I sat with, and with whom I wasted away much of my graduation years. Anthony, who ran the Hansraj canteen, believed that I was a student. I think I still owe Anthony thirteen rupees; if memory serves, I think it was a Thums Up and two samosas.
I had to cross Hindu College to get to Hansraj, and would sometimes run into this tall and academic looking young man. We never spoke. A smile and raised eyebrows were acceptable greetings. And once, we did speak. He spoke English with a precise accent, was aggressive yet polite in speech and his diction and pronunciation were spot on. When he spoke Hindi, it was with a very slight accent. Was it Bengali or Assamese? No clue. I left St. Stephens College in 1992 and joined the Indian Army in 1993. I kept in touch with Sanjeev and Arvind. I don’t know where Anand went. We all know where Anurag went.
I don’t watch much TV, but once I did tune in to watch news. It was a debate and the anchor was conducting it with a very familiar, controlled aggression. There was something about the way he looked and spoke, which triggered a memory. Then it struck me. He was the tall guy from Hindu College. One day in 2016, Burhan Wani was killed, and in sheer frustration of seeing multitudes worshipping a dead terrorist at his funeral, I wrote an article called “Open Letter to Burhan Wani” and posted it on Facebook before I went to sleep. Before I went to sleep, I had 530 friends on Facebook. When I woke up, there were 732 likes and friend requests. By noon, I was getting phone calls. By 4 pm, I got a call from Army Headquarters from a serving general in the Indian Army.
“Great article, son”, the general said.
“Thank you, Sir,” I responded. I don’t have much experience of speaking to generals and so I kept it short.
“Keep up the good work, son. All the best.” The general disconnected the call.
I accepted all the FB friend requests that I received. The next day, I got a call from a well-known English news channel, inviting me to a panel discussion on Burhan Wani’s killing. That was my first time on TV. I spoke like I always do – blunt and to the point. I was an infantry company commander in the Indian Army. You don’t get more rough-edged than that. The channel people were perhaps a tad disappointed. They were used to a certain finesse, which I obviously did not bring to the table.
Three days after that show, I was invited to another English news channel, and ushered into a swanky building at Film City, Noida. As I entered the studio, a familiar face rose from his chair to greet me. The same tall guy from Hindu College.
“Welcome to News Hour, Gaurav”, he said.
And so it started for me, the whole crusade of telling the brutal truth without pulling punches…. debate after debate, we did it. Those who would attack India were put in the dock. Arnab was telling the truth. I, in my very minuscule way, was trying to defend India. I soon realized that it was the same thing. Time passed and Arnab left Times Now. I did not hear from him for months. Last week, I received an unexpected call. The voice at the other end of the line said, “Gaurav, do you have a minute? Boss would like to speak with you”. So, Arnab and I spoke. And then I took a leap of faith.
In our very small, insignificant way, we will again stand up for India. We are unapologetically nationalistic. It is in our DNA. To sugar coat news would be to lie to you. And that is sacrilege. It is blasphemy. It will never be done.
For too long in the mainstream media, faux ideology has substituted fact. Sometimes, it has been money, sometimes special interest. No longer.
In the next few months, Arnab Goswami is bringing a hurricane to your doorstep. And I am coming with that hurricane. News will never be the same again.
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