IN THE LATE 1990s, Gaurav Sawant became an overnight star. The offspring of a retired brigadier of the Indian army, Sawant joined the Indian Express in 1994, and was soon paradropped into the defence beat.
The Kargil War, which Sawant reported from the battlefront in 1999, was crucial to his success. In his 2000 book about Kargil, the journalist Sankarshan Thakur recalled the “daily whoops” of Sawant from the time: “Guys, guys, I’m so thrilled it’s my thirty-third front page byline in a row, I have never had it so good.”
That same year, Sawant too wrote a celebrated book called Dateline Kargil about his nine-week stay in the conflict zone. “Sawant succinctly details the Kargil operation, sensitively portraying the human side of the conflict, its intensity and the formidable odds ranged against the surprised army,” an India Today review said.
In the academic year of 2002-2003, Sawant was one of the guest lecturers at Amity University. Among the students who attended his lectures was a 20-year-old Vidya Krishnan. Krishnan was a wide-eyed student then, obsessed with the profession she wanted to enter. She had joined the diploma course in journalism against the wishes of her parents, based in Bhopal at the time, who felt that a career in media would not be lucrative. Krishnan was determined to make it in the profession, and a young, successful Sawant seemed like a role model. “We used to get a lot of these boring, old lecturers, and suddenly this young guy came so there was a bit of talk around that,” a batchmate of Krishnan recalled.