Kalpesh Yagnik’s death: Life full of hardwork turned out to be Asambhav ke Virudh; a lesson for journalists

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Journalists have been overburdened in under-staffed offices set up by people who ancestrally would live for generations as provision shop owners or something akin to it, like money-lending. Now they operate news shops

Shamsher Chandel, The Hush Post: Appan Menon died while he was part of NDTV newsroom way back in the 1990s. That was a different India which attributed a death to God only. Even if it was an overworked sleep-deprived journalist, no questions were raised. ‘God took him’ was the condolence and post-condolence line.

A couple of years down, Surendra Pratap Singh of Aajtak died in 1996. In hush-hush tones, colleagues attributed the death to work-related anxiety. Many died in the in-between period, their names google doesn’t throw up in its search.kalpesh

More recently, Girish Nikam who worked with the Times of India died of cardiac arrest in 2016. He was 59, a retirable age but certainly not a dieable one. But ‘God knows why,’ is still the standard condolence line which is okay. But the inquiry line where one can be inquisitive about the underlying cause of death can be different. And what should seethe us as journalists is that we don’t ask questions on the line of inquiry. Why did he go so young?

Journalists have for far too long been overburdened with work, in under-staffed offices set up by people who ancestrally would live for generations as provision shop owners or something akin to it, like money-lending. So the façade of this shop of journalism has changed from something like Pipli Provision Store to a more corporate name. And since these are bigger ‘shops’ so the minor Chottu who was told to lie about his age and work till 12 midnight, is replaced by an educated man treated like much a bigger-Chottu with a fancy designation. The expletives may or may not be there, but violent communication remains part of the newspaper culture. This bigger-Chottu continues to be tied to a biometric system, concalls, meetings quiet similar to the meetings of Jaspal Bhatti’s Flop Show where one discusses only the menu for the meeting and the date of the next meeting or the type of meetings where one gives a monologue, and others feign that they are listening.

As far as the salaries are concerned, they are still not compensations as in the US but (tan-kha) meaning thereby clothes for covering the body and two meals a day are worked out by highly paid chartered accountants.

In January this year, Siddharth Gautam of The Times of India, 54, died of cardiac arrest. A month before him, Anoop Kumar too died of cardiac arrest. Anoop was part of the Times Now. But after all, these were big names whose deaths immediately pop up on Google search.

Seventy-two hours before the death of another giant of journalism, Kalpesh Yagnik, four journalists of vernacular media died of cardiac arrest. And even journalists didn’t know about them.

Three of them died of cardiac arrest on Monday in the erstwhile Medak district of Andhra. Journalist Venkata Swami Goud, who was working with Telugu daily for Dubbaka mandal in Siddipet died on Monday morning. In Sangareddy district, senior Journalist Srinivas of Tekmal mandal also died due to cardiac arrest.  Then a former TV journalist Siddi Ramulu, who belonged to Chinna Shankarampet, died on the same day due to heart stroke. While scribe Ashok, who was working as district staffer of Karimnagar district for a Telugu daily also died of heart attack on Sunday night.

Had he been 20-30 years older, it wouldn’t have been such a eyebrow-raising incident

Even Kalpesh Yagnik’s death is being attributed to a cardiac arrest which in turn is being attributed to God as in God knows how it happened?

It shouldn’t have been an eyebrow-raising incident had he been 20-30 years older than what he was. He was 55, loved green tea, consumed half-a-cube or no sugar, was some kind of an extremist in most people’s opinion, understandable from the title of his column: Asambhav ke Virudh (translated in English it casually means Against the Impossible).

Of course, people close to him say that he was immersed in his work like fish in water. But he died at 55. Cardiac arrest does not know and tell why a person is dying. It is a process which takes place when your body is at dis-ease which again is a by-product of bad diet, no exercise, lack of sleep, or some underlying anxiety.

In his case, according to people close to him, it wouldn’t have been the first two reasons. But the third reason and the fourth could possibly be. He was a 24X7 journalist, either in the office or coming to office. Did he leave his seat? People who worked with him say, his leaving his work chair was representative. He was glued to it like Mary adhesed to her lambs.

“I am muddled, he had told his long-time friend a few days back”

What is pertinent is mentioned in his friend senior journalist Rajesh Badal’s article who spoke to him a few days ago and Kalpesh Yagnik confided in him, “Ulajh gaya hoon…routine kaam itna adhik hai ke apne liye time nahin milta meaning, thereby, I am so muddled in the routine work that I have no time for myself.”

Till the time, we as journalists do not seethe and question and organise against such untimely God-knows-why-he-died syndrome, here is a bottom line, please stick to even if you have to discreetly. Follow the English expression — work is worship. Hardwork is not a word in the English dictionary. It is a deliberate coinage by the capitalist world to exploit you till you meet your maker.

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