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  OBITUARY  
   
   
     
   
  By A J Philip  
     
 
USUALLY retirement and depression go hand in hand. Many people are unable to bear the loss of power and esteem and die, as a result, in the first few years of retirement. But there are a few, who find a new meaning in life, once they are freed from the demands of a regular job. Senior journalist J. Sri Raman who died after a brief illness at Kochi on November 8 was one such.

He joined the "Hindustan Times" as a leader writer after a short stint in the "Patriot" and a few years in Kabul when, to the US rulers, the Taliban were freedom fighters. Within a few days, he won the respect of all by his sheer writing skill, excellent command of the English language and profundity of thought.

He was the most reticent at the daily editorial conference, where he accepted any subject assigned to him. He was happy the editor exploited his love for literature and cricket for edits he churned out day after day. After a small gap, we found ourselves working together at the “Indian Express”.

At the Express too, he continued as a silent, sincere writer. He believed that as an editorial writer he had to express the editor's viewpoint, no matter what his own was. He specialized in edits, written in a lighter vein, drawing upon his vast repertoire of anecdotes and quotes.

Unfortunately, a change of guard at the helm hit him hard and his edits in the "classical mould" no longer were in demand. When a transfer to Chennai was offered, he accepted it as fait accompli, all the while waiting for the job contract to expire. By then an idea had germinated in his mind. Why not do something to oppose the bomb culture, spewed by Pokharan-II?

Soon he founded an organization called Journalists Against Nuclear Weapons (JANW), a part of the Movement Against Nuclear Weapons (MANW). His wife Papri and daughters Taranga and Varna were with him as he moved in the slums and workers' colonies educating them on the dangers of a nuclear war.

His group brought out several anti-bomb pamphlets and organised meetings and conferences to spread its message. It was at one such conference that Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy read out an essay that later became "The End of Imagination". The high-water mark of the campaign was an international peace conference in Delhi.

I persuaded the editor of the Indian Currents to organise a dinner for the JANW delegates. It was at that dinner that I first heard him deliver a speech, a thunderous one at that. I never knew he had such oratorical skills. I also noticed that he had become an expert on the nuclear issue.

Later, he articulated his thoughts in a well-written book "Flashpoint" (Common Courage Press). But all this did not affect his journalistic output. Calling himself an Indo-Pakistan journalist, he wrote a regular column for the Pakistani "Daily Times", contributed to several Indian and foreign newspapers and websites like "The Tribune" and "Counter Currents". He regularly reviewed books for "The Hindu".

All the while, acute bronchitis dogged him. Last month when he shifted to Kochi where he bought a flat, I began looking forward to spending a day with him. Alas, that was not to be as a kidney ailment cut short his life. In J. Sri Raman's death, his family, friends and acquaintances have lost a true gentleman and journalist.
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