Felicitations To My Online Friend

May 08, 2007
GV Krishnan

We live in the same town, Mysore; about three km apart. We have known each other for some two years. We belong to a vanished species of journalists when typing and shorthand were tools of the trade. We have a lot in common as media back-numbers and much to share about our life and times in the 60s and the 70s. And yet we hadn't met each other, till this Sunday.

Such is the marvel of the Net that the technology that brings together people spread across the geographical divide can also obviate the need, even for neighbors, to meet, face-to-face, to be able to stay in touch. Who needs to meet when e-mail, v-mail and Skype could speak. And my friendship with Mr Krishna Vattam is strengthened with every e-mail we exchange, with every chat on the old-fashioned telephone.

My friend has turned 75; and felicitation would be in order. In fact, there was a public felicitation function, about which I learned, true to form, through the web, after the event. Presumably, the man was much too modest to inform me, as yet an unmet friend, about this public 'do' in his honour. But then the morning after the event, to my surprise, Mr Vattam called to ask if we could meet. We did, and talked about, of all things, Krishna Menon, picking up the thread from where we had left it in our ongoing online communication.

He referred to D R Mankakar's Guilty Men of 1962 and his clumsiness when it came to using the web software, because of which he couldn't post a comment on my recent blog post. Here we were, meeting for the first time, and all that we could find to talk about was Menon, Nehru, Rajaji, and the Emergency. If we were excited about our first ever face-to-face, neither he nor I wanted to betray our child-like excitement, particularly in the presence of his teenage grand-daughter Mr Vattam had brought along with him.

We talked about the blissful unfamiliarity of some of today's media folk with India's recent history. Mr Vattam spoke of L K Advani's Mysore visit, during which he addressed the local media and referred to his imprisonment in Bangalore during the Emergency years (1975-77). After the press meet, said Mr Vattam, he was asked by a young reporter, in all innocence, why Mr Advani was jailed. What was his crime? If at all our youth know of what went on during the emergency, their knowledge is confined to what they saw in Sudhir Mishra's movie, Hazaaron Kwaishen Aisi.

Mr Vattam left a copy of the felicitation volume brought out on the occasion of his 75th birthday; and his completion of 56 years in journalism. His father was a journalist. So is his son. Presumably, media is in the Vattams' DNA. Reading through felicitation volume I learnt Mr Vattam had watched the Telugu movie, Malleshwari, 54 times. Wonder who kept count, and why Mr Vattam stopped short of 55.

He is the founder of a local support group called 'Ex-cancer Patients' Association', to build-up self-confidence and dispel that lingering fear of relapse among the recovered patients. Mr Vattam is a cancer survivor. The next time I meet him, I must remember to loan him my copy of Stewart Alsop's Stay of Execution, in which the Newsweek columnist describes, without sentimentality, what it meant to live with lethal cancer and survive to tell the tale.

Retired Times of India correspondent, based in Mysore.; hosts MysoreBlogPark, a parking lot for a bunch of Mysore-connected bloggers; writes a Monday column for www.zine5.com
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