B S Raghavan

End of a long association

B.S.RAGHAVAN | Updated on March 12, 2018

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!

Published on September 23, 2012

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