Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sham Lal: A life in letters

By John Cheeran
I met Sham Lal, India's foremost bookish editor (as Dileep Padgaonkar described the gentleman in his obituary in the Times of India on Saturday) at Bangalore in 1994.
Sham Lal had come from Delhi to receive the B.D. Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism. I was at the West End Hotel in Bangalore to attend the inaugural function of the Asian College of Journalism, an adventure by the then undivided Indian Express Group, with T.J.S. George as the guiding force. I belonged to the first batch of the ACJ.
Now as I read the news of Sham Lal's death I could not help recalling that meeting with great man.
Without doubt Sham Lal was the humblest, well-read man and former editor I met.
And that fact, I'm sure, is unlikely to change though there are, no doubt, greater intellectuals and editors than him in India.
Before the function began, Sham Lal was standing in a quiet corner. I had found out from someone that this indeed was the great Sham Lal, one of the award winners of the night. I approached Sham Lal and he was quite surprised that any youngster should show interest in him.
I told him that I'm a regular reader of his Life and Letters column in the Times of India. He was pleasantly surprised to know that his column is read with interest in such remote parts of the country as in my Kerala village.
I did not forget to tell Sham Lal that the entrance examination conducted by the Asian College of Journalism had a question, who writes the column Life and Letters, and I answered it right.
Now here I was shaking the hands of the columnist who gave me an extra mark!
I was ill-equipped to ask Sham Lal any profound questions that evening. He however wished me the best for my career.
Later Life and Letters column stopped appearing in the Times of India, still whenever possible, I used to pick up The Telegraph to read Sham Lal.
Indian readers will surely miss his insight. It is a pity that there are hardly anyone in Indian journalism who can write with the perspicacity that Sham Lal brought to the concerns of our age.

No comments:

John Cheeran at Blogged