Khaled Ansari: A journey from Inquilab to MiD Day
Indian journalist and Muslim nationalist Abdul Hamid Ansari founded an Urdu daily, Inquilab, in Mumbai in l937. The newspaper soon became a landmark in Urdu journalism that drew the attention of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan. But when Jinnah asked Ansari to follow him to Karachi to continue publishing the paper in the new country, Ansari said he would rather stay put in India like many million of Muslims who preferred to continue living in India rather than join Jinnah in Pakistan. Those who did join Jinnah of course left everything behind. Some flourished while others foundered. But that is another story, which has never ended since l947.
Today’s story is about the son of Abdul Hamid, Khaled, who was my college mate and has been my friend since we parted company at the end of our terms at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. Khaled was one year ahead of me when we first met in l954. Incidentally our fathers were journalists and publishers, one in India and the other in the British crown colony of Aden at the southern corner of Arabia by the Red Sea. It is now part of the Yemen Republic that is trying to rebuild itself, fearing a break-up of the country.
After parting company at Xavier’s I went back to Aden and later joined Columbia University, New York, for the Master’s degree in journalism while Khaled did his Master’s at Stanford University also in the US.
Khaled returned to Mumbai to establish Sportsweek, a weekly sports magazine, which became a great success soon after its launch. The instant success of the magazine may be attributed to the fact that its founder was himself a sportsman par excellence and did a very good job of the paper in addition to his father’s paper Inquilab.
I followed both the publications as I used to visit Mumbai frequently after shifting to Jeddah where I joined in the establishment of Arab News, first English daily in the Kingdom. We used to meet occasionally for lunch or dinner at my hotel, the Oberio, or at his favorite hotel, the Taj, where he was a member of the exclusive club, which only accepted members by special invitation.
In the meantime it occurred to him to launch MiD Day, India’s first daily tabloid, which he patterned after the English tabloids of Fleet Street in many ways. During the planning phase of his new venture, we spent some hours talking about it and its format to ensure its success especially that Mumbai had already had two eveningers, one by the Times of India and the other by the Indian Express. Both suffered greatly from lack of innovation to attract readers in big numbers. So when MiD Day appeared with a fresh face and content, the two older ones simply collapsed. Although the Times of India eveninger resisted the march of time for a little longer, but finally folded rather unmourned since it had already become obsolete.
MiD Day became a smashing success with many people comparing it to the British Daily Mirror and Daily Mail. However, being an Indian tabloid it was more sedate and altogether more decent without the British fondness for nudity and crass stories of sex and silliness.
Khaled was assisted by his wife, Ruqaya, whom I met at their home in Nepean Sea Road during a visit to them. She was quite active in the administrative side and contributed her mite to the editorial content and layout, which helped sustain the paper in the demanding market of Mumbai. She knew what was going on in the office and in the paper that was fast becoming the leading eveninger of India.
In the meanwhile Khaled accepted an offer to be the editor in chief of the Dubai-based Khaleej Times, handing over the paper to his son Tariq. Once again we met there and exchanged ideas since I was also running this paper which was printing in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam quite successfully as it became easily the leading English daily in the Kingdom.
After a few years in Dubai, Khaled returned to Mumbai and launched MiD Day in Bangalore and Delhi and a Gujarati version for the millions of Gujaratis in the country. He also became involved in various engagements with the Indian government, launching and editing newspapers during conferences in Delhi and New York and was awarded the Padma Shri in 2001 while continuing to play and write about his old passion, cricket.
Writing about his eveninger Khaled says: “MiD Day is a light hearted, easy read, an entertaining and mischievous paper that now has a new objective that is to make work fun. At MiD Day we deliver an entertaining newsbreak to young professionals during the day. The focus is on the young, urban, mobile professionals across India and the company is leaving no stone unturned to connect with them. Today’s workplaces are swamped with stress and pressure because of fast-paced work styles and crazy deadlines. MiD Day as brand believes in easing the pressure and spreading the message of make work fun.” He goes on to say: “A host of addictive, fun sections like what’s on, hit list cross words, horoscope and fun at work ensures the newspaper remains a welcome diversion for young professionals on the move or even a quick pick me up to perk their day.”
During my frequent visits to Mumbai, I used to have it delivered to my hotel room everyday and when I left for Jeddah I made sure the weekend edition was mailed to me long before the advent of the e-mail and online editions.
— Farouk Luqman is an eminent journalist based in Jeddah.