Round about: Pioneering media innovation in Punjab
Such is the reputation of Babushahi.com and its creator Baljit Balli that any if any news concerning Punjab or Punjabis is not on featured there, it cannot but be untrue.punjab Updated: Mar 18, 2018 11:21 IST
A month and a half ago when I got a telephone call from a Punjabi writer friend that philosophy professor Satya P Gautam had passed away in Delhi, my first reaction was to call a dear colleague Vijaya. She heard the news shell-shocked and some 15 minutes later called me up in an accusatory tone: “Niru, from where did you learn that Gautam is no more? It is not on Babushahi.com and I called Balli and he had no such news. So it can’t be true!”
Such is the reputation of Babushahi.com and its creator Baljit Balli that any if any news concerning Punjab or Punjabis is not on featured there, it cannot but be untrue. It is a different matter that the circumstances in which Gautam departed were hazy so it took time for the news to trickle down. Indeed, it was one of the rare times that Babushahi carried it the next day.
This phenomenal media app, which is doing extremely well home and abroad, is the brainchild of long-time co-traveller in Punjabi journalism who started his journey in Rampura Phul town of Malwa region. “I went to a ‘tapparh’ school carrying my own sack to school to sit on,” he says with an ever-smiling face. Yet, here was a boy who was to go to become the game-changer, moving from one milestone to another.
Belonging to a family that had migrated from Lahore district in Punjab, he was initiated into reading early by his left-of-the-road elder brother. As a student activist, he got well-versed in writing manifestos and press releases and from there onto writing for Punjabi Tribune and then as the editor Barjinder Hamdard’s blue-eyed boy in ‘Ajit’ newspaper, where Balli proved his mettle as a star reporter-writer in Punjab of the ‘Tirchhi Nazar’ fame. Later on he became the editorial advisor with PTC Television Network looking after the news coordination of New York and Toronto offices, and North America news operations of the channel.
Punjabi wordsmiths touch new horizons in mobile apps, overseas radios, publications and films.
Never tired of reinventing himself, he conceived Babushahi.com, a bilingual website with a focus on Punjab bureaucracy, governance and politics. “It was started with little investment with brother-in-law Happy taking care of the technical aspects. People were doubtful but I was sure that media’s next step had to be on the mobile phone,” he says. Seven years on, it is the most authentic and quick source of news and hugely popular with Indian Punjabis and the huge diaspora abroad.
A magazine marvel
Making a success of a literary magazine in Punjabi is not an easy task, but Punjabi writer Sushil Dosanjh accomplished it with ‘Hun’ quarterly journal which was started by a UK-based Punjabi writer Avtar Jandialvi in 2005. Dosanjh, who belongs to Ujjal Dosanjh’s village, Dosanjh Kalan, near Jalandhar and worked for Jagbani and Desh Sevak newspapers, says “I was associated with it from day one in every possible capacity from the editorial to printing, packaging to dispatching.”
Today the magazine sells some 8,500 copies and is hugely popular in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand besides India. It has subscribers even in Italy and Greece. “It goes everywhere a Punjabi writer is settled and we send 1,800 copies abroad,” Dosanjh pens couplets of the Punjabi ghazal. The writer is an activist with the Kendri Punjabi Sabha and a radio columnist with as many as five Punjabi radios abroad.
His job had a silver lining
Last but not the least is the amazing story of a Class-8 school drop-out Ninder Ghugianvi of the memoir ‘Main Si Judge da Ardali’ (I Was A Judge’s Orderly’), which has been translated into Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and has now been commissioned for translation into English. He was born into a deprived family in Ghugiana village near Faridkot. Ninder recalls, “My father used to sell onions and potatoes for Rs 1 and salt and turmeric for 25 paise to daily wagers.” Out of school, he chose to become a disciple of the famed tumbi player Yamla Jat till the latter’s demise.
After that he had the harrowing experience of being an orderly with a judge. This brought him to writing with a natural flair and a penchant for comedy. When a telefilm on his memoirs was made by Lucky Saini, he naturally played the hero. Today he is an author of several books, a popular columnist in Punjabi papers, a newsreader for a Canadian radio, a tumbi performer. He also delivers lectures home and abroad, having visited Canada, US, UK, Australia and New Zealand on invitation of the Punjabi community who consider him a star.