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An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and Journalism

July 8, 2019

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 20.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Sixteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 8, 2019

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,145

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Mahua Mukherjee is a Reporter for The Times of India. She discusses: family background; personal story; the Times of India; religion in Indian politics; Hindu nationalism; favourite professional moments; becoming involved in India’s journalistic world as a foreigner; and final feelings and thoughts.

Keywords: journalism, Mahua Mukherjee, politics, religion, reporter, Times of India, writing.

An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and Journalism: Reporter, The Times of India[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let us start from the top. What is family background, geography, culture, language, and so on?

Mahua Mukherjee: Well I am Mahua Mukherjee and I am from Bihar. I was born in a small border town of Farakka in West Bengal and was brought up in Patna the capital city of Bihar. My parents are from Bengal and shifted to Patna when my father joined the State Bank Of India. I was educated in Notre Dame Academy and then went To Patna Women’s College. Thereafter, I did a crash course in Business Journalism from the Times Centre of Media Studies and joined the Times of India. I can speak three languages English, Hindi and Bengali.

2. Jacobsen: What is your personal story? How did you become involved in journalistic and other work?

Mukherjee: There is nothing great about my personal story. It is an endless saga of trials and tribulations. I wanted to go into academics and had started writing about offbeat stuff right from my college days. I was supported by Mr Uttam Sengupta the resident editor of Patna Times of India. My first story was about A homeopathic doctor Dr Bandhu Sahani who transmitted homeo drugs through hair and you can get cured any where across the globe provided your hair is with him. It sounded fascinating as I was his patient, so I did it I got very good response and he literally long queues outside his clinic in Shivpuri way back in 1990s. Thereafter Uttam sir kept on giving me assignments and I would travel across  the city in search of stories. I got into the mode of being the first one to get the news and tell others. It was like an opium for me. So much so that even after getting a chance to join the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University I opted for Times of India. I broke many important stories as a business journalist and one of my stories about McKinsey report revamp of State Bank Of India was raised in the Parliament and I was very scared. I also received death threats for breaking a major fraud and thereafter I switched to desk reporting. It was during this period I decided to be less adventurous and stay grounded. I wanted to do something different and was given the task of conceptualizing the NIE (Newspaper in education) edition. It was great fun as well as learning experience. All my experiments of telling the news items as stories to my daughter came to use. It was well appreciated. I have also written and   designed a kid’s magazine and want to distribute it free of cost to under privileged kids from government aided schools, but I do not have enough funds to do it. As of now I am working  on the political desk and cater to Western Uttar Pradesh in northern part of the sub-continent.

3. Jacobsen: You have written for the Times of India (TOI). It is huge and prominent Indian publication. To give a sense to the audience here, what is the level of influence of the Times of India on public and public intellectual discourse in the world’s largest democracy?

Mukherjee: It is very true that TOI is very prominent not only in India but also in this part of the globe. Many a times during my stint as a business journalist on global junkets, fellow journalists were literally in awe of the paper and that gave me a kick. We do have various campaigns by our paper, and it acts as a pressure group on the government of the day. Also, some of our campaigns like the current organ donation helps in putting across the message loud and clear to the masses who come forward in large numbers to be a part of the movement initiated by the paper. Also, many a times our human-interest stories have a significant impact on the people. Once a journalist did a story on how an Olympic level archer Limba Ram was living a life of penury and was very unwell. Within 24 hours the apex Olympic Body  got him admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in new Delhi. The minister announced ex-gratia and numerous individuals and NGOs came forward to help him. Not only in India but people across the globe follow Times of India. Way back in 1997 I did a story based on NIMHANS study about nearly 80 percent of Delhi Police personnel being depressed. The next day I got a call from BBC London about how they had got a call from some NGO there who wanted to help the Delhi Police personnel come out of their depression and what was the route they should take and the best way they found was to contact the Times of India through their London office. What I want to prove that Times of India is still followed by the elite and we do make a difference in people’s lives so our stories and whatever we report must be true. We cannot afford to be casual because if we dare to the next day we are literally torn apart. Even small thing like a single column picture of African elephant instead of Indian one tucked somewhere down the inside pages is noticed by our readers. Yes, it feels great to be a part of tradition called the Times of India.

4. Jacobsen: You have written a bit on religion and its influence on politics, where personal identity impacts political trajectory. How important is religion in today’s India?

Mukherjee: Frankly speaking it is some stupid notion fed by some equally stupid journalist to the world and it refuses to go. I have been closely associated with Syed Shah Nawaz Hussein, who being a staunch Muslim, is the national spokesperson the BJP, which for some very strange reason is a communal party. And let me assure you that I have not seen religion being so important to overshadow his political life. Well the great Karl Marx was very right when he said ‘Religion is the opium of the masses’ but here I need to define the word masses. In Indian context masses are the illiterate people who are literally herded by the political leaders for their petty gains. For the educated Indian youth religion is to be practiced inside the four walls of your homes and left there only when you step out. Because they have understood religion is not going to lead them anywhere, so it is very personal. Talking of Shahnawaz Hussein, his wife is a Hindu Brahmin and their sons, studying in London, think religion is as personal as your body. As you do not take off your clothes before everyone, so your belief and how you follow your religion should not be of concern to anybody. On the other end of the spectrum we do have a sizable chunk of the so-called masses for whom religion and politics are the same thing and want to garner votes by dividing the voters. It might work in the interiors of the nation but certainly not among the educated ones.

5. Jacobsen: Is the influence of Hindu nationalism healthy or unhealthy, overall, in India?

Mukherjee: I do not think there is any thing called Hindu nationalism as I have said before for the educated Indian there is no concept of Hindu nationalism. Only because some not so great leader coined some stupid term does not mean it rules our lives. If some government takes steps to protect the cow or clean the Ganga river it does not make them Hindu nationalist. We are secular country and I am very proud of the fact in my country every person is free to follow his or her religion without any fear. Some stray incidents here and there do not make the country Hindu nationalists. Nationalism is just nationalism and religion have no place in it. I refuse to believe in the concept of Hindu nationalism.

6. Jacobsen: What have been your favored moments in professional life so far? What writings are you most proud of looking back now?

Mukherjee: The Mckinsey report,

MS shoes fraud

Urea fraud

Launching of NIE

Branding of Apollo Hospitals

Conceptualising of my kid’s magazine ‘Kalpana’ (PDF Attached)

7. Jacobsen: If a foreigner wanted to become involved in Indian political culture, writing, and journalism, how would they do it? Any recommendations for them?

Mukherjee: To begin with you must become a part of India. You must understand the nuances of the Indian culture which varies from state to state to be able to do justice to your writings. You must learn to love and accept India and Indians with all their shortcomings and follies and begin by reading a lot about India. Where do you start well, come to India be a part of it and the best place to start would be to begin with writing blogs and take it forward and the best place of course in The Times of India .

8. Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Mukherjee: Journalism is a great responsibility so one must choose their words carefully. A casual question mark at the end of a sentence can create havoc. Be impartial and just be a reporter. We must report facts and do not try to colour your reports with your own thoughts.

9. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mahua.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Reporter, Times of India.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 8, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and Journalism [Online].July 2019; 20(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, July 8). An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and JournalismRetrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and Journalism. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A, July. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and Journalism.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and Journalism.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A (July 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and JournalismIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 20.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and JournalismIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 20.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and Journalism.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 20.A (2019):July. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Mahua Mukherjee on Life Story, the Times of India, Religion and Politics in India, and Journalism [Internet]. (2019, July 20(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/mukherjee.

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