Friday, 1 December 2017

Journalist Kumar Joshi is no more

Pune- Mr. Kumar Dattatray Joshi, the PTI man whose energy and dedication to the premier news agency, had overawed his peers and juniors in Pune and Mumbai, is no more.
He breathed his last on November 26, 2017, when his son Niranjan and the other family members, were around him, at their Mumbai residence. He was 87.

Although he worked for the now-defunct Maharashtra Herald MH for 17 years after his retirement from the news agency, his contemporaries continued to remember him as KDJ of PTI.
He remained active, bubbling with enthusiasm that enabled him to write "Kumar Katha", a Marathi autobiography published two years ago. The book provided the readers with an overview of major news stories he covered in Maharashtra.

He was my rival in the news coverage and often scored over me in spot stories. He was senior to me by about 16 years and had taught me and likes of me to keep a tab on the day to day events for the coverage. We would marvel the way he functioned from his office-cum-residence on Pune's station road, opposite the Zilla Parishad office. He would take out his scooter from the Sassoon Hospital at around eight a.m. to check accidents, deaths and illness stories. Then to the Pune railway station, and police stations at the Deccan Gymkhana, Faraskhana, and so on. He would cover press conferences and other events and file stories returning to the office now and then.
KDJ was ex-serviceman and was a stickler for methods, systems, and disciplines that he would expect the technicians, teleprinter operators and stringers to observe.
I would not have learnt these details because his competitors were not expected to visit his office because of an unwritten tacit code of rivalry among the agency journalists.
The circumstances forced us to work under one shelter, the PTI office when the then erstwhile news agencies merged during the Internal Emergency of 1975. UNI's M S Pagar, stringer Iqbal, Harry David of MH who covered sports for PTI, Ashok Sidhaye of Hindustan Samachar and I worked under KDJ for about 18 months.  We dispersed back to our previous offices when the emergency was revoked. There were so many of us and so little to cover during the emergency and because of the censorship. All of us had mutual disrespect and suspicion about each other's intentions. 

Kumar's best friend was Kesari's Rambhau Joshi who was very close to Yeshwantrao Chavan, the architect of Modern Maharastra and a great source of political news for both of them.  They would beat us hollow whenever Yeshwantrao Chavan was involved in a big political event.
Kumar's book covered news sources, events he covered, and journalists in the city. I, like most of our peers, was amazed to read the details he had written mostly from his memory. We read the references about us individuals. I was pleasantly surprised by the complimentary mentions of my journalistic abilities.
After he brought out the book he travelled from Mumbai to Pune in his son Niranjan's car and visited our houses in Patrakarnagar. He was engulfed by the nostalgia and it was touching to realise that we had forgotten the rivalries and bitterness of the past.
And now comes the sad news. KDJ is no more.
As I complete writing this blog post, I remember a three-paragraph story he had filed and was published the next day in all the Indian papers - without exception. 
Those were the days when Indian Airlines pilots were on strike. The newspapers were carrying front page stories on the opposition's frontal attack on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's policies. She was scheduled to arrive in Pune for a number of engagements while the opposition parties had announced that they would hold noisy demonstrations all along the route beginning with the airport.
A large number of reporters had assembled at the entrance of the airport awaiting her Indian Airforce flight. Security was not as tight as it is now, but we reporters had to cooperate with the police.
KDJ remained with us among the journalists but quietly moved closer to the VVIPs till Mrs Gandhi came in her customary stride. He mouthed a question, she only firmly nodded in the negative. He left swiftly before the police whisked him away. This was all over in a few seconds, none of us realised what transpired between them. 

Next day, the newspapers told us that he had asked her if she would intervene in the pilots' strike. She had simply said 'no'. This gave him a frontpage box story the next day, which none of us had. 

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