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End of a long association

B.S.RAGHAVAN
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Former Editor of The Hindu, G. Kasturi — Vino John
Former Editor of The Hindu, G. Kasturi — Vino John

His frequently expressed regret was that the retired bureaucrats idled away their time without exerting themselves to arrest the downslide in governance and be of use to society.

The passing of G.Kasturi brought to an end my quarter-of-a-century long association with one whom I looked upon with admiration, respect and affection. I came to know Kasturi only late in life, in 1987 to be precise, when I settled down in Chennai after retirement.

Being at a loose end, I wrote an article on the need to win the war on want and sent it as an offering to The Hindu. At a wedding which both Kasturi and I happened to attend a few days later, he walked over to me and said, “Neenga anuppicchadhu nannairundadhu, adhai pottuirukkom” (What you sent was good. We have published it!)

Coming from Kasturi, I took that royal ‘we’ to be entirely appropriate. That was the first of some 75 articles that he published at the top of the editorial page of the paper in the next two years. He was not one with an itch to wield the editor’s blue pencil, and normally let me express myself in my own language and style. All the same, I found the few instances of the deft touch-ups he made to copy an education in itself in the art and science of writing.

SOFT, HUMAN TOUCH

About the middle of 1989, no doubt based on his evaluation of my writings, he inducted me into The Hindu establishment as the editorial adviser. He initiated me into my new and unaccustomed responsibility with his own soft and human touch. He never laid down the law. He left it to me to choose my own themes and topics for articles and editorials. But whenever he found a statement or opinion overplayed, or unsustained by facts and arguments in the piece, he used to come to my room to discuss his reservation. Such discussions ended most of the time in his winning me over to his point of view.

I owe a great debt to Kasturi who helped me reinvent myself as a journalist and gain a foothold in the public life of Tamil Nadu.

During all that period of 25 years, we kept in touch with each other on a daily basis, almost as if we were each other’s alter egos: It could be an extended telephone call from him, commenting on some notable happening or issue making it to the news or some feature or editorial in The Hindu itself; or it could be a bunch of emails exchanged on both sides sharing interesting or important items from the Internet or other sources.

Now and then, he would surprise me by complimenting me on something I had written. Those were truly delectable occasions for me, because it was well-known that it was not easy for anyone to earn his appreciation.

GREAT FASCINATION

The memories I cherish and value the most are of my countless meetings with him both in his office when he was the Editor and in the relaxed setting of his residence. They often lasted for hours.

I listened enthralled to his recapitulation of the mentoring he had received from his uncle, Kasturi Srinivasan, and his telling-it-like-it-is appraisal of the roles and contributions of those responsible for bringing The Hindu to where it is today.

Intriguingly, he had great fascination for the civil services like the IAS. He was all praise not only for the enormous wealth of knowledge and experience they represented, but also for the vital part they played in pulling the country through various kinds of crises after Independence and keeping it united.

His frequently expressed regret was that the retired bureaucrats idled away their time without exerting themselves to arrest the downslide in governance and be of use to society.

My meetings with him were also replete with gripping accounts of his encounters with legendary figures in politics, government and other walks of life. They were liberally sprinkled with interesting revelations.

I always looked forward to these sessions for the opportunity they provided to gauge personalities, events and developments in a host of fields with brand new perspectives.

I kept pressing him to put down his experiences so that even if he didn’t want them published, there would at least be a record somewhere of his life and times.

He was always quick to reject the suggestion, saying self-deprecatingly, that his experiences were of no use to anyone, and, in any case, he was unshakably against any sort of self-promotion.

Throughout the long period I had known him, he gave me abundantly of his trust and confidence, and to the end, treated me as a member of his family. It is no exaggeration to say that he brought a touch of fragrance to my life.

My last meeting with Kasturi was on September 10. As usual, it also lasted close to 90 minutes during which he made a panoramic survey of persons and matters as he saw them.

As usual, again, his analysis was penetrating and cogent. When I expressed my hope and conviction that he would get well, he gave a short laugh and said he was not afraid of leaving and was ever prepared for it.

In fact, he said, even when he was diagnosed in 1991 to have coronary blocks and the doctors gave him time to decide when he would have the bypass operation, he asked them to get it over with the same day and gave due instructions to his family members on the things he wanted done after his exit.

“I want nobody to grieve for me, for in the larger divine dispensation, nobody counts”, were his parting words still echoing in my mind.

Let’s not mourn G.Kasturi. Let’s celebrate him!

(This article was published on September 23, 2012)
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Comments:

Mr.B.S.Raghavan's write up on Late. Mr. G.Kasturi appear to be coming from the heart.I have been a reader and as well commentator of his columns in "The Hindu". As anticipated by the publication, I guess that Mr.Raghavan's columns are serving the purposes as visualized by Mr.G.Kasturi. The sheer reach and the profile of readers of "The Hindu" will go a long way in translating the good thoughts and suggestions by the expert columnists into positive actions.

from:  R.Raghavan
Posted on: Sep 23, 2012 at 22:02 IST

Mr. Kasturi's contribution to the field of journalism has been immense - RIP sir.

from:  unknown indian
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 11:03 IST

Many thanks, BSR Sir. Writings like this pass on the wisdom from generation to generation. Beyond a befitting obit for the legend that is G Kasturi, this article gives tips that many of us who are not taking life ‘seriously’ after retirement can follow.

from:  M G WARRIER
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 12:55 IST

Mr. Raghavan's views about Mr. Kasturi were interesting to read. Mr.Raghavan has immensely benefited from the counsel of Mr.Kasturi from time to time - as has been written by Mr. Raghavan. The readers of THE HINDU are thankful to Mr. Raghavan for sharing certain important aspects of Mr. Kasturi. Mr. Kasturi was noble and humble and till his end. Very few people are there in the world who exhibited such traits.

from:  KV Suryanarayanan
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 14:53 IST

The writer fondly recalls G. Kasturi for bringing a touch of fragrance to his life, through broad-minded knowledge and depth of insight. Lingering fragrance? The editor definitely lived up to his name, Kasturi! Subhashish Nandi, New Delhi

from:  Subhashish Nandi
Posted on: Sep 24, 2012 at 18:36 IST

I liked the article written in remembrance of a true journalist of the bygone era. Perhaps there are very few journalists like Shri G Kasturi in this commercialized world of today’s newspapers.

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Sep 25, 2012 at 13:30 IST

Thanks a lot Mr.BSR for sharing such insightful inspirational interactions with our legendary Mr.Kasturi. You are indeed very fortunate and we are also equally fortunate to hear from you such personal experiences.

Regards

from:  Dr.Guru.Raghavan
Posted on: Sep 25, 2012 at 14:06 IST
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