Juggie Naran

OPINION - As we turn the final pages on an era of journalism that was; a time when the fourth estate sat at the core of our struggle for liberation – we start to see some of the key characters turn to ashes.

Death be not proud, though many have called thee mighty…

As young cadets, with stars and dreams in our eyes, these journalists who wielded their pens like swords fighting the good fight were our heroes and heroines. 

In their struggle days they raised hell against the Apartheid regime, we heard stories about the protests, the arrests, the torture; and right to the end their fists were clenched to injustice and discrimination.

The dawn of our Democracy and the promise of a liberated Press ushered in the demise of powerful struggle titles, like The Leader and The Graphic among others.

Two giants that recently left us were Farook Khan, a larger than life personality who many of us will remember to have strong links to NASA and also a call away from the greatest himself, Mohammed Ali - then this week, a gentler; quieter force, Juggie Naran made for the stars.

My experience as an intern was with the latter, dearest Juggie, and it would be sacrilegious not to pay some kind of tribute to the man who was responsible for so many journalists’ paths.

While at The Leader, Juggie probably worked on the last MS Dos PC that ever existed –  some of you veterans may recall the yellow font monitor that needed to be parked before you shut it down.

Sitting at the old Leader office in Sparks Road, Durban, I served my internship as a young journalist.

“Rovan, (he always swapped his W’s for Vs and vice versa) go see if the Wolwo is outside, I think Pravin is here.”

Pravin was one of his dearest friends and was the PR manager of Gold Circle at the time and would fetch him daily for a quick bite.

Of course, the newspapers’ readership had almost completely diminished – but boy did we write!

We wrote like the world read it. It was just Juggie and I at the time, and at least two other interns.

The editor at the time was the late Sunny Bramdaw, who also owned the establishment that was passed onto him from his mum and dad. 

On the local front we covered stories around the marginalization of Indians in a young democracy, we covered crime, whilst globally, we honed in on the gross human rights’violation in Palestine. 

We wrote from the heart – and our conscience was always our guide.

How privileged was I to be in the company of two great legends of our times?

Juggie could be heard pounding away at his keyboard, momentarily pausing to clutch his head in his hands, to process his next paragraph and then again back at it… Bang,Bang, Bang!

Many will testify that he was the hardest working man that they had ever met, and it’s true – he slogged – journalism was at the epicenter of his life. 

Every word was precious and every article he crafted, mostly for the credit of other journalists, had some profound meaning to society but ultimately he was guided by his own moral compass.

He wore a suit to work every day. He was the first in and the very last to leave the office – such was the man’s work ethic.

He would always say – “Rovan once a journalist, you are always a journalist, just don’t expect to get rich.”

And he was right, it was a thankless and selfless job.

But to see your byline, and ask any journalist worth their salt – is the most gratifying feeling of accomplishment. Nothing can explain it adequately – it’s just a feeling.

Journalists have such an important role to play, especially in today’s society fraught with corruption and such contempt for life.  

Journalists have the power to shake the pillars of any establishment; they set the tone for our economy. 

What an incredibly important job. 

We can only hope that the likes of Farook and Juggie, to name but two legends of our time, imparted enough of their wisdom to the new batch of newshounds.

Journalism, and particularly the print media, is under unimaginable pressure.

The digitalization of the press has diluted, to some extent, the art of journalism while money and politics continues to trump objectivity.

Perhaps it’s prudent to go back to the roots of activist-journalism. Perhaps it’s time for another movement -  only this time for the true freedom of our press.

Thank you Juggie for gracing us with your ethereal presence; thank you for making us better human beings. 

At the end of it all, and when those great pearly white gates open, the impact you made on those you left behind is all that matters.

Daily News