Monday, April 25, 2005

Old man Munjal.

In the small and unfortunately extremely dumb/corrupt/corpulent/know-it-all group of auto journalists in Delhi (not including Ms Sengupta and Mr Joshi, who I adore as people and reporters and two people who helped me out tremenedously in my first year as a journalist, god bless them!), no lets make that India (some of the most inspired number crunching comes from Jain&Jain journo's out of Mumbai, one in particular, let me not even mention byline river who filled up half a page of ToI today with gunk that I wouldn't have written in a story brief), Brij Mohan Lall Munjal, Chairman of Hero Honda is called 'Ole Man Munjal'. Now usually, at the end of a presser, before the vapid PYT's or sometimes know-it-all guys from the TV channels descend on him, he manages to sidestep with remarkable grace, and actually gives the time of day to print. Surprisingly, most auto bosses who matter, whether it be Munjal, Bajaj, Khattar or Subbu, they all seem to give the TV channels shortt shrift. Which I just love them for, I mean seeing Khattar chiding CNBC once made me write something nice about his not-so-new 'new' Esteem. Brilliant.
But, back to the point. Which was Ole man Munjal. Well, the folks on the 13th decided that there is nothing better bto do than to send good ol' K to meet the chap. Now keep in mind, that I am younger than some of Munjal's grandkids, so conversations tend to die fairly quickly around him. Anyway, they mainly involve underpowered but extremely (and you have no idea how extreme the term is here) economical and relaible. But, 13th Floor is celebrating their third anniversary of underpaying reporters, Bossman told me that I get paid the same as their number two, and I'm like number gadzillionth and one in my organisation. So I got the thankless job I reckoened of spending an hour with Munjal.
Wrong. Sometimes I do think like a whippersnapper and diss old folks. I'm sorry for that and today was a good example that I am frankly a very small fry in a very big world and have nothing of consequence, other than buy a car, and maybe that award thingie.
It was a riveting conversation. We spoke about the time after partition, and how his entire Mom's side was almost wiped out in the riots. How he saw a 50-strong mob strip and rape a young Muslim girl, and "I just stood there before turning the other way." I"I saw dead people and bodies all over the trains." But, he did manage to see the tricolour go up on the night of 14/15th August. And hearing these tales, as someone who was born 31 years after we gained independence made me realise just how much must have gone in to that. The horror stories of partition that Tamas or Train to Pakistan try to relate came out even more powerfully in the words of a 80 year old man.
We hardly spoke about motorcycles, other than a little bit for a story I am doing on something else. If I didn't Number Three would wag his finger and reproach me in the same condescending style that he always does. Munjal told me while I was leaving that I was the first journalist he had ever told this story to, "I hardly talk about it at home, the memories are not always that nice, you just choose to forget about them."
He did mention a funny story about a German man and 'namaste' and how much the Jap's love him, but somehow it didn't sound like the BM Munjal that we meet at two or three pressers every year. This was a man I never knew existed.
So, when I was leaving I asked him why he told this story to me (young stupid, sometimes arrogant whippersnapper hack, who he really hardly knew from Adam), and not to say, someone else? He told me, "Because you asked, and I know I won't be around for that much longer, so I had to tell it to someone sometime."
I don't know why, but that left a nice fuzzy feeling inside me. The Old Man really has some great stories in him, I must get to meet him again. Now if he could only teach that son of his some colour co-ordination.....


rums said...

what's with the dewey-eyed K all of a sudden?!

rums said...

and oh btw, i wonder how you can respect auto journos who don't drive!!!

K said...

As people, rums, as people - those two helped me out massively during the bad old days - well when I was a babe in the woods. Not that I respect auto journalists who can drive either.