When I first met Amrita,I was struck by many things. Of course,she came across as a restless young girl but then the young are restless and they shouldnt be any other way. But what surprised me was that her knowledge was not commensurate with her age,that is,she knew a lot about different fields. She would talk as effortlessly about politics as she would about the economy. Her views were informed and she came across as a well-read individual. The scope of her knowledge was exhibited in her writings,which I relished and would keenly look forward to in The Indian Express. I especially loved her articles on Punjabs agriculture. As an agriculturist,I could see that she had done that bit of extra research,made that extra effort to actually go out and meet the farmer,shown that extra sensitivity to visit the field,which made her articles incisive and informative. I still remember her detailed write ups on the cancer deaths in the Malwa region that played a crucial role in bringing these stories to national focus.
Since she would often report from Malwa and would write on state polity,I had the opportunity to meet her often. As I interacted more with her,I learnt that she was a brave girl who worked extra hard at office and home to ensure that her child,Siddharth,had a normal upbringing. My heart goes out to the family and the boy. Commiserations dont count for much at times of such incalculable tragedy,but I hope that the strength,optimism,goodness and faith that she epitomised will keep them strong in their time of distress.
There is a particular meeting with her that I would often recollect with fondness. This came shortly after I had started the Peoples Party of Punjab. During one of our public meetings,which she had come to cover,she came up to me and congratulated me. When I asked why she greeted me,she replied,You have started to raise issues that are relevant to Punjab,but have been conspicuously absent in the public discourse here. In jest I asked her,you are young and you have the good interest of Punjab in your heart,why dont you join politics? To which she replied,I am a reporter and my job is to bring out information in the public domain,to report on issues that are relevant. It gives me satisfaction. To make policies and hold rallies is the job of politicians,such as you. My constant endeavour is to do my job well. I only hope our politicians do theirs well. Her work held an honesty that is missing in our polity today.
Amrita Chaudhry,principal correspondent with The Indian Express in Ludhiana,died in a road accident on October 22.
The writer is the leader of the Peoples Party of Punjab
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