Jug Suraiya, Writer, Columnist, Cartoonist and Public Speaker

Jug Suraiya, Writer, Columnist, Cartoonist and Public Speaker

Jug Suraiya, Writer, Columnist, Cartoonist and Public Speaker

He began his career by joining the four-member team which launched India’ first youth magazine, The Junior Statesman, in January 1967.

Podcast

Overview

Anyone born in the 1960s or 1970s, would remember the first youth magazine of India, Junior Statesmen (also called JS magazine). Today, we have the privilege to welcome the man behind the launch of the magazine, Mr. Jug Suraiya.

Jug Suraiya is a well known journalist, writer, columnist, cartoonist and a public speaker. He is the former editor of The Times of India. He has written for several publications and has published 15 books. In 2021, he was honored with a Knighthood by the President of the Italian Republic.

How has journalism evolved over the last five decades?

Jug tells us that journalism has seen dramatic change over the past few decades. Earlier, when Jug joined the profession, the editors used to speak down to the readers like the editors have a better knowledge on the subject. Jug tells us this pattern has now changed to good. One of the contributors to this change, according to Jug, is the JS magazine which was quite ahead of its time.

Jug tells us that the editor of the magazine was 46 years old at that time so he did not agree to write for it because the magazine was supposed to be for younger people. So he insisted that the writing should be done by younger people only. Jug tells us that it was quite challenging for him and his other two teammates to write 36 pages every week and they had to depend on the contributors who were none other than their readers. Jug calls it a young avatar of social media where you consume what you produce yourself.

Jug Suraiya’s views on the news being democratized

Jug believes it to be a blessing for individuals to have an opinion of their own in a free society. However, he also tells us that there is a lot of misinformation and deliberately distorted information around us. He firmly believes that one should have a code of self-censorship to protect his own integrity to not to convey a news which he believes to be untrue.

Jug suggests that opinion should be free of dogma. The society has divided itself into two or more extreme camps based on ideology and they troll and outrage against each other irrespective of the matter.

He also suggests that independent journalists should stay away from ideological bias as much as possible.

The traditional Newspapers

Jug says that the newspapers, in his opinion, are more in the nature of views papers. He believes that they are a kind of publication which is able to convey the nuances of the event.

The story behind Jug being honored with Knighthood by the President of the Italian Republic

Jug tells us that he and his wife saved some money while they used to work in the UK and with a shoestring budget, went on a Europe tour in 1973. They went to Italy. They didn’t have any hotel reservations and with the little money they had, couldn’t afford a luxurious hotel to stay and eat. He tells us that none of them could even speak Italian, but the kindliness and friendliness that people there showed to them impressed Jug. People went out of their way to find cheap places and bistro for them to stay and to eat in. Due to the warm welcome, both Jug and his wife fell in love with Italy and its people. Jug, being a writer, started to write about his experiences there. Some of his articles got the attention of the Italian Embassy in Delhi. They liked it and awarded Jug the Knighthood.

More about Jug Suraiya

Jug tells us that he never dreamt of becoming a writer. In his college days he was more into poetry than writing. When the JS magazine was looking for a writer, he tried his hand there. After that he decided that this is going to be his career for life. He considers it to be a milestone he has achieved. 

Jug also tells us that his biggest critic is his wife. He says that if he gets a nod from her about anything he has written, he believes that he has passed the test.

Profile

Jug Suraiya

Jug Suraiya is a well-known and widely acclaimed writer, columnist, cartoonist and public speaker who has addressed audiences at prestigious institutions like The Doon School, The Indian Institute of Management, The Indian School of Business, The Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts Communication, The Goa International Centre and The Nehru Centre in London.

Career Highlights:

He began his career by joining the four-member team which launched India’ first youth magazine, The Junior Statesman, in January 1967.

In 1977, he was inducted into the parent organisation, The Statesman, Calcutta, as Assistant Editor.

He was put in charge of The Statesman Literary Supplement, a fortnightly publication for which he compiled a special Literary Crossword.

In 1987, he was invited to join The Times of India as Senior Editor. The newspaper is the largest circulating English language broadsheet in the world, currently published simultaneously from 37 centres in the country and with a readership of 15.2 million.

From 1994 to 1999 he was the editor of The Sunday Times of India, an independent publication, which during his tenure became the first English language newspaper in India to cross the one million readership mark.

In 1999, he became editor of The Times of India’s editorial page, which is common to all 37 editions of the newspaper. During his 10-year term in this position he was responsible for directing the editorial policy of The Times of India on such crucial issues as India’s nuclear test, the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City, the Iraq war and the capture and execution of Saddam Hussain.

Now:

Currently he is on contract with the Times of India to contribute two weekly columns, one which satirises topical political and social issues and another which is a personal take on travel and social trends.

He also contributes leading articles to The Economic Times, plus a fortnightly column for The Chandigarh Tribune, a monthly article to The New Indian Express and he is a regular contributor to The Speaking Tree, a Times Group publication dedicated to philosophy and spiritual wellbeing.

Internationally, he has written for The New York Review of Books, The Guardian (UK), Geo Magazine (Germany), Merian Magazine (Germany), The Far Eastern Economic Review (Hong Kong) and The Khaleej Times (Dubai UAE).

He is the author of 15 published books including a novel, two anthologies of short fiction, an anthology of travel writing, compilations of his satirical columns, a collection of essays on philosophical and political themes, a memoir of his career in journalism which touches upon the many changes that the profession has seen in India, and compilations of his cartoons created in collaboration with two illustrators.

A cartoon strip which he authored as a tribute to Charles M Schultz, the creator of Peanuts, is displayed in the Charles M Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, USA.

Awards and Honours:

In 1962 he was India’s runner-up in the international essay-writing competition for school students organised by The Chicago Herald Tribune.

In 1983 he became the first Asian writer to win the Grand Prize for Travel Writing awarded by the Pacific Area Travel Association. The Grand Prize had been established 34 years prior to his winning it. He was invited to Acapulco, Mexico, to receive the Prize.

His short story, The Badger, about an ageing schoolteacher, was shortlisted for The Commonwealth Prize for short fiction. It was made required reading for several years for all students of the Indian School Leaving Certificate. The story was subsequently made into a short film which has been screened at various international cine festivals.

In 2017 the Shreyas Award, the Rotary Club of India’s highest award, was conferred upon him for his contributions to journalism and literature.

In 2020 he was awarded a Knighthood by the President of the Italian Republic: Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy). 

The Italian Connection:

Over the years, Jug Suraiya has written more than 30 articles and columns on Italy, covering Roma, Venezia, Milano, Napoli, Palermo, Siena, Verona, Modica, Perugia, Bologna and Genova.

These articles have appeared in The Times of India, The Economic Times (India’s largest circulated business daily), The Speaking Tree and The New Indian Express.

Hopelessly in love with Italy – its people, art, churches, architecture, music, wine and cuisine – he makes it a point to visit the country at least twice a year if not more often.

As an “unofficial” brand ambassador for Italy, he was invited by the Embassy of Italy in India to participate in a cross-cultural interaction with the visiting Italian writer, Beppe Severgnini – a well-attended event at the Italian Cultural Centre in New Delhi.

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