Sunday mornings will never be the same again. I will sorely miss the potent, invigorating caffeine that was served in my newspaper. And although I don’t follow politics I loved Kaffeeklatsch for the way it was presented. The free flowing style, effortlessly moving from one topic to the next, reminiscent of the great Sardar but without the malice. I had a habit of reading the ending first, thus getting myself invited for coffee and then savouring the rest of the column, enjoying the brew. There was another reason for this ‘reading in reverse’ ritual. I could hardly wait to see how the next coffee invitation was phrased. As the nitpicking me watched, for almost three years, week after week, he did it graciously, with elan and style, without ever sounding repetitive. I never had a chance to meet Dr Harish Khare but I felt I knew him through his writings. Despite the fact that he was an outsider he always came across as one of our own, Haryanvi by nature….fearless, forceful, forthright and funny.
But this is not the only reason why he will be missed at the Tribune. He was known to encourage new talent and give a chance to unheard voices. I know this because I am one of them. He was new to Tribune and I was new to the print world. Six months after my first ever published piece and with a measly eight articles to my credit I had had the nerve to ask him for a column. Instead of dismissing me, a green horn with no credentials, he granted my wish. I wrote ‘Reading the Pulse’ for a year after which I was offered space in the Haryana edition. I am sure many others will have similar stories of his magnanimity and kindness.
His absence will however be felt for many more reasons. The newspaper blossomed under his leadership. Apart from a more robust voice, it became more youthful, vibrant and urbane. He brought ‘The Hindu’ brand of impeccable English with him thus improving its language. He wrote Statecraft with passion, precision, persuasiveness and scathing wit. But most of all he will be remembered for the way he conducted himself in face of adversity. His words “……responsible journalism never felt as joyful as it does this afternoon ” at an event in Delhi will continue to inspire journalists around the country.
It is a given that an organisation is above an individual. Nonetheless his exit from Tribune hurts and there will be many who feel likewise. In this ‘ less than joyful’ afternoon I leave you with three quotes to ponder upon, none of them my own. All three have acquired greater meaning in the present milieu.
The first is a strategy for subjugation, Adolf Hitler said ” The best way to take control of a people and to control them utterly is to take away a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed. ”
The second defends dissent , Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you say, but to your death I will protect your right to say it.”
And the third teaches survival skills,” Jat kahe jaatni ne, jo gaam mein sukhi raina, keedi kha gayee haathi ne, ji haan ji haan kehna.” ( A Jat tells his wife that to live happily in the village, she should agree to everything, even when someone says an ant has eaten an elephant )
The first two are from a bygone era and alien land but the ‘Tau-ism’ has its origin closer home and in these troubled times, will strike a chord with many.
We are blessed then, that for some, mere survival is not enough……
( I was honoured to read out my tribute to the man himself at the Chandīgarh Press Club)