‘Truth be told, I really did not know my father at all’

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Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh
Illustration: Mayanglambam Dinesh

My parents separated when I was of three or four, so whatever I heard about my father was from my mother— that he used to be a politician, journalist and a lecturer. Perhaps she told me more, but I was too young to remember. I only saw him when he dropped by at our place from Patna over the weekend in Bhagalpur, stayed the night and left in the morning. He scared me, because he had a volatile temper, he used it at anyone and everyone, for any odd reason. In my teens, I learnt that he was a socialist, who was close to the late Jaya Prakash Narayan. Also, that his own father had disowned him, when he joined the freedom struggle. Apart from that I didn’t know much else, and didn’t care. As I grew old enough to think for myself, I knew I did not want to be like him.

My first brush with journalism was at fourteen. I wrote an angry letter to a film magazine. They published it. I was shocked. Even more shocked when they sent me a cheque for 50. In the ‘80s, I ended up working in the hospitality industry.

In my twenties, I was rebellious and unemployed when a friend offered me a sub editor’s job at a local daily in Pune. I grabbed it. My father once visited from Patna and asked me if I would ever become a news editor. I said I didn’t know. I was a trainee sub editor earning 600 a month. 13 years later, I became assistant editor of the daily. Then in 1994 my father passed away and neither I nor anyone from my family went for his funeral. It wasn’t possible anyway, though I flew in to see him a week before he died. I don’t know who performed his last rites.

From assistant editor in a single-edition newspaper in Pune to a chief copy editor at a seven-edition national newspaper in Chandigarh, to a deputy news editor at the same newspaper in Lucknow, I was now running the news desk. The day the editor called me to hand over the letter appointing me news editor of the Lucknow edition, I broke down in her cabin.

A few years later, I moved back to Pune. I quit journalism and switched to corporate communication. I took up teaching on a friend’s advice. After all, twenty years was a long time to be in journalism. During my first lecture at a local college, I froze. Thankfully, that never happened again. Over the last seven years, I’ve taught journalism and occasionally PR and a few hundred youngsters are my former students.

Then, like everyone else interested in writing, I began blogging, and returned to journalism a few years ago. One day I was surfing the Internet and out of sheer curiosity typed out my father’s name. What popped up next left me stunned.

It was my father’s bio data in a book on the politicians from Bihar. It read: Bishweshwar Prasad Sinha, Educated in Darbhanga, Patna, Banaras and London; Left studies to join the non-cooperation movement, 1920; assistant editor and later editor, Desh, 1921-23; sub editor, Searchlight, 1924; Went to England for higher studies and law, 1926-31; took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement, arrested and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, 1934-35; founder member, Bihar Socialist Party, 1934; secretary, Bihar Socialist party, 1935-36; taught in Kashi Vidyapeeth, 1936; editor Sangharsh, 1937-48; secretary, UP Congress Socialist Party; principal, National High School, Lucknow, 1939-42; participated in the Quit India Movement, 1942; arrested and detained, 1943-45; member, National Executive, Socialist Party, 1948; editor Janata, 1948-69; member Praja Socialist Party, 1955-69; left politics and resumed teaching at Patna; died in 1994.

Truth be told, I really didn’t know my father at all.

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