I had written an angry Facebook post on Kuldip Nayar, as I felt he had betrayed what he stood for in taking a political position I found highly questionable. I was so upset that I did not care how you would react, forgetting all the years he had stood by my side through the bad and the good. Through the personal and the professional. The anger wore off within a couple of days and shortly after was standing in the aisle of the IIC auditorium for an event when I heard someone call out to me. I turned around and there was Kuldip Nayar, sitting on an aisle seat, and asking me with his usual warmth to come and sit next to him. I did.

This was just a week ago. We chatted as that FB post had never been. I told him I was angry, he explained why. And then like the journalist he was, he kept up a steady commentary on the proceedings on the dais that he felt were too long, and too boring. As always there was a comment for everyone and every utterance, and while laughing I could not reply, as I would have had to raise my voice several decibels high for him ---and of course everyone else in the auditorium---to hear.

But while his mind was as sharp as ever I noticed a frailty that made me fear the worse. He had more than a couple of coughing bouts during the function, and was finding it difficult to open the little packets carrying his medicines. Fortunately I located his helper, who came and gave him the medicine and water. It was perhaps the saddest evening ever, maybe even more than this morning when I heard he was no more with us. I was glad he went so quietly and effortlessly, doing what he loved to do till the end. And that he did not suffer the indignity of protracted and intense illness that would have in itself been a death knell for this doughty journalist who taught me most of what I know today.

Kuldip Nayar---with his quaint English was never a great writer. And made up for his absence of grammar with his sentiments, direct, honest and passionate. My first meeting with him was when I joined the Indian Express and was surprised to see the then already great Nayar sahab walk into the lowly reporters room, perch himself on a shaky wooden desk, and invite the seniors to comment on and trash his article of that day. He loved the debate, agreed with some points, defended others and soon I found this to be a regular pastime insofar as he was concerned.

Irreverence was what I, and I am sure most of my colleagues then, learnt from Kuldip Nayar. An ability to question the establishment without giving two hoots, laughing at those who took themselves seriously in the government, tearing into politicians with facts, and getting a sense of the arrogance of journalism. Not arising from brushing shoulders with VVIPs but from placing them in the dock for crimes of omission and commission. I remember when my first legal notice arrived in the Indian Express. Nayar sahabs advise: tear it and throw it. If they are serious they will send it again, then we will see. Needless to say the wastepaper basket of the Indian Express in those heydays of journalism was littered with torn legal threats.

He never took himself seriously, and yet was serious about what he believed in. He was consistent and committed. I remember a senior official of the Indian Foreign Office disparagingly dismissing the “one candle mission” of Kuldip Nayar to Wagah every single Independence Day. Despite the odds. At a time when no one would join him. At a time when Pakistan bashing was almost as fashionable, though of course not as vicious, as today. The one candle grew into thousands over the years, and this year even though Nayar sahab could not go, the others did---for peace. He created a peace constituency, by refusing to back off despite the pressures and the ridicule. When I would tell him about the nasty comments he would smile with an innocent, “accha? Kehne do…”.

He loved gossip. Like any other journalist, he liked little more than to settle down for a good bout of political anecdotes, the murkier the better. He always brought his share to our gossip table, and though years older, he was perhaps one of the most fun editors to spend quality time with. A few barbs reserved for specific scribes made the meetings even spicier.

If more than a few weeks lapsed he would call and angrily ask me “where have you been, why don’t you call”.More so, if he felt I needed his helping hand which I did most of the time. At the last meeting he wanted me to tell him exactly what was happening to the Muslims in India, and listened, shaking his head, often in disbelief. For various reasons he decided not to hit as hard as he used to in prose, but his caring and his compassion remained as intense. He wondered what would happen to India, he wondered at those who killed with hate, he wondered how long the minorities would bear the oppression, and in the midst of all this was a personal query, about you or someone else he was concerned about at the time.

He taught us compassion, to look at stories from the people's point of view, and not the governments. He taught us the difference between India and a government that was at best transitory. He taught us how to raise a voice, indeed campaign, for the poor and the underprivileged. And he taught us that the true meaning of objectivity is subjectivity. For the poor and the marginalised, the oppressed and the victimised. He taught all this by sheer example, not through lectures that by the way he never was good at.

Kuldip Nayar also set the example of an archetypal activist journalist. A scribe who did not hesitate to walk across the fence and personally hold the hand of those affected. An editor who not only wrote about peace with Pakistan but crossed the border to strengthen relations. A journalist who not only defended rights in Bangladesh but walked the extra mile to support journalists and rights groups struggling for survival there. He meshed the two in one harmonious whole, and it is through the both that Nayar sahab made a difference.

A difference that had us crying when we heard he had gone. A difference where people of all walks of life, across South Asia, joined in the mourning. A difference that extended far beyond his family, to touch those he connected with, whose hands he held in their journey. Drying tears and joining ventures.Will always miss you Kuldip Nayar, you should have stayed with us just that little longer.

Image result for kuldip nayar creative photos