Receiving the Media Pioneer Award this week, from the Prime Minister His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, was indeed a very special privilege and honour to me. I found myself as the only Indian journalist among the awardees.
To be recognised this way by a country where I worked as a journalist for the last 36 years is truly an experience that will now remain a special memory to cherish.
I consider this very special, just like my 2009 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest award instituted by the Government of India for overseas Indians, which I received from the Presidet of India. This award, now, is from my second home which recognised my spirit as a newsman.
In a statement following the ceremony held by the Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, to mark the World Press Freedom Day, HRH the Premier said that no country in the world allows freedom without setting frameworks and standards that govern it.
And I believe that, when it comes to frameworks, standards and effective media policies, Bahrain is definitely the freest of the nations in the region. And I am sure it will remain so.
To be with the Prime Minister when he honoured some of the pioneering Press and media figures in Bahrain, is not an opportunity anyone would like to miss. So, when my colleague greeted the Prime Minister after the ceremony, she was in for a surprise.
He asked her from where she was, and on hearing that she was from Daily Tribune, quickly asked – Then, where is Baby? (That’s how he always addresses me)
My colleague said to him that I must have rushed off to the Conference on Dialogue between Civilizations, which was also going on then. Apparently, he asked her incredulously, “How can he leave without meeting me?”
Soon after I had finished an interview in the nearby hall, with Bahrain Television, I went and met him. His Royal Highness appreciated my contribution to Bahrain as a journalist, and even praised my native country India for its unity in diversity despite its large population and diverse cultures.
This ‘personal touch’ is a hallmark of his. It is an amazing imprint of his character. I have seen him on many occasions actually going out of his way to recognize, appreciate, support and inspire people around him.
His Royal Highness has this rare ability to make anyone around him feel special. While there is actually an aura of dignity and grace around him, it is he who makes other people around him feel more special – by saying the right words.
The words show his care and concern for people around him, and also for those far away.
In my personal experience I can recall at least three other occasions when I saw his care and concern reflected in the way he spoke.
In 2004, when he was on his first official state visit to India, at the hotel in Delhi where he was staying, he called me to sit with him and told the assembled ministers and media personnel proudly that I was a true representative of India in Bahrain, and that I was doing much for India in Bahrain.
In 2007, when I went to his palace to present him my book, Shukran Bahrain, he told the assembled ministers how much his brother the late Amir His Higness Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa loved me, and that I must consider myself a part of this country.
In 2012, when I went with a church delegation to meet His Royal Highness, he once again said that he considers me as a true Bahraini from my understanding of the country .
With his hallmark attitude of personal touch , he reignites and revives my own sense of belonging to this beautiful country.
With this award, and with this meeting, my own sense of responsibility and commitment to free-and-fair journalism is once again revitalised.