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Posted at: Apr 20, 2017, 12:12 AM; last updated: Apr 20, 2017, 12:12 AM (IST)

A father retires...

Jyotsna Bhargava
THE year was 1983, the country was in the midst of cricket euphoria. Kapil’s devils were about to do the unthinkable, win the World Cup. But in my family, there was a different sense of disbelief. 

A parcel bomb, the first of its kind in the country, had been sent to our newspaper (Vir Pratap) office in Jalandhar. Papa had just stepped out of the room, but the blast killed two staff members. Over many lost years, our Hindi newspaper was a constant target of militants and my father Chander Mohan and grandfather Shri Virendra had more than a few providential escapes.

In those circumstances, it would have been easier to just leave. We came close to giving up our post-Partition bungalow, but what I learnt from my father is that to give in may be easier, but what doesn’t kill you, indeed, makes you stronger. 

One day he announced he was retiring. Tendulkar retires...many of our leaders and judges should retire, but not my father. For decades, we tiptoed around the house in the morning as Papa wrote editorials. His grandchildren had no such qualms and would bluster their way with an insect in their hand. But we and he have been creatures of habit. 

For 50 years, he has been working nonstop, writing through over three decades. Today, he says his body tells him to go slow. The ageing mango trees in our garden will blossom, there will be an extra pair of hands to pick its fruit. But parents are parents, they aren’t meant to age. 

Still, the day came. My father is  practical but ostensibly tough, and life — personal and professional — leaves scars. What he isn’t is a businessman. Numbers are his biggest disadvantage. Ironically, this day, not being a corporate man, was his greatest moment of acceptance. Emotional, employees out of a job lined up and touched his feet. Very few bosses in today’s cut-throat world have that charm.

My great grandfather started the paper in 1919, in Lahore, and shifted it to Jalandhar after the Partition. 

Papa often sums up his life through an Urdu couplet — Kisi ko ghar se nikalte hi mil gaye manzil, koi humari tarah umar bhar safar mein rahe — but insists on its charm. Writing was literally a baptism by fire for him; his first editorial was on Bhindranwale. My grandfather was travelling and the seniors were scared to speak, let alone pen a few words. Since then, he has written fearlessly, refusing to be on any side of the fence — an anomaly in the time of ‘paid’ media. 

With a father who was jailed seven times during the Independence struggle and himself having lived through some dark moments of history, retirement can’t be conventional. There are so many stories only he can tell. Aasman aur bhi hain udne ke liye, he promises. 

Until then, a veteran journalist accustomed to his chai fix is giving green tea a try.


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