‘Toffee-wale uncle’ to my children, KJ Singh was a person par excellence
We spent around 20 years together, but it was only when he died that I learnt that his full name was Karan Jeet Singh. He was only KJ to all of us.punjab Updated: Sep 25, 2017 18:43 IST
News of murder has become a daily affair. Such is the frequency that one hardly goes beyond the headline or intro and casually passes on to the next headline. Seldom does the thought of a similar tragedy with our near and dear ones pops up in our mind.
When I reached office the other day, my news editor broke the sad news to me: Do you know KJ Singh has been murdered? The person who would edit copies of others had become a story.
Not only was I shocked, but surprised as well. Why would one kill such a soft-spoken and well-mannered man? Going by his nature, KJ could have never gone to the extent of even upsetting a man.
I sat on the chair and was transported to the time we had spent together in The Indian Express.
Recollecting old times, I told my colleagues that KJ, who had held key post of news editor in The Indian Express, where he had joined as a trainee sub-editor in 1977, Times of India and The Tribune, was my boss and a friend for two decades.
When I narrated a few anecdotes, one of my seniors suggested: Why don’t you pen down some memories. Initially I resisted, a day later, however, I felt a strong urge to recall the days spent with him in and outside the newsroom.
We had spent around 20 years together, but it was only when he was killed that I learnt that his full name was Karan Jeet Singh. He was only KJ to all of us.
Such was his calm demeanour that while checking edited copies and headlines given by subs, he would never lose his cool. Instead, he would tell politely highlight the problems with the copy. Other than distributing copies, he was also famous for giving toffees and chocolates to his colleagues. Fond of munching, toffees always found space in his pocket. And so came alive the legend of ‘toffee-wale uncle’. They would often ask me as to when would they get to meet him.
KJ was adept in rewriting copies and giving catchy headlines. As a result, he used to grab the Rs-100 award for the best headline of the month most of the times. One specific headline he gave to a story edited by me on a Shimla-based homoeopath, known for curing gall bladder stones, remains etched in my memory. He simply read the intro and silently wrote ‘The stone-crusher of Shimla’.
Designing aspect was equally closer to KJ. The special Page 2 of Chandigarh Newsline that he used to design would stand out everyday.
KJ was always ready to uplift the juniors and never shied from extending a helping hand. One day, I had casually discussed him the importance of a dictionary for a sub and added that it was too costly. Next morning, he came to my place and handed over a bulky Oxford dictionary. “Keep it,” he said. When I expressed unwillingness, “never mind,” he quipped.
‘From KJ’ on the inside cover page of the dictionary is one of my prized possessions.
KJ was a class apart. He did not like accepting gifts. Even the sweets box The Indian Express gave on Diwali, was distributed by him to class four employees.
KJ as a chief sub groomed may subs, who later rose to top positions in the print industry.
I can also not fail to remember the ‘chicken parties’ the four-member desk used to organise and enjoy at my house in Sector 35. KJ and doctor, another colleague, would take it on themselves to prepare the dish in my kitchen.
Marriage, however, was never in KJ’s mind. He always laughed away at my suggestion. “I am not made for it,” he would say. Not that the tall and handsome KJ did not befriend women in the office. A Bengali girl was one of his close friends for a long time. He was also seen outside with her while we hoped that the sardar will melt and tie the knot. It, however, only remained a wish.
Not the end of memories, but one has to stop somewhere. Goodbye, KJ. You will remain in my memories forever.
(The writer works with Hindustan Times)
First Published: Sep 25, 2017 18:20 IST