Gautam Adhikari – Kaku, as he was affectionately known – who left us far too soon as though he had a pressing assignment to complete, was a man of many parts: journalist, author, raconteur, Elvis impersonator, bon vivant, and a true and wonderful friend and companion to the many who knew and loved him.
In a profession known for self-promotion he showed a remarkable generosity in furthering the careers of others. One of his more minor achievements – if achievement indeed it was, a moot point – was that he recruited me from the doldrums of a dead-end backwater in what was then Calcutta and brought me into the journalistic mainstream, via the TOI.
I was working as an assistant editor in The Statesman, Calcutta, when i got a phone call from Gautam. We were acquaintances, both of us belonging to the city’s quizzing circuit.
Can we meet? asked Gautam on the phone, sounded very hush-hush. Sure, i said. Why don’t you drop in at my office, i added. No, no, not your office, said Gautam. OK, i said. I suggested the name of a restaurant close to The Statesman office. No, said Gautam. Too many Statesman people go there.
That convinced me he wanted a job. I named a nearby shady dive that no one i knew ever went to. Feeling i was part of some Cold War spy drama scripted by Le Carre, i got to the venue to find Gautam waiting for me.
It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and the place was deserted. We ordered coffee. I was about to ask him if he’d like to join The Statesman, when he asked if i’d join the TOI, and move to Delhi.
It was the last thing i expected, and it left me speechless. It was only years later that both of us realised that we’d left the restaurant without paying for the coffee.
I wonder if Kaku still remembers it, busy as he doubtless is up there urging his Host to write a column for the TOI aptly titled Heavenly Hotline.
That’s Kaku, for whom goodbye was only a prelude for the next hello, the next beginning.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.