This unputdownable book is a wealth of information that depicts the myriads of journeys through turbulent times a journalist has to traverse, a life that is full of ups and downs, struggles and experiences. The author is what he is so well known mere by accident not only on the Indian literary turfs but also Fleet Street knows him for his immaculately wit-laced juicy sentences that spark a humor and almost peeps out of his writing. Jagdish Suraiya (JS), known for his fine humor and razor sharp wits, is a journalist who has been with The Times of India for the past 40 years.
The writer with a long-standing pen work recalls his sepia memories when he was brought from the then Cal’s (Kolkata) to Delhi by his mentor Gautam Adhikari (Kaku). He spent school days at La Martniere then he went to St. Xavier to study English Literature but chucked out due to thin attendance then he had to do a simple graduation degree. The book further tells as to how he was introduced to Bennet & Coleman and reminisces those days when Vineet Jain, the owner of the Times Group helped and stayed him in his house for months. He describes the tale of magnanimity of the Jain Parivar. The indebted author displays his jugular vein. The book speaks volumes about his long-standing association with this giant publishing house and Bachi Karkaria, the writer’s contemporary. Coffee with Kaku not with Karan, A House for Mr Suraiya not Mr Biswas and the Perils and Pitfalls of being a freelancer are the topics maganificently spun a good yarn that interest the reader.
“I never wanted to be a journalist” is the line in the second chapter of this book. His stepping into this domain of journalism and the genre he fits in is nothing but a chance that made him take the head plunge into. In this chronological travel, Jug tells his tale taking up the contemporary issues that talk through the shift of the Indian journalism and also the subtleties and intricacies a writing job involves. The book tells about him looking for accommodation in Delhi through the dealers (agents) as they call GK a ‘nes kiloney’ a witty call. Jug juggles and jots juxtaposing many jests, jolts and jinks with verve and finesse. In addition, the book reads about famed personalities across the world. Besides, it pans the flashback of his home town and flesh culture of Sonagachi, a red light area of Calcutta. Too smartly does he narrate India-Pak relations and many other things factoring in the border rift through wielding his pen. This candid writer’s writing tells readers about the role of media towards society.
While flipping through the pages, one finds the book talking about his tongue lashing articles on Jayalalithan, Amitabh Bachchan, Vikram Seth, Shobha De and many more which caused a flutter and had a ripple effect. The phrases he phrased went for the jugular too often. Jug Suraiya’s memoir is a witty and charming peek into his life as a journalist. The book also follows the stories and the newsroom gossip and gels well with all those inroads. The stories in this book are plenty and are a treat to read whether you are or not a journalist. The book interacts with the lives of other writers like MJ Akbar, Shashi Tharoor and Dileep Padgaonkar. He did not even spare his own bosses like Desmond Doig, Girilal Jain and Samir Jain. I relished the read for its insight into running a newspaper—how stories are assigned, information collated from all quarters, conjured up, edited and then killed for one reason or another.
I find it rather hard to weave a rich and seamless blend of those exhilarating and sobering experiences and naughty knots in few hundred words. Rajinder Puri once mocked Jug’s Paplu-Taplu which the author explains in jest. The book mentions his moving houses from Lajpat Nagar to Vasant Kunj VK to Media Colony in Gurgaon. I personally like and appreciate it that the endeavours Jug assimilated make the reading all the more intriguing. I take hats off to the author’s oeuvre of his pioneering works, even grammatical errors though glaring and horrendous crept into the book inconspicuously and inadvertently failed to distract me from going cover to cover. Though, an author by accident narrates a plethora of accidents he underwent and his dynamism of storytelling is matchless, that got him Grand Prize for Travel Writing.
By Syed Wazid Ali