Books, Lit Fests, News, Movies, Art, Fashion and TV of course... "I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book." - GROUCHO MARX

My Photo

I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


It's strange what the internet can throw up, which is pretty much everything. This morning on my usual trawl through cyberspace, I came across something I wrote so many years ago.

Since this is so close to my heart, I'm going to re-create this piece. Thanks Bhupinder for keeping the memory alive.

T.K. Ramasamy (1940-27th Feb 2002)
Born in Tamil Nadu and having grown up in Nagpur, TKR worked with Hitvad (Nagpur), Patriot (Delhi), New Wave (Delhi) and for the last 20 years of his life with The Tribune (Chandigarh), for the last 2 years in his capacity as the Editorial Advisor to the Tribune.

He was responsible for the high quality of the editorial and the Book Review pages, especially to the latter where he encouraged a number of young writers to contribute. All his life TKR remained a committed journalist with left wing leanings.

This Soul Will Live On
4th March 2002 by Deepika Shetty

The news reached me when I was at my Dad's house in Dehra Dun. Somehow, I knew when I met him on the evening of February the 25th, it would be for the last time. But little did I know that the end would be so near.

Mr Ramasamy, as I called him, responded to my annual call, with the usual warmth: "Deepika, the doors to my house are open for you, come any time." My husband and I reached in the evening and there he was, busy at work, editing a copy, which after nearly 20 minutes of chatting with us, he told the office, would reach them in "two minutes".

Work for him always came first and I knew instinctively it was time for us to leave. He told me to visit him again the next day, "no more copies to edit tomorrow," he said, but we were to leave town, to complete our holiday which like the rest of our days is one that wraps itself up in a flurry.

As my aunt told me he'd passed away, I cursed myself for not having gone back again. As tears overwhelmed me, memories of our relationship that began way back in 1990 came rushing back.

It all started with a book review I did. Mr Ramasamy read it, liked it, published it and did something few people of his stature would ever care to do. He made an effort to contact me. In the first meeting, he told me my writing had potential. Of course, there were several points that needed to brushed up.

That's when the first lesson that's bound to last a lifetime was delivered. "To be a good writer you have to have the courage to write, getting rid of fear is the first step towards becoming a writer," he told me. He then took the time to assess what was my first attempt at real writing to show me where fear had had the better of me.

Then there were two others reviews that I did and on the third one it all came undone. Perhaps it was a case of writers block or quite simply the lazy way of reviewing. I picked up a book on advertising, did a hurried review and sent it to him. The next thing I knew he'd called to see me. This time it was an angry Mr Ramasamy.

"Why did you write this?" he asked me. Deep down of course, it was for the money that for a struggling Masters student, is oh so precious. And that's something he knew.

He took my review, ripped it apart - literally, looked me straight in the eye and left me with my second major lesson: "Never, ever write for the sake of writing alone. Writing has a larger purpose to serve," he told me "and that's to educate and inform."

He wasn't in the mood for polite conversation, but he was still gracious enough to offer me a cup of chai.

I left his cabin, with a tinge of regret of having failed as a writer, which he reminded me is something that would be a reality if I didn't take my writing seriously.

Since that day, it was a slight element of fear that I met him at The Tribune office. Then professional commitments took over, a Ford Foundation Fellowship was quickly followed by a job at The Times of India. Each time was on holiday, I would make it a point to visit him. We would discuss my work, the stories that excited me as opposed to the ones that failed to enthral. Over the years our friendship evolved and one of the high points of my trips to Chandigarh, in addition to meeting up with my family, would be meeting Mr Ramasamy.

Even when I wasn't reviewing books due to my professional commitments, Mr Ramasamy made the time to meet me each time I was in town.

Before moving on to my publishing job in Singapore, we met again and he asked to start reviewing books again. I told him I had to do justice to the reviews I attempted and if I did a review maybe once in two months would that be fine with him? He agreed and at times it took me a lot more than two months to complete a review. But each time I attempted something, I did it with the utmost seriousness.

At our annual darshans, he would tell me which of reviews had made an impact and which ones hadn't. This feedback proved invaluable in my growth as a writer.

On February the 25th, for the first time, he told me how my reviews had moved to a much deeper level, how my analysis was getting more succinct. And he highlighted the fact that I was now able to make connections between different bodies of work, which can "only happen when one reads a lot. Don't stop," he urged me.

We talked about the reach of the book section in The Tribune, which was significant. And then it was about his health, which he insisted was perfectly fine. "Main billkul thik hoon", he maintained as we took our leave.

Today, I make a living as a broadcast journalist, a job in which writing is my bread and butter. Each day I contend with issues relating to South Asia, which is now my area of specialisation. I do book reviews that do not essentially pertain to this field, but review works that in an increasingly competitive and busy world deserve our attention. And as I look back at my fledgling career, I realise that it just wouldn't have been, if Mr Ramasamy hadn't held my hand way back in 1990.

To my mentor, my guide, my friend, your spirit is bound to live on in the work you have truly inspired.