A fierce crusader (1925-2017)
Govind Shripad Talwalkar born on 23 July 1925, – and respectfully known as Govind Times, was a veteran journalist and former editor of Maharashtra Times, as well as the author of 25 books. A distinguished scholar-editor, thinker, and prolific writer, he was the recipient of the Lokmanya Tilak Award from the Government of Maharashtra, the B. D. Goenka Award and Durga Ratan Award for excellence in journalism, and the Ramshastri award for social justice.
Graduating from Bombay University, doing odd jobs to pay his fees, Talwalkar at 23 years, became a sub-editor with Loksatta, a Marathi daily of the Indian Express Group, and even wrote the editorial on his first day. From 1950 to 1962, he served as Assistant Editor. Talwalkar then joined the Maharashtra Times, a new Marathi daily launched by the Times of India group, becoming Chief Editor in 1968, and remaining in that role for 27 years until he retired in 1996.
He used simple Marathi to make difficult subjects easily understandable to ordinary readers. He was the guiding light and greatest influence over the Maharashtrian literary, political, educational, social, cultural and intellectual fabric of post-Independence Maharashtra, for over forty years.
An editor with a vision, who led a rich journalistic life, he wrote prolifically on politics, international affairs and literature. A visionary, he gave Marathi journalism a new direction, by including various aspects of life, and wrote hard-hitting articles and editorials whenever the powers that be, erred, forcing them to correct themselves.
His hard-hitting editorials and articles appealed to reason and were his identity; he was much respected and feared by the politicians and people in powerful places, and immensely admired by the masses and the scholars. Raj Thackeray felt Talwalkar was “justified being recognised as Agralekhancha Badshah (the emperor of editorials)”; the late Marathi writer, journalist and intellectual, S.M. Mate admiringly remarked that he “had a felicity of pen”.
He selflessly exposed corruption in politics, universities, and hospitals, social and public matters and tried to mitigate the problems faced by the common man. He never had to ever address a public event from a rostrum and neither did he need the crutch of television news to be known.
On retirement in 1996, Talwalkar settled with his daughters in the United States, but continued to contribute to various newspapers and magazines by way of critical articles and essays in Marathi and English on world politics, economics, history, social issues and books.
Fluent in both Marathi and English, his many books have been well received for their wealth of information, insight, scholarship and style, a treasure trove and a great joy to read. His book on the transfer of power in India (‘Sattantar’) is now in its third edition. Several of his editorials and articles are collected in his books, including Agralekh, Bahar, Pushpanjali, Lal Gulag and Niyatishi Karar. His book ‘Badalta Europe’ and writings on the communism in China and crumbling of the once mighty Soviet Union were widely read. At a time when it was fashionable to be a communist, Talwalkar wrote against the totalitarianism of both the Right as well as the Left. “Accurate reporting is a must”, he averred, “Not being aware of the background makes even the hardworking journalist a mere stenographer”. He added, “You have to peel the onion, layer by layer, but not be affected by the vapours that could bring tears.”
He felt the reporter must not be part of the story. A reporter’s editor, he stood by them regardless of pressures from the authorities, as he had the gumption to stand up for his belief. He died on 21 March 2017, at the age of 92, in Cleveland, Ohio. Mahesh Vijapurkar Author at First Post, paid tribute saying “On this day, one may wonder if we would get another gem like him. But, chances are slim, for in this changing world, journalism has evolved, and journalists have changed their approach to news and opinion.”