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R Prasannan
R Prasannan


Ringing memories

83PranabMukherjee Book value: President Pranab Mukherjee receiving the first copy of The Eighth Ring from Malayala Manorama Chief Editor Mammen Mathew, at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi | PTI

K.M. Mathew’s autobiography, The Eighth Ring, recounts the evolution of the Indian media through years of political turmoil and technological challenges

Editors of every era have faced challenges, and yet upheld the cause of individual freedom of the journalist and institutional freedom of the publication. Malayala Manorama faced the biggest challenge when it took up the cause of independence and was victimised by the dewan of Travancore, who got its offices locked up for nine years.

President Pranab Mukherjee believes that the next challenge before editors and publishers will come from new technologies. But then, the president is hopeful. “Technology will pose a problem. But… I am confident that the media will succeed in meeting the challenge posed by technology,” he said after receiving the first copy of The Eighth Ring, the English version of the autobiography of Malayala Manorama's former chief editor K.M. Mathew, from the latter's son and current chief editor Mammen Mathew.

The Malayalam version of the book had been a best-seller because, as Mammen Mathew pointed out, the veteran editor wrote the book “not to display his war wounds or to trumpet the historic events he had witnessed, but out of a childlike desire to share with everyone the tenderness of his parents and the unshakable faith he had in Malayala Manorama's destiny. But, as the narration progressed, it became a mellow commentary on Kerala's political undercurrents, which resulted in the shutting down of Malayala Manorama by the Travancore princely government for nine years in 1938.”

Mathew, who gave THE WEEK its motto of ‘Journalism with a Human Touch’, wrote the book with not just human touch, but also a touch of humour. Full of anecdotes about big and small people with whom he interacted, the book also recounts the evolution of the Indian media through years of political turmoil and technological challenges.

At the function, attended by a host of dignitaries from various walks of life, including ministers, judges, MPs, editors, publishers and other public personalities, Mukherjee paid tribute to K.M. Mathew, whom he had known personally. “I had known K.M. Mathew since the early days of my life, which is neither too long, nor too short—in the early 1970s,” he said.

Renowned jurist Fali S. Nariman, while paying tribute to Mathew, who was also his personal friend, expressed happiness that there were still people around who read books despite the explosion of television and the internet. Nariman, too, seemed impressed by the anecdotage in the book. He particularly recalled the one in which Mathew took his wife, Annamma, to a gathering in London and used his ingenuity to get her an audience with Margaret Thatcher. But what seems to linger longer in Nariman's mind is the taste of the coconut pudding that Annamma, an author of several cookery books, made for him long ago.

NDTV president Prannoy Roy described Mathew as a “towering figure” of journalism, who won the battles he had fought throughout his life. He said Mathew was “fiercely independent and tech-savvy” and he spearheaded “socially sensitive and humane journalism”.

He said the situation seen during the K.M. Mathew era had “intensified today, regardless of which party is in power”. Roy talked about ‘McCarthyism’, the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.

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