A cult hero called Taro Chatung

Monday Musing

[ Taba Ajum ]
In the mid ’90s, a sensation called Taro Chatung took the state by storm. When the watch or clock showed 6 pm, the entire state used to tune in to Doordarshan to watch his programme, known as ‘News & Views’. For a state devoid of any celebrity, whether it was in the field of sports, culture or entertainment, Taro Chatung was perhaps the first Arunachalee celebrity who attained a cult status with his unique style of journalism. The people of Arunachal loved his style of work because he spoke their language – the common man’s language.
The elite class mocked his English and Hindi accents, but a majority of Arunachalees loved it. For him, grammar or diction did not matter. He only cared about presenting the real news to the people. The death of Taro Chatung, whom we fondly used to address as ‘sir’, is truly the end of an era. A majority of us felt his death as a personal loss and are still mourning it.
He was different in every sense. At a time when people were ready to make any kind of sacrifice to land a government job, he left the lucrative state civil service job to follow his passion. In the ’90s, the tribal society was still very conservative, and marrying outside the tribe was considered a taboo. But Chatung sir broke the tradition and went against the norm by marrying outside his tribe. He was a rebel in the true sense.
For him, working for the society was more important than making money for himself. He left no property or bank balance for his family. Chatung sir was indeed a true socialist. Not many know that he had once plunged into politics too, and had held a very powerful position in the Congress when the party was in its peak of power. However, he got disillusioned by politics and returned to the field of journalism.
Many of the present generation of journalists, including yours truly, grew up idolizing him. I vividly remember, in 2003, when I informed my friends and family that I wanted to pursue journalism, many were shocked at my decision. Some even mocked me, saying, “Taro Chatung jaisa camera leke ghumna.”
When I met Chatung sir for the first time after joining the state media, it was a fan meeting a hero kind of moment. Being humble and down-to-earth, he made it easy for me to start the conversation. We often used to meet at various events, and at the press club. He was a fiercely opinionated person but never imposed anything on anyone. He often advised us to follow the ethics of journalism. He would say, “I don’t have any materialistic wealth but have earned the love and respect of the people of the state.”
As I bid tearful adieu to Chatung sir at his hometown, Ziro, I could not even say Rest in peace to his soul. Knowing sir, I know he will not rest in peace in another world too. He was a restless man who, even in his 50s, was like a child who always kept searching for new ideas.
On 3 October, I along with two of my colleagues went to meet him after learning that he had Stage IV cancer. Even in that sombre moment, he was in his usual jolly mood and said, “The doctor was sad while informing me about the diagnosis. But I told her, nothing to worry. Chatung is nature’s child and if nature wants me back, I will go back to nature.”
Perhaps that’s why he did not allow his family to construct any concrete structure at his burial site. The nature’s child has indeed finally gone back to nature. As I end this tribute, one final wish of Chatung sir, to become the oldest man to climb Mt Everest, comes back to my mind. Till we meet again, take care, sir, and please start your preparations for the Everest expedition.