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"You can’t buy education. You can spend lakhs of rupees but if that relationship of respect with your teachers is not there then you will stop learning"
Umesh Upadhyay,
Journalist, Director, Projects & Channel Head Janmat TV

Adversity brings out the best in us
13 July’ 2005

Sunaina Baghla and Rajiv Tewari of Amity EduMedia met Umesh Upadhyay for an interview to trace his journey from school to becoming one of the most respected Journalists in India . Umesh Upadhyay started his career as a Lecturer and shifted to PTI after a short period. He has worked with Doordarshan, Home TV & ZEE News at senior editorial positions and has been trained in some of the world’s best Studios. Currently he is producing his own programmes from his Company, NCNL, and is Director, Projects & Channel Head with Janmat TV, a soon to be launched Current Affairs channel.

Surviving Success:

Adversity brings out the best in most but it’s difficult for most to survive the arrogance borne out of success. Umesh Upadhyay, certainly, is one such rare person. It was a delight to notice his humility and his sense of gratitude and respect for those who have helped him succeed in life. Throughout the interview, he preferred to focus on the adversities he faced from his early childhood and people who helped him cover the difficult patches. We wanted to talk about his well known programmes like Career Batein, Insight and countless journalistic scoops but, in spite of our bringing these up, he preferred to focus on lessons that could be of use to the younger generation.

Lessons in patriotism & respect for the poor:

Umesh was brought up in a large family of six brothers and two sisters in Agra . The priority for the family was food and not education. It was more important for the children in his family to wash, feed and milk buffaloes than finish their home work yet his father was determined to provide good education to his children along with values of patriotism. Umesh once had to miss one of his examination papers at school as his father considered it more important for him to listen to Indira Gandhi’s speech during the 1971 war. Destiny was , perhaps, sowing the seeds for issues Umesh was to handle later as a Journalist. Those who, like us, have been watching his programmes would not have missed the urban rural balance and a strong sense of patriotism in his script and visuals. Career Batein, one of his most successful programme on careers and education reflects his concern for education as an issue for the masses.

Failure is a great teacher:

For higher education, Umesh was admitted to Government Boys Higher Secondary School No 3, Sarojni Nagar, New Delhi . For Umesh, Delhi was a cultural shock. He didn’t know English. The kids in his school made fun of his chaste Hindi. To make the matters worse he was asked to take Science by his brother in spite of his intense disliking for the subject. Umesh failed in 9 th standard and that was a big shock for the family, specially, his brother. This was a turning point for Umesh. He shifted to Humanities and topped his class. After that he excelled in several areas as he had to prove to every one , specially his brother who he admired the most, that he was not inferior to any one. He topped in debates, poetry competition, public speaking and NCC.

Earning while learning:

In Higher Secondary, Umesh had to sell milk at the Delhi Milk Scheme (DMS) booth to ensure that he earned enough for his fees. Through this he wanted to contribute to the family though his father never asked him to do so. “At Delhi Milk Scheme (DMS) booth we used to sell the milk through out the year without any holiday from 5 in the morning till 7:30 am . There used to be no light, so we used to buy our own candles and go. We used to get Re 1 and paisa 15 every day. So every month I used to earn Rs 30-31. Therefore, for me, going out for movies and hanging out in restaurants had no meaning. But this does not mean that we had a boring life. In fact we had a very exciting life.”

Umesh fondly remembers a good hearted counsellor by the name of Mrs. Chopra. She recognized and appreciated his talent and helped him with a scholarship for his fees and books. Umesh got the third rank in Delhi in the CBSE board examination. Umesh’s one unfulfilled wish is to find her and re -connect with her.

University meant more expenses so in spite of being a topper and a member of the Academic Council of the university, he sold milk to subsidize his expenses.

Do what you love and love what you do:

After graduation Umesh applied for the Indian air force. He cleared the selection process and was selected as a Pilot Officer in the 52 nd batch of the Indian Air Force Academy , Hyderabad . But Umesh did not wish to be a Pilot so he consulted his father who adviced him to pursue what he liked. Umesh recalls this as a major sacrifice from his father as the family could have been a little better with his earnings. Umesh simply wanted to study further so he joined the University again.

Value of human emotions:

One of Umesh’s teachers, Mr Shastri, discovered that one of his brightest students was selling milk to meet his expenses. He advised him to take tuitions. At that time a Canadian- Indian had come to India with his kids and was keen on teaching his kids Hindi. Umesh was hired for the job. At the end of the month he gave Umesh a sum of Rs. 250. It was a big amount for a person earning Rs 30-31. a month. Umesh simply returned him Rs 100 as he felt that he was being overpaid. Mr.Sulekh C Jain, the father of the kids smiled and kept back the money. But he made a deal with Umesh that from that day he would have to agree to be his younger brother. Umesh happily agreed. Little did he realize at that time that Mr Jain would pay for his fees as an elder brother and ensure that he had no problems in higher studies. Having accepted him as an elder brother he could not refuse.

“From JNU I did my M.A in international relations and then M. Phil. Soon after I completed my M. Phil I was appointed a lecturer in Delhi University ’s Zakir Hussain (Evening) College. I taught there for some months. But as I wanted to do something different, so I opted for Journalism.”

Hard work and good Role Models are more important than intelligence:

“In life hard work is much more important than intelligence. Along with hard work you have to be focused. If you have listened to the teacher in the class and made your notes you will not be required to study after the class. I have seen the mindset of the students, they generally think they will go home and study. Our memory to listen and memorise is much more than the memory to read.”

“In my life teacher student relationships have played a big role. In my School and College I never used to study much. But I listened in the class for sure and that used to help me in my exams. After this if you study even for two hours that is enough.”

“My eldest brother Mr. T. S. Upadhyay is my ideal. Besides him, I have drawn inspiration from Swami Vivekananda. I have read a lot of his books.” Vivekanand’s lecture series have given Umesh a solid foundation in values.

“I will also like to tell students about concentration and focus in class. Even a bad teacher is better than a good book. It is very important. I think it must be emphasized that books can not replace teachers.”

“Respect your teachers. You gain from a person when you respect him. You can’t buy education. You can spend lakhs of rupees but if that relationship of respect is not there then you will stop learning.”

For Comments: psjamwal@amity.edu

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