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Remembering Sachi

FRIDAY, THE 13TH, lived up to its grim reputation. THE WEEK’s former resident editor K.S. Sachidananda Murthy died in Bengaluru on Friday, October 13. He leaves behind wife Chandrika, sons Nithin and Rohan, and daughters-in-law Lakshmi Bharadwaj and Vaishnavi Narayan. He also leaves behind his extended family—us at THE WEEK and his legions of friends. For me, it was the cruel end to a friendship of over four decades.


I had heard of Sachi before I met him in 1982. THE WEEK’s former editor V.K.B. Nair and I were in Bangalore looking for a correspondent when former editor-in-chief of the Deccan Herald K.N. Hari Kumar told me about this young reporter in the Indian Express. The name came up again from P.N.A. Tharakan, editor of The City Tab, which has been called “India’s original weekly tabloid”.


VKB and I met Sachi and instantly realised that he fitted his description. He was the man for us, I decided. After the interview, I asked him if he could come with us to Kochi the next day. He said yes in a heartbeat. In April 1990, he moved to Delhi after we realised that he deserved a bigger stage than Bangalore. My father predicted that he would shine in the national capital. He did that, and how!


Sachi’s ability to make friends and nurture friendships was his biggest asset. Whenever we went together to meet a minister or a senior bureaucrat, I would mark an additional 30 minutes on my calendar. After the main appointment was over, Sachi would meet most of the personal staff, irrespective of their designation. And, this was not a cosmetic exercise; he genuinely cared about people.


As the Malayala Manorama’s Chief Reporter Rubin Joseph said, Sachi’s stock question to everyone was, “What’s happening?” The Times of India’s Foreign Editor Chidanand Rajghatta, who was Sachi’s colleague in the Indian Express, wrote that he would goad Bengaluru sources with an “Aamele?” (Kannada for “And then?”). That question was a most effective tool, because “What’s happening?” would elicit different answers from a secretary to the Union government and a clerk in the same office. Both answers would be grist to Sachi’s mill.


He would have loved this issue of THE WEEK. The cover story is Special Correspondent Anjuly Mathai’s exclusive interview with Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud. Anjuly ditches the black and white palette to paint a vibrant picture in which his spirituality and integrity shine through. The reader in Sachi would have rejoiced. My sincere thanks to the chief justice for speaking to THE WEEK.


And then there is the field reporting from Israel by Chief of Bureau Dnyanesh V. Jathar and Deputy Photo Editor Bhanu Prakash Chandra. Sachi always believed that the story was out there, in the streets. To add to all this is the World Cup article on Afghanistan by Chief Subeditor Anirudh Madhavan and the @leisure article on women bikers by Principal Correspondent Pooja Biraia Jaiswal. The @leisure section itself was born from an idea Sachi floated some years ago.


What is that one thing that young people could learn from Sachi? His note-taking. I knew two prodigious note-takers: Sachi, and my father. They were never too far from a pocket-sized notepad. When Sachi moved to Delhi, he sat me down and wrote down names of my friends from St Stephen’s College; it was a mixed bag from civil servants to academics and management professionals. By the time I was in Delhi next, he had visited all of them. My father and he had an excellent memory, but they knew better than to believe in its infallibility.


So yes, note-taking. And, humility.