Krishan Kumar Katyal, who died in New Delhi on Wednesday at 88, was a distinguished political reporter who had a nose for news, persistence in following up on tips and a talent for cultivating sources in political parties as well as several wings of the government. In the world of journalism, he was universally known by his initials and took jokes on KKK, matching the infamous Ku Klux Klan in America, in his stride.
We were colleagues on the political reporting team of The Statesman in New Delhi at a dramatic time in Indian politics. The tempestuous political saga began with the Bangalore session of the undivided Congress, which led to the first split in the party engineered by Indira Gandhi. But it was an act of many scenes as Indira’s men, subsequently known as Congress (R) for requisitionists, and their opponents, Congress (O) for organisation, battled it out.
The objective of both sides was the media before the age of television news came into play. They were hankering after headlines in print, with each section scheduling their press meets late into the night to have the last word. Imagine the plight of political reporters working late into the night, night after night, to cope with this strange competition. In The Statesman, it was KKK and I who had to take turns so that we could catch up on some sleep before starting work the next morning.
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KKK was (later) with The Hindustan Times in Chandigarh, and I often had the feeling that he had left part of his heart behind. He was an impressive, tall man with a Punjabi fondness for good food. He later worked for The Hindu.
It is a somewhat different world in the media today, influenced in part by profusion of private TV channels, which often give a breathless quality to reporting. In the days of KKK’s prime, the accent was more on assiduous cultivation of sources, patient pursuit of leads and the greatest accolade a political reporter looked forward to was to be greeted by fellow journalists on a scoop in the Central Hall of Parliament and MPs’ glee or moroseness, depending upon which side of the fence they were on. Despite moments of drama and political upheavals, those were more leisurely times. There was bonhomie in the Press Club and in coffee houses, and perhaps a greater sense of belonging to a unique profession.
KKK’s cremation took place Wednesday afternoon. He leaves behind his wife Darshan and two talented daughters, Anita and Sugita, who have chosen to follow their father’s profession.