Indrajit Saluja, founder and editor of The Indian Panorama, first embraced journalism nearly two decades ago when he was a professor of English in India. (Photo by Melanie Bencosme)
By Melanie Bencosme
Voices of NY
In a cozy first floor apartment in Old Bethpage, Long Island, Indrajit Saluja sits at his computer, intently pecking away at the keyboard with his index fingers. The television directly across from him blares the news of India, and he listens for new stories to cover.
But it’s the walls that do the talking. Each is decorated with awards for journalistic excellence given to Saluja’s weekly newspaper The Indian Panorama, now in its seventh year of publication.
“These awards do not mean much,” said Saluja, 69, founding editor and publisher of The Indian Panorama. ”My readers’ appreciation is all I need.”
His latest achievement is boosting online readership since the publication’s website was redesigned two years ago. TheIndianPanorama.com had nearly 50,000 visits in June, according to data from the web hosting site Netfirms, shared by Saluja. The weekly newspaper is distributed in seven cities across the U.S., including Sacramento, Calif., Atlanta and New York, and is written by a team of 16 freelancers in the U.S. and India.
“He’s had a pretty powerful impact. His paper is widely read and it pulls on some very important topics,” said his colleague, Sharanjit Singh Thind, publisher of the weekly The South Asian Insider. Thind at one point hired Saluja as managing editor for his publication. “Week after week, I think it has a powerful effect on the community.”
Saluja himself says that among the publication’s best stories have been those “dealing with human struggles and human follies leading to scandals and frauds.”
By providing Indian news that occurs locally as well as globally, the paper bridges the information gap for its readers. The Indian Panorama is the full package, explained freelancer Pooja Premchandran.
“Other Indian newspapers only have Indian stuff… [They don’t] give you a comprehensive view of what else is happening in the world but Indian Panorama does that,” said Premchandran, 26, who is based in New York. “Everything is all put together in one newspaper.”
Each issue carries with it a variety of stories with topics ranging from news in India and New York to religion, sports and Bollywood. This week for example, The Indian Panorama covered the push to have the U.S. Postal Service issue a commemorative stamp for the Hindu festival of Diwali, an investigation into the source of the cylinders used in the explosions at the Bodh Gaya religious site in India earlier this month and a piece critical of the Federation of Indian Associations, the group that organizes New York’s India Day Parade.
However, making a connection and informing people is not new for Saluja. He is a man with many names, one of which Thind says is ”young man,” a tribute to his constant energy. Most commonly he is known as Professor Saluja.
Indrajit Saluja grew up in a lower-middle class family in India, with an affectionate mother and a humble, hardworking father who worked a number of odd jobs. At the age of 18, Saluja made the bold decision to move out of his family’s home and begin working as a teacher.
While attending Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi for his bachelor’s degree, Saluja spent time on his college magazine and submitted poetry to other papers. His work was published in The Tribune, in India. Years later, the paper of which he became managing editor, The South Asian Insider, would also publish his poetry.
After receiving a master’s degree in English from Christ Church College in Kanpur in 1966, he went on the following year to become an English professor in various colleges in India. Saluja taught at Arya College in Ludhiana in northern Punjab until his retirement in 2003. The title of Professor Saluja stuck with him ever since.
In 1976, during his teaching career, Saluja met the love of his life. In an arranged match, Gurdarshan Kaur was introduced to Saluja, a beauty who turned heads on the all-boys campus where Saluja taught. A few months later they were married, and within a few years they had one daughter and two sons. Today, Saluja is a widower.
For many years, Saluja was content to teach. But he started being drawn to journalism in the course of his teaching work.
“As a professor, I studied reports and when I started to study journalistic reports, I really felt attracted. I said this is what you can do, you can study people, you can study situations and carry your analysis to the people,” Saluja said. “I thought this was a very interesting way of highlighting people’s problems and highlighting people’s views.”
Saluja started a monthly English magazine called Punjab Beat in Ludhiana in 1995. He poured time, money and energy into the publication, but it didn’t turn out as he hoped.
His project was hurt by a major power struggle in Punjab, which led to the assassination of the chief minister of the state, Beant Singh, in 1995. As a result, the economy was almost shattered and there wasn’t much advertising in Saluja’s publication.
After four years, and despite financial and emotional support from his wife and family, Punjab Beat failed, taking with it Saluja’s savings and home.
“I got a big shock – a man losing his house and losing the comforts of life, inconveniencing his family, putting the future of his children at stake,” Saluja said. “But basically the love of journalism was never dead.”
Saluja continued as a professor for four more years at Arya College until an opportunity appeared. His journalistic aspirations were refueled when friends he met during his journalism experience in India offered him the chance to start a Punjabi newspaper in New York.
Saluja moved here alone in 2003, while his family remained in India. By the following year, the weekly Shane-e-Punjab was up and running and Saluja found himself becoming a serial editor.
After Shane-e-Punjab, he was managing editor of The South Asian Insider and was also managing editor and founder of weekly newspapers called Punjabi Duniya (2004), Apna Punjab (2005), Punjabi Patrika (2007) and most recently the Hindi newspaper, Hum Hindustani (2012). All are still publishing except Punjabi Patrika, which Saluja ended to focus on The Indian Panorama.
“He tries his best to bridge the gap that you find in receiving information in this age,” Premchandran said. “He is extremely committed and dedicated.”
The professor hasn’t been exclusively a print journalist. He’s also anchored shows for Ravi Punjabi TV, Jus One and ITV channels. And in the near future, the veteran journalist plans to write a couple of non-fiction books.
As an editor, publisher and reporter, Saluja works approximately 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I will be leaving a legacy and that is the most important, I’m doing a good job, these are the thoughts behind any editor’s mind and that’s what keeps me going,” he said.
Saluja has no regrets.
“Had I been doing anything else other than newspaper editing, I’d probably be making much more money,” he said. “But then, if you’re idealistic, you do not think in terms of money, you think about inner satisfaction.”
One thing Saluja and Thind agree on is that their work should be useful and important to the community they serve.
“You can be a regular journalist and not making any difference and meeting with big celebrities and reporting on issues of no importance to the community,” Thind said. “And then you can be running a small newspaper but making a big difference.”
For Professor Saluja, making a difference has been his life’s calling ever since he made his first foray into journalism nearly two decades ago.