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Rewinding & Evolving



By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

Sunday, 12th November, 2023, marked the 63rd year of our formal togetherness. On that day, Colleen Adie emerged from the Pro-Cathedral, Bombay, on the arm of Lt Hugh Gantzer, Indian Navy. As we walked under an archway of swords presented by our brother-officers, the byline Hugh and Colleen Gantzer was formalised. Over the years, we have had to fight repeatedly to retain this byline because media accountants were very reluctant to accept this innovation.

The Indian Navy is the smallest and, therefore, the most intimate of the 3 Defence Services.  This closeness built warm relationships but it also gave rise to jealously as the pyramid for promotion becomes steeper and steeper. We wrote our first book, The Maneater of Nunihat, at that time. We also wrote a number of articles for many of our dailies and some papers abroad. Eventually, however, the atmosphere started to get rather stifling and so we attended a New Year’s Party with H in uniform. At the stroke of midnight, he took off his uniform jacket and put on a white dinner jacket. He was officially Commander Hugh Gantzer, IN, Retired.

The success of our first book based on Hugh’s father’s experiences in the jungles of Bihar prompted us to think of making a career as writers. We were in Cochin at that time and had travelled extensively around that fascinating state. Our articles had prompted Kushwant Singh, then Editor of the popular Illustrated Weekly of India, to commission us to write on Kerala as the first of his series – The India You Do Not Know. He apparently thought our names were a nom de plume.  He had become Editor of another magazine when we entered his office for the first time. He looked up at us amazed and exclaimed: “You’re real!”

At about that time, Pandit Nehru had had the foresight to appoint the erudite and articulate Dr Karan Singh as India’s First Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation. The States and Union Territories suddenly found themselves responsible for promoting their tourism assets, but they did not know how to do it. We had, at that time, projected ourselves as Travel Writers.  We had been driven to do this when we found that the State Tourism Authorities were inviting small time writers from abroad, giving them the full aarti and garlands treatment just to get an article in a small prairie paper. We wrote to the Editor of the Indian Express and offered to give him an article. That led to our fortnightly Travel and Tourism Column on the Editorial page in all editions of the Indian Express.

There was no looking back after that.  Invitations to tour the States and Union Territories came quick and fast. Then, one day, our late Mother, Mrs Maisie Gantzer, suggested something quite outrageous. She said: “Why don’t you write to Bhasker Ghosh, the DG of Doordarshan?” So, after considerable hesitation, we did. When we met him in Delhi, we had not even seen a TV camera. He replied that he would ask 4 registered producers to work with us.  At that time there were no private TV cameras. We realised that script writers did not feature highly on the totem pole of film makers. So, we told Doordarshan that the title of the series would be “Looking Beyond with Hugh and Colleen Gantzer”.  We also decided to make every episode in the way we wrote our articles. They would start with an intriguing shot. Each sequence would then flow effortless into the next, and they would end with a farewell shot. From the very beginning we had to assert ourselves because Directors were not used to toeing a film writer’s line. On one occasion, we even had to utter the ultimate command: Pack Up, because our two leading technicians were delaying the process to enhance their fees.

Then Satish Sharma gave us the opportunity to give back to Mussoorie what it had done for our family. Our column in the Garhwal Post is our effort to repay that debt.

Thanks to Satish we have evolved from travel writers to EXPLAINERS untangling cutting edge of socio-scientific developments into laymen’s language.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 firstperson articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.) (The opinions and thoughts expressed here reflect only the authors’ views!).