Sunday, September 18, 2011

JS and the Times of my Life: Book Review

After putting down Jug Suraiya's autobiography, 'JS and the times of my life- A worm's eye view of journalism', one thought that came to my mind was that whatever I write about this book, Jug Suraiya is not going to give a damn. I may write that he should be awarded a Nobel Prize for this literary masterpiece or I may warn readers to avoid reading this one as plague, but one thing is sure Suraiya is not going to be effected n any way by what I say. One of the responsibilities of an autobiography is to make the reader realize, what kind of a person the author is by taking a peek into his head. And if I can say the statement that I made in the first sentence boldly and confidently, I think this is a successful book.

Jug Suraiya, the irreverent columnist and journalist who write the columns Jugular Vein and Second opinion in Times of India newspaper, is widely regarded as an uncompromising satirist of great talent. This book clearly demonstrates the point. If we see the autobiographic writings of any contemporary journalist or politician, we can notice that, they try to sell the book with some controversial political content which gives a shock value. Another common strand that binds such books are the unabashed servings of self promotion. Many writers try to convince the readers that they are the ones who shaped up the history and they had hands in any important matter that happened to the world, though the truth may be that they did not had any clue about such matters at the time. But Jug Suraiya never tries this gimmick. He starts the book with the revelation that he never wanted to be a journalist and ends by claiming that he never was one. And in between you get a taste of journalist world and how it works.

The title is a smart word play with the author’s name and the two publications he has associated with- Junior Statesman (JS) and Times Of India. (I like to call latter Time-pass of India due to the excess of commercialization and was much amused to find out that even Jug Suraiya seems to agree with it.) Jug Suraiya joined Junior Statesman from the time of its inception as a magazine for teenagers from the house of Statesman which is a more orthodox newspaper based in Kolkata (then Calcutta). JS offered a departure from the journalistic norms of the times by making the matter more interactive. At a time when entertainment was considered a luxury and luxury a crime, JS pioneered the art of ‘infotainment’. But this came with some price as the parent publication was not so cooperative in the adventurous nature of JS. After a while JS had an untimely death. After the demise of JS, Suraiya continued to work with Statesman, though he was not so interested in the work that was offered. Later he was offered a job in TOI which he accepted and relocated to Delhi with his wife Bunny (who needs no introduction). Though he was not so impressed with the business oriented working in TOI, he continues to work there. He tries to make the reader see the reason for the over-commercialization of TOI though in no way justifies it. 
In the book, the author gives a very humorous recounting of all these times with more emphasis on different characters that associated with him from time to time. He keeps much of his personal matters on the background, except his life with his wife Bunny and dog Brindle, and only gives details of such matters when they serve to address some social issue. Other parts that really stand out are the reminiscences about several travels he made outside the country, especially Tibet.

JS and the Times of my Life is a real funny and interesting ride. It gives a glimpse on the history of two interesting publications- JS, a pioneer that introduced Indian readers to interactive journalism and TOI that cashed in on that. It also give glimpses on the change that our nation and its readers underwent in a couple of years. A special attraction is a long list of people whom Jug Suraiya pissed off in his long and illustrious career.     

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!


  1. nice review..u r a great reader..i admire ur interest in literature and art

  2. u just added one more book I have to buy and read...just coz ur review is so bang on :)

    I just finished Truth, Love & a little Malice - Khushwant Singh's autobiography. The reckless abandonment and a dismal sense of self (despite being at the right place at the right time) make it look like a Masala Blockbuster where all the people u have heard of have acted :)

  3. Jug should in fact give most credence to your review because it is an unbiased well read readers analysis.
    He is a veteran and lives in apna Gurgaon.I am sure he has several anecdotes and stories to share from his long career.