Monday, August 30, 2010

A byword of integrity

A J Philip

Express News Service

My admiration for P K Krupakaran began when I started reading his reports in the Indian Express in the Seventies when the Jayaprakash Narayan-led movement against corruption was at its peak.

As a student of Bihar politics, I found his reports most illuminating. What particularly attracted me were his political despatches that revealed his analytical skill and deep knowledge of the state and its people.

Thus when I went to Patna to join The Searchlight as assistant editor in 1981, the only person I knew, though not in person, other than editor R K Mukker, was Krupakaran.

So eager was I to meet him that the first thing I did on checking into a hotel on Fraser Road was to call him. I was happy that his office-cum-residence was a stone’s throw from the hotel. I just had to cross the road and get into a small lane to reach him. He wore a lungi and was bare-chested when he welcomed me into his house. What I noticed first about him was the way he spoke English. His spoken English was not different from his written English. His sentences were short and crisp, though idiomatic.

Krupakaran was a Tamil from Pondicherry, who fell for the charms of Patna when he reached there in 1966. But he had not given up his fondness for the South Indian distilled coffee that he offered me in a steel tumbler.

During the one hour or so that I spent with him, he gave me a lowdown on what pulled down Bihar. “Once Bihar is freed of the bane of casteism and corruption, it will regain its past glory.”

It is quite natural for any person to develop vested interests if he is posted at a centre for as long as 40 years. But nobody could ever say that Krupakaran favoured any political party or leader. He had become a byword for integrity, a measure of which was his inability to build a house.

Though our meetings were infrequent, I would call him whenever I wanted background information on Bihar politics. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Bihar and Orissa, which too he covered from Patna, that I could always bank upon. He never spoke ill of others and encouraged his younger colleagues in the Patna bureau, first, Arun Sinha and, later, Hemendra Narayan.

As he told me once, his ambition was never to become an editor but a good reporter. And he had himself set such exacting standards of reporting that he always struggled to attain them. In the process, the readers of the Indian Express received news reports and analyses that were benchmarks in state reporting.

A quintessential reporter, he is survived by his wife, a son, who is with The Hindu, and three daughters, one whom is with The Times of India. A grateful Bihar will give him a state funeral on Monday. In Krupakaran’s death, journalism has lost one of its stellar practitioners.

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