NVR Swami, a veteran journalist, passes away

Swami was an agency journalist and a rare Foreign Correspondent. He had an amazing career.  Swami had survived a plane crash along with Prime Minister Morarji Desai in 1977 in Jorhat. He was known for his proximity to African leaders, especially Robert Mugabe and former Odisha Chief Minister Biju Patnaik.

Hyderabad: Nyayapati Vira Raghava (NVR) Swami or Sam as he was known to friends, passed away this morning in Hyderabad.

He was 85.

Earlier, he served PTI with distinction as its Africa Correspondent for nearly two decades.

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Swami, who settled in Auckland in 2002 hails from a family of well-known Journalists with origins in Odisha. His father, N R Swami was a towering personality among the scribes of Odisha and known for his fearless reportage.

The veteran scribe had come to Hyderabad with his wife Sumathi to attend some family functions and visit Odisha in November 2023. An accidental fall that resulted in a hip fracture landed him in a leading corporate hospital on February 8. His health deteriorated after surgery and a lung infection a couple of days ago from which he did not recover.

Swami is survived by his family comprising his wife Sumathi; two sons Vijay and Ravi Nyayapati; a daughter Kalyani and; six grandchildren.

Former Media Adviser to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and colleague of Swami in PTI, Ashok Tandon recalled in the ex-PTI group, “SAM, as he was called, was my senior but always helpful, cooperative and caring. Fondly recall his miraculous escape in the plane crash carrying then PM, Morarji Desai. He was part of our team covering the Harare NAM Summit and his proximity to African leaders gave us the edge.”

NVR Swami worked in the Bombay and New Delhi bureaus of the PTI during the mid 1960s to early 1980s covering many historic events and political developments. He was posted as the Africa Correspondent by the national agency around 1982 with India taking the lead in the NAM (Non Aligned Movement).

For the next two decades, he served the agency with distinction, covering the historic developments in the African continent including the release of Nelson Mandela and his leadership of South Africa and the continent. His dispatches and coverage of Africa for PTI will remain an invaluable contribution to the Indian media, especially during the most happening phase in that part of the world. There were hardly any other Indian journalists with such a long stint and understanding.

In early 2018, thanks to Facebook and friends I connected and in December the same year met NVR Swami, who was an inspiration to young reporters in PTI having dreams of becoming a foreign correspondent during the 1980s. “I used to eagerly read his dispatches from the ‘Dark Continent’, those days on the Teleprinter in our Hyderguda office in Hyderabad”.

A foreign correspondent job was an inspirational one for journalists. However, the US, UK, France, Russia, and Pakistan took the cake.  Africa, during the 1970s  up to 2000 was full of action. Dictators, coups, emerging democracies, rise of Nelson Mandela, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe and the blooming South African Cricket team, emerging out of the ban post-Apartheid; he covered them all.

Foreign correspondents enjoyed the privilege of getting bylines for their reports in PTI. So NVR Swami was a familiar name to readers in Indian newspapers those days.

Swami’s association with the PTI spanned nearly four decades. After his innings ended around 2000, he worked with the Thompson Press and Southern Africa till in 2002, before he moved to Auckland with his family.

In New Zealand The Indian Newslink, an English language Indian newspaper was his favourite institution. “I am planning to write when I return from India,” was a part of his text message in January. I was happy to read that again, “recalled Venkat Raman, his friend of over 50 years in the publication today.    “His style of writing and political intuition saw several Indian leaders such as Presidents Giani Zail Singh, Sanjeeva Reddy, K R Narayanan, R Venkataraman, Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao consulting him on many issues of national interest. He accompanied many of them on their State visits overseas. In 1984, while attempting to report the coup d’etat by the Army in Uganda, Swami was locked up in prison for several days,” he recalled in an obituary today.

The passing of Swami is a loss to the Indian journalist fraternity, especially the wire service and foreign correspondents. This Telugu-speaking family from Bhubaneswar consisted of four journalists, a rare breed indeed. The late N R Ramdas was The Hindu correspondent in Bhubaneswar.

Swami’s younger brother, V Pattabhi, worked in the PTI, and N Jagannath Das, had a long association with The Indian Express and Telangana Today as a sports correspondent. Both are settled in Hyderabad.

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