By Priya Bala, Padmini Sivarajah and Arjun Sathyamoorthy
"A Reporter", he answered within the space of a heartbeat, when someone asked our beloved Appa what he would like to be in his next birth. P. Krishnaswamy (Krish or PK), was the consummate reporter till death claimed him on 8th March 2012.
Though grounded in the Indian classics, what gave him a foothold in the newspaper world was his enchantment with the Queen's English. As rookie reporter for the Morning Times, and provincial correspondent for the Virakesari, the Lankadeepa and the Sunday Times; Krish was the man on the spot to report on events as they happened - among others, the racial riots of 1958 and the election campaign of Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1960. When the Morning Times closed down, Krish became a feature writer for the Sunday Times, where he tempered hard-nosed journalism with creative writing.
In 1961, Krish came under the mentoring of Reggie Michael, the incomparable and irrepressible News Editor of the newly launched Ceylon Daily Mirror. Here, Krish worked with veteran newspapermen - men whose belief that the pen was mightier than the sword gave an extra dimension to their narrative. From those glory days, Krish would relate madcap escapades that were little short of fiction.
Krish travelled widely through Asia, the Far East, the Middle East, Australia and Europe. He spent two and a half years at the Daily Mirror in London, first as a reporter and then as a News Editor - a significant achievement for an expatriate. He learned the mechanics of newspaper production at Axel Springer's "Die Welt" in Berlin and attended a six-month course at the Afro-Asian Institute for Labour Studies and Cooperation in Tel Aviv.
While covering the Israeli-Lebanese conflict of 1982, Krish met with a number of holocaust survivors, economists and social thinkers - a life changing experience, which was reflected in his writing.
" Krish wrote on many social issues that troubled the nation - stories of discrimination, exclusion, and denial of fundamental rights and freedoms; stories too of power elites, destruction of livelihood and fragile ecosystems. In some instances his words fell on fertile ground and produced positive outcomes "
A skilled interviewer of many Asian political leaders, Krish was asked to interview the then Indian Vice President, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan who was on a visit to Sri Lanka. Disappointed at not being able to accomplish his task, Krish was about to leave the great man's presence, when, in a spontaneous gesture, Dr. Radhakrishnan invited the young reporter to join him aboard his flight to Jaffna. And so, Krish got an exclusive one-on-one interview with the man destined to become the future President of India. After filing his story over the telephone, Krish slept all the way to Colombo by the night mail. The next morning's Mirror proclaimed: "Ominous clouds over the India-China Border" (from our correspondent on board an Indian Air Force aircraft). Krish was ecstatic!
Bidding goodbye to the Ceylon Daily Mirror in 1976, Krish took up a cause close to his heart - the plight of the plantation workers of Indian origin, largely because of his own Indian ancestry. He joined the Ceylon Workers Congress, Thondaman's powerful trade union, as Director of Information and functioned as a Press Secretary to Thondaman's Ministry in the J R Jayewardene government of 1977.
The Black July of 1983 put an end to his career. It was a searing experience that made us virtually destitute and uprooted us from the land of our birth. When we reached Appa's village of Nalukottai it was as if we had finally come home. The love and care of kith and kin helped heal our wounded hearts and allowed us to move forward.
Krish now began the daunting task of resurrecting his journalistic career starting life as a reporter for the Times of India in Bangalore, then as chief reporter for the Indian Express and Chief Sub-editor of The New Indian Express in Madurai, which post he held at the time of his death.
Krish wrote on many social issues that troubled the nation - stories of discrimination, exclusion, and denial of fundamental rights and freedoms; stories too of power elites, destruction of livelihood and fragile ecosystems. In some instances his words fell on fertile ground and produced positive outcomes.
Krish "ghosted" a few Doctoral Theses, edited reports, newsletters and brochures of various non-profit organisations and was the official biographer of the legal luminary, V. R. Krishna Iyer, who rose to be the Chief Justice of the Indian Supreme Court.
Krish's magnum opus is a personalised account of the historic trek of his ancestors from South India to work on British coffee and tea plantations. It is also a story of courage and endurance and the determination to achieve a better quality of life for themselves and their children.
Now, as we say our final goodbyes, we remember Appa not only as a committed journalist but more importantly, as a loving parent, who once he had shut down his machine, relished the company of family and friends, savoured Amma's exquisite cooking, or simply enjoyed a good belly laugh.
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