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The prime minister & the fly

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Last updated on: October 10, 2005 20:43 IST

Shortly after he took office as prime minister in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi turned his attention towards the daunting task of modernising India's national television network.

Bhaskar Ghose, an Indian Administrative Service officer, who was at the time posted as a divisional commissioner in the rainy tea plantation town of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, was summoned to Delhi, on Rajiv's special orders, to take over the national television network.

Practically overnight Ghose switched his attention from solving the problems of rebellious Gorkhas in the Darjeeling hills to figuring out ways to make Doordarshan beam less sleep-producing television programmes.

Running Doordarshan was a wild ride, Ghose soon discovered. The thrills of introducing immensely popular Sunday morning specials like Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan and B R Chopra's Mahabharat, that had the whole nation glued, or broadcasting the nail-biting World Cup final on channels that had never shown anything more gripping than farmer fertiliser pow-wows, were deflated by the uphill task of struggling with clueless subordinates, whimsical politicians and their interfering, irksome sidekicks.

Yet in the two years that Ghose ran Doordarshan he succeeded in putting it on the road to reform -- the channels began to offer livelier fare, elections coverage was introduced for the first time and the network began to expand. But Ghose's tenure at Mandi House, where Doordarshan is headquartered in New Delhi, ended as abruptly as it began.

Ghose recounts his amusing adventures with DD in Doordarshan Days, released by Penguin Books India last month. The following extract, from a chapter titled Of Cabbage and Kings, describes his brief and strange encounters with Rajiv Gandhi:

Read on: The prime minister and the fly
Bhaskar Ghose

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