Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 2, May 1-15, 2019
The Chief, Uncle Muthu, firmly believed that everyone , every place, every street, every stone had a story to tell. He encouraged people to express themselves. Tributes are pouring in and it is amazing to see how many people are saying that it is because of him they have become a journalist or a writer.
I knew him first as my father’s friend. Among other things, they had the shared love for books. Uncle Muthu, my father, K.S. Padmanabhan of East West Publishing, and Abdullah of Orient Longman used to meet regularly for lunch and they formed the quartet behind the Madras Book Club. It was Uncle Muthu’s passion which drove the Book Club. Eventually people all over the country wanted their books publicised there.
When I was struggling with the first cover story for a Bombay based business magazine I was working for then, it was uncle Muthu who came to the rescue. He was delighted that finally there was a magazine which covered corporate India in a readable way. To my surprise and delight I found that he read the magazine regularly. There used to be regular phone calls, sometimes critical, sometimes full of praise.
Uncle was not predictable. He knew what was going on in Madras business houses. He collected facts and connected them which made him a great corporate historian. I could always turn to him when I wanted to put things in proper perspective.
I used to be most reluctant to speak in public. Uncle would not take no for an answer and thought it was an inhibition I had to get rid off. He pushed me into addressing meetings, moderate discussions and even in speaking in Tamil on rare occasions.
If he chose to attend one of the meetings, one had to be very careful. I had to speak in a professional association meeting once. This was just before Google occupied our mind space. I had no time to do my research and I winged my way through. I cracked irrelevant jokes mentioned unrelated anecdotes, made it interactive and got through the half an hour allotted to me. Everybody congratulated me for a fun evening. At the end of it uncle came up with a twinkle in his eyes and said, “you were completely ill prepared, weren’t you.”
On another occasion, when I was in discussion with a very famous writer along with another friend and colleague, Uncle whispered to me from the front row, “You are taking over this entire discussion. Stop now and allow the other person to speak.” This is what he did to somebody who was so terrified of addressing an audience.
Like many others I would never have got round to writing my book, Surge, if he had not so persistently asked me when I was going to start on it. He guided me, helped with many things, and was so proud and happy when it came out.
How can I not mention our monthly lunches with two other friends, his excitement at finding new places in his beloved Madras? How did he discover them? He used to laugh when quizzed about this. Now we will never know.