Editor's Note

Journey of Memories

Print edition : February 06, 2015

For nearly a month, the Frontline team had been on rewind mode to create this commemorative issue, in what looked like an ambitious venture to compress the impact of about 780 issues and one lakh-odd pages of the magazine produced over a period of 30 years into a single issue of 212 pages over a fortnight.

It was a journey of memories for our journalists with glimpses of the momentous events that kept changing the course of contemporary history. For the writers these were memories of wandering through the riot-torn streets of Delhi in the days after Indira Gandhi’s assassination; seeing people dying and dying to live in Bhopal’s gas chamber; frenzied mobs bringing down the Babri Masjid and, a decade later, performing a dance of death on the lanes and bylanes of Gujarat in the name of religion; transborder terrorists holding up Mumbai at gunpoint for a few days; “meritorious” crowds trying to set aflame the principle of social justice across northern India; seeing Dalit blood on the village square in Khairlanji; narrowly escaping the murderous heat of a human bomb that reduced Rajiv Gandhi to a heap of blood and flesh at Sriperumbudur; being witness to villages sinking without a trace under the gushing waters of the Narmada; young men and women being killed in the name of caste and family honour; women being discriminated against at home, in the farms, factories and “white collar” offices and raped and left to rot on busy streets and in the unknown countryside; urban and rural poor being rudely weaned away from a withering welfare state and fed into the sweatshops of Shining India; killer waves devastating the coastlines of the world out of shape and taking away the lives and livelihoods of lakhs of fishermen on their quiet return; a socialist dream crumbling under the weight of counterrevolution and a gloating superpower reaping whirlwinds that struck at its heart; and so on.

The story was not all dark. There have been a few (only a few) good memories too—of people voting out corrupt regimes and rejecting the poster boys for neoliberalism, of the socially oppressed resisting oppression and significantly consolidating political power, of a pink tide in Latin America turning upside down the diagnoses of “end of history” theorists, of the ghosts of Simon Bolivar returning to haunt an empire built on the graves of decimated native Americans and black slaves exported from Africa, of some guilt-stricken servants of imperialism turning against and exposing its cynical surveillance system, of public intellectuals deconstructing exploitative political, economic and social systems and exposing the real forces behind them, of scientists extending the longevity of human life, and environmentalists fighting to save the longevity of nature, and of writers, film-makers, musicians and artists making life beautiful and meaningful and less unlivable in the age of unfreedom and unreason.

For the generally unsung heroes of the editorial desk, memories are of a different kind—of the great stories they subbed and rehashed, of the proofs they read and the corrections they made, of the headlines they gave, of the pictures they chose and the captions they wrote, of the layouts they planned, of the seemingly endless nights they spent in office giving finishing touches to cover stories.

The entire effort of the team in the last month was to transfer these memories, and the thoughts and emotions associated with them, to the readers of Frontline. It was like retelling history written in a hurry through thoughts and emotions recollected in tranquillity. Like our work in Frontline in the past 30 years, we were endlessly striving towards perfection and excellence with all the imperfections imposed by the constraints of time and space.

Partners in the quest for excellence were the members of the Frontline Desk K.K. Kesava Menon, K. Jayanthi, Samuel Abraham, N. Subhash Jeyan, R. Suresh, Sarbari Sinha, Sashikala Asirvatham, Roshin Mary George and P. Kasturi Rangan whose dedicated work was excellently coordinated by Associate Editor V.M. Rajasekhar; designers U. Udaya Shankar, V. Srinivasan and T.S. Vijayanandan; N. Srikrishnan (The Hindu Photo Archives); R.P. Lakshmivenkatraman (Pre-press); R. Varadamani and N. Soorya Prakash (Circulation); R. Diwakar and M. Umadevi (Advertisement); and Vikram Murali (Corporate).

The challenges before the media, as delineated in a Special Essay by N. Ram, our former Editor-in-Chief and present Chairman of The Hindu Group of Publications, are enormous. As Khalil Gibran put it: “Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.”

With the promise of meeting the challenges, I press the rewind button. Over to the readers.