I was fortunate to be with The Indian Express (Hyderabad) during the Emergency (1975-1977) when it was at the peak of popularity. We junior reporters–I, Mahesh Vijapurkar and Amarnath K. Menon–made our strong presence felt. Our scoops and exclusives filled us with a lot of pride but left us heart-broken in terms of impact. All our efforts amounted to ‘bathroom singing.’ Most of our sources turned out to be readers of The Hindu which we then regarded as a staid conservative newspaper that played safe.
One fine August morning in 1976, there was a discreet message from The Hindu wondering if we were interested in joining. I wanted to take a shot at it, although I never wanted to leave The Express. The Hindu had just started its edition in Hyderabad and G. Kasturi, Editor, camped in Hyderabad to see the fledgling edition firmly on its feet. The late Kasturi interviewed and selected me and Mahesh. Amarnath decided to join India Today. The Information Department messenger who went round newspaper offices distributing Government press notes greeted me ‘Salaam. Saab. Aap idhar?’
The same guy came to our Bureau office in Bashirbagh. The Hyderabad edition came in mid-1977 and mentioned my visit to The Hindu. My boss overheard this, put two and two together. The Hindu was looking for reporters. The Editor was in Hyderabad. ‘So our fellows are at it’; the Boss was right. Next minute, all hell broke loose. We became untouchables. I went on a long leave to escape the witch hunt.
I had no option but to join The Hindu at Kurnool, although it meant being away from family indefinitely. The bureau chief refused to forward my resignation paper, forcing me to go to the News Editor at Vijayawada. ‘Manchi pani chesavaiah (you have done a good job)’, the News Editor said, accepting the resignation and blessing me.
I joined The Hindu at Kurnool on Jan. 20, 1977, a few days after Emergency was revoked, and was moved to Hyderabad in September 1979. I retired on October 1, 2005 as Chief of Bureau/Deputy Editor, capping a memorable association with the great newspaper.
Dasu Kesava Rao is a seasoned journalist who has worked, among several newspapers, with The Hindu and served as its Bureau Chief in Hyderabad.