I was at the memorial service for senior journalist K.K.Katyal when word came in that Inder Malhotra, on a ventilator for the past several days, was no more. Though the announcement was expected, it was a jolt as Inderji was special, an editor I had got to know much later in life, but someone who had become a source of strength and support.

Common to both the journalists was their insistence and determination to live life to the full, despite the odds. Katyal sahab, as we all called him, did what he liked most after age had slowed him, attend the weekly Saturday Club meetings at the India International Centre. Here he would ask pertinent questions, even though his memory was failing, and later he could not even remember attending the meeting.

Inderji kept writing till the very end when the ventilator claimed him. His early morning phone calls to discuss the topic that he was writing on, to praise or critique an article I had sent him, or to just admonish me for forgetting to send an article, or not calling became part of the day.

Inderji, who was 17 years at the time of Partition and had gone on to become a well known journalist, an editor, retired with an apartment in Press Enclave and little else. Like the honest editors of the time he was not flushed with funds---far from it---led a very modest life, and although he loved writing, also did this after his retirement to earn money to pay for his wife’s illness, and later his own. He emerged as a chronicler of the years, with a razor sharp memory able to capture the mood and the environment of the incidents he narrated. This really was his forte, and fortunately the media recognised this.

He stayed away from television, had no time for it really, and spent all his spare time writing. He loved to write, and even more to share his anecdotes that kept us fascinated. As it was not just about what was said, but what a particular leader wore, how he or she spoke, the gesture, the shake of the head that for a journalist is often more telling than the speech. He was a voracious reader, and was always in search for contemporary reading material. “Send it to me” was his immediate response, often followed with a reminder.

Inderji was always full of optimism and for me the ‘friend’ to call when I was depressed. He would always swing me out of the mood with his “don’t worry” backed with cheery thoughts. For he was never depressed, or even if he was, it was a side he never showed to the world. He loved his evening drink and good company, and liked to be out every night for the same. The day was spent in writing, the evening in socialising with people he cared about.

But when his wife fell ill this changed a little. In that she became his priority, and Inderji spent his days looking after her. He would go out if all was well at home, and would cancel many a dinner or evening drink when she needed extra attention. But he smiled his way through what must have been very difficult times, never complaining.

And that was his most amazing characteristic, along with optimism. He never complained. About anything. He was there by his wife’s side when attendants failed to show up, smiling over the telephone as he quietly explained his inability to attend a prior engagement.

After she died, he went back to his friends and extended social circle. Writing, going out, and filling in the gap and clearly the loneliness that one could sense, though he never spoke of it. And then Inderji himself got sick. We always would remark on how young he looked, how mobile he was, how sharp of mind. And then he was struck with cancer, serious and prolonged.

Another man would have succumbed to the pain of the illness in mind and spirit, but not so Inderji. He was back, juggling bad days and doctors appointments with his writing, his friends, and his odd evening out.

We will miss you Inderji. Your morning call, “so tell me what is happening”, your, “don’t get depressed it will all work out,” your, “now I just want your opinion ….” on something you were writing and your presence when one needed it most.

Rest in Peace and if there is indeed a world out there, then I hope it still values the typewriter over the computer, and has a ceaseless supply of single Malts. And of course, no television.

With love from all of us who you have left behind my friend, it is indeed hard to die.