‘A walking encyclopaedia from pre-internet era’

M.R. SHIVANNA, the Editor of India’s most successful English evening newspaper Star of Mysore, passed away on Saturday, 21 May 2011. Here, his longtime boss and the Editor-in-Chief of Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mitra, the publications for which Shivanna gave 30 years of his life, K.B. GANAPATHY, pays tribute:



“All disease is a means towards some new joy of health; all evil and pain a turning of Nature for some more intense bliss and good; all death an opening on widest immortality,” was an observation by Aurobindo Ghosh, the saint of Pondicherry.

If it is so, then the life and death of M.R. Shivanna, did not fit into Aurobindo’s understanding of these events, except probably the last part of it. Shivanna, the Editor of Star of Mysore, passed away after a prolonged hospitalisation last Saturday.

Sadly, his disease did not take him towards some new joy of health; the evil and pain that he suffered did not take him to a turning point of bliss and good and now it is difficult for me to accept that Shivanna’s untimely and unjust death is an opening on ‘widest immortality’, much as I wish. As one professionally associated with him for 30 years, I am sure he would have agreed with me.

I am angry at God for taking away Shivanna from us relatively at a young age of 55 years, when the average life-span in our country is 65-70 years, thanks to advances in medical science and technology. And yet death can snuff out any life any time in India primarily with terror attack, road rage or accidents and cancer.

Shivanna fell victim to the last one.

I am also angry at God for keeping me and my family members out of the City at the time of his death, thus denying me the opportunity to participate in his last journey. After all, Shivanna and I had journeyed together professionally for an uninterrupted 30 years.

The compensatory satisfaction is that I have done what best I could do for him during the days of his personal problems and ill-health. And he, on his part, had given what best he could to our newspapers—Mysooru Mitra first and thereafter to Star of Mysore.

When he came to me seeking a job in Mysooru Mitra, I was not impressed.

He did not seem to know or care for the universally accepted sutra for a successful job-interview, “First impression is the best impression.”

The hallmark of a young (and even old) ‘socialist’ of those days was the overused string-bag suspended over the left-shoulder. It was dangling by his shoulder and naturally, I asked him if he was one. And he being reticent by nature, gave a ‘socialistic’ answer, “I carry books in it.”

One good qualification to become a journalist, I thought.

As for his work experience, he mentioned some names but what made him acceptable to me was not his qualification nor his personality, which was zero as he was swarthy, lean and lanky with an unkempt drooping moustache, but his mentioning of three names: Patil Puttappa, Alanahalli Krishna and advocate-socialist V.H. Gowda.

While he worked briefly for Patil Puttappa’s well-known Kannada weekly Prapancha, he said he was taking dictation for Alanahalli Krishna for his novel and did some odd editorial jobs for V.H. Gowda’s publication.

It was clear to me he was not having a regular income and he was already married. Though I knew both Alanahalli Krishna and V.H. Gowda very closely, I did not check with them before taking Shivanna into Mysooru Mitra. I also remember him mentioning Rajashekhar Koti and his Andolana in passing. Later he told me that Koti was instrumental in his coming to Mysore from far off Hubli.

His written Kannada had a flavour of North Karnataka Kannada with some strange-sounding words sneaking into his news reporting. Being good in reading the mind of his boss and also a quick learner, he soon became the news editor of Mysooru Mitra.

For whatever reason, I was finding him in the office even during night hours, though his shift began from 2 pm. Often he would give me news items written in bad English, meant for Star of Mysore. I appreciated his interest, took the facts from his report and used them after rewriting.

To my utter surprise, I found his English improving, written in simple language with journalistic vocabulary perfectly in place.

Apparently, being a voracious reader of newspapers and magazines both English and Kannada, soon he was good enough for me to work exclusively for Star of Mysore. Thereafter, he never looked back, nor did I bother much in handling news writing, especially political news.

Thank you, Shivanna, for steering the Star of Mysore news desk for so long, so well.

That he had a phenomenal elephantine memory was a great help for me in writing news and my personal columns in those days when there was no internet to seek assistance to check facts or for reference, like names and dates specially.

Whenever I am stuck while writing for want of a name or the year of an event past, I would impatiently scream “Shivannaaaa” and he would appear before me unobtrusively, silently, always with a pen and paper. Knowledge transfer was done in a jiffy and he is gone to his desk and I resume my ‘masterpiece’!

I was proud to call him my ‘right hand’ and would say it openly to my staff, hoping they too would improve.

Some did, others quit.

He was a dedicated journalist—he dreamed journalism and he lived it. All his life. Till his end.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Chetan Krishnaswamy, director, public affairs, Dell Inc., who worked with Shivanna as a trainee journalist in Star of Mysore, recalls those days and says Shivanna was a 24×7 journalist unlike others who look at the clock and work.

That is why Shivanna endeared himself to me and the management, to our readers while, understandably, being a terror to some of his slow-learning, lazy colleagues.

He was a cigarette-smoking, tea-drinking tiger at the Star of Mysore news desk. The precept of the Bhagwad Gita “take no thought for tomorrow” appeared to be literally followed by him in his life-style to the point that at the end, it became detrimental to his health and his life itself.

It was amazing that when he was hospitalised, he took it all rather stoically. He was a workaholic and indeed a role model as a news writer-reporter.

In all his years at Star of Mysore, working with me, he never asked me for any facility in his office nor did he even ask me for a raise in his salary. Whatever he got from Star of Mysore went to him without ever asking for it or even hinting at wanting it. That one attitude of his would keep him in a class apart as an ideal employee, nay as an ideal colleague of mine.

Like truth, death too liberates an individual.

If so, as Aurobindo says, Shivanna, in his death, has found an ‘opening on widest immortality.’

May his soul rest in peace.

Also read: M.R. SHIVANNA, a true 24×7 journalist

C.P. CHINNAPPA, a song for an unsung hero