This is an excerpt from Ravish Kumar's chapter in a new book about NDTV and 25 years of television journalism, called More News is Good News. Pre-order your copy on Amazon now.
Lutyens's Delhi - the heart of Delhi with all the ruling edifices of India. The home of ministers, MPs and secretaries. And to report on Lutyens's Delhi, an area within a radius of 5 or 6 kilometres, we have hundreds of newspaper and TV reporters. Too many journalists for such a small place. Often, it is as if the excavation of Mohenjo-Daro-Harappa is going on, and all these journalists have been engaged in this toil. After all, to have so many journalists working in such a small geographical area, there must be some event. It is another story that by the time evening falls, all the political leaders living in the Lutyens's Zone hurry out towards the television studios; but the journalists still follow the old habits of their work. Nothing has changed. Journalists rushing around in Lutyens's Delhi are still rushing around there. Only a few are ever able to escape or are only able to escape intermittently. I made my escape.
As I said, I had begun to look at the reporters in this area not as a journalist but as a geologist. Without the aid of any data I arrived at the conclusion that this zone had the ability to render most reporters 'geographically challenged'. Both print and TV journalists would feel a degree of trepidation when leaving this area. They would despair at the thought of their link with power breaking. I have heard journalists on that beat complaining that the editor has lost his mind, he is telling me to go to Hapur to write a story on hunger. Arre, have a feature or a city reporter do the story!
Whenever I returned after several days, having covered just such a story, the senior journalists, who had by then acquired the status of permanent residents of the Lutyens's Zone, would look at me dubiously. Some journalists would advise me to get serious about my work. Large numbers of these journalists had become afflicted with Lutyens's Comfort Syndrome. They were disturbed by the thought that, like me, they too might be sent away. 'Away' meaning outside Delhi. Whereas the truth was that most journalists, just like me, had come from outside Delhi.
These practitioners of Lutyens's journalism might well be geographically challenged about India, but when it comes to Lutyens's Delhi's roads they are the best guides. Even when half-asleep, they will be able to tell you that this is Motilal Nehru Marg, you take a left and you will come to Janpath, a right from there to Pant Marg and then North Avenue. Bungalow number 66 is on the corner. In their presence I would feel geographically challenged and wonder how these people remembered all the names of the streets and where the streets met. It is clear that the Lutyens's journalist passes his whole life traversing the same twenty-five or thirty streets. They don't even realize at which point in their lives, while travelling on these streets, they become a part of the power structure. Unaware when co-option turns into comfort, and the minister and the journalist become friends. Each an extension of the other. Perhaps this is necessary for our daily news. Without these personal relations, how can news emerge? But moving around in only one geographical area must shape the mentality in some way. The name of that mentality is Lutyens's journalism.
Further, even the adda of the INS bureau chief, responsible for sending daily national news to the regional press, is right behind Parliament House. The Press Club is also close by. And only a little distance away is the office of the Press Information Bureau in Shastri Bhawan. Which is to say, even regional journalists have fallen into the habits of Lutyens's Delhi. You might find them roaming around with memories of their home towns but their apprehension is worth seeing at the prospect of having to go outside Delhi. These are all people who have become habituated to a spatial complex.Translated by Amitava Kumar