Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Media Research: Let us think Indian

(Text of the keynote address I was privileged to deliver at a session of the National Conference on Research Methodology in Journalism and Mass Communication: De-westernizing Media Studies, organized at Tezpur, Assam, by Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University, Nov 26-28, 2010.)

Let me begin by confessing. I am a misfit in such a conference of media research veterans who have spent decades contributing to the body of knowledge in communication studies. I am only a media professional-turned-teacher after spending over 30 years reporting for a news agency and some newspapers. My peers in newspaper industry view me with suspicion about my new role when I talk about need for media research. The veterans in research tend to treat me with contempt because I know very little about the communication theories and research methodologies. Yet, I ventured to be here at this conference because this gives me an opportunity to express my experiences and views. This I do with a sincere hope that the communication scholars here will respond to my queries and doubts and offer some suggestions. This, trust me, is not to question the existing approach, but to learn as an eager student of media research.
This, in that sense, is not a structured keynote address, but is a random expression of several points not articulated in an organised manner.
I have experienced that most media schools in the country do not have adequate number of teachers to teach subjects like news reporting, editing, PR, Advertising, Broadcast Journalism, or conversion of new media. Sound experience in relevant profession in these areas is crucial if the students are to join the industry as professionals. Criterion to be a full time teacher in any of these areas is, however, not professional experience. The UGC insists that aspirants need be only NET or SLET pass. Experienced professionals, on the other hand, are not very enthusiastic to be full time teachers because they draw better salaries in the industry. In addition, they do not get the glamour and job satisfaction they get in their professions. With the result, the media schools have to depend on guest faculty or visiting teachers drawn from the local industry, to teach these subjects. These visiting professionals do not have time and also inclination to provide the students with perspectives of communication theories. Most of them find media research as an academic exercise with which the industry has nothing to do.
Teachers with NET or SLET qualifications, but without professional experience, may not be aware of the ground realities of the profession. They may have excellent understanding of communication theories and research methods, but several of them may not have exposure to the issues in the industry that need to be taken up for serious academic studies. More important than these facts is that most students plan to be professionals and have little interest in academic research. Most students want to be Rajdeep Sardesais and Barakha Datts. Opportunities in research field are not known to them. Newspapers, television news channels, ad agencies and PR firms do not offer them lucrative jobs in research.
Most students, therefore, rarely produce quality communication research as can be seen from the lists of Master’s dissertations. The dissertations for Master’s, and even for MPhil or PhD degrees, are for just the degrees. Very few studies are useful to the profession. Fewer have rigour and quality required for international conferences and journals.
There is yet another painful fact. Many teachers, once they attain certain positions such as Professors or Readers, rarely find it worthwhile to carry out research if it is not going to further advance their careers. My saying so may offend my colleagues. But consider this: UGC has received only two proposals each for Major Research and Minor Research in Mass Communication this time. Compare this with other faculties in humanities and social sciences: Commerce has 105 proposals, History 63, and Management 42. http://www.ugc.ac.in/notices/schedulehrp.pdf (notices/schedulehrp.pdf, 2010).
It will, however, be unfair not to admit that Lecturers, Readers and Professors in media schools have a lot of teaching and administrative workload. It is not easy for them to find time for research.
Whatever be the reasons, it boils down to this: we do not have good research teachers who carry out media studies fit to be published in international journals and conferences, at the same time be of utility in the profession.
Prof CSHN Murthy, the organiser of this conference, echoed sentiments of several Indian scholars who are obliged to follow the style and methodologies of their counterparts in USA and UK. This cannot be avoided if the research is to be published in peer-reviewed international journals. The Indian research rarely gets published in international journals for several reasons. One of them is that the editors of these journals and peers/reviewers are mostly, I believe, from the West. They fail to understand or appreciate the research topic, the methodology and sample size mentioned in the abstract or research proposal. This results in the rejection of the paper at this stage itself. If the abstract or proposal is approved, the paper is likely to be returned by the peers if they do not realise the importance of the Indian subject.
One reason cited for the rejection is lack of references from international literature. Then there could be the bias in favour of qualitative research. Without going into details of quantitative versus qualitative debate, I will only express the view that Indian scholars opt for the research mainly because of the presumption that the peers would prefer quantitative, and not the       qualitative study. I do not have empirical data to substantiate this, but several colleagues have expressed their opinion when I spoke to them about this in recent times.
A word about sampling methods: I have my own doubts about the sampling methods of the Western scholars. The research papers available through web search quite often show purposive sample drawn from, say a class of students in a college or institute. Here is one example:

It is from a paper published in journal Communication Research. The study involved 287 students in a German college. The summary of the outcome of the study, as published in http://www.physorg.com/news163852240.html, retrieved on November 17, 2010, , concluded, and I quote:

‘The last thing most people in a bad love affair want to do is to read informational articles about romance. But people facing financial difficulties often choose to read articles which may help them cope with their money problems.

Those are some of the findings of a new study that aimed to discover whether people use the news media to escape from their problems or find information on how to cope with them. Abstract of the paper published by Communication Research, April 2009 is available at http://crx.sagepub.com/content/36/2/207.abstract).’

I draw your attention to the fact that the study involved only students in a small country, but its conclusions, at least in the news coverage offered by the researchers, make a categorical statement mentioning ‘people’ at large. It was a purposive sample drawn from college students. These students may have different family, economic, social or geographical backgrounds. My point is: Is it proper to generalize the conclusion in respect of ‘people’ who would include adults, men and women, in different background.

I seek response to my query from Indian communication scholars mostly supervising doctoral theses or Master’s dissertations. This is because I have often come across such scholars who do not accept such generalisation if their junior researchers draw similar conclusions after their quantitative studies.
I believe that the western scholars are not exposed to the media issues in the Indian situation. We cannot blame them, therefore, if they reject any proposal for study on such media issues when 150-word abstracts are sent to them. Even in India, scholars trusting only the quantitative studies, frown upon quantitative data as I have experienced it recently. Here is one example:
A Master’s final year student working under me submitted her graduation project on Paid News. Everyone in print and electronic journalism and in media schools knows that this phenomenon is prevalent for a long time in India. It does exist, but there is no concrete proof to substantiate because the owners stoutly opposed efforts to indict the guilty. The Press Council of India, the Editors Guild of India, the Election Commission, the Union government, and journalists who are keen to expose the
malpractice, remained helpless in this matter. Nothing has come out of the debate in these august forums, beyond condemnation in blogs and websites. No serious academic research has been conducted by communication scholars. This is my conclusion after I made a concerted effort to inquire from peers in various places.  
Against this background, I helped this student to meet the men in the print media who minted money through the paid news. She met politicians who made payments for laudatory contents in the news columns during the campaign of the last state assembly election in Maharashtra. Among the sources to provide the data for the study were former Corporate Editor of a very influential Marathi chain newspaper, and ex-general manager of its competitor. Both gave minute details of the operations to earn money for their masters, including ‘tariff’ (rate card as they called it) for paid news for front page, inside pages, with and without photographs, colour and black & white printing, and so on. They explained how the editorial staff was kept out of the operation. A separate section consisting of advertising department functionaries and retired ‘writers’ (ex-journalists) handled the content creation for the newspaper page. This page was not marked as ‘Advertisement’.
She interviewed owner of a small time PR consultancy that served as a conduit between the poll managers and newspaper owners’ representatives. The consultancy would write stories and organise photographs for such contents.
The researcher met six candidates to find how they exploited the paid news practice. These candidates belonged to different parties. 
She interviewed journalists of two newspapers which did not indulge in any corrupt practice, as was vouched even by their rivals.
Her paper was not (and I repeat NOT) appreciated at all by the scholar who evaluated her performance. The reason he gave was that she did not have adequate data. He failed to appreciate that her sources were top executives, and have given details which were not available to PCI, Editors’ Guild, or others. I had no way to convince him.
Now, let us face it. The western media scholars would never come to know about the malpractice of paid news, because Indian academicians would not study it in absence of quantifiable data. There are scores of articles on this issue in magazines and websites all right, but these are not written within the framework and rigour of the media research methods and communication theories. There is no mention of paid news in international publications now. Any abstract/proposal or a paper from a young researcher is most likely to be ignored by peer-reviewers in absence of citation related to this issue in these publications.
Same is the case of the Times of India’s business venture
Medianet that created a major controversy after it was launched in 2003. As you are aware, a corporate house can enter into a contract with ToI for a period and buy space for favourable contents without making these appear as advertisement or PR stuff. Journalists vehemently protested in their columns, blogs, and websites as credibility of print journalism was at stake since Medianet came from the largest publication house. Sure enough, this concept was picked up unabashedly by smaller newspapers in English and regional languages.
Are there academic studies on the Medianet phenomenon? I am not aware, but I strongly feel media scholars should study this phenomenon with different approaches. It is not important if international conferences and journals would or would not accept such papers, but this is most certainly important for posterity. How else would future students and young journalists know what happened in this decade of 21st century?
My another point relates to journalistic research. I asked some senior scholars if journalistic research is considered a type/category of media/communication studies. The reply was unanimous and a categorical NO! Academicians and theoreticians would not waste time to discuss such a non-issue. In USA, UK or in India and other Asian countries, the scholars are unanimous that research of professional journalists does not deserve to be in the domain of media studies. It is probably because the journalist’s research for a newspaper story does not follow the structure and discipline of the academic research. Media scholars have scant respect for the professionals; and the converse is equally true. It is not that professionals demand that their type of research deserves to be included in the academic research domain. It is also true that most media teachers in India have little time to document how a particularly important story was chased, and researched for references from libraries and sources.
Let me give you an example. We have a very important book, Everyone Loves A Good Drought, authored by P Sainath, who worked on the Times of India fellowship in the year 1992. He identified two poorest districts each in the five poorest states of the country- Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. It was not an outcome of a classical media research within conceptual frame of a communication theory. He used all his journalistic tools and skills to portray poverty in these places. The articles published by the ToI created controversy and generated debate among politicians and bureaucrats. The authorities were compelled to take action, proving the utility of his research. Was his research useful? It was indeed, but do the media scholars acknowledge that his was the research which needs to be acknowledged in the domain of media studies?
To me, his research methods deserve to be studied by young journalists and teachers so that they could try to use them in their career later. Similar studies were carried out by journalists like Sucheta Dalal, who exposed scams in the stock markets. Tehelka’s methods to expose corruption in high places also need to be studied by students and teachers of journalism.

Then there were serious, detailed newspaper stories on grave situation that led to farmers’ suicide. To me journalistic research for such stories on topical issues should find place in media and cultural studies. Some of these could have scope for interdisciplinary research.

We notice that popular topics for research for PhD and Master’s dissertations in India include comparative/content analysis, and impact/effect studies. These do have importance, but my poser is: Shouldn’t we encourage studies on production, new trends in newspaper coverage, change in the approach of the publishers in providing fashion and lifestyle at the cost of stories on farming and rural economy? Do we have studies on readers’ preferences vis-à-vis the contents offered by the editors at the best of the publishers?
I often wonder what happens to the journalists and their publishers who are indicted by Press Council of India. Are they punished? Do they change their attitude and be more responsible while they write stories later on? Do the readers and advertisers notice the strictures passed by the Press Council of India? Does the credibility of such newspaper take a beating, and is reflected in terms of lower circulation and lower ad revenue?
Statistical data indicates that newspaper circulation is going up in India at a time when their counterparts in USA have been reporting massive loss of revenue, and even closure of reputed dailies. Do we have any study on the readers’ perspective? This will be an important study given that the readers do not write to the publishers expressing unhappiness over the contents, errors and sloppy casual coverage in the newspapers. This should be considered against the backdrop of laments expressed by people during the informal conversations.
I will like to share my experience after I concluded a study on contents of website of political parties and their electoral candidates two years ago. It was conducted in a research institute, not belonging to a University. My colleague and I found that the political parties and the candidates hosted website with great fanfare during the campaign of the last Lok Sabha elections. But except a few, most of them were not aware about how to make the contents more effective and interactive to exploit this new medium for electoral gains. They did not provide even the basic contents, such as Contact Us in which they should have given their phone numbers and e-mail Ids. I thought we had done a good job that could educate the politicians, and even the website designers, so that there would be better contents and interactivity.
I decided to write a feature for newspapers, but our boss in the research institute very categorically asked me not to bother. His argument was, and I quote, ‘Educating people through general newspapers is not our job. We should restrict ourselves to research publications.’ I tried to reason with him. He relented to allow me to write for newspapers
only after, and only if, a reputed international journal published our paper. I gave up the idea because I knew it could be one year or more for an international journal to publish.
A word on research on regional language press. I have failed to understand and appreciate approach of the media scholars on this matter. They insist that doctoral thesis would have to be in English. Regional language is forbidden in most universities. An exception is the University of Pune, where I worked as a teacher. It permits thesis written in Marathi, the language of the state. This is how it should be. I do not know how else a PhD student can study issues of Marathi newspapers in a doctoral thesis written in English. I am sure this argument holds true for newspapers in other Indian languages. Should these studies be in English because we care only for publication in international journals and conferences, and not bother about utility of such research for the journalists and publishers in the respective languages?
Finally, a word about how the language of English thesis. I notice that the thesis, and the papers in international publications, are written in English which can be understood only by academicians. Why can these be not written in simple, plain English so that readers outside the field of communication studies can also easily understand the contents.
I conclude by submitting once again that I have spoken today as a student anxious to understand issues that trouble me as a journalist who happens to be in academics now. I hope the scholars present here will discuss these and other points raised by Prof Murthy and his team from the department of Journalism here. My compliments to him for organizing the conference with the theme of de-westernizing media studies in Indian context.
Thank you.
(Dr Kiran Thakur was a journalist for three decades before joining Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Pune, as Professor and Head. After retirement in 2007, he is an adjunct faculty with University of Mumbai and FLAME School of Communication in Pune. He is Principal Investigator of UGC-funded Major Research Project on
Language of English Newspapers in India.)


Friday, 4 February 2011

Dainik Bhaskar group to launch Marathi daily in Maharashtra

After Hindi, Gujarati and English language publications, DB Corp Ltd is set to launch its first Marathi daily in Maharashtra. The company informed BSE on February 3, 2011, that it would be launching its Marathi publication soon.
Recently, the Marathi newspaper market quite a few developments. While the beginning of January 2011 saw the Times Group launching Maharashtra Times in Pune, Marathi daily Sakal went all colour in the city.
Recently DB Corp reported a 29.2 per cent increase in its Q3 FY11 consolidated advertising revenues to Rs 2,810 million from Rs 2,176 million. Total revenues have grown by 24 per cent to Rs 3,482 million in Q3, as against Rs 2,814 million in Q3 of last year.
DB Corp has presence in 13 states and one Union Territory. The flagship newspapers of the group – Dainik Bhaskar (in Hindi), Divya Bhaskar and Saurashtra Samachar (in Gujarati) – have a presence in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The other newspapers of the group include Business Bhaskar, DB Gold and DB Star and, on a franchisee basis, DNA (in Gujarat and Rajasthan).

Thursday, 3 February 2011

D Raja and Ashok Chavan: Are they accused or suspect, as of now?

Veteran journalist Mahesh Vijapurkar, who spent over three decades reporting fot the Hindu, has raised the point on the words, 'accused' and 'suspect' which are used by journalists incorrectly. This has reference to stories in newspapers today (February 3, 2011).

Is D Raja, the former Telecom Minister, an "accused" in the 2G scam? Is Ashok Chavan, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, an accused in the Adarsh apartments scam? And the rest of the people arrested or named in the FIRs filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation also accused?
 The tendency with the media is to cite them as accused. That would be incorrect. For, a person is "accused" only when formally charged in a  court of law; till then, he is a suspect or held for questioning in custody.
Were I to accuse a person of stealing my pen from my desk, it does not make him one. He has to be found to have taken it and to find out whether he did or not, the authorities may take the suspect in custody to question him. Mere fact of being taken away does not turn him into an offender but a mere 'suspicion' of being one. 
Chances are a person detained - like Raja and his two aides - may turn out to be suspects, hypothetically speaking, and witnesses but not liable later to be accused.
Then what words should we use to describe these worthies?
 Media used the findings of the Comprtoller & Auditor General of India (CAG) to expose the racket in telecom spectrum allocation which points to mischief in the department.The mischief was perpetrated by
someone or the other or several persons but who among those who worked in the ministry? Question Raja may help find out. There are reasons a person is detained and court's permission sought for custodial questioning so that he does not tamper with the evidence.
Till such time the chargesheet is filed, the person would be a 'suspect'. Being named in an FIR would be "implicating" as a possible accused - that is a suspect.
 Time and again, media is far too generous with the use of the term accused.
 There have been reports when police are looking for unknown accused!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Mandanmohan Rao's book '15 Years of the Internet in Asia'

 Dr Madanmohan Rao’s book “15 Years of the Internet in Asia”  is scheduled to be launched in Delhi on February 11. A website about the book is already up, http://netchakra.net/ . The website tells us that the book has the following chapters:

(As one who studied online editions of Indian newspapers for a doctoral thesis, I found the chapters of the book very important for information and references. I have not yet read the book, but I will like to go through it at the earliest)

Chapters in the book:

Part I: Foundations
Internet and India: A Bond That’s Growing Stronger
Manish Dalal
The Future is in the CloudRajnesh D. Singh

Part II: The Pioneers
Bringing the Internet to India
Srinivasan Ramani
Birth and Growth of Internet in India
T.H. Chowdary
India’s Internet Policy and Regulatory Regime
Amitabh Singhal
From BB (Bulletin Boards) to BB (Broad Band) Internet
Suchit Nanda
From NRIs to Indians to Global Citizens: Evolution of the Indian Presence on the Internet
B.G. Mahesh
The IndiaWorld Story
Rajesh Jain

Part III: Internet Impacts
e-Panchayat: Digital Networks for Government Efficiency
D.K. Jain
e-Government in India: Converting The Digital Divide Into A Digital Opportunity
Ashis Sanyal
Internet in India: Impact on Farming
Venkataraman Balaji
The Internet in a Developing Society
Usha Vyasulu Reddy
Fifteen years of Internet in India: Impact in Educational Institutes
S. Sadagopan
India's transition to a Knowledge Economy
Amir Ullah Khan
Impact of the Internet on Skills & Education in India
Ganesh Natarajan
Internet and Education in India: Crisscross connection
Mira K Desai
Financial inclusion and the Internet
Arun Jethmalani
News Media: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Sunil Saxena
Internet Literacy in a Globalised Media World
Keval J. Kumar
The Evolution of E-Commerce in India: A Policy Perspective
Alwyn Didar Singh

Part IV: Case Studies

Telemedicine and the Internet
Arjun Kalyanpur
Development Dialogues on, for, and via the Internet
Frederick Noronha

India Infoline: A Story of Internet Transformation
Nirmal Jain

Rural Business and the Internet: Sustainability, Profitability and role of Governance
Satyan Mishra and Nitin Gachhayat
Part V: Looking Ahead
A Decade of Cyberlaw in India
Pavan Duggal
The New Iron Ore and the Roar of the Cloud
Sunny Ghosh and Sanjukt K. Saha
25 Years of .Com: Looking Back and Forward
Patrick Kane

From Landline to Mobile: India’s Internet Boom?
Vijay Shekar Sharma
The New Complexity of Internet Governance
Wolfgang Kleinwächter

Sam Pitroda

आपला समाज सुसंस्कृततेच्या मार्गावर पुन्हा वाटचाल करू लागेल.. अरुण टिकेकर

ज्येष्ठ पत्रकार सुभाष नाईक यांनी इ मेल ने पाठविलेला हा मजकूर मुद्दाम मराठी पत्रकार आणि लेखक यांच्या प्रबोधना साठी येथे देत आहे. (धन्यवाद सुभाष!)

पत्रकार-संशोधक आणि लोकसत्ताचे माजी संपादक डॉ. अरुण टिकेकर यांना 26 जानेवारी रोजी पुण्यात महाराष्ट्र फाउंडेशनच्या वतीने जीवन गौरव पुरस्कार देण्यात आला. त्या वेळी त्यांनी व्यक्त केलेलं मनोगत..

चाळीस वर्षापूर्वीची गोष्ट. एका बहुचर्चित ग्रंथाच्या परीक्षणात्मक लेखात मी त्या ग्रंथलेखकावर वाङमयचौर्याचा आरोप करताना हजार-बाराशे शब्दांत ‘वाङमयचौर्य’ अथवाडल्ला’ असा कोणताही शब्द वापरला नव्हता. त्या लेखावरच्या दोन प्रातिनिधिक प्रतिक्रिया मला या माझ्या मोठय़ा सन्मानाच्या प्रसंगी सांगाव्याशा वाटतातकारण या उदाहरणावरून माझ्या लेखनशैलीवर इतरांकडून होणा-या टीका-टिप्पणीला आपोआप उत्तर मिळेल असं मला वाटलं. पहिली प्रतिक्रिया आमच्या शाळेचे मुख्याध्यापकप्राध्यापक के.पं. मंगळवेढेकर यांची. त्यांनी पत्र लिहून मला शाबासकी दिली होती. ‘सौम्य शब्दांत पण स्पष्टपणे आणि परखडपणे लिहिलं तर ते अधिक झोंबतं’ हा त्यांचा अभिप्राय होतातर लेख ज्या वृत्तपत्रात प्रसिद्ध झाला त्याच्या संपादकांनी म्हटलं होतं, ‘तुमच्याइतका मसाला मला मिळाला असता नातर मी पहिल्याच वाक्यात लेखक महाशयांना इतकी जोरात चपराक ठेवून दिली असती कीत्यांना तिरीमिरी आली असतीकारणं वगैरे मी नंतर दिली असती. तुम्ही काय केलंयअनेकदा त्याला खिंडीत गाठून ‘आता तुला का मारू नये’ असं प्रत्येक वेळी म्हणत राहिलात!’ ज्याच्या नैतिक अधिकाराची आणि विद्वत्तेची ओळखही वाचकांना पटलेली नसते असा एखादा लेखक-संपादक आज चटकन संपादकीयात किंवा लेखात ‘सरकारचे डोके ठिकाणावर आहे का?’ असं लोकमान्य टिळकांच्या आविर्भावात विचारतोतेव्हा मला हा पूर्वीचा प्रसंग आठवतो. लोकमान्यांनी हे शीर्षक अग्रलेखाला दिलंत्या वेळी परकीय सरकार होतंहे तरी ध्यानात घ्यायला हवं निदान! ही अशी भाषा मला असभ्यपणाची वाटते. अंतिमत: ती परिणामकारक होत नाही असं माझं मत आहे. महात्मा गांधींनी एकदा ब्रिटिश पार्लमेंटला prostitute म्हणून संबोधिलं होतं. पण या शब्दामुळे तमाम स्त्रीवर्गाचा अवमान होतोहे ध्यानात येऊन त्यांनी या शब्दाच्या वापराबद्दल स्वत:हून खेद व्यक्त केला होता. हे उदाहरण मला सदैव मार्गदर्शक वाटतं.

मी लिहिलं- मराठीत आणि इंग्रजीतही. ते स्पष्ट शब्दांत तरीही सभ्यता न सोडता लिहिलेलं असावं. यासाठी मी गेल्या पंचवीसाधिक वर्षात विशेष प्रयत्न केले. इतरांचे जाहीररीत्या कपडे फाडले तर आपल्याला नेहमीच बरं वाटतं. आपलं मनोरंजनही होतंपण तीच बाब आपल्या बाबतीत घडली तर मात्र आपण संपादकांवर वा लेखकावर आगपाखड करू लागतो. माझा खरा मुद्दा वेगळाच आहे. अशा भडकसनसनाटी टीकेचा वाचकांवर काही परिणाम होतो कातर नाही. आजच्या वृत्तपत्र संपादकानं समाज-मन बदलण्यासाठी लिहिणं आवश्यक आहेअसं मला वाटतं. घणाघाती टीकेनं मनोरंजन होईल,टाळ्या पडतीलकाही जण स्तुतिसुमनंही उधळतीलपण समाजमनावर निश्चित असा परिणाम होणार नाही. चांगल्या समाजबदलासाठी सौम्य भाषेत समाजघटकांना विचार करायला लावणंपटवून सांगणं अगत्याचं आहेहे माझं मत केवळ ते माझ्या प्रकृतीला मानवणारं आहे म्हणून सांगत नाहीतर विचारपूर्वक मी ते स्वीकारलं आहे.

पीएच.डी.साठी प्रबंध लिहिताना मी एकोणिसाव्या शतकाचा वेध घेण्याचा जो प्रयत्न आरंभलात्यात न्यायमूर्ती रानडे आणि लोकमान्य टिळक या दोन लोकोत्तर व्यक्तींच्या विचारांचा अभ्यास करणं मला क्रमप्राप्त होतं. टिळकांची जहाल भाषा आणि रानडय़ांची सौम्य भाषा यात मला रानडे यांच्या विचारपद्धतीत तसेच भाषाशैलीत अधिक गुण आढळले. त्यामुळे रानडे यांच्या उदारमतवादी विचारांचा पाठपुरावा करत मी मार्गक्रमण केलं आहे. रानडे-संप्रदाय आणि टिळक-संप्रदाय या दोन वैचारिक प्रवाहांपैकी मी रानडे-संप्रदाय स्वीकारला आहे कातर तसा मी पूर्णपणे रानडे-संप्रदायाचा नाही.

न्यायमूर्ती रानडे हे मूलत: सश्रद्धपरमेश्वर हाच विश्वाच्या केंद्रस्थानी असल्याचं समजणारेमानणारे आणि त्या मताचा प्रसार करणारे. मी या बाबतीत आगरकरवादीनिधर्मी बुद्धिवादाला मानणारा. मात्र मला रानडय़ांचा उदारमतवाद मनोमन पटतो. ‘सामाजिक उत्क्रांतीच होतेसामाजिक क्रांती होत नसते,’ हे रानडय़ांचं मत मला पूर्णपणे पटतं. समाज-मन बदलल्याशिवाय समाज बदलणार नाही. या त्यांच्या मताशी तर मी पूर्णपणे सहमत आहे. आगरकरी भाषेपेक्षा रानडय़ांच्या भाषेची मोहिनी मला पडली. माझ्या लेखनात प्रश्नचिन्हं फार असतातअसा सूर लावणारेही आहेत. खरंच आहे ते. एखाद्या चबुत-यावर उभं राहून आजच्या समाजाला मी उपदेशाचे डोस पाजत राहिलो तर कोणी माझं ऐकेल कामाझ्या लेखनाचा त्यांच्यावर प्रभाव पडेल काअशी शंका मला नेहमी वाटते. माझी डॉक्टरकी ही वैद्यकीय पेशातली नाही. त्यामुळे ‘दे इंजेक्शन आणि कर आजार बरा’, अशातला प्रकार माझ्या बाबतीत शक्य नाही. शिवाय समाजाला इंजेक्शन देण्याची पात्रता माझ्याकडे नाहीहे मला चांगलं ठाऊक आहेकदाचित समाजाचं अनारोग्य हे इंजेक्शन घेऊन बरं होण्याच्या पलीकडं गेलं आहे. समाजाच्या समस्यांची सर्व उत्तरं माझ्याकडे आहेतअसाही माझा दावा नाही. मग मी काय करू शकतोतर माझ्याइतकीच किंबहुना अधिक बुद्धी असलेल्या वाचकांसमोर मला पडणारे प्रश्न मांडू शकतोत्यांना विचार करायला लावून त्या समस्यांची आपापली उत्तरं शोधायला उद्युक्त करू शकतोहीच माझी भूमिका आजपर्यंत राहिली आहे.

हे मी कादंबरीसारख्या सर्जनशील वाङ्मयकृतीतून करू शकलो असतो काकरू शकलो असतोजर माझ्याकडे तशी प्रतिभा असेल तर. जेव्हा म्हणून संस्कृतीचा अपकर्ष होतोतेव्हा अवश्यपणे कलाविकास होतो. (when culture declines art flourishes) असा सामाजिक सिद्धांत मांडला जातो. जेव्हा जेव्हा संस्कृतीची घसरण होतेसमाज भ्रष्ट होतोसमाजघटक मतलबी बनताततेव्हा तेव्हा विविध कला अधिक विकसित होतातया सिद्धांतावर माझा विश्वास आहे. साहित्यिक,कलावंत थयथयाट न करता आपापल्या कला-माध्यमांतून भ्रष्ट यंत्रणेविरुद्ध शांततापूर्वक बंड करून उठतात आणि समाज-मनात बदल घडवून आणतातहे अनेक संस्कृतीच्या इतिहासात पाहायला मिळतं. आपल्या आजच्या समाजात संस्कृतीचा अपकर्ष झाला आहेपण साहित्यिककलावंत थिजून गेल्याप्रमाणे आज तरी शांत बसले आहेतसंवेदनाहीन झाल्यासारखे. ते जागृत होतीलतो महाराष्ट्राच्या दृष्टीने सुदिन ठरणार आहे.

सांगायचं असं की मी सर्जनशील साहित्याच्या क्षेत्रात उतरू शकलो असतोमाझ्याकडे तेवढी प्रतिभा असती तर. पण ती तशी माझ्याकडे आहे की नाहीहे मी पडताळून पाहण्याची संधीच मला मिळाली नाही. त्याला कारण होतं माझे आदरणीय काका- श्री. रा. टिकेकर. प्राध्यापकीला सुरुवात केल्याकेल्या मी चार-दोन कथा लिहिल्या होत्या. त्यातील एक ‘सत्यकथेत प्रसिद्धही झाली होती. त्या काळी ‘सत्यकथेत कथा प्रसिद्ध झालेला लेखक महिनाभर तरी जमिनीपासून दोन-चार इंच उंच हवेत चालायचा. पण ती प्रसिद्ध झाल्यानंतर ज्या माझ्या काकांच्या घरी मी राहत असेत्यांच्या धाकानं मी मात्र धास्तावलेला होतो. त्यांना ती कथा मी दाखवली नव्हतीपण कोठून तरी त्यांना ती ज्ञात झाली असणारत्यांनी मला समोर बसवून इतिहासलेखन आणि कथा-कादंबरी लेखन ही एकमेकाला पूरक कशी नाहीतउलट एकमेकाला मारक कशी आहेतयावर माझं बौद्धिक घेतलं. .. अखेरीस मला पटलं कीइतिहासलेखन आणि कथा-कादंबरी लेखन या दोहोंसाठी वेगवेगळी मानसिक जडणघडण लागते. काका-पुतण्याच्या या एका बैठकीत ‘सत्यकथेनं एक ‘होतकरू’ कथालेखक गमावला. माझा मात्र ‘ललित संशोधन’ या हल्लीच्या परवलीच्या शब्दापासून बचाव झाला.

माझ्या आयुष्यातील तिसरी घटना. काकांचा एक लेख घेऊन मी ‘इंडियन एक्स्प्रेसचे मुख्य संपादक असलेल्या व्ही.के. नरसिंहन यांना भेटायला गेलो होतो. त्यांनी मला समोरच्या खुर्चीवर बसवून माझीही चौकशी केलीमी काय करत आहे वगैरे.. इंग्लिश घेऊन एम.ए. करत आहेअसं म्हणताच ते उद्गारले, 'but have your parents thought about the future of  English language in India?’  चार दशकांपूर्वी त्यांनी उपस्थित केलेल्या या प्रश्नाने मी गांगरून गेलो होतो खरा. पण इतक्या वर्षानंतर आज मला मी इंग्रजी शिकलो ते योग्यच केलंअन्यथा इंग्रजी वाङमयातील उत्तम साहित्यकृती आणि गंभीर वैचारिक लेखन यांच्या आस्वादाला मुकलो असतो असं वाटतं. इंग्लिश वा अन्य भाषा शिकण्यात गैर काय हे मला कधीच कळलं नाही. अर्थात मातृभाषेला पर्याय नाहीती प्रत्येकाला आलीच पाहिजे. मातृभाषेतील मौलिक साहित्यकृतींचा आस्वाद प्रत्येकानं घेतलाच पाहिजे. तो शाळेत-प्रशालेत वा महाविद्यालयात घ्यावा वा घरी अथवा वाचनालयात घ्यावापण आपलं असं झालं आहे कीइंग्रजीचा बागुलबुवा करत आपण मराठीकडे दुर्लक्ष करत आहोत. कदाचित आपली इंग्लिश भाषा सुधारली तर त्याबरोबर आपली मराठी हीसुद्धा सुधारेल. मराठी दुर्लक्षिली जात असल्याबद्दल आपण कोलाहल करतोपण भाषेबद्दलवाङमयाबद्दल आपली अनास्था घालवण्याचा प्रयत्न करत नाही.

मराठी भाषेत संकल्पना निर्माण होण्याचंनव्या शब्दांची भर पडण्याचं थांबलं आहेयाचा विषाद आपल्याला वाटत नाही. इंग्रजी-मराठीचा जो संघर्ष आपण लावला आहे तो बेगडी आहेअसं माझ मत आहे. प्रत्येक लेखक भाषातज्ज्ञ असेलच असं नाही. लेखकाच्या अधिकारात प्रत्येक जण भाषांच्या समस्यांवर बोलू लागलातर गोंधळच माजणार. नेमकं तेच आपल्या बाबतीत झालं आहे. इंग्रजीत लिहिणारे मराठी लेखक तरी कोठे आहेतउत्कृष्ट मराठी वाङमयकृती इंग्रजी किंवा अन्य भाषेत अनुवादित करणारे तरी किती आहेत?
 एकोणिसाव्या आणि विसाव्या शतकात दोन्ही भाषांत लिहिणारी मंडळी होतीती एकाएकी कोठे गेलीफार तर हाताच्या बोटावर मोजता येतील एवढीच मंडळी आज आपल्यात आहेत आणि आपल्या लेखकांना जागतिक स्तरावर जाता का येत नाहीयाची चर्चा मात्र आपण उच्चरवात करत असतो. एखादा-दुसरा लेख इंग्रजीत प्रसिद्ध झालेल्या मराठी लेखकाचं दोन्ही भाषांवर प्रभुत्व असल्याची आपली समजूत होते. भाषेवर प्रभुत्व सहजासहजी मिळत नाहीकिंवा थोडय़ाथोडक्या प्रयत्नांनी मिळत नाहीत्यासाठी अखंड साधना करावी लागतेहे आपण ध्यानात घ्यायला तयार नसतो. परखड लेखनातही भडकपणा अथवा सनसनाटी नसावीते सौम्य आणि सभ्यतेची मर्यादा न ओलांडणारं असावंलेखनात अनावश्यक शब्द टाळण्याचा प्रयत्न करावाबंदिस्तकाळजीपूर्वक केलेलं असं लेखन असावंकृत्रिमअलंकारिक किंवा टाळ्या मिळवणा-या वाक्यांचा वापर टाळावाभाषेबाबतच्या अशा संकेतांबरोबर आपल्याकडे विनाकारण मोठेपणा घेऊ नयेसमाज-मनात बदल घडवून आणण्याचा प्रयत्न करावा.. अशी जी शिकवण घरच्यांनीशालेय आणि महाविद्यालयीन गुरुजनांनी वेळोवेळी दिलीती पाळण्याचा मी प्रयत्न केला. या मार्गक्रमणात वाङमयापाठोपाठ स्थानीय इतिहाससामाजिक आणि सांस्कृतिक इतिहासअसे टप्पे गाठत गेलोते गाठताना पुन्हा पुन्हा विद्यार्थीपण स्वीकारत गेलो.परंतु 30-35 वर्षापूर्वीचा आपला समाज आणि आजचा आपला समाज यात महदंतर पडलं आहे. सामोपचारसौम्यपणासभ्यता यांचं समाजाला वावडं आहे की काय असं वाटू लागलं आहे. सौम्य आवाज हा क्षीणदुर्बल आवाज मानण्याकडे समाजाची प्रवृत्ती बनली आहे. त्यामुळे समानधर्मीय अल्पसंख्याकात मी आहेयाची मला जाणीव आहे. तरीही आज ना उद्याआपला समाजसुसंस्कृततेच्या मार्गावर पुन्हा वाटचाल करू लागेलअशी खात्री मला वाटते. तोपर्यंत माझ्यासारख्यांनी उमेद कायम टिकवली पाहिजे.