Obituary: Goodbye, my friend KJ Singh, it’s hard to die
The 63-year-old brave news editor with immense talent was brutally murdered with his 92-year-old mother, Gurcharan Kaur, at their home in Mohali.punjab Updated: Sep 24, 2017 08:45 IST
Not this one! I had not thought that I would have to write this obituary. One does not write obituaries to contemporaries one has shared the working space with even if one is a seasoned ‘Rudali’ (tear-shedder) of sorts. KJ, as he was known, not Karan Jeet that was his full name, was a newsman par excellence, an avid reader and a lover of western music. The first line that came to the mind was from a famous song of the ’70s, our seasons in the sun, sung by Terry Jacks: ‘Goodbye my friend it’s hard to die/ When all the birds are singing in the skies!’
The 63-year-old brave news editor with immense talent was brutally murdered with his 92-year-old mother, Gurcharan Kaur, at their home in Mohali.
As the news of this violence spread like wild fire in media circles, sorrowful messages started pouring in. His contemporary and rival, as far as editing expertise went, in Indian Express, Chandigarh, AVS Namboodiri, former editor of Deccan Herald in Bangalore, wrote: “Very upsetting. How could one imagine such a thing could happen? Still more terrible to think how he must have reacted to it. RIP, my friend”.
KJ and Namboodiri had joined the Indian Express in Chandigarh a few months after I joined it as trainee sub-editor way back in 1977. The Express had opened its office in the city once the Emergency was lifted and many cases withdrawn against the legendary RN Goenka. Then editor Prem Bhatia of the mighty Tribune group dismissed our paper as ‘The rag across the street!’ Yet the rag across the street was to nurture many a young talent such as Shekhar Gupta, Vipin Pubby, Pradeep Magazine, Vijaya Pushkarna nee Krishnamurthy, Jagtar Singh, Sanjeev Gaur, Kishwar Desai nee Rosha, just to name a few.
Vijaya, a senior editor with ‘The Week’ in Delhi, recalls thus those times and KJ, the cultured and aesthetic man on the U-shaped desk: “From the beginning, during our very young days, KJ was a quiet and soft-spoken man, who kept to his work, a gentleman. In fact, I remember the two of us sitting on the rusty chairs of the canteen behind the old office at 186-B, having chai that is now called cutting chai. Most often, he listened and I chatted and chatted. And he paid for the tea! Never any gossip from office or city that I could trace back to him! He was so gentle, polished, refined....can’t imagine anyone would want to kill him!”
The handsome KJ did have a glad eye for the pretty girl trainees in the office and he once confessed to me that he was going to buy a solitaire for a charming Bengali girl whom he was befriending. But this was never to happen as he always fled last minute. His personal life was a mystery and he guarded it fiercely. Even his close buddies never went beyond the drawing room of his home. A loner he remained but never short of humour and repartee.
Vipin Pubby, former resident editor, The Indian Express, Chandigarh, recounted: “He was a moderate drinker and so was I. The first time he invited me to split a bottle of beer with him and the joke between us always was let’s split a bottle of beer.”
KJ was news editor for The Times of India and The Tribune in Chandigarh but his glorious years were with the Express.
All who worked with him are unanimous in praising his professional competence. He played a key role in shaping Chandigarh Newsline when Express launched it in 1994, the city pullout proved to be a game-changer in journalism. Newsman Jagtar recalls when in June 1981, then Express editor VN Narayanan assigned him to interview Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The story titled ‘Martyr in search of martyrdom’ was to go on a page that KJ handled. “KJ called me and asked why give so much space to the man?”
Veteran journalist Gobind Thukral recalls KJ as, “One of the most competent editors with a feel for news and conscientious of his work. We met less in the past few years. He was devoted to his mother and took great care of her.”
Ah! KJ, it is hard even to say goodbye.