About PD Tandon by VS Datta

Remembering P.D. Tandon
V.S.DATTA

It is difficult  to write about somebody who has been a part of your life for nearly  44 years. Yes, I am talking about P/D.Tandon, who passed away on September 30, 2006.  A few days ago we observed his sixth  death anniversary. I had first met him in 1962 in the now defunct ‘The Leader’ where I had joined as a cub journalist.  There was one thing common between the two of us. When I asked him how he entered journalism, he said he began writing Letters to the Editor in newspapers. When I asked him which papers, he replied, ‘In those days there used to be only The Leader. Its editor Sir C.Y.Chintamani had a soft corner for me , used to like me and encouraged me to write’. I may mention that I also used to write letters to the editor in ‘The Leader’ and the ‘Amrit Bazar Patrika’ (as NIP was then known). And when I went for an interview, after qualifying in the written, editor Zutshi, a disciple of Chintamani, told me, ‘You needn’t introduce yourself to me. I know you through your letters’.

My first impression of P.D.Tandon was laced with caution. I was not immediately introduced to him. But I would hear him speak to others in a tone that created an awe and fear inside me. But soon I realized how wrong I was. P.D.Tandon gave to others what they deserved.

When my first issue of the feature, ‘Flashlight on Allahabad’ appeared in ‘The Leader’ on one fine Monday in June 1962 under the pen-name of Wayfarer, Tandonji told me later that he started wondering who was the writer. He said he knew the writing capacity and caliber of nearly all members of The Leader staff and could guess that it was none among those whom he knew. My writing style was different even if a little bit of immaturity was visible. But he liked it. So one day when he visited The Leader he inquired from the News Editor (Suresh Babu) who this Wayfarer was. Suresh Babu told him about me and apparently said a few good things for me. As chance would have it, I happened to come on duty at that time. Suresh Babu introduced me to Tandonji and asked me whether I had heard of him. I said, ‘Who has not?’ And then I told him that I had keenly been following the controversy through the ‘Letters’ columns in which he and Mr S.S.Dhavan (who later became judge and Governor of West Bengal) had been  crossing swords. He seemed to have appreciated that . Any one going through that challenging controversy must be having some depth, he thought. He shook hands with me. And that is how began a relationship that ended on September 30,2006

Mr Tandon was a keen observer and also a good teacher. He would tell us small things. He said a newspaper should not be referred to ‘paper’ but ‘papers’. There were so many such small things he would point out from time to time. At times he would ask me: ‘From where did you get that information?’ I told him that I had got it from the horse’s mouth. He told me: ‘Remember these horses are not very reliable. Tomorrow if he denies having said anything, what would you do ? But if you have supporting evidence with you, some newspaper clipping in which your stand has been vindicated, preserve that’. He told me the value of newspaper clippings. This had been drilled into my mind by News Editor Suresh Babu as well and also by Mr Shivanand Mukherjee. Both of them had hundreds of clippings on various subjects in their stock. If SureshBabu wanted a new comer to write something special, he would give him several clippings on the subject that would make one’s task easier.

By and by Mr Tandon started taking greater interest in me. He said, ‘I foresee a big future for you, provided you stay on in the profession. But you must develop yourself as an all-rounder. At a later stage you can choose the branch of journalism which you think is best suited for you’. He introduced me to the art of ‘Book Review’. I told him it was a tough thing to do and that I had never done it. He gave me preliminary tips and said, ‘I will give you the books. You will have to review them for National Herald’

Most reluctantly and timidly I accepted the assignment. The first book that Tandonji gave me to review was by Sri Prakasha, then India’s High Commissioner in Pakistan. The book was beautifully written showing, among other things, how Jinnah kept on inquiring from him about his house in Mumbai and that it was Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who did not raise the issue of his lost property in UP even once. Even Sir Zaffraullah was curious about the immovable property he left behind in India.I wrote the review as best I could. Since the book was full of very lively details, the review was long. I was not sure whether  it would be published.  Tandonji had a look at it, approved it and sent it to National Herald.

Whether he put in a word for me I don’t know. But the fact that the review was being sent through P.D.Tandon was by itself  the biggest recommendation. The review was published in National Herald. What floored me was the top display that my review got – in four columns !  That was a message to local newsmen. A new journalist had arrived. And for helping me in this direction, P.D.Tandon played a big role. But, as I said, he had recognized the potential in me and was also convinced that I was different from some of the other  youngsters. That I thought was a big tribute, specially because it was coming from P.D.Tandon.  When I joined the Patrika, his advice to me was: ‘Sub ko apne kandhe pe bitha lo taaki tumhare bina chal na saken’.(Place your seniors on your shoulders so that they cannot walk without you’). The advice was, ‘Work hard, harder and hardest’. During his autumn of life when AIR Allahabad and Dootrdarshan wanted top have a long interview recorded, he put a condition: ‘I will agree only if V.S.Datta interviews me—none else’. That I thought was the warmest tribute any one could wish for. He once asked me some months before his death: ‘Why are you doing so much work’? I told him, ‘Didn’t you ask me to remember that there is no substitute  for work—for hard, continuous work?’ He smiled, became pensive. I told him, ‘But you yourself are writing till today when you are in your ninetees’. There was a far-away look in his eyes and he said, ‘May God bless you’.  Those sweet words continue to inspire me till this day.

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