Monday, April 18, 2011

Braking News by Sunetra Choudhury

Title: Braking News
Author: Sunetra Choudhury
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 310
Genre: Non Fiction / Politics / Travel
Rating: 10 out of 10

I first read a review of this book in Outlook. I had recently discovered the world of travel writing and was completely charmed by this genre. I wanted to explore books on India, and then I came across this book. The introduction was quite interesting – 1 Bus, 2 Girls, 15 Thousand Kilometres, 715 Million Votes!!!

‘Braking News’ is a first person account by NDTV’s Sunetra Choudhury of her experience while touring across States during General Elections in 2009 with fellow NDTV reporter Naghma Sahar, cameramen, drivers and an engineer. They were on the road for 2 months with a luxury bus called ‘NDTV Election Bus’ covering places like Dausa, Agra, Gwalior to Shivpuri in MP, Jhansi in UP, Udaipur, Nashik, Daman, Baramati, Goa, Jamshedpur, Bhubaneshwar, to name a few. Their task was to get the pulse of the voters before Elections and transmit a half an hour show live everyday.

First of all, I loved the cover. It sets the mood for the book, which itself is thoroughly entertaining but equally capable in throwing insights into the minds of the voters across regions. Writing is breezy, candid and witty. Though a work of non-fiction, the book is absolutely unputdownable. I finished it in one day.

I have always been in awe of reporters and I have always wondered about the unusual lives that they choose for themselves. In crisis situations, when everyone runs out, they have to go in and report for the benefit of the masses. Add to that the challenges of bringing news that is of importance and interest to common people, and add to that the task of looking at the news and issues in a way that they offer new perspectives to the readers / viewers.

Prior to this, I had read ‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana’ by Pankaj Mishra. It was all about small towns in India, its people, their idiosyncrasies and their lives in general. When I read about ‘Braking News’, what piqued my interest was that here was a lady journalist on a bus for 2 months, expected to cover the interiors of India. We all know what kind of adventure or misadventure such a journey has the potential to become. Hats off to the journalists who make this happen.

Quite frankly, I have not enjoyed any book so much lately. Though the aim of the bus was to get the pulse of people in places which were going to Elections (in 2009) yet the book does not dwell too much into offering political insights or highlight grassroot issues. This book is more like a diary of a woman who takes on the challenge of planning such a journey, her experiences along the way (some good, some bad), how she raises to the occasion with her team and how they all make it happen. Of course, we get enough glimpses of the ground level issues of Indian voters.

What I really liked is that despite the fact that largely the issues across India remain common like electricity, water, better opportunities and development; yet Sunetra brings out unique observations and perspectives from all these locations and people who she meets. For e.g., we get to know about this dam which keeps getting inaugurated but hasn’t been completed in 34 years, there is a boy in Jharkhand who can speak in 6 Indian languages but what he really wants is to be able to speak in English, a village which has no electricity but they have found innovative ways of watching TV, 11 year old boy in a village who speaks English, a village which is just 10 kms from th city and yet several years away from development, and then there are queens, filmstars and politicians. Everything is woven beautifully and presented in a sharp yet entertaining way.

I will recommend it to everyone. Election, Voters, Politics are the buzz words here, but trust me, it is anything but a serious book. The author shares a charming account of her life-changing journey, more at a personal level, without marginalizing the issues that she highlights along the way.  

(Image source: Amazon)


  1. Will add it to my must read books :)

  2. You must read it. It is an amazing book. I loved it.

  3. Sounds like a great read. Will look out for it! Thanks for the review.

  4. @ Camuesque - Hope you enjoy it :-)

    1. Hi, this is sunetra. Thank you for such a kind review. My new book behind bars is out next month. Do read

    2. Hi, I am glad that you liked the review :-) I read this book so long ago and yet I have kept the book with me because I really loved it. Yes, I am aware about your latest book. I will certainly read it. Wishing you all the luck!

  5. This sounds a really interesting read. I like your blog book reviews too, and have added it to my blogroll.

  6. @nishitak - Hi, welcome :-) I'm sure you would enjoy this if you like travel books or reading about small places. It is quite nice and very easy-read. Thanks for adding me.