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When people say why now, that's the time to retire


QW Naqvi, the enigmatic, behind-the-scene father-figure of Aaj Tak has completed his innings with the company as its News Director. The end of last month saw the culmination of his contractual obligations with the company. Anuradha Preetam profiles the man who gave the brand its name.
ANURADHA PREETAM | New Delhi, June 2, 2012 18:30
Tags : qw naqwi profile | aaj tak news director |

Naqvi Dada, as the News Director of Aaj Tak is fondly called in the media circles, has hung up his boots. It is an end of an era at Aaj Tak. He says, “This is a beautiful end, at its peak, of a beautiful professional inning. When people say, why now, that is the time to retire. Retire when you are at the peak. ”

Dada gave Aaj Tak not only its name but was the one who consciously devised a new style of presentation, of the language for Hindi news channels. “At this juncture of life, I can at least take some credit for this,” he jokes. However, he says this came from  a homesick heart and a ghazal. “While strolling on the roads of Mumbai in my first job as a trainee with the Times of India, I heard the ghazal by Jagjit Singh-  ‘Hum to hain pardes mein, des me, nikla hoga chand...’ and it transported me back to the lanes of my native Banaras. It was then that I realised, the language should titillate you, should give you goose bumps. I applied this in Aaj Tak. So, if there is any contribution you may think of, in the formulation of the language style at Aaj Tak, it is that of Jagjit Singh and his ghazal,” quips Naqvi Da.

Regarding his own attachment with the brand he says, “A brand is created by a team. The team we built was emotionally attached with Aaj Tak. They do not merely do their job here. They work for the survival and honour of the brand. Aaj Tak is a cult. Whoever left Aaj Tak, could never get over it. It remains in their hearts.”

The man, talking today of hearts and emotions is a self-confessed philosopher in real life. “I do not remember when I became such. I expect nothing from life. I am very detached. Neither success, nor failure, affect me. I know, people around me find it difficult to cope with me, and it is they who have to adjust with me. And, I have lived life to the fullest. Life itself is a book. I have learnt everything that I have, from this book.”

Those who know Naqvi Dada will find it hard to believe that there has been a time when he had played badminton, flown kites, been a score keeper for the cricket matches played between teams of a sports club, worn 36 inches wide bell-bottoms, worn his hair like a hippy, stolen mangoes from orchards and fruits and vegetables from railway stations by sliding a blade in the jute bags stacked with goods to be loaded on a train!

Born in Banaras, his family roots spread to Kunda in Pratapgarh, “a place that is now known more because of Raja Bhaiyya”. His family dealt in car and motor batteries. His father brought the know-how of the  business from Hyderabad to Benaras where the joint family owned three shops. Naqvi ji’s father died of cancer when he was only six and the family pushed him into his father’s trade. He was not sent to school, for the fear that he would learn abuses in the company of the children there! His mother taught him until a tutor was kept for him at home. He joined the Cutting Memorial Inter College straight at class five. In his own words, he was so dumb – “ghonchu”, that after he took his exams, he did not know that he was even supposed to submit the paper to the class teacher. He walked out with the answer-sheet from the class. A class eight senior saw him and told him to go back and give it to the teacher.  “By the stupid looks on my face, the teacher believed that I had indeed not acted smart by carrying it outside! She took the paper”, Naqvi ji remembers. He passed that exam, and many others after that, with grace marks until in class eight when he suddenly scored 86 per cent, thanks to the “bad company” of two of his classmates. Together the trio was up to all kinds of trouble. But one day, the realisation hit him that he would get nowhere if he continued this way. He gave it all up all in a jiffy.

After he completed his intermediate from the DAV Inter College, Benaras, his family thought, that was more than the qualification he would need to run his business. He was made to sit at the shop, with his uncles. But, he had other plans. He wanted to study further. He, on his own efforts had been writing articles and poems since the age of 13 and was also getting published in children’s magazines and newspapers. Encouraged by this and bored with selling batteries, he dropped an article on sports in the drop-box of the Hindi daily, Sanmarg. The article got published.

He did this for many weeks. And every week the article got published. Naqvi ji says, there was a purpose here. The office was far away – about five kilometres from his home. He could not have sent it by post as he wanted to save money. He therefore would walk both ways, and drop the article in the box. He would not meet the editor because as a child, he looked much younger than his age. He thought the editor would not take him seriously and think that his was not an original copy but a plagiarism of others.

Those were the days of struggle, he reminisces. He wanted to study further, but the family was opposed to the idea. So, by dodging the family, Naqvi ji got enrolled for a graduation course at the Harischandra Degree College, Benaras. “I used to attend classes between 7.20 AM and 9.20 AM. I deliberately chose the subjects that suited this time. As I used to play badminton, I left home in a sports dress, first played badminton for half an hour, then went to a friend’s place, changed into decent formal clothes, went to the college, attended classes, and would be at the shop before 10.00!” Naqvi ji narrates. It was during the exams that the family found this out. He was allowed to take the exam but before the results were out, he was packed off to Allahabad.

He came back after a year but by then, he had already lost a year at the college. He convinced the college administration to help him in his struggle against his family members to get his degree. The college relented and he became a graduate. Later, he also did his Masters in Hindi, privately. By then, the family members had resigned to their fate. All this while, he continued writing and also worked as Accounts Assistant at Hotel D’Paris, Benaras Canonment to finance his studies. He gave about six tuitions a day and as a tutor, was much in demand. To earn some extra bucks, he has painted posters and recorded those ads that were played on rickshaws on those days. He was also a famous poet of Banaras then and at 18, was practically the editor of a local weekly newspaper. He made all sorts of friends on the way – cleaners, painters, drivers, motor mechanics, hippies, maulavis, pundits, poets, players and artistes.

Q W Naqvi’s first formal job was at The Times of India publications. The brother of one of his students had kept a cutting of the ad for a trainee journalist. Despite a lack of confidence in himself, he applied and succeeded. He still remembers his roll number- ‘H 9’ that was called out to declare the results. He then joined the TOI’s Hindi newspaper, Navbharat Times at Mumbai.

He later moved to Lucknow, closer to home, and met an intern, who later became his wife on December 6, 1989. “It was an inter-religious marriage, she being a Hindu and naturally the family members were against it, but things went smoothly,” Naqvi Da says. “Wo to meri bhi master hai!”

Before joining Aaj Tak, Naqvi Dada was part of the team that started the popular Hindi daily – Chauthi Dunia. And he is credited with having given this organisation its identity. It is he who gave the name – Chauthi Dunia.

Looking back at his life at Aaj Tak he says, the first two years spent with S P Singh were his best period in the organisation. “ Viewers, still remember SP. That was his contribution to this organisation. They tell me, “Oh! You work there where this bearded man, some Singh used to read the news?’ Such was his charm and charisma.”

Naqvi Dada has moved on, for another inning of may be a different type altogether, but as he said, anyone who has gone from here, has not got over it. And this time around, Aaj Tak too will not get over him it seems.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017