Packed with anecdote, Rajdeep Sardesai's book is full of insights into the rise of Narendra Modi. Here, he talks about being fascinated by politicians, double dating with Salman Khan, and his relationship with Arnab Goswami.When did you start working on the book?
I've noticed that a lot of people just hate you. Is it because they think of you as elitist, establishmentarian?
As I said, I think we live in polarised times. There are people who still see me through the prism of the coverage of the 2002 riots.
But you're a journalist; you have to cover things.
Yeah, but that's not how the world sees it. 'You covered the riots in that way. Why did you do so? Now you must apologise to Mr Modi.' I don't think any of us should do real journalism to be popular. I think you do journalism because you want to hold a mirror to society which is good, bad and ugly. People may not like the ugly images and therefore will dislike you but that's my job. At the end of the day, what counts for me is respect from my peers. What worries me is that too many journalists are getting into popularity contests.
Talking about popularity with colleagues. In that piece in Caravan, Arnab comes across as hating you.
It doesn't make a difference. These are all people I have grown up with, and as I said, my only benchmark for this are my colleagues in NDTV at that time. You can ask them.
Did he hate you?
No, we worked together wonderfully well. We went together to watch the 2003 World Cup finals with my son and my father and it was one of the most pleasant memories of my life. Would I go with someone whom I disliked for an intimate holiday to South Africa? Would he go if he disliked me?
OK, maybe not. Though his style is very different from yours.
No, his style was not different from mine when he was in NDTV. He's changed, I haven't. Look, he's still a friend…
He's still a friend?
For me, he's still a friend.
But would you have a drink with him?
Of course, I would.
When was the last time you met him?
I met him just now on Modi's trip to the US. We didn't have a drink, which is unfortunate. Television has made people competitive. I mention that in the book.
…That relationships that have been nurtured over the years are getting destroyed because of this manic competition. I don't think there's hatred. There's crazy competition and personally, I find it repelling almost. At the end of the day, we've all grown through a particular womb. It's almost as if Dr Prannoy Roy has produced all these kids who've suddenly gone in different directions. I've the most pleasant memories of NDTV, CNN IBN and I've made great friendships there and I see them as friends. How they see me is for them to decide. I have only good feelings for them. There's too much of positive memories including the one that I mention in the book. To think at the last minute we are rushing to get a BJP guest and we get a Modi!
Yes, that was a good one.
Yeah and that was a programme that Arnab and I used to do together. So these are all created by people outside....