A Chronicle of Historic Events and Personal Reflections

Senior journalist Aruna Ravikumar is the first woman journalist in the broadcast media in the state who covered the political landscape extensively when private television channels began in the then united Andhra Pradesh in the mid- nineties. With a wealth of experience in the print and broadcast media Aruna is a multifaceted personality who has dealt with different aspects of media as anchor, translator, short filmmaker and author covering social, spiritual, business, and cultural issues apart from politics in various channels and publications. Her love for words and ability to string them together as a beautiful bouquet inspired her journey as an author apart from her ideal of being a changemaker. Askari Jaffer spoke to Aruna post the release of her book ‘There I was-media musings’ which has heart touching nuggets about people, places and events etched in history.

Congratulations on the release of your book ‘There I was’ which is a chronicle of historic events, rare interviews and your learnings in the media. What inspired you to write it and how do you think it will impact readers?

Thank you. I first mulled over writing this book during the covid pandemic when we were all confined to our homes with minimal social interaction. I had by that time written my first book ‘Marauders of hope’ on illegal multilevel marketing schemes that defraud gullible customers and the nation of crores of rupees. I went to almost thirteen states as part of the campaign for my book and the response everywhere was extremely positive. For my latest book I looked over diary jottings, old videos and recalled from memory both sad and memorable moments and decided to put them together in the form of a book as whoever I had narrated these incidents to in the past felt they needed to be documented. I had earlier written about rare personalities I interviewed in a column in ‘The Hans India’ titled ‘Down Memory Lane’. This book is a labour of love and has incidents like the Ranga riots that saw the burning down of Vijayawada which I covered during my stint there, the Telugu Desam party crisis in 1995, late CM N.T. Rama Rao’s last interview, the Bellary elections and interviews with rare personalities like the PLO leader Yasser Arafat. I was fortunate to have interviewed many eminent personalities whom I have chronicled and reading about them will be of interest to readers who want to know a slice of history, those interested in social issues and young journalists who can perhaps glean something from my experiences. I hope it impacts a large section of readers.

You have an unusual title for your book. Can you elaborate on it?

(laughs) It is unusual. I chose the title and the illustration of the book to suggest that I was in the thick of action. ‘I was’ doesn’t suggest that I was somewhere unreachable but that I was at the very epicentre. Since in our initial days in television we went scouting for stories even when there was no action, There I was -and action began in the form of a special story.

What exactly is your motivation to write? Do you believe books can shape opinions and influence people?

I believe in the power of words written, spoken, sung or recited. I joined the media with a lot of idealism to be a chronicler of events and a harbinger of change. It is with the same sentiment that I have ventured into writing books. I write to make a difference, to provoke thought and to inspire positive action. Newspaper articles, stories and books can all shape people’s thoughts and opinions, create awareness about things unknown or taken for granted and shape one’s personality. I am an avid reader myself and have found life wisdom from the pages of books that I have read. Many victims reached out to me after my book on MLM scams and the book was reviewed by people from other countries who read them online. I was interviewed by the BBC because of my book and know of many people who gave up the idea of joining attractive fraudulent schemes after reading it. My present book too has many learnings that I hope will resonate with people and add value to their bookshelves.

You talk of gender bias in the learnings section of your book. Does it still exist in the media and elsewhere?

We have a lot more women in the media and most professions compared to the past few decades but I wouldn’t say that gender bias is a thing of the past. It does exist in varying degrees but once you establish your credibility, I don’t think it matters. Establishing yourself by overcoming bias is difficult but once you do that there is no looking back. Gender parity is still far away but I am optimistic about achieving it sooner than later.

Do you believe that literature serves as a mirror to society reflecting its virtues and vices? How do you incorporate this idea into your writing?

Good writing endures because it is true to the human experience. Literature expresses the reality of the times as it is in written in context through rationale, character study, imagination and observing things unfold around you. We have had several books written on racism, the freedom struggle and social problems of the times which are considered classics and are popular with readers till date. Stories come with the author’s perspective but are definitely a reflection of the virtues and vices in society. I have selected my writing to mirror society with the good, the bad and the ugly reflected in equal measure to impact people and inspire change. I want people to both lose themselves in my work and find themselves and write accordingly.

Can you describe your writing schedule and any rituals or habits that help you stay focused and productive during the creative process?

Reading is intrinsic to my life and I religiously read something every day. I am inspired by all the commoners and celebrities that I have met throughout my career, ordinary people with extraordinary achievements and extraordinary people with ordinary experiences. Writing is my me-time, just me and my thoughts as the words come together until I am completely satisfied that they have conveyed my thoughts in totality. I can sit for hours together when a particular idea strikes me and find the creative process beautiful, immersive and magical. As I sit down to write in front of my window facing the large expansive sky, the orange flame of the forest flowers in bloom and the birds moving together in a beautiful formation, I am totally inspired and at my creative best.

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