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by Upendra Bajpai

It was in 1956. I was then General Secretary of the UP Working Journalists’ Union. Our president was The Pioneer’s Chief Assistant Editor, Madhavan Nair , who later became the Editor of Tribune ( Chandigarh ). We had convened  the Annual convention of the Indian Federation of  Working Journalists at Lucknow .  Most  of the  correspondence work relating to the convention  was being carried out from my residence  in  Nazarbagh  as there was no other place for holding proper meeting of colleagues to discuss about  prearations  for the convention

Mr S.N. Ghosh was Editor of the Pioneer . When I approached him for allowing us to hold meetings of the preparation committee in the Library hall of the paper, he permitted us on the condition that we would not keep there any material or register etc prepared in connection with the convention .

The then UP Governor Mr KM Munshi had given his consent to inaugurate the  convention of the IFWJ.  Dr Sampurnanand was the Chief Minister. His participation in the programe had not been decided . We wanted to adopt an abandoned child, the China Bazar Gate , which was in dilapidated condition. We thought of inviting the CM to inaugurate the Press Club on the occasion , feeling pretty sure that once the CM agrees to do so the entire administration would be on its toes to help us .

I had a close friend, Mr Ramendra Verma.  He was Permanent Secretary of the UP Congress Parliamentary Party. He had a very vast circle of friends. He had very good relations with all bigwigs of the state  He was also close to some political correspondents and used to assess worth of journalists too.  Though I was well acquainted with Dr Sampurnand , even then I thought it would be better if Mr RamendraVerma also accompanied me.  And, when I put our proposal before Dr Sampurnanand he immediately gave his consent to inaugurate our Club.

The journalists’ convention was to be inaugurated in the afternoon. That was November 18, 1956 and as far as I remember the inauguration of the Press Club was to take place at 11 AM. It was a brief programme of about an hour but was of immense importance. After getting the consent of the Chief Minister we informed the municipal authorities about it. Though there was not much time yet  the necessary sanitation work of the area was carried out. We also got the electricity connection . Our friend Vidya Sagar took upon himself the responsibility of making arrangements for inauguration of the Press Club. At that time Mr Vidya Sagar was the Principal Correspondent of the Pioneer. A Shamiana was pitched in the campus outside the Gate where guests were welcomed.

As there was hardly any time left for  constitution of  formal executive committee of the  Club , we formed a  5- member committee  to carry out the immediate work relating to the convention.   Mr Krishna Kumar Misra, my old colleague of National Herald who later became Editor of Nav Jeewan, was appointed as convener of the committee . Besides me, Mr Jwala Singh, Special Correspondent of National Herald, and two others were its members. After completion of the necessary Safaii , white-washing  etc the Executive Committee of the Press Club was formally constituted with Mr S.N. Ghosh as its president and me as its first general secretary.

Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru was about to visit Lucknow. I wrote a letter requesting him to include  Press Club programme also into his itenary.Along with the letter I enclosed a brief introduction of the Press Club also. The reply was received here after  a week making it clear that it would not be possible to include it in his busy schedule  of   this visit. In spite of this, I met Pt Nehru when he arrived here for this scheduled programme at Durga Bhabhi’s Montessori School  After acknowledging the receipt of his negative reply I sought to know from him what should we do to invite you. He told us that he would also come to the Press Club when he visited Lucknow next . I came back happily. I first  filed my news report  for the AJ of Varanasi for which I was working here as Special Correspondent  and thereafter gave to my journalist friends detail of talks I had  with Pt Nehru A few days later I also wrote a letter to Pt Nahru thanking him for the assurance he had given to me . But, alas he could not get an opportunity to honour his commitment.

In 1966 Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister. She was about to arrive at Lucknow.  I tried to meet Indiraji after consulting friends looking after the working of the Press Club those days. Mr Bawari was the Information Officer of Indiraji. Indiraji was staying at Raj Bhawan. When I talked to Mr Bawari on telephone he, after consulting Indiraji,  told me  to come right now .Taking a  paddle driven rickshaw  I reached  Raj Bhawan  where an assistant tok me to  Indiraji’s room. While I was being taken to  the room.I saw  top leaders of the state  Congress sitting in a room on the right side. A meeting of the state Congress parliamentary board was in progress. The prime minister was informed about my visit. I thought that the meeting might not be over soon so I   tried to gather details of the  meeting.  I had hardly moved a few steps  when Indiraji arrived.

I told  Indiraji that Panditji had promised to come to our place. But we had been deprived of his visit at the Press Club. . We would be happy if his daughter could spare some time  for us. Speaking very politely, she smilingly said that she too would feel happy. Referring to some details about his Lucknow visit she pleaded inability, but assured me that she would certainly come to the Press Club during her next visit and left for the meeting.

Indiraji visited Lucknow in 1969 after the Bangalore session of the All India Congress Committee I had already had talks with her Information Officer, Mr Bawari Mr SAS ( Siddiqe Ahmad Siddiqui ) of the Indian  Express was General Secretary of the Press Club and Assistant Editor of National Herald , Mr Belur was its President . Our friends met Indiraji when she arrived here . Indiraji reached the Press Club Though she was the proposer of Mr Sanjiva Reddy for the Presidentship , it was generally believed that she was supporting the candidature of  Mr VV Giri . She hinted about her choice on the subject, while replying to the welcome at the Press Club . Mr VV Giri won and the impending split in the Congress tk place .

After sometime , President Giri visited Lucknow and he unveild  a portrait of my father , the late Acharya Ambika prasad Bajpai  on the invitation of Press Club  When Mr Giri was the Governor of Uttar Pradesh my father was alive and  had visited our house .

It would be appropriate to give a brief account of  a chief minister of the state, Mr C.B.Gupta , closely associated with the development of Lucknow, about whom it was said that he was not happy with journalists and I was also being counted among them. We went to invite him when he became the chief minister we did not notice anything of this sort. We Showed him our library, which we had set up and wanted its expansio9n. Guptaji listened to us with attention . Moving with a small cue in his hands, which he always used to keep with him , he alighted from the spiral staircase . While coming down, he kept  a close watch on all sides. Some persons, the foremost among them was  our friend SM Jafar , whispered  he was looking to find out where the liquor bottles could be  hidden. Someone  from among us said “ Guptaji you will not find what is being looked for “ Guptaji laughed and said “ You people are rascals “ . While coming out of the Press Club . Guptaji said “ Let me know if you need any help. Press Club was in dire need of paint and white –washing. Whatever was possible had been done on our own. but it was not enough..Mr BP.Seth wasappointed Administrator of the Lucknow Municipal Board  around the same time. After getting a hint from the Chief Minister, Mr Seth himself visited the Press Club and necessessary repairs and paint etc started at the Pres club from inside and the exterior was also maintained . The Press Club got its shine.