I do not miss an opportunity to promote Gaon Connection, India’s first professionally conceived, produced and run rural newspaper. That has nothing to do with the fact that I write a weekly column for it in Hindi. Gaon Connection is friend and fellow journalist Neelesh Misra’s baby which has turned one today. It is as good an opportunity as any to celebrate.
The newsweekly has just published its first anniversary issue (The image above) in the face of heavy odds. However, encouraged by the kind of enthusiastic commitment that one finds among rural folk in India Misra and his glorious team have survived rather well. One big identifier for Gaon Connection has been that it never talks down to or patronizes its readers. It operates with the basic presumption of innate intelligence of its readers notwithstanding their rural circumstance.
While there are many rural publications of some kind or another throughout India I think what sets Gaon Connection apart is its ability to offer content that its readers have a natural feel for. Its writers and reporters never dumb down their writing in the misguided idea that the reader might not get it. That is as much a reflection on Neelesh’s own sensibilities as on its editor-in-chief, Dr. Shiv Balak Misra, who also happens to be Neelesh’s father and a highly regarded geologist. In many ways the Gaon team is a great coming together of the urban and rural minds, each displaying equal respect for the other.
Only Neelesh and family know how challenging it has been to keep the paper alive and flourishing outside the influence of India’s media industrial complex. I say this with great happiness that I have been among the earliest proponents and supporters of Neelesh’s vision to create a venture/movement that builds itself out of rural India with rural life as the focus without either demeaning or glorifying both.
In a country where some 800 million people live in 600,000 villages it is absolutely essential that ventures such as Gaon Connection flourish. It is the world’s largest democratic rural population which in and of itself demands all manners of attention. Neelesh and his team are embarked on something truly path-breaking and I am thrilled to be a part of it.