Down Memory lane with Rajan Narayan.. NO HOLY COWS FOR ME, PLEASE!

Leaves out of the life and times of underdog editor Rajan Narayan …a wife caps a few experiences of the loverly and not-so-loverly kind!

By Tara Narayan

It’s always preferable to write about people when they’re still around, alive and vital. Recently, I asked Rajan Narayan (who is also my husband): Will you do down memory lane with me for old time’s sake? He said, No! I said, I can do it anyway if you don’t answer a single question! Mine is a love story like no other depending on whose eyes you see it, mine, or his. It’s been a marriage of 20 years plus these days I feel I must write about a man who made such a difference for the better in my life. His life is worth writing about, his biography is far more interesting than even late chief minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar! Somebody should make a documentary film on Goa’s most underdog editor who has seen some of Goa’s most exciting times as founder-editor of the ‘OHeraldo’ English daily. But they won’t, they prefer more boring subjects, Rajan Narayan’s life has been far too exciting, depending on how sensitive and alive you are to what is happening in Goa and the country today; if nobody writes about my husband Rajan Narayan, I will! His is an invaluable, timeless and inspirational story although today it’s become a very sad one…

I WISH the late cartoonist and tongue-in-cheek satire genius Mario da Miranda had never asked one of the youngest editors in Mumbai that was Bombay in the 1970s to come to Goa. He was the editor of “Mirror,” “Onlooker,” “Imprint” and other publications later on but came out to take on a new editorial challenge in Goa in the early 1980’s, the task of turning around a Portuguese social gossip newspaper – OHeraldo or the Herald — into Goa’s first class investigative and no nonsense, no holy cows newspaper in English.
What kind of a future would he have in a Goa which Mario himself once confessed is like Patton’s Place, where everybody knows everybody in high society, which is as incestuous as any wealthy society anywhere which gives a damn for its working class people? Here is just a brief idea of the life and times of Rajan Narayan down memory lane…
THESE days I keep telling Rajan Narayan, editor of OHeraldo for 20 years and later editor of the political weekly Goan Observer for another 20 years plus (now reduced to being on digital platform only as…that life is not going by. We are going by and one of these days both of us will be gone with the wind. He is frail with health problems plaguing the life out of him and ready to blow off with the wind, but his wife of 20 years plus is not yet ready yet for him to fly off anywhere into the grand mystery of doomsday!
Today, I find I am forgetting even when we got married! We got married that fateful day on February 10, 2001 much to my mother’s disappointment (even if she had been going on and on about having two unmarried daughters in the house and why should anyone marry them, they were so unfit for marriage). I was on the wrong side of 40s and Rajan was on the right side of his 50s when we agreed to get married, may be 25 years too late in life. He for the second time around, me for the first time.
It was all very romantic if you want to think of it like that. In my 20s, 30sand 40s Goa was one of my favourite destinations for beach-bumming, trekking with the YHAI trekking programs, going off to Ganpatiphule to climb the cliffs at a time when the hills were not as developed into a hotel complexes as they are today, lots of half-naked hippies white and brown then in those early years of the 70s and nobody paid any attention to them as they smoked their marijuana and dreamt away their lives blissfully home away from home.
To cut it short, every annual holiday in Goa I would catch up with Rajan Narayan whom I was vaguely acquainted with from my Bombay days in the 70s – when I had just arrived as a 20-year-old young woman on the island of Penang, off the west coast of the Malaysian peninsula. My father from impoverished Bhadran village in Gujarat had migrated out there post-Independence in search of greener pastures…my mother and a four-year-old me followed.
Convent education and higher school education later when I turned 20 years in Penang, a Gujarati girl called Aruna Shah eloped with a Malay school teacher and set the small conservative Gujarati community on Penang island on fire – let’s say I was one of the marriageable age girls who was packed off to India to be married off to not just to an Indian boy but a Gujarati boy – and my aunt or foi (father’s only sister) in Chembur in Bombay was given strict instructions by my father to find a boy for me and then the rest of them would come down to India.
The rest is history. I refused to marry. Miserable to the gills in the early 70’s in Bombay and weeping in the nearest church at Flora Fountain, I wrote a story about various ways to commit suicide. Took the story to the young Rajan Narayan who was one of the youngest editors in Bombay then, at the “Onlooker,” in his Marxist avatar then he was quite intimidating – told me to leave my story on his table and go. He published the story and the rest is ….well, 25 years later we got married, too late in life for anything to count for much or something surely!
I remember I had asked him in a letter, after he had proposed over the phone one morning when the sun was shining, Will you be my anchor? He said, okay and we got hitched in an Arya Samaj shaadi. Nowadays he tells me, “I’m tired of being an anchor! I have been too many people’s anchor…I don’t want to be anyone’s anchor anymore.” For Rajan Narayan there are no holy cows and even his wife of 20 years is not a holy cow, okay? Even if sometimes he describes me as his better three-quarters!
We have been together through the OHeraldo tail-end years and the Goan Observer years – the good times rolled in and we lived happily after like there would be no tomorrow. For about 15 years life was more or less vastly entertaining as we entertained our friends warmly. With time the political environment changed and after the coronavirus or Covid-19 scare and lockdowns a lot of media business went for a toss.
The small, gutsy political weekly of the Goan Observer suffered more for nobody may accuse Rajan Narayan of sleeping with the government of any day. Came Manohar Parrikar who had a great deal of regard for Rajan Narayan but it was his interference in instigating trouble at the OHeraldo with proprietor Raul Fernandes, who wanted to be on good terms with the Chief Minister for mutual gains – which saw Rajan picking up his bag and walking out one day in 2003 to start the Goan Observer (this was soon after our infamous marriage with my mother dear crying why did I have to go and get married when I was already old in my late 40s).
Perhaps you may say a second marriage and a new vision of life made him see life anew as fresh beginnings – after all I believed in him and life was not so rich but as happy as a lark! His 1-BHK at Taleigao was not liveable so we moved from his infamous basement flat which has seen much political history of Goa come and go (I was very fond of his landlady of those years, whom I addressed as Aunty Libby) – to another rental at Dona Paula, and again on to another rental at Miramar, again at Tonca, finally from one end of Caranzalen to the other end today. Say good times rolled away and bad times rolled in, we seasoned and age caught up with us during the bad times!
SAY I contributed to some of our headaches today. He is still paying the price of the absurd beating up with iron rods he got by the goons of the late politician Mummy Victoria’s son Rudolph & Co while he was returning home to his basement home at Dona Paula one late OHeraldo working day on Friday, September 16, 1989. He confides in me “If they had hit me on the head I would have gone straight to heaven, but they got me on at the neck and the spine…and so I lived.” The criminals hired by the one-time Speaker Dayanand Narvekar, annoyed by O’Heraldo editorials asking for his resignation, went Scott-free. Nobody followed up the case, there was no compensation. OHeraldo management couldn’t care less if their editor had died and instead did their best to get him to leave now that he was a bit of a crock and his utility value was over. He didn’t die despite the best efforts of one Dr NKS Sharma at the Goa Medical College & Hospital who was experimenting with high doses of steroids to ease the pain of the patient. All of this is as much media as medical history today and is well recorded so I won’t recount it here in detail.
Through our marriage of 20 years I have seen Rajan go in and out hospitals courtesy his fragile health history post-beating up. Watched him manage his body with a slew of drugs prescribed by various doctors, most of them concerned for they knew his history as editor of the OHeraldo’s where he had spent the best years of his life with single-minded devotion, turning the daily into an important milestone in Goa’s media history. He is right when he says he introduced investigative journalism in Goa. Several generations of journalists have grown up in his school of hands-on journalism and they still remember and call him up sometimes from around the world with warm memories of being ex-OHeraldo staff or Rajan Narayan’s boys!
UPS and downs notwithstanding I have learnt that it is not so much poverty I fear in our later years – that’s something the world has coped with through times immemorial. But it is the pride, the sense of something achieved or not achieved, the attitudes we bring to life good, bad or ugly – which can shape happiness or turn into a millstone of sadness when things go wrong, so wrong with someone you love and wish maximum for.
Never mind the petty differences of opinion over this or that…who is responsible for decisions wrongly taken and now the time has fled to rectify one’s judgements of error? Life is not a garden of roses for most media people – look around and you will see the best are in trouble trying to survive a government which does not like to see the other side of the coin of governance. It prefers to put away or punish those who speak up about injustice and terror behind bars for years on end…
If you are asking me we are becoming a country of slaves, both the battles and the war is on to save what Indian democracy has stood for hitherto! In the meantime I ask for help from anyone who gives a damn for Rajan Narayan and his 20 years old gutsy political weekly which needs a new infusion of funds and a vision to make things count in a world —which is increasingly turning into a nightmare for the many who once dreamed of more truth, freedom and health for a better world they definitely contributed too! Knock, knock, anyone out there listening?

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