India’s Real Heroes

Ritu Kapur

Ritu Kapur, Features Editor at CNN-IBN, is one of the real heroes of India. In a media dominated by the same celebrity faces, day-in-and-day-out, she has taken the initiative to broadcast the stories of the people who work out of the limelight, committing their talent and time to “be the change they wish to see in the world.”

The series, called Real Heroes of India, can be found on the IBN-Live website.

India's Real Heroes

I am pleased to have had a small part in this project. A year ago, I was meeting with Ritu at the CNN-IBN headquarters in Noida when she received a call advising that her Bombay cameraman was running late for a scheduled shoot with film icon Amitabh Bachchan. I commented that the networks feature the same celebrities, over-and-over; and yet their stories are not even a fraction as interesting as those of the people I meet everyday: the real heroes of India, who are working to build their communities, largely unnoticed. A couple months later, when I saw Ritu again, she said, “I want to do a series of features on the unseen heroes of India and I want you to recommend people we should profile.” That’s how this series was born.

The lovely thing about is that it doesn’t just tell the stories of NGO-types, toiling-away to improve life’s lot for some pocket of the wretched – although it does this too. It captures a sense of the diverse and myriad ways in which people express their altruism and compassion – in business, in athletics, in the arts, in environmental conservation, as well as in the traditional social services sector.

The series was originally broadcast throughout the month of August 2007. Now, each story can be viewed on the IBN-Live website. The very first story aired was one close to the hearts of many CharityFocus friends: it was about Krishnan, who quit his job as a chef at Bangalore’s Taj Hotel to feed the elderly and insane abandoned by their families to the streets of Madurai.

There can be little real debate in the matter: journalism in India is astoundingly poor. Much of the reporting, writing, and broadcast pieces done by the major news outlets in this country wouldn’t earn passing marks in an average high-school journalism class. On the print side, facts and quotations are routinely invented to suit the whim of the writer; on the broadcast side, interviews are typically edited such that the reporter’s question is re-shot after the answer has been recorded, and invariably differs from the question actually asked. At press conferences, reporters from the major newspapers and networks seem to find it impossible to ask questions (much less lucid, probing inquiries), either because they cannot rouse themselves from their apparent stupors or because they lack any vestige of professionalism.

There are, of course, exceptions; and CNN-IBN represents a wonderful departure from the commonplace amateurism. Rajdeep Sardesai is a brilliant journalist who understands the power and the responsibility of his craft. As Editor-in-Chief, he has instilled this ethic throughout the organization.

Perhaps it was inevitable that real journalists would eventually discover that the real stories of real people making real change are much more compelling than investigative reporting on Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s latest shade of eyeliner. Still, kudos to Ritu Kapur and her CNN-IBN team for telling these inspirational stories from across India, with all the skill and resources at their disposal.


4 Responses to “India’s Real Heroes”

  1. 1 jessima 3 January 2008 at 3:23 pm

    This kills me. I am Indian , and non resident Indian, and i am being taught about my country by a foreigner …
    Thank you!

  2. 2 mbjesq 3 January 2008 at 8:47 pm


    No need to feel slain. Learning about India is something of which we are all in the midst.

    As an outsider coming in, my eyes are wide open, and I try to report on some of the interesting things I see, good and bad. As an insider who has gone abroad, you are on the look-out for signs of what is happening in your absence.

    Even Indians who have never set foot outside India (and never will, for that matter) are learning about India anew each day. The pace of change is so rapid, the country is reinventing itself right before our eyes. Much of this is not a pretty sight, as India’s leadership (both corporate and governmental) fails to comprehend the remarkable advantage it enjoys in having the chance to develop itself in the 21st Century, and insists on making the same idiotic mistakes (social, economic, and environmental) that Europe and America made in the 1950s. Avarice and self-interest far outpace rationality and the collective good as catalysts of change. India is hardly the spiritually advanced country it was and still believes it is.

    The good news is that smart, compassionate, civic-minded people abound. (In India, everything abounds — you just need to know where to look.) Everyday I meet people who make the lives of those around them better — in overt ways and subtle — and make me feel lucky to know them.

    When people ask me why I live half of each year in India, I usually say: Because India is endlessly absorbing. The things that are wonderful about India are interesting; and the things that are fucked-up about India are downright fascinating.

    Together, we’ll keep an eye on things, do what we can to influence things in a way we believe is positive, and hope for the best.



  3. 3 jatin 12 January 2008 at 5:35 am

    Bachan should be Bachchan….. Thanks to Google God!

  4. 4 sumit 4 June 2015 at 4:16 am

    Here are 28 minimalistic posters that pay tribute to the real heroes of Indian history >

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