When the government exempted media from the lockdown, logically, this was to ensure that the media could do its job—which was to bring information and news to the people who were sequestered in their homes.
My guest today did just that. She is Barkha Dutt, one of India’s best known journalists. Barkha decided that she was going to bring information to the people. True to her wont, she did not do this by halves. She stepped out and travelled across the country with a small team of colleagues.
Over about three months, she with her team logged over 30,000 kms—that’s a shade under 19000 miles—travelling over surface in every available transport just to meet people.
Of course a tragedy like this brings out the best and the worst in people and Barkha was witness to all of it. Appropriately, her book is titled Humans Of Covid.
Everywhere she went, she logged the stories of the worst off among us. These stories are deeply human and capture the essence of how we cope when nature turns against us.
The medical fraternity cared for the living. Barkha met people who cared for the dead. People who put their own religions behind them and even temporarily adopted the faith of those who needed to be cremated. They gave the dead the dignity that the pandemic had taken from them.
At one point this journey turned deeply personal for Barkha. She lost her father to COVID. But she soldiered on and the result is this compelling book. A historical account, oral histories of the most disadvantaged; their grief, sometimes their hubris, often their humanity.
As a journalist Barkha has covered some of the biggest stories in the nation. Of the many, she mentions that her eventful career was bookended by the war in Kargil in 1999 and the Covid crisis in 2021.
In what was a staid and almost pedagogic profession—as journalism in India used to be—she was one of the new breed of TV journalists, aggressive with an eye on one prize alone...the story.
I had the privilege to host a live session with Barkha at the recent Bangalore Literature Festival and doubly my privilege now to welcome her as my guest today.
ABOUT BARKHA DUTT
Barkha Dutt is one of India’s foremost broadcast journalists. After two decades with NDTV, she is now the Founder-Editor of Mojo Story, an independent digital media platform. A columnist for The Washington Post, she has received more than fifty national and international awards, including the Padma Shri.
Buy To Hell and Back: Humans of COVID: https://amzn.to/3urdvgH
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