My parents immigrated to the United States in 1999 in hopes of finding new job opportunities and raising our family. Our infrequent trips to India were the few times I could see my family and learn about my heritage and ancestry; but most importantly, they were the few times I could speak with my grandfather.
I was 12 years old during one such trip to India. By this point in time, my grandfather’s health was beginning to decline. Anytime we stayed at my maternal grandparents’ house, my thatha (grandfather) would always call us grandkids into his room. We’d sit by the foot of his bed and, together, listen to the wisdom he wished to impart.
As a kid, I would get very anxious when he called my name for any of his lectures, mostly because he was notorious for starting with one topic, then jumping to several more. Hours would pass before we left the room.
But this time was different. He called my cousins, my sister and me into his room and we hurriedly scrambled in. This time, he wished to share some career advice. One by one, he shared what career path he thought we would excel in: doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc.
Then he looked at me.
“Atmika, un yezhuthu da un balam. Ni journalism ku paddi.”
“Atmika, your writing is your strength. Study to be a journalist.”
Like most of his lectures, at the time, I shrugged it off. I was 12. I wanted to be a teacher, an artist. My thatha saw me for two weeks every three years. How could he possibly know what career path I should choose when I barely knew myself?
Two years later, I joined my high school newspaper, the Talon. The first article I ever wrote was an opinion article: “The Electoral College discourages democracy.” It wasn’t a new topic or even a fresh topic, but thatha was proud of me nonetheless.
Mani Venkatesa Iyer died at 10:40 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2022 Indian Standard Time.
I called my patti a day before my thatha passed away. The past few years, it was a miracle if he remembered my name. So I asked her, did he still remember me? Before he draws his last breath, does he know who I am?
She said he kept a paper with all of our names near his bed. But that wasn’t the only document he kept. He had a copy of the first article I ever wrote tucked away in his folders. I didn’t know that.
Thatha didn’t tell me to do journalism simply because I enjoyed writing. He saw himself in me: a rigid sense of morality, an exacerbated sense of integrity. They act as both strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and limitations, I admit, but they are invaluable to journalism.
As the new editor-in-chief of the Daily Nexus, I have given a lot of thought to what kind of values we wish to embody in our journalism. For the past few days, the only thing that comes to mind are the values imparted from thatha: integrity, ethicality, inclusion, compassion and outreach.
This upcoming school year, I hope to elevate the quality and accessibility of our content alongside our brilliant and committed staff. Moreover, I’d like for the Daily Nexus to not just be a trusted source for local journalism but a bustling venue of creativity for people of all backgrounds and talents.
Journalism is an evolving industry looking to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and I am committed to ensuring that our paper thrives in an age of digital media while still maintaining our integrity and quality of reporting.
Easier said than done, I suppose. But that’s where you, Nexus readers, come in, to hold us accountable to accuracy, timeliness and our promises to the public.
So here is my promise to you: The Daily Nexus will be hosting workshops, community outreach events and plenty more efforts to be a community-driven space. We will be actively engaging in new forms of digital media to increase our presence, scope and accessibility. Most importantly, we will be a source of accurate and ethical journalism.
In high school, I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but it was the Nexus that proved to me that I could. My two-year tenure on the news team proved to be incredibly enlightening, personally and professionally. I hope I can provide the same opportunity to anyone interested in being a student journalist at UC Santa Barbara — whether that is through writing, photography, videography, social media, art or any other service our paper offers.
As a third-year editor-in-chief, I am incredibly grateful for the trust the Daily Nexus editorial team has provided me to be at the helm of our paper. Though I consider it one of my greater accomplishments, I know that it took a village to get me where I am today.
My freshman year of college was the 2020-21 school year. In all honesty, I was not expecting to be very involved while operating completely remotely. Max Abrams and Evelyn Spence, you both proved me incredibly wrong, and I am so grateful to both of you for it.
Max, thank you for taking a chance on a bright-eyed freshman and supporting my ideas no matter how gargantuan or wacky they seemed. You taught me a great many lessons about compassionate leadership, and I carry them with me in hopes of extending the same grace and support you have given me.
Evelyn, I always wanted to tell you that you are the reason I started believing in myself as a journalist. I don’t know if you remember this, but before you graduated you told me that you expected to see me as editor-in-chief before I graduated. That was the first time I believed I wasn’t just an eager new hire, but someone with talent and potential. Thank you for recognizing and helping me internalize my growth and for all the mentorship you’ve given me since.
Katherine and Melanie, thank you for trusting me with the paper you both dedicated four years to. Your confidence in Emily and me remains a reassuring reminder of the greatness I follow.
Holly, Sindhu and Asumi, you showed me what it means to be a part of a team. Never have I met three souls whose meeting I have to believe the universe ordained. Even in my bleakest moments, during the toughest stories, we had each others’ backs. Thank you does not suffice what I owe you: a lifetime of gratitude.
Emily, my love, thank you for embarking on this journey with me and for giving so much compassion and understanding with no judgment. I am beyond excited to have you as my partner and even more excited to see what we are able to accomplish as a team this year.
Devanshi, Daniela and Hannah, our camaraderie and friendship motivated me to be a better person and a better leader. Sharing in your joy and humor proved to me I belong at the Daily Nexus. I will forever be grateful.
Merc, Shomik, Sanya, Nick, thank you for setting the bar high and for sticking around long after you graduated to help set it even higher. Your advice and support means the world to me, and I hope you know how much I value your input and willingness to help.
I’ve spent a large portion of this article making promises and offering thanks, so please bear with me for my final one.
Thatha, the last time I saw you was on a video call with patti, and I didn’t know how to say goodbye to someone who couldn’t physically or verbally respond to me. So I just yelled, “Thatha, thatha,” over the phone, hoping the words would come out, hoping you would open your eyes and recognize me, hoping you knew how much you meant to me.
But now I know what I want to tell you, I’m just hoping it’s not too little, too late.
All I’ve heard my entire life is that I talk like you, act like you. My mom used to say that as you neared the end of your life you were reemerging through me. I’m proud that I innately carry your values: integrity, honesty, generosity and stubbornness.
His values don’t pass with him. They live on through me, and they live on through our powerful student journalism.
A version of this article appeared on p.3 of the August 25, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.