Why did the bell toll for him?

A fine journalist, K J Singh and his mother were found murdered in Mohali on Saturday morning. Punjab Government ordered an investigation by an SIT. A former colleague mourns his death

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Vipin Pubby

As young reporters during the era of subbing copies by hand, we would keep an eye on the sub editors likely to edit our copies. The News Editor would pass on the sheets of typed papers to the sub editor who had just finished or was about to finish the copy given to him earlier.

Among the couple of preferred subs (as sub editors were called) was a young, slim, soft spoken and very efficient professional called KJ Singh. One of his South Indian colleagues would address him as "Kai-jay" and soon some of us reporters also started calling him as such.

KJ not only polished and cleaned our copies of grammatical mistakes and poor drafting but would add value to the copy, almost re-write the intro and give a superb headline. To the ordinary readers, all this was done by the reporter whose byline appeared with the story. Only we, and the editor and the news editor, knew who was the one who had ‘chamkaoed” the copy.

While he was a repository of information, particularly about international affairs, latest books and western music in the market, he was also not modest about it. He made us look outdated and ignorant of the latest events around the world. Yet he remained gentle and friendly in office but reclusive after office hours.

That's the reason his brutal death, along with that of his 92-year mother, is all the more shocking. Their bodies were found from the house where they had lived for close to four decades. KJ (64) had not married and had little social interaction. He of course had a few heartbreaks long, long ago to which only very close colleagues in the office were privy to but he was never involved in any controversy.

He had joined The Indian Express at Chandigarh only a few months before I joined it. Later he worked for short durations in Times of India and The Tribune before deciding to work from home. He had been taking up editing and designing assignments but was selective about the kind of work he took up.

At times on our way back from office, he would hop on to my scooter and we would actually split a bottle of beer! In fact this “splitting a bottle of beer” became the “call sign” for us and we would some time check with each other in the evening whether we would be “splitting a bottle of beer” that night! We did that a few times even after he resigned but have been only promising to do so for over two decades now.

How I wish I should not have postponed the long overdue rendezvous for such a long time. That's the final lesson he left for me - and I'm sure he would have polished even this copy, given a chance.

(The author was Resident Editor of The Indian Express at Chandigarh)

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