There are so many people in my past who I would have loved to invite home for tea and empathy. Among them is Late K Ramakrishnan sir who I knew as the Consultant Editor of Chandamama. I worked under his supervision.
A Little Backstory Before I Met Him
After my (MIT) Writer’s List Mailing list experience in 2000 sharing my poetry with native-English speakers. I got interested in writing prose that is more structured and removed emotion from the way (this thought has changed now for me). Email List space made me feel that my work needed some teacher’s help to see where I can be more skilled.
To understand the language and the prose better I searched and found the proofreader job at Nine Stars company because you can learn through experience faster. From there I was shifted to proofing and editing search text of the US Newspapers and Journals. Maybe being in the newspaper space so much I got interested in the prose style that I was looking for in my mind.
The microfiche contained the images of the Newspapers which were then processed using in-house software and eventually reaches us, editor and proofreaders, to edit the search text sheet that sits over the original image so it can be searchable for the articles using multiple criteria.
Midway through the second month in the job, I found that Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was starting in March 2001 a Course in Journalism and I got interested in doing it. I applied for it promptly. My job was on a shift base, so it was easy to take up the evening course. During that period of my course and job, I slept only for 5 hours in total per day. But my energy to learn was in full swing. Manian sir, the principal of BVB, Mylapore told me that, two courses are going to be clubbed together.
So, I landed up doing Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism and Corporate Communication. I loved Chakrapani sir’s advertisement classes. I truly enjoyed myself since I was funding for my course too. This course was my first experience in a Co-ed stream. But then, I was completely focused on the subject because I was fascinated with journalism.
Then Manian sir told me that I can apply for an internship and work in a newspaper or magazine. So, I went to the office of Chandamama in Ekaduthangal, Defense Colony. The workplace was such inspiration. I requested an internship. I took with me the course certificate and letter from the principal.
The Day I Met K Ramakrishnan Sir
I arrived as usual early and waited for sir to call me into his office. Some time later, I was asked to enter his room which was shared by three seniors writer and artists. It was a small and cozy room with stacks of paper all over and the psst… the person who wrote and drew for the Vikram and Vetala was busy painting for the story in the forth coming issue about six months ahead.
Ramakrishnan sir noted my twinkle in the eyes and gave me a gentle nod to sit down. I told him with lots of enthusiasm that I wanted to intern in Chandamama. He told me that they did not offer a paid internship. I told him I am fine with working for free almost immediately.
But he was patient and told me to think over it and then make a decision. I went back to Manian sir and he told me to ask for a letter of experience at the magazine instead of money. I felt there was a point and so I go back to the Chandamama office and informed Ramakrishnan sir.
He told me that the company can provide 45 days of Internship with a letter of attendance. I never regretted choosing to work as an intern in the summer of 2002 at Chandamama. I liked Ramakrishnan sir, the first time I saw him. The way he spoke slowly, and he used to walk with a stoop and forward lean. He was spectacled and would be very precise about each line that he edited.
In the Summer, I worked doing whatever they asked me to write or to rewrite, to research or fact check. I was in heaven and was warmly glowing with the energy that I got from being in the magazine. At the end of the 45 days, I was given my letter of attendance and a small gift to carry on in my dream pursuits as a writer.
His Character and Charms
Ramakrishnan sir was the pillar of support and a silently strong foothold for young reporters. He remained unshaken even when the deadline looks like peril for me. He calmed my nervous tension and made me focus on what is most needed for the write-up.
He always calmed me to slowly work on the topic. The fact that he never pressurized me and understood how to encourage me to write the best pieces. I remember being pressurized to write articles at breakneck speed at a MNC. Whenever I think of that experience I used to feel so sad because the rushed quality is just that ‘rushed quality.’ Later, when I was working with Chandamama, I would work for the Cover page stories and I was thrilled when I would settle myself in the slightly dusty library and read through all kinds of books for the write-up.
Be it for Syndication work, which was more modern writing, while the stories for the cover page were to be historical writing so fact needs to be double-checked. Ramakrishnan sir was better than my appa in encouraging me to work on my writing. Writing always will remain as my passion until this little spirit leaves earth. Against all odds and hurdles, I still choose writing as a life-time’s career.
The Best Letter Writer
After he left Chennai to go live in Kerala he would keep writing to me and I would also keep writing to him. I was so happy to read his letter which was the soft-spoken voice of a father figure. His advice for life and for my writing had been such great joy to receive and to cherish.
During my application for the US MFA Course application, he helped me with my portfolio, and he said that my stories were improving but I needed to focus on my grammar and style a little more carefully. I took his advice to my heart and patiently worked on the changes that he suggested and sometimes making an entire change to the situation because of his questions.
Even though he was a great writer himself, he never forced his view or ideas on the write-up even when I was an intern. If I had any idea, he would hear me out patiently and dissect it for me slowly. Chandamama felt like home, and I was undergoing treatment for a mental condition that I never disclosed. I continued to work despite my physical and mental challenges. Yet going to the office was calming and my happy space.
If there were a hero in my real life then I would have a couple of them. Ramakrishnan sir would be the first on the list. I wish I could be as calm and collected in my life as he was. But each human being is different but learning from the master should not be forgotten. Even thinking of him now, I feel like he right there in the sky encouraging me to write; but maybe nodding his head that I should work on grammar a little more sincerely.
He Is a Wise Master Missed Most
Even today, when I write I try to follow the instruction on writing that he had given me. I still have copies of the cover stories that he guided me by choosing from the list of to research topic that I bring to his table after every three hours. He would guide me well and I honed my writing skills with him. I enjoyed the joy of editing endlessly until he would call it done for submission into the repository.
He may not be alive now but his spirit is floating right around the corner showing me the world of writing. Showing me where the spaces and lights of writing can be found. How to glide and to slide in the narration and use the wondrous words that can make a simple paragraph shine out.
Thank you for crossing paths with me and the short time together with you had been an inspiration and life lesson worth learning.
Rest in peace sir while being an inspiration that ignite many thinking minds like mine and become the driving force for change.