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Book review: Conflict Communication by I. Rammohan Rao
The book is about a real story of progress of a young man who rose from the bottom to the top rung of the ladder. The narrator is I. Rammohan Rao who started his career as an apprentice in the Press Information Bureau and after about half a century of devotion to duty, hard work, honesty and sincerity retired as a Secretary to the Government of India.

He went through many ups and downs in his chequered career as a communicator specializing in Conflicts of international dimensions. As a spokesman of the Government of India in the role of Principal Information Officer he touched the sky with glory and even without crossing theLakshman Rekha almost got synged. Life of a Conflict Communicator is like that.

Rammohan Rao has chronicled all that transpired in the corridor of power where he rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty in an exalted position but was never far from war like situations where he constantly ran the risk of being fired from the job that he loved most – collection and dissemination of information about governance of the country, Bharat, about wars waged, battles lost and won, not forgetting economic growth and down turn, riots and tensions that a human society has to deal with every now and then.

The beginning

The author has aptly described how it all began in Bombay, now Mumbai. A cousin passed on a surplus rail ticket to travel to Delhi and Rammohan Rao utilized that. It opened new vistas where there was sunshine and, of course, clouds gathered and brought thunder, lightning and rain. He landed a job in the Information Service as an apprentice but worked hard to climb up rung by rung until he touched the top rung before his retirement after almost half a century. The vicissitudes of life in office and at home went side by side but , of course, profession was given top priority. Karm hee Dharm – that was the motto that he lived by and lived up to.

The writer of the book has narrated with aplomb that before retirement he rose to the rank of the Secetary to the Government of India.Of course, in between there were many ups and downs in his career but he gave top priority to his job as a Spokesman of the organization that he worked for. At times he sat in the plush office of DPR Defence in the South Block and at times he managed to work from a makeshift office in the Sainik Rest Room at Amritsar. Nevertheless he never compromised on the efficiency and even took a foreign correspondent to task for his ill manners in the shanty of the Sainik Vishram Ghar.

The Peak

It was the 1971 war with Pakistan that saw the Conflict Communicator reach the pinnacle of his career. His aim of advancing the war effort by boosting the morale of own troops and lowering the morale of enemy troops went on and on ceaselessly. When the Indian Para Brigade dropped paratroopers in Tangail, East Pakistan to march on to Dacca, Rammohan Rao devised a method of showing paradrop through still photographs. He used one of the pictures taken during an exercise of the para brigade showing paratroopers being paradropped in large numbers. Displaying his ingenuity, Rammohan Rao used those pictures and had them distributed to all media centres. Lo and behold! Next morning all newspapers, both Indian and foreign, had carried them prominently. It certainly lowered the morale of the Pakistan commander in Dacca, Lt Gen AAK Niazi and was a major factor in inducing him to surrender to the Indian commanders courtesy our General JFR Jacob(now late).

Of course, Rammohan Rao was chastised for his unethical ingenuity but one may say that he did it for a good cause. The End justified the Means.

As the Principal Information Officer of the Government of India he apparently was taken to task for breaking the news of Babu Jagjivan Ram rather prematurely. Rajiv Gandhi the then Pradhan Mantri directed that "Action be Taken". Friends advised him to go on leave. The foe talked glibly. Rammohan Rao's good rapport with the top notchers of the print media in particular and the entire media in general came to his rescue when the Prime Minister asked the I&B Minister to continue utilizing the service of the PIO since no media man of repute had spoken against him.

In the Army there is a saying that one should avoid going in front of a senior officer and behind a mule as both may be dangerous. As PIO, Mohanrao had to be with the Pradhan Mantri in front of him most of the time. No wonder Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar had mulled the idea of giving Rao the marching orders. But a face to face talk saved the situation.

Sundry jobs

Rammohan Rao worked in different capacities at different places and acquitted himself well. Be it as Kaoboy in the RAW, on an assignment with the IPKF in Sri Lanka on specific orders, as Head of Publications or finally as a mentor of young journalists in the Asian News International(ANI), he took his assignment as seriously as he had done in the various wars against Pakistan.

I Rammohan Rao has had the distinction of working with four Prime Ministers and but for incidents of backbiting by ill natured fellows, there never was a serious complaint against him. He has always been on his best behavior both with seniors and juniors and won laurels for his courtesy to friend and foe alike.

May I mention that the present book that is being reviewed is not an autobiography of I. Rammohan Rao. It is a chronicle of the most eminent communicator that Bharat ever has had. The author has meticulously avoided dropping names, mentioning his wife and children out of turn except his daughter, son-in-law for encouraging him to let the present book see the light of the day, or his son whom he had disciplined for participating in anti-government agitation opposing Mandal Commission while residing with him in government accommodation. The author has observed the professional ethics to the point of erring on the right side.

The cover page with myriad microphones is self explainatory, the get up is good making the book presentable. Generally speaking the printer's devil has not been permitted to make mischief except at an odd place.

To sum up my review of the book, I shall say that I would pay for it to own a copy and keep it by my bedside to read and read time and again when I wish to relax.

Conflict Communication, Chronicles of a Communicator by I. Rammohan Rao.

Publisher: Pentagon Press. Price INR 595/-

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