Three weeks ago, V. Gangadhar (in picture), the well-known Bombay satirist who created the character Trishanku, wrote a diary in Outlook* magazine, in which he lamented his inability to meet K.B. Ganapathy, the erudite editor of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, on a visit to the southern city.
I was glad to have met Ronnie Mitra, an unsung hero in retirement in Mysore, but was disappointed to be given the cold shoulder by a well-known local hero, K.B. Ganapathy, founder-publisher of the tabloid Star of Mysore.
I’m always keen to meet fellow journalists to talk shop, and things have been happening in Karnataka. So I seek an appointment at his impressive office and get it for 11 am the next day after assuring him it’s just a courtesy call.
The next day I reach his office and end up waiting for 45 minutes. When I call him, he says, “I’m on the other side of town and can’t say when I’ll return. But why do you want to meet me anyway?” I explain again that I’m on a visit to the city and want to talk journalism. The lack of responsiveness is quite surprising and I have nothing to do but return home.
Indian editors, I have found, are not all that keen to meet fellow journalists. The editor-in-chief of a south Indian daily for which I’d been a columnist for over 20 years has never met me even once. He’s always busy in meetings.
In my 50 years in the profession, I’ve learnt that editors, very visible now on TV news channels, do not seem to have time for fellow journalists—especially if they are freelancers or columnists.
I was in Melbourne, Australia, when my son Vikram Muthanna, holding fort in my absence at office, called me to inform that a popular columnist V. Gangadhar had written a ‘Mysore Diary’ in Outlook magazine where my name was mentioned and wanted to know the background.
Already into my eleventh day at Down Under, I was unable to recall the failed encounter with Gangadhar. My son would not budge and read out the relevant part from that piece.
Lo and behold, my memory was revived. V. Gangadhar. The man who had identified himself merely as a freelance journalist and wanted to see me for no specific reason.
As it happened, I was too busy those few days but in deference to the professional bond, I gave him the 11 ‘O’ clock appointment the following day, and noted it in my desk diary, not trusting my memory. Didn’t someone say, “The palest ink is better than the best memory”? Yet, one has to look at the diary if it were to serve the purpose!
Unfortunately, I was away from city early morning and could not make it to office before 11 ‘O’ clock. It was then that a telephone call came from Gangadhar. Hell, I cursed myself but could not shrink the distance to reach the office to make the meeting happen. The meeting did not happen. So be it.
It was only when my son reminded me about Gangadhar’s ‘Mysore Diary’ as a reference, I, remembered the man —the ‘freelance journalist’ whom I have read in Outlook magazine where he writes his column ‘Secret diary,’ a satire in these days where this form of writing is as rare as hen’s teeth.
Be that as it may, I would now be alert when and if this ‘freelance journalist’ lands in Mysore next time and calls me. Love to break-bread with him and wash it down with whatever liquid he likes best!
This also reminds me of R.K. Narayan, the well-known Indian novelist writing in english. He was fond of me and would ask me occasionally, probably when he was bored, to visit him in his Yadavagiri house and I would happily go. Once I was with him in the upstairs hall, talking about his life in Rajya Sabha and Indira Gandhi over a cup of coffee with strong aroma that would make one’s nostrils flap.
The gardener below came up and said that one person had come to see R.K. Narayan.
“Ask him the purpose of his visit.”
The gardener went down and returned with a visiting card. Narayan saw the card and mumbled in Tamil, “Why do these people come without appointment and at odd times. Tell him I cannot see him.”
The gardener went down again and came back to say he had come from Bangalore and would take just 10 minutes. Narayan once again picked up the card, looked at it and told the gardener, “Tell him I cannot see him and he has come without appointment.” That was it.
I asked who that man was. What Narayan said was a revelation of Narayan’s approach to business and principles.
An English magazine called Gentleman published from Bombay had excerpted from Narayan’s novel, ‘A Tiger for Malgudi’ without his permission, thus violating his copyright. Narayan issued the publisher a legal notice. The publication wanted to negotiate with Narayan and it was about this that person wanted to talk.
“Why didn’t you meet him then?” I asked Narayan.
“Why should I? He has not taken an appointment. Anyway, my lawyer is there,” he said in a matter- of-fact manner.
For the record, Gangadhar used to write a fortnightly column for The Hindu.
Photographs: courtesy Outlook (top); Star of Mysore