By Satish Sharma
Dehradun, 4 Nov: Veteran journalist Raj Kanwar was an institution in himself. Although his long journalistic career began long before Garhwal Post came into existence as a leading English weekly published from Dehradun, his second innings as a journalist and columnist which began after his return to hometown Dehradun started with Garhwal Post in 2001. I recall that, while growing up as a teenager and often helping my father, Upendra Sharma, with publication of his weekly newspaper Doon Dwar, I would often hear about Raj Kanwar. Beginning his career as a freelancer and then writing for news agencies from Dehradun and also for publications like Indian Express, he turned a publisher himself. I recall the time when he had launched his own newspaper, titled ‘Witness’, which could not have a long run because of his other commitments.
He later chose to join the ONGC as its first Public Relations Officer and had to shift to Mumbai, which resulted in a break in his journalistic innings. While in Mumbai, he also launched his own company related to supply of Oilfield Equipment. He returned to Dehradun, leaving the management of his company in the hands of his son, Manav.
Meanwhile, I had delved into publication myself with Garhwal Post as an English Weekly published from Dehradun which was launched in 1996. It soon became a very popular weekly due to our focus on maintaining high quality content as well as layout. It was in 2001 that I received a call from Raj Kanwar Sahib. He politely asked me if it was Satish Sharma on the line. When I responded in the affirmative, he praised Garhwal Post for its quality content and good layout. He expressed a desire to meet me. After a while, I could recollect his name as I had often heard about him in my young days. The meeting would happen soon after. He was then living in his EC Road premises. He welcomed me warmly. He said that, though fond of owning and managing a regular publication, he did not have enough energy to launch or relaunch his own publication. So, he wanted to be associated with Garhwal Post. Soon, he began writing a regular column called ‘Frankly Speaking’ for Garhwal Post. He would also purchase a number of copies, often in the hundreds, which he would himself distribute among his friends and acquaintances in Dehradun or post them across the country to his friends. For some time, Garhwal Post also operated its offices from his residence cum office. He would also support the newspaper in other ways and even issue advertisements of his own company, SK Oilfield, on special occasions like Republic Day and Independence Day.
Let me emphasise here that his “Frankly Speaking” column was popular also because he put in a lot of effort and research in writing it.
However, destiny had its own path. We, at Garhwal Post, rejected one of his pieces which he wrote for ‘Frankly Speaking’ as it went against the editorial policy of the publication. This resulted in some differences between us and Raj Kanwar Sahib. He discontinued his column with Garhwal Post for some years. He also started writing for various other publications including some leading newspapers and periodicals. He also wrote some books around that time, one being on the history of ONGC. Meanwhile, Garhwal Post graduated to becoming a daily newspaper in 2006. Though, we were not on speaking terms, he was Chairman of Doon Citizens’ Council when I was picked up by the Council to be honoured with the Pride of Uttarakhand Award that year, along with some great people from Uttarakhand which included actor Tom Alter. Our personal differences did not come in the way of me being honoured with the “Pride of Uttarakhand Award”. He was a thorough professional.
Soon after, leading industrialist from Dehradun and philanthropist Dr S Farooq arranged a fresh meeting between us. All our differences were resolved on the occasion.
Soon after, he started writing for Garhwal Post once again, on a wide variety of topics, although it was not in the form of any column. This association only grew stronger over time and lasted till his passing away. Raj Kanwar Sahib would often call me to praise certain stories or content and would often offer encouraging words like, “I see you as my mirror image.”
You will be missed by us at Garhwal Post, Kanwar Sahib! Om Shanti Om!!