NEW DELHI — Eminent Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta has announced his departure after nearly 20 years as Editor in Chief of the Indian Express. Gupta is set to return to his old turf at India Today. Following is his farewell message to his team at the Express, the newspaper known for ‘journalism of courage’.
Goodbye notes can be heartwarming or heartbreaking. On a rare occasion they can be both. This is one such.
It is time for me to say goodbyes at the Express — for the second time. The first was exactly at the same time of the year in 1983 when most of you were not born yet.
I say goodbye now with joy because I leave behind a wonderfully vibrant newsroom with very good hands of home-grown leaders. And a newspaper that defines its value and power in terms of its depth, credibility and respect. There is no higher currency, no fairer denominator of a newspaper’s stature.
And also a wrench precisely because we are such a fun gang, topped by a large-hearted proprietor who pretty much distributes all that the company earns back to us. As generous compensations, great working conditions, never a resource spared in pursuit of a story. No call ever to kill a story once it passes our highest and the most exacting editorial bars and filters.
I can do no better than paraphrase what Gen Krishnaswamy Sundarji, my friend and mentor in an area of journalism that fascinated me, had said at his farewell parade when cameras caught a hint of mist in his ever-smiling eyes.
He said he didn’t know whether to sob or smile. Because he was leaving behind the world’s finest army that God gave any human the gift of leading.
There isn’t a daily newspaper in India greater than the Express. Or a greater gift that a journalist can ask for than to lead it.
I have been doubly blessed. I started at the same paper as a reporter in 1977 and worked here for a full 25 years in two innings.
Leadership is its own teacher. In fact, the finest. It gives you an opportunity to learn from the many brilliant people that you have been given the honour to lead. I know, many of you by now would be tired of my three-example rule in editorial writing. Yet, here are my three leadership lessons.
First, you must have a big heart. You can be a competent manager, a powerful boss, the wealthiest owner. But never a leader without a big heart. Because there is an essential moral dimension to leadership.
Second, always connect with the universe of those you lead. In our case, it is exhilarating as, across our teams, we trawl the worlds of politics, government, economics, science, culture, cinema and sports. Even markets and advertising, our roti-dal and EMIs.
And third, find that instinct to choose the most talented and diligent, give them space, and then trust them. I confess this defies conventional logic. Or advice on your usual leadership manual’s back-flap. But trust with your heart and not merely, clinically with your head. This is the one gift I take away from Viveck through a two-decade professional relationship, and a friendship that endures.
This concludes my farewell sermon. So back to myself.
When life becomes cosy for too long, you need to disrupt it. Smugness is the beginning of old age, even if you are in your teens, which I, regrettably, am not.
I am embarrassed to lean on the wisdom of Neale Donald Walsh, a contemporary pop-spiritualist/philosopher so juvenile that had he been born in India, he would be a star on Aastha channel with his nutty Conversations with God. Life, he said, begins at the end of your comfort zone. I am checking him out.
In any case, I am an incorrigible reporter and thereby a terminal adventure junkie. By the way, even at the risk of being charged with crass tribalism, I shall write something more specifically for my fellow reporters at the Express. But a bit later.
I had said at my book release by Arun Shourie in Mumbai earlier this month that he taught me many things, but never to write anything short, an article, a letter, even a farewell note. So I can continue to indulge myself today as well. But you have to bring out tomorrow’s paper.
And I must write my first in this series — my last at the Express — of First Person/Second Draft — on time. Heard that before?
I so love you all, friends, colleagues, much younger, brighter and with a great future. I am proud of you and cherish the time we spent together. I will be generally in my office until June 15. There is a fair bit of pending writing. So please be forewarned: you will still have to endure the corridor addas on my compulsive breaks from spells of writing, bare feet and all.
Postscript: One antidote to compulsive rambling is to steal a poet’s lines. Let me sign off, therefore, with Gulzar, whom we all so adore…
Din dhale jahan, raat paas ho,
Zindagi ki lau, oonchi kar chalo,
Yaad aaye gar kabhi, jee udaas ho,
Meri awaz hi pehchan hai,
Gar yaad rahe…
We will always be in touch….