Father Time

Mr M.Ramabrahma, Headmaster, Sardar High School, Belgaum, was an awe-inspiring figure. Not too generous with his smiles,  may be a little taciturn, even. An anglophile, he expressed his fondness for the “English life” very sartorially. Always sporting a fine suit, a neat tie,  a nd even a hat and walking stick if he thought the occasion demanded these accesories. Hardly surprising he was known as the best-dressed Headmaster for miles around.

A man of  habit and many foibles which he  considered necessary to  enforcing discipline and order at work and in the home,   he lived by the clock. The clock struck eight , and so breakfast must be had. At 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the coffee must be at his elbow  just as the  clock chimed the second time.

A  passionate tennis player, he was district champion, and  often volleyed with  colleagues and friends, and royalty even.  He played every morning,   a familiar figure in tennis gear making his way to courts just a little way away from home.  Folks probably set their clocks  by his tread  each morning !

The Headmaster was a man of few words,  not just a man of few smiles, and  speaking for/by the clock was his way of announcing his arrival and reason thereof.  The unflappable Mrs Venkamma Ramabrahma,  with a sense of humor minted in Tirupattur (the ten-village town)  of great antiquity in Vellore, Tamilnadu,  who managed her brood that ranged many age-groups adroitly enough to leave him thinking that it was all his doing,  often took recourse to droll little utterances  that ridiculed his devotion to punctuality.  But it was many, many years , when they retired to life in Bangalore,  before  his wife  thought to rib him by    asking, “who is hungry, you or the clock?”  Mr Ramabrahma ‘s  response, one imagines, was  a   Narasimha Rao-like-  inscrutable silence.

Back in Belgaum,  the Headmaster’s  days  ticked and tocked with great punctuality.  His children  (Vimala and Pramila followed S, who was preceded by Kokila, the first-born, Mangala, and Pandu )   were more deferential to Father, than to Time. Though he took little notice of them,  in his presence, Pandu and S   didn’t engage in Tom Sawyer tactics at the breakfast table.

Not that they were  incorrigible imps, or any kind of imps.  It was just that they were mindful of the  consequences of  incurring the  wrath of    Father who was also Headmaster.  The glint of his gimlet eye threatened  great possibilities, and  the boys  –  Pandu and S, thought  it best to leave  things well alone.

Which was not  hard to do, really.  The truth was  that as long as  they refrained/abstained from escapades that  tainted the fair name of the family, or  seemed to undermine the Headmaster’s authority,  he was happy to leave them to their own devices.

“It was a good life”, S says now. There were movies, train rides,  holidays in Bangalore, Poona and Bombay, and all the fun things that make childhood, well, fun.  They did witness the transition  to electricity, and piped water.  Father was not really as forbidding as he looked, and  there were times of  enlivening conversation, great wit, and cheerful laughter,  and  everything else, woven into the clockwork regularity that reigned in the establishment.  . As we’ll see , by and by.

There is this about him in the  1936 edition of    the Who’s Who:

Ramabrahma, Mahadev, B.A., L.T., (Mad.), Asst. Educational Inspector, Bombay Presidency, Poona comes of a distinguished Brahmin family of Mysore.  Born on 8th December 1884, he was educated at Maharaja’s College, Mysore, and Central College, Bangalore. After having his training at the Teachers’ College, Saidapet, Madras, he started life as a teacher in the Training College, Mysore, from June, 1912 to August, 1915, and entered Bombay Educational Department at Lecturer in Nature Study and School Gardening in Training College for men and women, Dharwar, where he served from September 1915 to October, 1923.  In August, 1921, he went to England for Scout Training in the Gill-well Park, having been deputed by the Bombay Provincial Boy Scouts’ Council, and he was Instructor in charge, Scout Master’s Training Camp at Lonavla from January, 1922 to March, 1923.  On return from the deputation, joined the Dharwar High School as Asst. Master (1923-27).  As Asst. Criminal Tribes Settlement Officer at Poona and Dharwar from November, 1927 to June, 1928 he did good work. He was Asst. District Scout Commissioner in Dharwar during 1926-29.  It was in February, 1929, that he was appointed as the Headmaster of the Sardar High School, Belgaum, and he held this post continuously till the middle of August, 1936.  During these seven years and a half he was the Asst. District Scout Commissioner of Belgaum District and was intimately connected with the Scouting activities of the Belgaum town and the District.  As Head Master and Superintendent of the Sardar High School Hostel, he was generally liked by the students.  He was an enthusiastic worker in the cause of Social and Educational Reform and was connected with all institutions at Belgaum in one way or another.  He was a member of the District Depressed Classes Committee, Belgaum.
 
     He was transferred to Poona in August 1936, when he was appointed as Asst. Educational Inspector, Bombay Presidency.  He officiated as the Educational Inspector, Central Division, from 16th November, 1936, to February, 1937, when Mr. W.B. Corieur (later corrected illegibly in pen),  D.P.I. of the Bombay Presidency, was away from India on leave.
     
Address-Asst.Educational Inspector, B.P., Poona.
                                                                                **********
About the Who’s Who:
An old British tradition, Who’s Who is an annual British publication of biographies of  “notable people”. Until 1897, it provided a list of the names of Members of Parliament, and all the Bishops.  But since then, it has listed  people alphabetically and provided fuller biographical details.Subjects include peers, MPs, judges very senior civil servants, and distinguished writers, actors, lawyers  scientists, researchers, and artists. Some (such as those holding a Professorial Chair at Oxford and Cambridge) are included automatically by virtue of their office; those in less hierarchical occupations are included at the discretion of the editors. As long as they were in India, it included several Indian names too.  According to The  Wall Street Journal,  an entry in Who’s Who “really puts the stamp of eminence on a modern British life”, and the Daily Mail has described it as “Britain’s most famous reference book”. I guess it was a bigger deal  about a 100 years ago, when there was no internet, Facebook or Twitter, or 24/7  news channels, and news ambled along at a leisurely pace,  and not at “break neck” speed!

 

A Postscript To The Story

Lakshmi’s Suprabhatam blues has drawn interesting responses from the near and dear.  It turns out  Appa (mine) was not too gung-ho about it at first . Too Long. Too much about that boy.  And I think you are repeating yourselves a couple of times. Who’s Shyamu?  Is he for real?  And Meenalochani Maami?

Big Brother Subri,  said it was good. And he didn’t have any questions about  who’s who and what’s what. Probably that’s the reason he didn’t become the journalist in the family.  He  agreed with me that “the boy” had to be there, since he contributed the gibberish Suprabhatam although he doesn’t know he has done so .  He said he didn’t find it too long.

Appa reasoned, “she must have edited it after I pointed it out”.  Which I hadn’t.

I was both amused and felt slightly slighted at Appa’s critique , but I concede it could use some editing and re-writing.

Subri thought Tom Sawyer swung a cat and not a rat. They talked about it,  and Appa said, she must have  changed that for her story. Subri asked  him why I’d do that. To protect the identity of the cat?  Appa had no answer . I confess I laughed a tad too loudly when Subri told me. It made me feel better about Appa’s  honest opinion.

In any case,  we checked, and  I am elated to report,  it was  a rat.

I spoke to Appa, and he said may be he ought to go back and read the story again, to better appreciate the contribution of Shyamu to its climax. When I read it the first time,   the  computer screen wasn’t scrolling properly, and that’s probably why I  felt it was long and repetitive , he said.

That’s right.  Blaming it on a glitch  makes for a happy ending.

Finally,  my disclaimer is  right there,  staring you in the face, even before the story begins if  it’s too long, or boring,  just remember, it had to be there.

My first story. And my first  lesson Criticism begins at home.

 

Suprabhatam Blues

A SHORT STORY LONG IN THE MAKING.  IF ANY PART OF THE STORY IS BORING, WELL, ALL I SAY IS “IT HAD TO BE THERE.”

 

It was Saturday morning. Lakshmi woke up to the sounds of Appa coaxing the reluctant Bush Radio to belt out the Suprabhatham, in the divine voice of M.S Subbulakshmi and say Good Morning to God, courtesy the All India Radio.

Lakshmi, usually sang along lustily, as she got ready for her favorite school day of the week ( except on the second Saturday of the month, a holiday)– library, music, artwork, and oh yes, physical training. Lakshmi didn’t care much for the last, like everyone else in class, but endured the weekly 30-minute ordeal of bending, stretching and running , keeping time with PT instructor Ms Merose’s sharp commands that sounded like the crack of whip, as lethargically as she could get away with, while avoiding catching her eye.

Today was a second Saturday. Hearing the crackle and buzz of the Bush radio as Appa fiddled with it, she wished, fervently, that just this once, the moody radio would not oblige him. The sound of “Kausalya Supraja Rama Poorva Sandhya Pravarthathe” was the last thing she wanted wafting around the house this Saturday morning. 

She drew her quilt over her head, hoping to drown out MS, who had now begun singing in earnest , Appa’s efforts, which included a sharp whack on the right side of the radio, to get it  singing having paid off. She’d have to get out of bed soon, and face Amma’s  dreaded “Silent Treatment” , which could last ALL DAY.

God had not heard her prayer, perhaps he was too engrosssed in  the  Suprabhatam, she said, and realized she was talking to herself. Like Alice,  who loved to pretend she was two people, and had scolded herself for cheating in a game of croquet which she was playing against herself. Lakshmi toyed with the idea of boxing her own ears, and told herself not to be silly, as this self-flagellation (not her words, of course) was not going to save her from Amma’s wrath.

She lay there, listening to the sounds of Saturday morning- Amma clanging dishes in the kitchen, and Appa humming along with MS. Soon it would be over, and Amma would notice she was not up, and demanding “light coffee” , and chattering about the Amar Chitra Katha comics that Krishnan Tatha had given her yesterday……..

Krishnan Tatha ! Lakshmi groaned, remembering last evening . Her ears burned as if they had been boxed hard, and she wished she’d never have to hear the Suprabhatam ever again……

Mostly she wished to turn the clock back. About three weeks. 

***** ****

Three weeks earlier.

Lakshmi won the second prize for recitation of the Suprabhatham ( eight stanzas) at the school competition, and became the proud owner of “Sleeping Beauty” inscribed on Page One, somewhere near the spinning-wheel and the Wicked Witch’s wand, with “Winner , Second Prize in Suprabhatham Recitation”.

Amma had been there, to watch as she collected her prize. In the evening, Appa had said “Shabbash!” and slipped a Cadbury’s Five Star bar into her hand, but she could not fathom why he had laughed heartily when he saw the book.

“Sleeping Beauty for reciting the Suprabhatam?” he said, laughing loud and long , but when Amma too started to chuckle,  Lakshmi realised there was a joke she was missing.

Which was annoying, to say the least. Lakshmi considered deploying her famous wail, that sounded , Appa said, like the siren  blaring from the Government Soap Factory in the calm of the afternoon to announce the start of a new shift. However it died at her lips when Appa went on, “ ha ha! Can Suprabhatam rouse Sleeping Beauty?” .

Lakshmi choked on the wail , and turned it into a laugh, only it came out rather  peculiarly, and Amma smacked her lightly on the head, saying, as she went by, , “is that a hiccup , Lakshmi, did you help yourself  to stolen cheedai?” .

She hadn’t, there was no cheedai in the old Amulspray tin, besides, she thought it was a silly story Indu Pati had told her , that kids who dipped their hands in the snack-tin were always caught by their sudden hiccups! Why make cheedai and leave them around for kids to find if they were not meant to be eaten?

The next day, Jana Chitti, Amma’s younger sister came to visit. She was there when Lakshmi returned from school, and she rushed to her , whooping with delight, for she loved her  college-going aunt who wore stilettos, and had a dressing table of her own. Of course, she had already heard about the prize and couldn’t wait to hear Lakshmi recite the Suprabatham.

A fortnight later, Lakshmi had lost count of how many evening visitors had been regaled with her Suprabhatam recitation. Amma was constantly interrupting her play-time, calling out “Dear, here is Shyamala aunty, would you like to ………..?”

Raman Mama, and Appa’s friend Suresh Uncle………Everyone brought chocolates, biscuits, she even got a pink-and-green stone-encrusted ball-point pen (that wouldn’t write) from Vijay Uncle, Appa’s best friend, who said, “its from Hyderabad” . Shankar Chittappa brought her an Amar Chitra Katha comic, Shivaji.

Lakshmi spent a half-hour one Saturday afternoon with Shivaji, finishing off the a whole bar of Cadbury’s 5-Star as Shivaji’s Har Har Mahadevs fended off attacks by the Ya Allahs from the enemy ranks.

She bit off a big chunk when the evil Afzal Khan pretended to embrace the shorter Shivaji and tried to thrust a kataar in his back, in her panic for Shivaji’s safety.  But Shivaji had his armour on under his silk, and Afzal Khan hadn’t noticed that Shivaji had his tiger claws on, and met his own gory end, much to Lakshmi’s relief.

It was a few days before Lakshmi began to notice a reluctance on the part of visitors to subject themselves to a Suprabhatham recitation at sun-down. Raghu Mama, who came to drop off a bottle of Indu Pati’s mango pickle that he’d offered to deliver when he went to Madras the week before, said, “oh! Great! Second Prize? Nice, pretty book eh?”

When Amma said, “Lakshmi why don’t you recite it for Raghu Mama?” he looked uncomfortable, and said quickly, “ hey listen, I have to leave……there’s a bottle for Minalochani Maami too, and thanks for the coffee, Akka………..” the last as his Suvega eased out of the gate.

Lakshmi was a trifle put out, but he had slipped a bar of 5-Star into her hand as he left, saying, “next time, hmm?”

* * * * *

The short, plump Minalochani Maami , a much-loved aunt, had long , thick tresses that reached way down her waist, and it had to be carefully lifted so she wouldn’t end up sitting on a cushion of her own coil of hair. She and Amma had been best friends since school. She came to catch up on gossip with Amma.

“Hallo, dear!’, she boomed at Lakshmi “I hear you won a prize. Suprabhatham recitation, hmm? My Shyamu has flunked his unit test again…Maths, English…” she went on, cheerfully, as if she was reporting that Shyamu had scored the first rank.

“Maami, why didn’t you bring Shyamu?, Lakshmi asked, though secretly relieved he wasn’t there.

She and Shyamu had little to say to each other. He went to a different school, and their occasional encounters left her feeling life as a topper-of-the-class wasn’t all it was made out to be. He regularly flunked tests, and she was sure his English text book, “Songs The Letters Sing” with its story on Bun The Wee Rabbit had not been opened past the first two lessons. She had been careful not to let him know she had read all the lessons, because it was like reading a story book. Bun had disobeyed his Dad. He had wandered into Farmer McGregor’s cabbage patch, and been mercilessly shot. Bun Was Dead and Dad Was Sad. But Shyamu wouldn’t know that. Nor would he care..

Shyamu knew about Lakshmi’s Suprabhatam recitation, though. If he had tagged along with Minalochani Maami, he would have teased her, mimicked her with his gibberish Suprabhatham. “Apacha gipachi chakachu jikachi…….” she imagined him singing, in a surprisingly musical voice, laughing to herself at the idea of Chalam Thatha, who didn’t hear quite well, nodding appreciatively and rewarding Shyamu with  sticky toffee and a pat on the head.

“Shyamu was playing with his friends around the house, dear, and I wanted some peace, “, Minalochani Maami was saying, “come sit by me and let me hear your recitation……….”

Here we go again, thought Lakshmi, but not wanting to offend dear Minalochani Maami, recited “Kausalya Supraja Rama…….” and fetched the Sleeping  Beauty for her to admire.

Lakshmi soon wearied of the Suprabhatam routine, and the “Apacha gipachi……..” in Shyamu’s voice refused to go away. She was beginning to dread visitors. Her prize winning recitation was old news, and the assorted maamas and maamis were beginning to acquire a glazed look on their faces as Lakshmi submitted to Amma’s command-disguised-as request to recite the Suprabhatham, never mind they usually visited in the evenings. They clapped too quickly, or not quickly enough, and Lakshmi thought she might as well have been singing “Apacha gipachi………”

It didn’t help to know that Shyamu, who would never be summoned to recite anything, not even the gibberish Suprabhatham, didn’t have to try to be good at anything but playing pranks and staying at the bottom of the class. It didn’t help, either, that Shyamu’s pranks had a high degree of sophistication, and when they had been played, left grown-ups impressed ( his father laughed first, and punished him as an after-thought). He became a hero to his friends, and Shyamu’s exploits always reached her embellished with the collected exaggerations as it passed from friend to friend.

When Amma started reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to her at bedtime, it was Shyamu playing hookey at school, and Minalochani Maami was Aunty Polly in a sari, who , more out of a sense of duty than faith in the power of punishment, ordered Shyamu (Tom) to paint the wall on a Saturday afternoon. And it was Shyamu who traded a turn at wielding the brush for a dead rat and a piece of string to swing it with, a broken Barlow knife, the core of a half-eaten apple ……..

The picture of Shyamu swinging the dead rat on its string, while Karthik and Shankar argued over who should go first with the painting, would be excruciatingly funny, if her own life showed any signs of progressing from endless Suprabhathan recitations………perhaps there was something to be said for sleeping spells and  wicked witches, after all.

She had grudgingly admitted, to herself, that if Shyamu was Tom Sawyer, there was more to being bad than she’d given credit for. She wondered if Amma had got it all wrong– A bad person is not very brave, she’d said.

But could a brave person be bad? She wasn’t brave enough to ask Amma, and kept these bad thoughts to herself. When she felt exceedingly bad, she sang “Apacha gipachi……” silently, though occasionally she startled herself by singing it aloud. Luckily, a pre-occupied Amma probably thought it was “Kamala Kuchachu” and she didn’t have her ears boxed.

When a whole week went by, and Lakshmi’s return from school was not shadowed by the presence of a visitor who “was waiting to hear the Suprabhatham recitation”, she cautiously stopped praying to be sent to hostel, a threat that Amma often flung at her for many real and imagined misdemeanours. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer had been read to the last page, and Amma had suggested a break before starting Huckleberry Finn.

Even “Apacha gipachi……….” was gradually giving way to “Woh kya hai…………ek mandir hai…?” in the voices of Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar wafting from Shakeel’s house on the other side of high wall which gave the Dark Bedroom its name. For, unlike their venerable old Bush Radio, Shakeel’s newly acquired Philips transistor played Vividh Bharathi and Radio Ceylon, opening up a whole new world of Hindi film songs that none of them understood. It made for a refreshing change from MS, Lakshmi thought, although it made her feel disloyal. 

And then it was time for Krishnan Tatha’s visit. Amma’s great-uncle Krishnan, who lived in Kodaikkanal, came down every year to visit his daughter, Amma’s cousin Shanta. Lakshmi returned from school yesterday, to find Amma had brought out the veena, which she was playing sitting by the planter’s chair on which Krishnan Tatha reclined, singing rather stentorially,  a Carnatic kirtana quite familiar to her, Thyagaraja’s “Endaro Mahanubhavulu”.

Lakshmi ran into his arms, and was hugged and had her cheeks tweaked, and she was babbling about her second prize, and demanding to know what he had brought her, while Amma tried to shush her . It was a while before she was dismissed, to freshen up and sit down with Tatha for a long conversation, lessons in Carnatic music, and jokes and riddles and guess the raaga games.

And then Amma said, “Lakshmi, won’t you recite the Suprabhatam for Tatha?” Lakshmi suddenly felt like a deflated balloon, and began to mumble incoherently. It was a while before Amma realised she was protesting, and did not want to recite the Suprabatham. Not today, not again. Ever.

Amma was shocked, and angry. She drew her into the kitchen and hissed at her, “what is wrong with you? This is the one thing that would make Tatha happy, and proud”.

Lakshmi just stood there, defiant, silent. Amma said “hmph” and stormed out, but she heard her tell Tatha in a calm voice, “ she wants to rehearse, Tatha,”

And Tatha told her soothingly, “it’s alright , Thulasi, let the child be.”

After a few minutes, she returned to the living room. Tatha looked pleased, and asked her to come sit on his lap. Amma did not say anything. Which meant she was still angry. She decided to get the recitation over with and clearing her throat, just as she had seem MS do at the concert in Gayana Samaja once. she began “Kausalya Supraja Rama”…… Tatha was delighted,  and began listening, with his eyes closed, and fingers tapping on his cheek to keep time, and her mother relented enough to throw a couple of smiling glances at her. Then she began “ Kamala kuchachu…….” and Lakshmi never knew when it had turned into “Apacha gipachi chakachu jikachi..” and she began to giggle uncontrollably……..

Tatha was staring at her, and Amma, was no longer smiling. Laksmi leapt off Tatha’s lap, and ran …….out of the house, down the road , to the vacant lot at the corner where a raucous game of cricket was being played, and stood there a long time,  before slinking back home.

Tatha had left. Shanta Chitti had come to collect him. Appa was home, sitting on the planter’s chair recently vacated by Tatha, and had obviously been told of Lakshmi’s  uncharacteristic, short-lived delinquency.  He tipped her a conspiratorial wink as she entered, and clearing his throat loudly, he said, “ Lakshmi, where have you been? You should have waited to say goodbye to Tatha, it was very rude “.

She looked surreptitiously at her mother, who said nothing, and did not look up from the magazine she was reading. Lakshmi went to stand next to her, and mumbled “sorry, Amma.” Her mother said, “your dinner is on the table, eat it and go to bed”.

It was going to be a long weekend. And Huckleberry Finn wasn’t going to join her for now. She cried herself to sleep.

As MS was winding down on the Suprabatham on the Bush Radio, rather muffled inside Lakshmi’s quilt, she felt someone tugging it off her. It was Amma, and she was smiling, as she said, “ wake up , dear. Your light coffee is getting cold”.

Hurrah! Suddenly, second Saturday was back in style! Lakshmi got up, and joyously chorused the last few lines of Kamala Kuchachu along with MS. “Am I glad I didn’t listen to myself and box my own ears”, she told herself, and froze in her tracks to the bathroom as she heard, “Apacha gipachi chakachu jikachi..,,,,,,,,,,,,” and Appa saying, “I say Thulasi, this has great possibilities. I have never heard Krishnan Tatha laugh so heartily!”

 

V.N.Subba Rao.

There will never be anyone like him. Only VNSR knew how to make even an intern feel like a star reporter, and swathe the junior most rookie reporter into the big story, and make her feel she made an important contribution.

He was among the four who interviewed me at Indian Express, and was always proud to introduce me to as “the young lady who stood first in the written test”, We had endless conversations on our ride home in the 10 pm van , and one could say ANYTHING to him, and be rewarded with that crack of laughter which was so  VNSR. as he enjoyed the little digs that you were allowed to take at him .
Do you know what “Subba”  means? I asked him once and he said, “Bhus bhus nagara havu”…….his arm swaying menacingly at me, like an angry cobra hissing for revenge, and I said all we need is the Nagin music playing in the background. Alladi, you are a khiladi, he had guffawed. Most of the time I was  “Ms Jayashri Gadkar, ”  my namesake, the actress who played Kausalya in DD’s Ramayan.

I never knew anyone who has mentored so many reporters and felt proud of each of them. It was a few years later, when I had moved to TOI, and to reporting, that I realised  VNSR  had nursed a little disappointment about my choosing to be on the desk, rather than in reporting. I ought to have been his protege’  not just the girl who topped the written test,  had known the full form of Kuvempu at the interview , and   whose  conversation greatly amused him at least most of the time.  But  I was  just a happy sub,  awed by the fact that this awesome man’s  words were in my hands, and I could tell him why don’t you put it , like, so, it looks better, and he’d say “Howda?   (is that so? } and  say, go ahead, change it .

I remember that it was he who introduced me to  Suryaprakash,  long anointed my mentor , by me.  I was getting into the office for the 2.30 p.m shift ( I was just six months into my  job, just a trainee,  in fact.) when VNSR caught up with me in the lobby (Time Office , it was rather pompously called) and with him was Asp,  a man of many legends , narrated, yes, by VNSR , in that way he had of  proudly  talking of his proteges.
I was tongue-tied,  at first, and then VNSR   said,  “Prakash you know, she stood first in the written test…” and  then resumed the conversation with Asp, but of  course, thanks to VNSR, I was in it too. And when I said, apropos of something that I now forget, “yes, I remember when I was young……..” and VNSR emitted another of his sharp guffaws, and saying ” that can’t have been very long ago!”
I’m quite sure Asp doesn’t remember this, but I will never forget it.

Later,  meeting him at press conferences, or  in the lobby of the Legislative Assembly, or at the Press Club,  I marveled at  the way he delighted in the drama of politics and cinema. As Sachi ( K.S.Sachidananda Murthy, Resident Editor, The Week), another protege who has made his mentor immensely proud, says,  he never shed the curiosity and enthusiasm of the cub reporter till the very last.   I marveled too, at how  seamlessly I had graduated to  being “a colleague”  with whom he discussed news and issues  as an equal, and  how easily one could catch the infectious enthusiasm for news when one was around him. News was always worthy of celebration when he was around it.

There was also an unusual absence of cynicism in the way VNSR  practiced journalism.  He belongs in that endangered list of  journalists who maintain the distance and detachment required of a conscientious journalist who  owes  fair, objective reporting and opinionating to the reader.

I cannot think of a single politician or film star who had an axe to grind with VNSR on account of his  writing.   People like Hegde welcomed even criticism , and  surely  did some quick course-correction after reading him.  Film personalities like Vishnuvardhan  enjoyed much camaraderie with VNSR, but probably agonised that his verdict on their film could make it or break it. After all the man had a  felicity with words in English and Kannada, and in the era when there was no such thing, he was a walking Google/ Wikipedia of all things Karnataka.  Because, though he played confidante to many Chief Ministers, and other politicians and film personalities, and he knew many of their secrets, he never betrayed their trust even as he practiced the most impeccable  journalism.

Though he never “groomed” me officially,  to be an Ekalavya of sorts, within his orbit, watching him, talking to him, listening to him, I would count myself among his many proteges for whom he always had the time, and  who practice his kind of journalism.

Goodbye, my mentor, friend, your unwavering faith in me and those like me , and the unconditional affection you showered on all of us,are inimitable, and hence unforgettable.