Several IARJ members have published books recently. Here we feature an interview with Uday Basu on his new book: White Sahibs, Brown Sahibs: An Insider’s Account of the Statesman.

What prompted you to write White Sahibs, Brown Sahibs: An Insider’s Account of the Statesman, and what is it about?

The Statesman, where I worked for about four decades, played a pioneering role in Indian journalism since its first issue in 1875. It was founded by a stalwart British journalist, Robert Knight. He was a leading voice against the wrongdoing of the British Raj. Unfortunately, there is no authentic record of the history and contributions of the paper to India’s socio-political-economic progress since the colonial period. This is what prompted me to write the book. 

Tell us a little bit about your background and how your relationship to the Statesman gives you an especially compelling angle. 

The paper has made me what I am as a journalist. I owe so much to the Statesman that I feel a duty to tell the readers its unique story, which I alone can do thanks to my long association with it. I served the paper first as a junior reporter and then gradually rose to become its Coordinating Editor, running the paper and weathering many an existential crisis it faced over the years. I could draw upon my experiences in investigative journalism—a forte of the paper—and a wealth of details collected from the paper’s archival material, which revealed connections with the life and leading lights of India, including Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru, Vivekanand, Satyajit Ray, and Amartya Sen. 

How does White Sahibs, Brown Sahibs intersect with the work of the IARJ?

It’s the Statesman through which I came into contact with the IARJ. It sent me as its representative to deliver two lectures on religion journalism at its conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. Since then I not only became an active participant in the IARJ’s conferences but also had the honour and privilege to become its Chair. 

Is there anything about the reception of the book thus far that has surprised you?

The book was launched at the Kolkata International Book Fair, 2024 and the New Delhi World Book Fair, 2024. The response it evoked from the readers at the two fairs was indeed remarkable. What struck me most was the fact that some readers took the pain of contacting me through Facebook to congratulate me and even urge me to write more similar books. 

What do you hope White Sahibs, Brown Sahibs will accomplish?

My fervent hope is that the book will make people aware that the role of the media is to expose the wrongdoing of the powers that be and mirror the variegated socio-cultural-religious life of a people. The book is a lively, highly readable and authentic illustration of that dynamic in practice. 

White Sahibs, Brown Sahibs: An Insider’s Account of the Statesman will throw ample light on life in India—its cultural, political and religious trends. As such it may serve as a reliable guide for the IARJ community and beyond to know the wonder that is India. 

Learn more about White Sahibs, Brown Sahibs on Goodreads or purchase directly from Atlantic Publishers.