Active journalist for sixty years, P K Ravindranath had a chequered career, few journalists could claim. A regular mainstream Journalist, who worked with mainline publications like ‘The Free Press Journal’,’ The Times of India’,’ The Mathrubhumi’ and ‘The National Herald’, he has been associated with a number of periodicals- ‘Modern Review’, ’Link’ and niche publications like ‘Society and Science’,’ Air Observer’, ‘Skyways’ and ‘Kerala in Mumbai’. It has been a rewarding career for a boy who landed in India as a refugee from Burma where he was born and brought up till April 1940.
He began life in Kozhikode at his ancestral home, penniless and at the mercy of his mother’s Uncle. He knew no Malayalam, except to speak the language. Hindi was his second language at school in Burma. As a refugee, he got exemption in Malayalam and joined the Malabar Christian College. Later he moved to Ganapat High School and then Zamorin’s College where he did his Intermediate classes. Since the family could not send him to Mangalore or Madras for higher studies, he left for Bombay in search of a job. It took him four years and ‘several odd jobs’ to finally land on at the Free Press Journal. He was interviewed by the reputable S Sadanand, who perhaps sensed the potential in the young man and took him on as a sub-Editor on a princely salary of Rs. 125 a month.
In three months time he had proved himself, working on shifts producing the daily edition, doing odd reporting assignments, writing feature articles and interviewing eminent dignitaries from abroad. In 1954 when the second round of the struggle to free the Portuguese territories of Daman and Diu, along with Nagar Haveli was launched, he was sent to cover it. On the basis of his work in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, he was offered a job by ‘The Times of India’. He joined it in 1955.
While at the Free Press he got involved in the trade union movement of the journalists for better wages, fixed hours of duty and security of service. He soon found himself elected as the chairman of the Bombay Union of Journalists and then as Vice President of Indian Federation of Working Journalists. It made him understand the gravity of the problem of Indian newspapers, Journalists and their proprietors.
In 1975, emergency and news censorship was imposed by the central government. The rigid censorship and the suppliant attitude of the then editor of ‘The Times of India’ made him resign his job as Chief of Bureau of The Times of India News Service on 9th August 1976.
“The Mathrubhumi” took him as their Bombay representative. He worked in this capacity from 1977 till 1986. He had joined ‘The National Herald’ as their Bureau Chief in 1977. With Mrs. Gandhi out of power, the paper faced a lockout in 1978. When it revived in 1980, Ravidranath was sacked at the instance of the then Chief Ministerof Maharashtra, since he was too close to political leaders who were not in tune with the High Command. In 1986, he had to leave Mathrubhumi too. In 1988, he was summoned by the newly sworn in Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar as his Press Adviser. With Pawar gone to New Delhi in 1991 as Defence Minister Ravindranath continued working with the new Chief Minister, Sudhakar Rao Naik for a year. Then Ravindranath took over as Director (Publications) of Nehru Centre of which he was one of the founder members. He held that office till 1998.
At Nehru Center, two significant things happened- he abridged and illustrated Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’ and had it published in association with ‘The Hindu’ and launched a quarterly Science Magazine- ‘Society and Science’. There has been no comparable Science Magazine since Society and Science which had soon become a platform for exchange of information on Science and Technology among the developing nations. Soon after leaving the Nehru Centre Ravindranath embarked on a career of teaching journalism in some of the prestigious colleges of Mumbai, in the Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) course launched by the Mumbai University.
In the last decade he has published six books on journalism all based on his lecture notes. They include ‘Indian Regional Journalism’, ‘Contemporary Issues’, ‘Press Laws and Ethics of Journalism’. ‘The Art of Editing’, ‘Broadcast Journalism’ and ‘News Media Management’. They provide invaluable guidance to students and teachers since there are no textbooks available on some of these subjects.
In his long career Ravindranath has written a biography of Chandrasekhar, former Prime Minister, a collection of his selected articles titled ‘Slice of Life’ and a coffee table book ‘Iyer Weddings’ besides editing several compilations. He has translated some significant books in Malayalam in to English . These include Keshav Dev’s ‘Ayalkar’ (as ‘Neighbours’ published by Sahitya Akademi), NP Mulammed and MT Vasudevan Nair’s Arabi Ponnu (as ‘Arabi Gold’ by Rupa) and MT Vasudevan Nair’s ‘Randamoozham’ (as ‘Second Turn’ published by Macmillan)
Married to Tara, he has three children: Jayesh , Anuja and Naresh. He died on 18 February 2013 at the age of 86