He was a gentle person who spoke very little and never about his own work. But his old-time colleagues remember him as an alert newsman who made it his job to get to the core of the matter. This was VK Dethe, who was put down to rest in Chandigarh’s Christian cemetery in Sector 25 on Thursday following his death on Wednesday. He had been ailing for some time.
Born in Lahore in 1939, he did his schooling in St Edwards at Shimla and his connect with Chandigarh was as old as the city itself as his father JS Dethe was a town planner in Le Corbusier’s team.
The newsman did his graduation from Government College for Boys, Sector 11, and followed it up with a course in journalism, he moved to Delhi as a reporter with a leading national daily.
Every reporter goes through the grind of courts and crime, but Dethe turned crime reporting from police briefing to probing, getting one scoop after another, as he firmly believed that news was something that someone somewhere was trying to suppress. On an assignment with colleagues in the late 1970s to cover riots in Uttar Pradesh, he revealed that the core of the trouble was not communal, but real estate!
In a remembrance to the deceased reporter, his former colleague Anikendra (Badshah Sen) recalls those times thus: “Almost always the cause of the riots was the usual: pigs’ head found in mosques, cows in temples, till Dethe, Kirpekar and I discovered a far more compelling reason for these riots: property, money, real estate. Create riots, clear the slums that by then had become prime property, drive out the poor, buy them out cheap and build villas, flats and eventually malls.”
For aspiring journalists of the city in the 1970s, Dethe was one name and Razia Ismail the other of young Chandigarhians making it good in metropolis.
Personally I had the advantage of knowing him as a schoolmate and friend of my older brother. After graduation, I asked him hesitantly that was it very difficult to become a journalist and his reply was: “If you can write a straight sentence you can be a journalist.” Later, of course, he was wary about my personalised style of writing and would warn that emotions should not be mixed with news.
Dethe went onto be stationed at Srinagar and Islamabad in the 1990s and he was known for his expertise on Indo-Pak and Kashmir affairs. After retirement, he returned to his hometown to live in the family house, reading and sometimes writing. Paying a tribute to him, his former colleague Chandni Luthra, who was here for the funeral, said, “He was a man of few words, but courteous and caring. His room would be full of books and my children named him ‘Book Uncle’ and I used to call him Sir Galahad, after the single-minded knight who chose the lonely course to reach the Holy Grail.” She added that she tried to match-make for him several times, but he always backed off.
Fond of good food, good drink and ‘bad’ news, Dethe chose to remain single and his nephew Ajay Thiara took care of him through his illness. Adieu Dethe Sahib!