Sixty years ago, journalism wasn't a glamorous profession in India. There were only a few reporters driven by a sense of adventure and the willingness to travel the world in search of news.
Harish Chandola was one such young man who moved from the Garhwal hills to start out as an editorial assistant with the Hindustan Times in Delhi in 1950. Not content with staying in the newsroom, he used his annual leave to journey through Tibet on foot--just when China was beginning its 'incursion' into the region--and was detained by Chinese soldiers for three months.
In a major scoop, he became the first journalist to notice 'a new kind of Chinese army in Tibet' in 1954. Prime Minister Nehru dismissed the report as a figment of Chandola's imagination, but it was later discovered that the men were constructing a 1,700-km highway from Lhasa to the Chinese mainland.
What followed thereafter was a six-decade-long career in journalism which took him to the frontlines of conflicts in Kenya and Cambodia, the Algerian War of Independence and the middle of a military coup in Indonesia. Back home, he played a role in sensitive negotiations with underground Naga leaders on Lal Bahadur Shastri's request, and was a trusted adviser on some key political issues to Indira Gandhi.
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