A true friend dies leaving me a fairy tale

K. Venugopal was my greatest friend, a brilliant writer and a senior journalist with Deccan Chronicle. He passed away in Chennai, India, yesterday morning at the young age of 42. We studied journalism together and took different paths.

Each time I got ready for my holiday to India from the U.S., I would ask him: “Venu, what can I bring for you?” This July, as usual, he said: “Books.” And, this time, he wanted books on fairy tales by Jack Zipes. Fairy tales? I wondered why but knew he wanted to sharpen his writing skills every moment and wanted to learn more.

It was shocking for me this morning as the call came from India. I doubt whether anyone I’ve seen in any part of the world could write so brilliantly as Venu did. His vocabulary, his knowledge, his curiosity.  Venu knew of lands and cultures more than people who visited them and no native writer could beat his expressive, unique style. He didn’t need to be in Europe or in America to write better than a native writer.

He read more than anyone else and was a consummate journalist. I remember the days we spend at the British Library in Trivandrum, our common love for poetry. The works of Stephen Spender.

During the early nineties, I introduced him to an editor from Pioneer. Within weeks, Venu had his first story published in The Illustrated Weekly while most of us were struggling to get an internship!

I will miss him, one day we will see each other- once more. The last time I met him was at Mascot in Trivandrum in July this year. He seemed to be in a hurry. I gave him the books from Zipes, and his eyes gleamed as he saw them- that curiosity for knowledge, the thirst to study more made Venu the best  journalist among his generation.

Venu’s untimely death is a loss to Indian journalism. While others scratched the surface, Venu gave readers a deep meaning of subjects through his stories. I will miss him deeply. So will Indian journalism.

It’s that time in India when his body would’ve arrived from Chennai. My heart aches but I know he died in the close presence of friends. We will all be there for him and his family. Forever.

To close, here’s a favorite line from Stephen Spender for my dear friend, Venu:

From afar, we watch the best of us –
Whose adored desire was to die for the world.

The Shapes of Death by Stephen Spender.

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