Hailing from the Baddana Kodagu Gowda family, Chengappa started his journalistic career in a Bengaluru English weekly City Tab. Chengappa studied at Bishop Cotton Boys’ School. He graduated in Arts from Christ College and has a post-graduate degree in Communications from Bangalore University.
Chengappa was previously the Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune Group of Newspapers. He was the Managing Editor of India Today between 2003 and 2010.
Chengappa has won prestigious Indian journalism awards including the Prem Bhatia Award for Political Analysis and Reporting in 1998, the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting in 1988 and the Karnataka Media Academy’s Outstanding Journalist Award in 2006. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University (1991), Stimson Fellow on International Security at Washington DC (1995) and Harry Brittain Fellow at Oxford University (1985).
He is also the author of the best-selling book on India’s nuclear weapons titled Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to be a Nuclear Power. Released in 2000, the book is now in its fourth edition.
In his career as a journalist, he has covered the 2008-09 Sri Lankan civil war, the 2003 Iraq war, the 2001 Afghanistan war and the 1999 Kargil war. He was the first to interview Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and the first to interview Nawaz Sharif in exile in Jeddah in 2004, in which he spoke bitterly about the Kargil War and Musharraf. He has authored award-winning exclusives on India’s nuclear tests in 1998 including the first pictures to be published of the bomb and the scientists in army uniforms.
He has interviewed several world and regional leaders, some of whom include General Pervez Musharraf and Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and Mrs Benazir Bhutto, Vladimir Putin, Hamid Karzai, Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa, Queen Rania of Jordan, John Kerry, former US Presidential candidate, Al Gore, former US Vice President and Ms Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State.
Chengappa has travelled widely covering major events including Ayatollah Khomeini’s funeral in 1988, the Earth Summit in 1992 at Rio, the Population Summit at Cairo in 1994, the landmark South African Elections in 1995, the UN Conference on Disarmament in 1995, the SAARC summit in Islamabad in 2004, the Afghanistan War in 2001, the Iraq War in 2003, the Indo-Pak Summit between 2001-2009, the Pakistan elections in 2008; the Sri Lankan war in 2009 and the Nuclear Summit in Washington DC in 2010. He also visited the SWAT District and the LoC in Pakistan in 2011 and accompanied the Prime Minister of India in Iran in 2012.
He is married to Usha Chengappa, a yoga expert and painter. They have two children, Aditi, an actress, and Aneesh.