Mission Delhi – Mohan Charagi, Herald House, ITO
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The picture captures his essence. You see all the elements that made him: the work desk, the cigarette in his hand, the top shirt button undone, though unintentionally, blank sheets of paper, to be filled up soon with his edit, and the day’s edition of Qaumi Awaz.
This black and white portrait of Mohan Charagi has been carefully preserved by his daughter.
The Delhi Walla meets Nipa Charagi one afternoon outside her office in Connaught Place. Like her Kashmiri father, Nipa is a journalist though she works in an English-language newspaper. Mohan Charagi, who grew up in Srinagar, Kashmir, lived in the world of Urdu; he was the editor of the historic Qaumi Awaz newspaper that was founded by Jawaharlal Nehru long before he became India’s first Prime Minister.
Today Nipa has a new book with her. It’s in Urdu. Mohan Charagi Aur Qaumi Awaz is a collection of her father’s edits that appeared in his newspaper over the years. She has written a brief foreword to the book. The English translation shared below reveals it to be a heartfelt tribute by a daughter to her father:
“When I am returning home from work, at a particular point in my journey, I expect my phone to ring. My father would, without fail, call me up everyday around 8.30pm. It used to be a one-liner….”Ghar pohanch gayi?” [Have you reached home?”]
It has been difficult to reconcile to the fact that he’s no more, because we never said goodbye. He died in Kolkata; I was at that time in Delhi. He touched lots of lives, though some people forgot him in the last couple of years of his life. But that’s another story. And then there are small incidents which make you realise that he continues to live through his written word. A few years back, a young man from Srinagar sent me a message on Facebook, asking if I was Mohan Charagi’s daughter. He said he had been reading my father’s work since childhood. And this despite the fact that his work is not digitized and so is not there on the Internet: Google search will not throw up his articles.
I wish he had been around in these times of breaking news, instant reaction and constant opinion. Makes you wonder what his edits would have been like.
He was a self-made man, whose father died young. In a world where a lot of us would gauge success by what we accumulate…..a house, car, bank balance….he built none of those. But we never felt deprived of anything. In fact, our house was open to all, to friends/relatives, their friends/relatives. He left behind a lot of memories, articles and edits.
Quami Awaz was like part of his family. That’s the only job/passion he knew. He, in fact, edited the paper from Srinagar during the height of militancy in Kashmir. He found it hard to reconcile that Quami Awaz shut down; it left a vacuum in his life.
This book is a compilation of his various edits and articles, including one on Urdu journalism; about half a dozenpieces are on the closing of Quami Awaz; and a few on the events surrounding the demolition of Babri Masjid. If they are still relevant today in our fast-changing world, it is for you as a reader to gauge.
Lastly, I, my sister and my mother would like to thank Mr Suhail Anjum for making the effort to contact us. This book would not have been possible without him.”
Qaumi Awaz was headquartered in Herald House on Delhi’s Bahadur Shah Zafar road. It shut down in 2008. The office is now home to Passport Office.
[This is the 113th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The editor’s take
1. (Nipa Charagi with father’s book)