A song for an unsung hero: C.P. Chinnappa

19 April 2010

The passing away of journalists and editors barely gets a mention in Indian media outlets these days, not even in their former or current places of work, under the rather specious and cynical belief that journalists and editors should report the news, not make it.

It’s even worse, in the case of faceless non-journalists, like advertising, printing, circulation, technical and other allied personnel, such vital cogs in the giant wheel, who spend the best years of their lives in the service of their masters, only to be forgotten like a fly.

As for the carefully crafted obituary, forget it.

Chottangada Ponnappa Chinnappa, better known as C.P. Chinnappa, the long time publisher of one of India’s most successful evening daily newspapers, Star of Mysore, breathed his last on Friday. His friend and partner of 40 years, Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy, pays a royal salute.

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

Erich Segal‘s famous novel Love Story began with an immortal opening sentence: “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me.”

In the same refrain I would say, with appropriate change in words, about my friend C.P. Chinnappa, my partner in business and later director of the publishing firm, Academy Newspapers Private Limited, till his last breath on 16 April 2010 at 5 pm.

What can I say about a seventy-nine-year-old man who died? That he was handsome. And disciplined. That he loved racing and dressing. And newspapers. And me.

Yes, all these attributes fit him well like a cap.

And I would add one more—hospitality.

Chinnappanna, as I called him (for my children he was Boji) loved hosting parties to his friends and, as a bachelor, was caring to his vast extended family members. Always immaculately dressed, he attracted attention in a group by the magic of his mature looks and handsome personality. Rather conservative in speech, he won everybody’s love by his gentle manners.

For a time, in his young age, he worked in the then Kodagu state’s chief secretary’s office as the latter’s close confidant. Probably it was here that he imbibed the virtues of a good officer: the British sense of punctuality and discipline which he practised in his daily life.

This stood us in good stead while establishing our printing unit and later the flagship of our venture Academy Newspapers Pvt. Ltd., publishers of Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mithra.

As the editor and managing director, I have an erratic daily routine. It is not always possible to be punctual to the office. It was Chinnappa who filled the space most competently by his punctual presence in the office at 8.30 am, thus disciplining even the wayward employees of the firm without uttering a word of reprimand.

He led the staff and workers by his personal example, always. I don’t remember a single day when he had left the office without releasing Star of Mysore to the presses, for printing.

His mere presence made a difference.

Sadly, his health began to fail about a year ago and I personally perceived the deterioration.

His suffering during the last days was also my suffering, only I was unable to share it.

Such was our bonding that he was not just a business partner or a director of our company but a loving member of my extended family, so much so nothing in my family happened without his benign and gracious presence and participation.

With his passing away, Academy Newspapers Pvt. Ltd., has lost a mentor. And personally, while I feel a bit diminished myself, my family has lost a well-wisher.

Chinnappanna is no more, but the glorious happy memories of the times we both spent together as friends and entrepreneurs will linger with their subtle fragrance all my life.

May his soul rest in peace.

Also read: Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: journo who broke Dalai Lama story

Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu

Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist

T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer

M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer

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