His interview with Matka King Ratan Khatri made him crime reporter extraordinaire. The typed copy of the interview was handed over to me for Sunday Morning Release. I did not realise how important the feature was until I saw it splashed in all major newspapers in India and congratulatory messages started coming in from all UNI bureaus. This feature was written in a simple language which was his style for juniors like me emulate.
His article on the Matka King was a prominent feature in the Illustrated Weekly of India next week.
Alex was extremely nice to juniors like me. I would approach him after subbing his copy and ask him if I could edit out the last two sentences because they were superfluous. His mischievous response used to be: "Yes, yes. Go ahead. I wrote these two sentences so that smart subs like you would have the pleasure to edit copy of seniors like me."
I handed over my wedding card to him and all my colleagues in Mumbai UNI. He came to me at the desk, saying "Look, I will not be able to attend the wedding in Nashik. But I will write a news story for UNI after the wedding."
I looked at him in disbelief. My wedding story on UNI printers!
With a stony face, he showed me a copy already typed in UNI format with his initials at the end. It was as follows:
Nashik, May 15. UNI sub-editor Kiran Thakur got married to Ms Nanda Nikam here today. He was 25!
The copy was shown around and every one who read it burst into laughter after reading the second sentence.
--Sekhar Seshan who followed me in UNI Mumbai, tells me how he taught him journalism and how to write news for UNI.
Sekhar remained in contact with him after TPA left UNI before the Emergency in 1975. He worked in Kuwait for sometime and returned to his native place to start a news service, Newsline, sending mainly Kerala news to newspapers in the Gulf. He would type his stories electronically and fax these to his subscribers during the pre-Internet era. Later, it was through email.
He lived on his small rubber estate, in a house on top of a hill at Kanjirapally in Kottayam district, moved to Trivandrum and back to Kanjirapally till his death yesterday. He was 72 and is survived by wife Omana, children Tracy, Terry and Anna.
Sekhar remembers how principled TPA was as a journalist. He gave up customary tea at the daily briefing at the Police Headquarter. He asked me and other reporters to follow suit. That was because the police PRO once remarked that the reporters wrote anti-police stories 'even after drinking our tea every morning.'