Hailing from a family of martyrs and journalists, Ashwini Kumar Chopra has deep connections with the National Capital. Over the years, as owner of the Punjab Kesari Group of Publications, he has seen Delhi metamorphose into New Delhi. Rapid urbanisation, social and lifestyle alterations have taken over the once fortified city. But ‘Dilli dilwalon ki’ motto still holds true, believes Ashwini. “Dilliwalas are sociable, friendly, lively, warm and welcoming, proud of their city, a city that keeps changing its colour much like a chameleon,” he says.
Life also changed manifold for Ashwini when Khalistani terrorists assassinated his grandfather and father in quick succession in 1981 and 1984 respectively. As the young journalism graduate from Berkeley University in California assumed the reins of the family business, Ashwini pledged to continue the same fearless and bold reportage that had become synonymous with the newspaper, Punjab Kesari. Today, under Ashwini’s aegis, the newspaper is one of the leading Hindi dailies in Delhi with a circulation of more than four lakh copies. Punjab Kesari has also been popular in states such as Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Gujarat.
Ashwini calls Delhi the privileged part of India that represents a “borderless culture” where change is constant.
“Delhi has always adapted itself, absorbing, injecting, attracting cultures and people through many dynasties and ages. It continues to do so today, taking on challenges of modernity and protecting traditions. It keeps changing all the time, the hues change with the seasons, the dress changes, the food changes, the colours change, the foliage changes, the flowers change; it’s an ever changing city,” says the 56 year-old patriarch.
But Ashwini questions whether the transformation has been for the better or worse. “The development has somewhere failed to match the ever rising demand/requirement of the infrastructural/civic amenities. The slums coming up in various part of the city speak of the plight of the inhabitants. Not much improvement can be seen in the lives of the shelterless who spend their nights on the pavements or below the bridges/flyovers,” he says.
According to Ashwini, Delhi has witnessed unplanned expansion and abnormal congestion. “Chaos, poorly maintained roads and illegal constructions present Delhi as an unplanned city. It’s now time to realise this truth and be more aware and informed,” he cautions.
Even as Ashwini continues leading Punjab Kesari from the front, his 30 year-old son, Aditya, is the new face of the group. Aditya is in-charge of taking the publication to the next level in terms of technological advancement and utilisation of state-of-the-art equipment. Aditya, who is a journalist and holds an LLB from I P University in Delhi, is managing the running of the group’s Jaipur newspaper, Rajasthan Punjab Kesari which became the nation’s first regional language newspaper to publish its magazine in colour as well as the first to start CTP (Computer to Plate) system enabling direct exposure of print plates from computers. As a young professional, Aditya vouches for the lifestyle changes in Delhi. “Bombay culture has replaced the Delhi culture. While earlier, one could find the streets/roads of Delhi almost isolated during night, now there is lot of hustle and bustle till midnight at least.” says Aditya.
A marked change in the city is the youth. “They are more enlightened with a vision for the future as also the country,” opines Aditya. “The younger generation has started taking their own decisions. Youngsters following political parties with closed eyes is a thing of the past. The change in opinion was long overdue. The recent Anna Hazare movement had been a peaceful demonstration, particularly by youngsters, against the prevalent corruption. Thousands of youngsters came out in full support, leaving behind their schools, colleges, educational institutes and work place, showing their determination and strength against the evils that have spread into the society. A new phenomenon—fight for your rights—has emerged,” adds Aditya.