Main Chota Bacha Tha
is not a bed of roses, nor is everybody born with a silver spoon in
his mouth. Life is a struggle by itself and there are many people who
have fought against all odds and have reached the pinnacle of success
in life facing all odds and overcoming all obstacles, having firm belief
in themselves. Sooner or later a man who wins is the man who thinks
he can. Jab Mein Chotta Baccha Tha is a series of articles sent in by
those people who have carved a niche for themselves in society and are
certainly a source of abundant inspiration to all those who think that
success could be reached through shortcut. It is a fact that shortcuts
do not lead to success. Read On This And Many More Articles .
This Series. We bring to you memories of childhood and journey to the
post of editor of Times Of India Mr.H.S.Balram in his own words.
To begin with, a brief resume: Born on Aug 15, 1952 to Rajput-Hindu
parents with ancestoral settlement in Bangalore. Have four brothers
and two sisters. Mother tongue: Hindi. Other languages known: English,
Kannada and Tamil. Qualification : First class Graduate in Science from
Bangalore University. Profession: Journalism; at present Editor of the
Bangalore edition of Times of India. Family: Wife and a daughter.
Childhood memories are still fresh in my mind. Seven children -- five
brothers in between two sisters.
I, the eldest of the brothers with a twin as a bonus. All of us were
good in studies. We played a lot (there was no TV then), fought a lot
but patched up soon, stood together in times of crisis, and were scared
of strict but affectionate maternal grandfather in whose house my parents
stayed. In short we had lots of fun.
As I entered the teens, I begin to realise the trauma that my parents
were going through in bringing up so many children. My father was the
only earning member. My mother had a tough time making both ends meet.
But they ensured that our education was not affected. My grandfather
even mortgaged his pension book to raise funds. I passed out higher
secondary with high percentage, but took admission in a government-run
college as the fee there was low. I was actually interested in entering
the prestigious St. Joseph College. It remained a dream. We stayed in
a small house -- grandparents, parents and seven children. There was
no water connection. I and my my twin brother took turns alongwith grandfather
to fetch water from a public tap on thr roadside. My father, who worked
for the Survey of India, was most often on tour. We used to carry big
brass vessels full of water on our shouders. To avoid being seen by
our friends and also escape the rush at the tap, we used to get up at
four in the morning. After fetching at least 25 vessels of water, we
used to sit and study till day break. I and my twin brother used to
double ride to college on a bicycle. We completed B.Sc with a good percentage
in 1971. We were interested in pursuing post graduation studies, but
the economic condition at home prevented us. We thought we should take
up jobs and help our younger siblings to persue their studies. For six
months, we kept applying and attended interviews without any success.
It was my most depressing period of my life.
One fine day, I received a letter from one my uncles in Delhi, asking
me whether I was interested in taking up journalism. He knew that I
was good in English and had written articles in school and college magazines.
I said `yes', and armed with the articles left immediately for Delhi
by train. I had till then never gone on such a long journey. It was
tedious. I joined `The Motherland, a right-wing daily in Delhi, as a
trainee journalist. And my stipend was, believe it or not, just Rs 150
per month. I had no option but to stay in my uncle's house for survival
in a huge city like Delhi. At one point, I felt homesick. I missed everyone
back home. As I wasn't earning much, I thought of going back to Bangalore
and try my luck for a better-paying job. Better sense prevailed on me
and I dropped the idea.
I worked hard day and night, learnt from others and my own mistakes
and won the admiration of my seniors at the office. After a year I was
confirmed as a junior copy editor for Rs 300 per month. I moved out
of my uncle's house and started staying independently. In 1973, I received
an offer from `Patriot', a left-wing daily. I switched over as the salary
was Rs 100 more. I grew in the profession, learned the tricks of the
trade and was prepared to meet bigger challenges. I was keen on getting
into a large newspaper.
In March 1975, I joined the Indian Express in Delhi on a salary of Rs
800 per month, double to what I was getting in Patriot. My joy knew
no bounds. At that time, Express was at its peak. I rose from a copy
editor to chief copy editor to news editor. I cannot forget the days
of emergency when the paper took on the government. My editors were
lunimaries like Mulgaokar, Narasimhan, Suman Dube and Arun Shourie.
In February 1981, I renounced my bachelorhood and married a girl in
Delhi. Coincidentally, she too came from a big family -- six sisters
and two brothers. We didn't want to go through the trauma that our parents
suffered. So, we decided to go in for just one child, be it a boy or
a girl. A daughter was born to us on December 25, 1982. She brought
immense joy to both of us. In Bangalore, my twin brother joined a chemicals
firm first and then the police force. He took charge of the family.
I took the responsibilty of paying the fee of one my brothers who was
doing his engineering. Another brother did his post graduation, joined
me in Delhi and went on to become an archivist. He is now with the Tatas
In November 1991, I was asked to take over as the Resident Editor of
the Bangalore edition of Indian Express. I was not interested. I was
quite happy in Delhi. Life was smooth. I had purchased a flat on instalments
and moved into it. My daughter was studying in a prestigious school.
Pressure mounted. They wanted me to ressurect a stagnant paper. A big
challenge, no doubt. Moreover, heading an edition is a one-in-life-time
opportunity. I thought I might regret it later. So, I accepted and moved
over to Bangalore -- lock, stock and barrel. The return of the native
after 20 long years.
Twenty years later(Bees saal baad). I changed the face of the Express
in Bangalore. I was recognised as a professional, a team man and a good
motivator. The paper's circulation started growing. When all was well,
the paper split into North and South editions. The southern management
feared that as I was from Delhi, my heart was with the the northern
management. So they cooly transfered me to Bombay as Executive Editor
of the Sterline Group of magazines, that was under the southern management.
It was as good as asking me to go. I quit in disgust in 1995. I didn't
wan't to be caught in the crossfire between the two groups.
The Times of India grabbed me immediately and asked me to help in relaunching
its Bangalore edition. I accepted. I formed and motivated a team of
young journalists into producing a reader friendly national paper with
a local flavour. It clicked. The paper's circulation started growing
from just 30,000 when I joined. The management unleashed aggressive
marketing and introduced colour, the first paper to do so in Bangalore.
Others silently followed suit. We kept growing. It soon became the primary
paper in most homes. In 1999, the Audit Bureau of Circulation declared
the Times of India as the number one daily in Karnataka. A dream come
true for me and my team. My weekly column `To the Point' that appears
every Sunday is widely read.
Reaching the top is tough, but staying there is tougher. So I keep telling
my collegues to shun two things: complacency and arrogance. They seem
to be adhering to my advice. The papers continues to grow. I have learnt
one thing through my experiences. There is no short cut to success.
Hard work always pays. And never lose heart. Seeing me, my daughter
has taken up mass communications as her subject in college. I wish her
all the best. I also wish all those who read this piece my mine all
the best. -- H.S.Balram, Editor, Times of India Bangalore .
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